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International Year of Astronomy 2009 Opens With a "Big Bang" in Dublin


President Mary McAleese at the launch of the BT Young Scientist and
Technology Exhibition 2009 in the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, 2009 January 7.


Some of the more than 1,000 school children present at the launch of this
all-Ireland Science and Technology event.


Robert Hill (Northern Ireland Space Office at Armagh Planetarium)
launching IYA 2009 Ireland as part of the same opening event.
Northern Ireland Minister of Education, Caitríona Ruane, is seen bottom left.
Image credits: Miruna Popescu.
On Wednesday 7 January 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), in which the Armagh Observatory and Armagh Planetarium are playing a major role, was officially opened in Ireland in the presence of the Irish President Mary McAleese and the Northern Ireland Minister for Education, Caitríona Ruane, in a launch ceremony at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin.

The International Year of Astronomy trailer was played in front of more than one thousand students selected to present their projects at Ireland's largest science festival. Robert Hill, Director of the Northern Ireland Space Office at Armagh Planetarium and representative of the International Astronomical Union Executive Committee Working Group for IYA2009, announced the official opening of the United Nations International Year of Astronomy 2009 in Ireland, being warmly applauded by the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane.

Thursday 8 January saw the launch of two more International Year of Astronomy highlights for the island of Ireland. Professor Michael Redfern, Director of the Centre for Astronomy, National University of Ireland Galway and IYA2009 Ireland Single Point of Contact, launched the Faulkes Telescope "Universe Challenge". This is a competition for school students in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to undertake astronomy projects using the state-of-the-art 2-metre Faulkes Telescopes in Hawaii and Australia. The prize, very generously sponsored by the European Southern Observatory, is a trip to see the world's largest telescope, the four 8-metre telescopes comprising the VLT, in Chile.

The people present at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition were the first ever to see the 3D presentation The Universe, Yours to Discover". There is also a New Digital Stardome show to be seen, with Blackrock Castle Observatory staff working in collaboration with Armagh Planetarium; a European Southern Observatory exhibition in the Astronomy zone; and, outside the Royal Dublin Society arena, a large outdoor astronomy exhibition "From Earth To The Universe", the first of this kind to be seen on the island of Ireland.

A programme of events is being organised by the all-Ireland committee representing the Irish Node of IYA2009: Professor Michael Redfern, Robert Hill, and Dr Miruna Popescu from Armagh Observatory. The activities will involve the major science centres: Armagh Planetarium, Blackrock Castle Observatory and the Science Gallery in Dublin; as well as the Armagh Observatory, all the leading universities on the island of Ireland, and amateur astronomy clubs and societies from both the North and South of Ireland. Further information can be found throughout the year at the IYA2009-Ireland website.

The main sponsors for the events of the International Year of Astronomy in Ireland are Discover Science & Engineering, the European Southern Observatory, and BT. Armagh Observatory and Armagh Planetarium activities are supported by the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure as well as by external sources such as the Royal Astronomical Society and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.

FOR IMAGES AND FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Miruna Popescu at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; mdpat signarm.ac.uk; Website: astronomy2009.ie.

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Last Revised: 2009 January 13th
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