The Vision of the Armagh Observatory is:
To maintain and build on its position as a thriving astronomical research institute, and to continue to expand our understanding of the Universe and of humanity's place in it.
The Mission is:
To advance the knowledge and understanding of astronomy and related sciences through the execution, promotion and dissemination of astronomical research nationally and internationally in order to enrich the intellectual, economic, social and cultural life of the community.
The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute, the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. Founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1789 as part of his dream to see the creation of a university in the City of Armagh, the Observatory stands close to the centre of the City of Armagh together with the Armagh Planetarium in approximately 14 acres of attractive, landscaped grounds known as the Armagh Astropark. The Observatory Grounds and Astropark include scale models of the Solar System and the Universe, two sundials and two historic telescopes, as well as telescope domes and other outdoor exhibits A new public outreach facility, the Armagh Human Orrery, is located close to the historic main building of the modern Observatory. The Observatory's Library and Archives, and its specialist collection of scientific instruments and artefacts associated with the development of modern astronomy over more than two hundred years, rank amongst the leading collections of their kind in the UK and Ireland.
The principal function of the Armagh Observatory, which is a third-level institution funded by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), is to undertake original research of a world-class academic standard that broadens and expands our understanding of astronomy and related sciences. In recent years key programmes have focused on Stellar Astrophysics, the Sun, Solar System astronomy, and Solar System - Earth relationships including the Sun's influence on climate and the impact of interplanetary dust, comets and asteroids on the Earth. Other activities include mainatining the unique 210-year long meteorological series and data-bank, the longest in the UK and Ireland from a single site, and playing a key role together with the Armagh Planetarium in promoting the public understanding of astronomy and related sciences.
Senior research staff at the Observatory are employed as Research Astronomers on a scale equivalent to the NICS Grade 7, which is roughly equivalent to the level of a university senior lecturer, reader or professor. Postgraduate students are registered at various UK and other European universities, but they are normally registered at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB), which has recognized the Observatory as an approved institution for the supervision of PhD and MPhil. students. There is currently a fluctuating population of around 25 research staff including students, who are supported by a pool of 2 technical (computer-related) staff, 1 librarian, 1 group secretary, 1 finance officer, and a senior administrator shared (50%) with the Armagh Planetarium. The 14 acres of landscaped grounds and the Armagh Astropark are maintained by an assistant groundsman and a senior grounds/meteorlogical support officer, the latter responsible also for taking the daily meteorological readings.
Research interests of Observatory staff are currently focused on four main areas of astronomy, namely:
In addition, Observatory staff participate in a vibrant education and public outreach programme via lectures, popular astronomy articles and interviews with the press, radio and television. Further details concerning recent and current research interests of Armagh Observatory staff may be obtained from the Observatory web-site.
Armagh Observatory staff regularly obtain telescope time on national and international facilities, such as the ESO Very Large Telescope and various spacecraft missions (such as SoHO, TRACE, Hinode, XMM-Newton, and HST), and attract research grants from various grant awarding bodies (e.g. the STFC, the Royal Society, the British Council etc). The Observatory is also a member of the UK SALT Consortium (UKSC), providing access to the 10-metre class Southern African Large Telescope, located at the Sutherland Observatory, South Africa. In addition, restoration of the Observatory's historic telescopes has brought opportunities to reintroduce professional observing from Armagh for research and student training, particularly through use of the 18-inch Calver reflector equipped with a new CCD camera, and new technology has facilitated the construction of a video camera system that automatically records meteors whenever the sky is clear.
Technical equipment at Armagh, which is used primarily for numerical analysis, computer modelling and data reduction, is funded by the STFC, PRTLI, and the DCAL. Facilities presently comprise several iMac workstations, approximately 40 Linux workstations and peripherals, and a computer cluster comprising 25 dual-processor work nodes and one master node, with a total of 50 GB memory. These are used mainly for computationally intensive research projects observational and theoretical astrophysics (including data reduction and modelling)in areas such as solar physics, stellar atmospheres, numerical magneto-hydrodynamics, and solar system dynamics.
The internal network is a 1 Gbps backbone ethernet linked with switched hubs. The external network is connected to the Joint Academic Network (JANET) through a 10 Mbps link provided through the Observatory's participation in the Northern Ireland Regional Area Network (NIRAN). The increase in the Observatory's network capacity together with a continuing programme of equipment upgrades provides an opportunity for the Observatory to participate in new developments such as the Virtual Observatory, the UK AstroGRID, and GRID Ireland. Access to Grid technology is currently provided via CosmoGrid. This provides access to a high-performance supercomputer cluster at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (IHEC).
In addition to the institution's primary research role, the Observatory also has an important responsibility to maintain and preserve the fabric of the historic buildings, the library, historic books and archives, and the collection of scientific instruments and other artefacts built up over more than 215 years of continuous astronomical activity in Armagh. The main historic buildings of the Observatory have unique architectural features and together house one of the most valuable collections of scientific books, instruments and archives in Northern Ireland. Full details about the Armagh Observatory and its current research and other activities can be obtained from recent annual reports.
Last Revised: 2010 June 28th