City of Saints, Scholars and Space Explorers!

The Armagh Ambassadors spent a morning which can only be described as an out-of-this-world experience on their visit to the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium on Tuesday 16th February.  They embarked on a voyage of scientific discovery which began in the gardens of the Observatory and ended in the outer reaches of the exploding universe. Oh yes, and on the way they also built and launched their own rockets and listened to the stars!

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The Armagh Observatory

The Observatory was founded in 1789 as part of Archbishop Robinson’s dream to create a university in the city of Armagh and the building designed by Francis Johnston was situated on a secluded hill and faced the Palace over the valley between.

It is the oldest scientific establishment in Northern Ireland containing many interesting telescopes, portraits and clocks and has witnessed the major events in modern astronomy to the present day.  Research students working alongside the permanent staff are engaged in current research of the Solar Physics and Solar System Earth relationship. The Arts are embraced as well and musician Robert Jarvis created a sound installation ‘aroundNorth’ where you can ‘listen’ to the stars! Imagine sitting in the gardens with a cup of coffee and listening to the stars as the sun shines.

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Listening to the star at “aroundNorth”

Climb the spiral stairs to the dome and see the Troughton Telescope bought by Archbishop Robinson – it’s the oldest telescope still in its original dome in the world.

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The Troughton Telescope

The attractive gardens and grounds comprise 14 acres and contain many interesting features as part of the Astropark including the Hill of Infinity, the Stone Calendar and the Hyper Cube.

The Human Orrery, a dynamic model of our solar system, shows in a practical and memorable way the movements of the planets.  The Observatory Director Professor Mark Bailey put the Ambassadors through their paces as they became Saturn, Mars and Venus circling the sun as part of the Human Orrery.

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Professor Mark Bailey demonstrates the Human Orrery

Close by is the award-winning Armagh Planetarium which was the second place which the Armagh Ambassadors visited as part of their “Astronomy Tour”.

Nosh and Knowledge

Dean Coppard, proprietor and head chef of Uluru  Bar and Grill, Market Street, Armagh was the guest speaker at the “Nosh and Knowledge” session this week where the ambassadors have a well-earned coffee break while hearing about the range of events taking place in Armagh throughout the year.

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Dean Coppard captivates the Armagh Ambassadors with his foodie stories

The Australian native caught their attention immediately with the use of a small world globe to explain the Australian influences on the menu at Uluru. The restaurant, named after an impressive rock formation in Australia, was portrayed as one suitable for all occasions.

Dean went on to share his culinary experiences with us and told us about the support he received throughout the past number of years from other Northern Ireland chefs.   Most of all he explained that it is important that customers leave his restaurant with wonderful memories of their dining experience.

Dean then outlined some of this year’s festivals in Armagh and in particular the Food and Cider Festival to be held October 2016.  The aim of the food festival will be to showcase local produce and in particular Armagh’s Bramley Apple.

The trainee Armagh Ambassadors left the Planetarium enthused about the forthcoming Food and Cider Festival and look forward to encouraging others to visit Armagh.

Armagh Planetarium

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Has the Armagh Ambassador sign made it to the moon?

Fed and watered the Armagh Ambassadors were then ready to tour the Planetarium which is a world-renowned astronomical educational establishment. Established in 1968, its purpose is to bring astronomy to a wider audience. The magnificent exhibits aim to demonstrate to the visitors the amazing objects that exist in the cosmos but in a fun manner.

After a quick look around, Martina Glass, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Senior Education and Support Officer invited us into the theatre where we were shown a short video on ‘The Exploding Universe’ on the hemispherical domed ceiling. There really is something quite magical about reclining in a plush armchair, bedazzled by the stars as the cosmos passes before your eyes.

Following a very relaxed viewing in the theatre, the Armagh Ambassadors were invited to release their inner child!! With plastic bottles and lots of paper wings, we made rocket ships which were then launched by a “catapult-like contraption”! Quite a fun way to spend the afternoon, even if it was for children!!

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Creative rocket assembly

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Very competitive rocket assembly!

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Filling the rocket with fuel ie water

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Blast off

All in all, the Armagh Planetarium provides a great array of shows for people of all ages. You could very easily spend a day viewing the exhibits and learning about the most up to date advances in astronomy.

By Lily Clifford, Marion McGee, Mary-Jo Sheridan and Connie Toner, Armagh Ambassadors

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