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Winter Solstice Live Web-Cast to Mark International Year of Astronomy

Astronomers throughout the island of Ireland are marking the shortest day of the year, on 21st December, with a special live web-cast of the iconic moment when the rays of the rising sun shine directly into the 5,000 year-old burial chamber at Newgrange, County Meath. The web-cast can be seen from 9.00am on Sunday 21st December at this site. This event will mark the start of the United Nations International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, highlighted by the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo.

The Irish national node for IYA2009 has arranged an exciting all-Ireland programme of events for school children and the general public, to run throughout the year. It will be launched at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, at the Royal Dublin Society, on 7th January 2009. Professor Michael Redfern, Chair and Single Point of Contact for the all-Ireland IYA2009 activities, and Director of Astronomy, NUI Galway, said "The Newgrange event is the perfect way to mark the coming Year of Astronomy. Newgrange is an extraordinary structure, demonstrating the deep understanding that our ancestors, more than 5,000 years ago, had of astronomy. It is a wonderful experience to see the first rays of sunlight entering and lighting up the inner chamber where they placed the cremated remains of their ancestors."

Robert Hill, Director of the Northern Ireland Space Office at the Armagh Planetarium, said "The aim of IYA2009 is to stimulate worldwide interest, especially amongst young people, in astronomy and science under the central theme The Universe, Yours to Discover". Major contributors to IYA2009 activities throughout the island of Ireland include Ireland's science promotion programme Discover Science and Engineering, the Northern Ireland Space Office at Armagh Planetarium, the European Southern Observatory, Armagh Observatory, and NUI Galway. IYA2009 events, coordinated by Miruna Popescu of Armagh Observatory, will promote a wider appreciation of the many inspirational aspects of astronomy that together make up the rich shared heritage of astronomy among different communities throughout the island of Ireland.

For further information on this live Newgrange event, contact Kevin Kennedy, OPW Press Office at 00 353 1 6476159, 00 353 87 9303888 or kevin.kennedyat signopw.ie. For further information on the International Year of Astronomy 2009, contact Professor Michael Redfern, NUI Galway at 091 493717 or mike.redfernat signnuigalway.ie or Miruna Popescu, Armagh Observatory, mdpat signarm.ac.uk.

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Last Revised: 2008 December 18th
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