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Armagh Observatory, 17 December 2001:
Astronomers at Armagh Observatory have been awarded the distinction of a Quality Research Grade 4 in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). This represents national excellence in virtually all areas of the Observatory’s research, the rest being of international excellence. The Observatory is in the top quarter of all UK specialist research institutions.

The RAE is held roughly every four or five years and its outcome is used by regional and national agencies to set funding levels to universities and specialist research institutions. The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute, about the same size as a small university department. Its RAE result has been obtained against significantly improved and very stiff competition from university departments across the UK, many of which are much larger than Armagh. The result demonstrates the strength of astronomy in Northern Ireland and the value of continuing investment in astronomy at Armagh.

Research highlighted in the Observatory's RAE submission, which covered the 5-year period from 1996 to 2001, included the development and verification of a new model for the origin and evolution of helium stars; the detection of a firm link between solar variability and climate; and the explanation for the 1998 Leonid fireball burst, the unravelling of the braided structure of the Leonid meteoroid streams and the first reliable prediction of meteor storms.

Other areas in which astronomers at Armagh have contributed to new understanding include solar system dynamics; the role of high-velocity out-flowing jets at star-birth and the causes of interstellar turbulence in star forming regions; and the use of satellites such as the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) to unravel the complexity of the Sun's outer atmosphere and corona.

Staff at the Observatory pursue research projects on the structure and evolution of the Sun, stars and the solar system. They also explore connections between the Sun, the solar system and the Earth. The Armagh Observatory is also involved in several national and international projects, notably the 10-metre Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). This and other projects are supported by grant-in-aid from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and by research grants from the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) and other grant awarding bodies. Recent research achievements are highlighted on the Observatory web site.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland or Mark Bailey at the Armagh Observatory (Tel.: 028-3752-2928, FAX: 028-3752-7174); e-mail jmf@star.arm.ac.uk or meb@star.arm.ac.uk; Web-Site: http://star.arm.ac.uk

Last Revised: 2001 December 17th
WWW contact: webmaster@star.arm.ac.uk
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