A Glimpse into Brian Boru’s World at Armagh Observatory

Following last year’s highly successful community festival “The Waking of Brian Boru”, led by Sally Walmsley (see website) with support from Armagh City and District Council and many other local organizations, the Armagh Observatory is again contributing to the City of Armagh’s Brian Boru festival (see website), which will be held over two days, Tuesday 28th and Wednesday 29th April 2015. The Armagh Public Library and the Armagh Observatory are together offering a glimpse into Brian Boru’s world a thousand years ago, through ticketed events on the morning (10am) and afternoon (2pm) respectively on Wednesday 29th April. Tickets can be obtained through links from the festival website above.

The event in the Armagh Public Library and No. 5 Vicar’s Hill will offer visitors an opportunity to discover the monastery and learning in Armagh at the time of Brian Boru, and to see manuscripts at a later time. Moments of song, poetry and music will take visitors back to Brian Boru’s time.

The afternoon event at the Observatory will similarly involve "time travel", taking visitors back to the days leading up to the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Here we will use the Observatory’s Human Orrery to show the disposition of the planets in the sky around the time of the Battle of Clontarf, and the new sonic-art exhibit "aroundNorth" will help explain the movement of the stars around the North Star, Polaris, and so help to illustrate the importance of the sky for people living a thousand years ago.

Although on astronomical timescales a thousand years is like the blink of an eye, the decade or so leading up to Brian Boru’s death appears to have been one of heightened celestial activity. Halley’s comet had appeared in 989, as too had several other "frightful" comets and bright fireballs, and also what appears to have been an unusually bright star or nova. In 999 there was a "fearful earthquake", and on 28th September 1014 (less than half a year after the Battle of Clontarf) there occurred a huge flood or storm surge, which may have been caused by a tsunami from the impact of a small asteroid in the Atlantic Ocean.

Brian Boru also lived during a period of significant local or regional "global warming", the so-called Medieval Optimum, when the average annual temperature was comparable to that observed today. This warmer weather facilitated Viking excursions from their homelands in Scandinavia towards Britain and Ireland, and the colonization of lands much farther away in the North Atlantic, namely Iceland, Greenland and parts of North America.

Tickets for this event are available from the armagh.co.uk website or from the Armagh Visitor Information Centre, Tel: 028-3752-1800.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Sally Walmsley at Tel: 078-0444-8496 or E-mail: sallyat signsoundmor.net; or Mark Bailey at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; mebat signarm.ac.uk

Last Revised: 2015 April 17th