The Armagh Observatory is a modern astronomical research institute with a rich heritage, and the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. Founded by Archbishop Richard Robinson in 1789 as part of his dream to see the creation of a University of Ulster in Armagh, the Observatory stands close to the centre of the City of Armagh together with the Armagh Planetarium in approximately 14 acres of attractive, landscaped grounds known as the Armagh Astropark. The Observatory is one of the UK and Ireland’s leading astronomical research establishments with around 30 research staff, including students and short-term visitors, actively studying subjects such as Solar-System Science, Solar Physics, and Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics.
The main Observatory building is not usually open to the public, except by appointment, but the Observatory Grounds and Astropark are open for free self-guided tours every day of the year. Leaflets can be obtained from the Observatory website. The Grounds and Astropark include scale models of the Solar System and the Universe. A new public outreach facility, the Armagh Human Orrery is located close to the main Georgian block of the modern Observatory. The Observatory’s Library and Archives and its collection of specialist scientific instruments rank amongst the leading collections of their kind in the UK and Ireland. A walk through the Astropark is a stroll through the Universe, brought down to Earth in a beautiful natural setting. Outdoor exhibits and interpretation panels enable you to discover some of the amazing objects in our Solar System, our Milky Way Galaxy, and beyond.
The Observatory’s principal function is to carry out frontline scientific research in astronomy and related sciences. Key programmes have recently focused on Solar-System Astronomy, Solar Physics, Stellar Astrophysics and Galactic Astronomy, including Solar-System – Earth relationships: e.g. the Sun’s influence on our changing climate and the effects of interplanetary dust, comets and asteroids on Earth. Other activities include developing a multifaceted programme of Science in the Community and extending on a daily basis the Observatory’s unique climate archive, believed to be the longest continuous daily climate series from a single site in the UK and Ireland, and one of the longest in the world. These data (see http://climate.arm.ac.uk/) comprise daily weather readings at Armagh going back to the end of 1794, and provide a long historical baseline against which to judge how Northern Ireland’s climate is responding to climate change worldwide.
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