Irish observatories look to the stars in North-South partnership

30 May 2023

From left: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, meeting with Gráinne O’Malley and Lord Rosse of Birr Castle Demesne. Image: Marc O'Sullivan

The Astronomical Observatories of Ireland partnership will develop a joint programme of work across three Irish observatories, to strengthen all-island cooperation.

A new partnership has been forged between three observatories on the island of Ireland, to create new forms of cooperation between Irish astronomers.

The new partnership will see the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) Dunsink Observatory collaborate with Birr Castle Demesne and the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium.

This Astronomical Observatories of Ireland partnership will develop a joint programme of work across the three sites.

The partnership was announced earlier this month and officially launched at the Bank of Ireland in College Green, Dublin, due to the site’s historical connection with DIAS Dunsink. The observatory used to record Dublin Mean Time and send it to the bank to record the time of financial transactions.

Speaking at the event, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said the new partnership represents “the best that both parts of this island have to offer” in terms of contributing to international scientific research.

“The partnership also represents the best of co-operation between all the communities of this island, bringing innovation and research, science education, arts and cultural programming to new audiences,” Varadkar said.

“This can provide the creative inspiration to transcend current challenges on our shared island, in the way that humanity has always looked to the cosmos for inspiration.”

Prof Peter Gallagher, director of the DIAS Dunsink Observatory and chair of Birr Castle Demesne, said the new partnership promises to be “an exciting and important initiative” for the three observatories involved.

“Although there are significant astronomical legacies across all three observatories, this North-South partnership will strengthen our collaboration and facilitate closer cooperation across our work and future projects,” Gallagher said.

The event also virtually honoured Lord Martin Rees with the Robinson Medal for Science by Armagh Observatory. Rees is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist who was appointed 15th astronomer royal in the UK in 1995.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic