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Sun Shines Brightly for Armagh Observatory Open Day


Visitors to the Armagh Observatory during the International Heliophysical Year Open Day, 2007 June 10.
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The Armagh Observatory hosted a special event on Sunday, 10th June, as part of the International Heliophysical Year (IHY2007-2008) "European Observatories Open Doors Day". IHY celebrates mankind's growing understanding of our nearest star, the Sun, and how that knowledge improves our awareness of the effects of the Sun on the Earth, the safety of spacecraft and global warming.

About 60 people, including some children, from Counties Antrim, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone attended the event, and gave very positive feedback: "The visit was well put together; we enjoyed listening to the talks and seeing the Observatory's historic building, the Astropark, the Human Orrery, the Hill of Infinity, and the telescopes. Just marvellous!", said one couple from Newry.

As it was a sunny day, visitors were treated to a live view of the Sun using a special telescope equipped with a protective filter (never look at the Sun without a special filter, as it is too bright and it would damage your sight). For almost everyone, this was the first time they had seen the Sun and its sunspots.

The tour continued with a lecture by solar physicist Dr Miruna Popescu, entitled "Surviving in our Sun's Explosive Atmosphere", showing recent images and movies of the Sun taken by European, American and Japanese spacecraft. This described how powerful explosions in the Sun's atmosphere, called flares and coronal mass ejections, can influence life on Earth.

Having Armagh Observatory astronomers on hand to answer questions on climate change, stars and planets, completed what was described by one visitor as "a very pleasant afternoon". Comments from other visitors illustrated how much they enjoyed the day; "A beautiful and scenic walk, enjoyable talks and displays"; the Observatory's "friendly staff"; and the "good balance of outdoor and indoor activities". In addition, they learnt that "Pluto is no longer considered a planet", and that "a new possible habitable planet has been discovered around another star". "The vast size of our Universe is just amazing!" concluded another visitor.

In view of the success of this outreach event, the Observatory is planning to provide a programme of occasional lunchtime and evening tours of the Human Orrery and Astropark, together with possible Sun viewing if the weather is clear, on occasional Tuesdays throughout the summer. Everyone is welcome to come along.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Miruna Popescu at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; E-mail: mdpat signarm.ac.uk

Links:
IHY Open Day Announcement
Cross Border Schools Science Conference
International Heliophysical Year
IHY European Section
IHY Irish Section

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Last Revised: 2007 June 12th
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