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Astronomers Celebrate the Sun and the Ancient Skies of Newgrange

The Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), together with the Armagh Observatory and the Armagh Planetarium, are to mark Heritage Week with a major event at Newgrange, Bru na Boinne, from Saturday 25 August to Sunday 2 September. The event will celebrate the ancient and modern understanding of our Sun, the nearest star, and the ancient astronomy of Newgrange.

Newgrange is one of the most astronomically significant archaeological sites in the world. The amazing effect of the midwinter sunrise shining through the special roof-box into the passageway and illuminating the inner chamber is an almost magical experience. However, the reason for its construction more than 5,000 years ago, before both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids, remains a mystery. Its special astronomical significance is that it marks the midwinter solstice, which occurs this year on December 22. This is the time when the Sun reaches its most southerly point in the sky, marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

During Heritage Week, the IAA is mounting an exhibition and a series of talks about the Sun and its importance for us today and for the people who built Newgrange. There will be a major exhibition related to the Sun and ancient astronomy; interactive displays; real movies of the Sun from spacecraft; images in wavelengths of light invisible to the eye; hands-on experiments; safe viewing of the Sun with special solar telescopes, if the sky is clear; a quiz with prizes for both adults and children; free giveaways; and lots more.

There will also be a special exhibit, courtesy of Dr Miruna Popescu of the Armagh Observatory, which was selected for the Royal Society's Summerscience exhibition in London. This exhibit is part of the worldwide programme of activities for International Heliophysical Year 2007/2008, and the special display will show how dependent we are on our variable Sun. This exhibition has recently begun a tour of the island of Ireland with support from Discover Science and Engineering and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

And for the first Saturday and Sunday, the Armagh Planetarium will provide special star shows in their mobile planetarium.

Admission to the Visitors' Centre is free on the two Saturdays and Sundays during this event: 24-25 August and 1-2 September, although normal admission charges apply to the guided tours of the chambers within the Newgrange and Knowth mounds themselves. But on the last Sunday, 2 September, even those tours are free, too!

See: www.irishastro.org and knowth.com

FURTHER DETAILS FROM: Terry Moseley Tel: (day) 028 (048) 9025 3637; Tel (home) 028 (048) 9058 7658; Mob +44 (0) 7979 300842; Email: terrymoselat signaol.com; Dr Miruna Popescu (re the special Royal Society solar exhibit only) Tel 028 (048) 3752 2928; Mob +44 (0) 7852 428808; Email :mdpat signarm.ac.uk

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Last Revised: 2007 August 16th
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