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INTERNATIONAL ASTRONOMERS GATHER IN ARMAGH

Armagh Observatory, 11 August 2000:
Some 30 astronomers from 13 countries will visit Armagh from 20 to 23 August to discuss one of the brightest and most enigmatic stars in the Milky Way.

The International Workshop will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the star "P Cygni" by the Dutch mathematician and cartographer Willem Jansz Blaeu on 18 August 1600. On that night Blaeu found a star in the constellation of Cygnus, The Swan, that had never been seen before. It was therefore called a new star or nova.

Over the centuries many astronomers have kept P Cygni under observation. During the 20th century ever-larger telescopes have allowed the physical nature of the star to be unravelled. These studies have shown that P Cygni is quite different from almost every other star. It has an exceptionally powerful "stellar wind," losing its atmosphere at a speed of more than 100 miles per second. It is suspected that the star is also oscillating, getting slightly bigger and smaller in a cycle of about 17 days.

The anniversary conference has been organised by Dr Mart de Groot, a world expert in hot, luminous stars, whose studies of P Cygni over 35 years have contributed significantly to our present knowledge about the star. His discovery, with Professor Henny Lamers of the University of Utrecht, of the ageing of this star as it burns its nuclear fuel, was the first instance of the direct observation of the evolution of a massive star.

Dr de Groot, former Director of the Armagh Observatory (1976 - 1994), oversaw a period of rapid development of the Observatory in Armagh, including the introduction of new research fields and electronic computers.

The Workshop will take place in the excellent facilities of The Royal School Armagh. Participants will be received by the Mayor and Councillors of the Armagh City and District Council, and several will extend their visit to Armagh to enjoy its local attractions and hospitality.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr Mart de Groot or John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory. Tel.: 028-3752-2928.

See also:
P Cygni 2000 Workshop

Last Revised: 11th August 2000
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