Irish astronomers hope stars align for new North-South collaboration

17 May 2023

Martin Rees in August 2015. Image: Gresham College/ (CC0 1.0.)

An event to celebrate an all-island Irish astronomy initiative will see the community honour one of their own, renowned astronomer Martin Rees.

Three astronomical observatories on the island of Ireland are to forge a new partnership with the aim to facilitate greater cooperation between the centres’ researchers.

The Astronomical Observatories of Ireland partnership will involve the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) Dunsink Observatory working more closely with both the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Birr Castle Demesne.

Their collaboration will be marked at a celebration event happening on Friday 26 May at Bank of Ireland, College Green, Dublin.

The event will bring together people from Ireland’s astronomy community. It will also honour Martin Rees, a British cosmologist and astrophysicist who was appointed 15th astronomer royal in the UK in 1995.

Rees will be presented with the Robinson Medal for Science by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. The medal honours the memory of Archbishop Richard Robinson, who founded the observatory in Armagh. Rees will give a lecture the day after the ceremony.

Speaking ahead of his address this Saturday, he said, “I am honoured to receive the Robinson Medal and would like to thank Armagh Observatory and Planetarium for the upcoming accolade which pays tribute to the memory of the distinguished Archbishop Richard Robinson.”

He said that the partnership between the three Ireland observatories would be “a vital collaboration” and it would help boost Ireland and Northern Ireland’s international profile in astronomy research.

“This is a really exciting initiative for the science and research community – and all astronomy enthusiasts – on the island of Ireland,” said Prof Peter Gallagher, director of DIAS Dunsink Observatory and chairperson of Birr Castle Demesne.

“Ireland, North and South, has made a very significant contribution to global astronomy over more than three centuries, but this fact is sometimes overlooked or little known outside the astronomy community. This partnership will bring renewed public and stakeholder attention to our important astronomical legacy, as well as facilitating closer cooperation and collaboration between the three observatories for future projects.”

Prof Michael Burton, director at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, and Gallagher both said they were looking forward to what the collaboration would bring as well as welcoming Rees to Dublin.

Martin Rees in August 2015. Image: Gresham College/ (CC0 1.0.)

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.