THE ancient megalithic site of Beaghmore near Cookstown is to become a unique observatory with a day of free BBC Stargazing.
Astronomers from Armagh Observatory and archaeologists from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) will be hosting the Stargazing Live Universe Awareness (UNAWE) activities at the fascinating Beaghmore Stone Circles regarded as the best Dark-Sky site in Northern Ireland.
The event which will also run at An Creagan is to be held on Wednesday 18th January 2012.
This is an international astronomy outreach programme funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme. You don’t need any experience or equipment to give astronomy a go!
Also involved are Cookstown and Omagh District Councils and the aim of the project is to inspire young people to develop an interest in science and technology.
Claire Foley, Senior Inspector of Built Heritage at the NIEA, said “It is great to be part of this joint approach to our shared heritage.”
Mark Bailey, Director of the Observatory, said: “Astronomy captures the imagination of children, young and old, as well as others young at heart. A view of the stars and of our Milky Way on a clear night from a Dark-Sky site such as Beaghmore can be an awe-inspiring, sometimes life-changing experience.”
In the morning, schoolchildren will undertake a series of astronomy and science-based activities at An Creagán, including those that illustrate the lives of the people that built the stone circles at Beaghmore, in those early times. There will also be activities to illustrate the scale of our Solar System, and a fascinating shadow theatre provided by EU-UNAWE presenters from the world-famous Arcetri Observatory in Florence, Italy.
Later, children, their parents and everyone else are invited to a free Stargazing LIVE event at Beaghmore. This will take place from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm - weather permitting.
Participants can travel from An Creagán by free bus or make their own way to the Beaghmore Stone Circles to watch the Sun going down.
Living History enactors will greet them and demonstrate Bronze Age weapons and artefacts technology, including food and agriculture, highlighting possible reasons for the need to use astronomy and the science behind the circles’ original purpose. There will also be opportunities to view the stones at sunset and observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible as evening “stars” after sunset, and other stars.
Don’t worry if the weather’s bad, as there will be an alternative Living History programme, a slide show illustrating the night sky from this special Dark-Sky site, and the EU-UNAWE presentation “Virginia and Galileo Galilei: A Sky Full of Discoveries”.
The last part of the event, from 8.00pm to 9.30pm, comprises two public lectures, the first by Claire Foley (NIEA) entitled “Stone Circles and the Bronze Age Perception of the Skies”, and the second by Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory) entitled “Comets and Cometary Concepts in History: Identifying the Celestial Connection”. Following these illustrated talks will be observing from the grounds of An Creagán if clear.
Those wishing to attend these events should obtain FREE tickets by contacting Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.