Armagh Observatory & Planetarium

From the earliest of times the Neolithic settlers in Armagh have had a fascination with the night sky which lives on until the present day.  If you are planning a visit to Armagh or you live in the local area one of the “must do” activities is to visit Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) Established in 1790 the Observatory is the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland, this beautiful state of the art building was created thanks to Archbishop Richard Robinson commissioning Co Armagh born, award winning architect, Francis Johnston who designed impressive buildings all over Ireland but is probably best known for the historic General Post Office in O’Connell Street, Dublin.  The Observatory has the oldest telescope in the world still in its original location dating from 1795 and interestingly, is lined up with the equator which was unheard of in the 18th Century. It’s younger associate the Planetarium opened its doors in 1968 and has been a fascinating venue for families, school groups and visitors of all ages from far and wide, who want to gain a better understanding of the celestial wonders, I recommend at least 2 hours to ensure you cover a show and the exhibitions. In recent years podcasts have boomed in popularity therefore AOP launched their first series in 2020 with the catchy name of “Intergalactic Craic”.  The two engaging presenters Heather and Courtney ensure that it does not sound like a series of lectures but reveals secrets of the universe in a fun and light hearted way so why not have a listen in, you will be amazed at the range of topics. As a Tourist Guide I often create bespoke itineraries and in 2019 I arranged a visit to Armagh for a small group of American visitors who wanted a unique, unforgettable experience.  Their first venue of the day was a tour of AOP, to say they were in awe is an understatement, they were astonished by the profound stories of the characters associated with this venue over the centuries, as well as being able to see the telescopes and equipment used by astronomers down through the years.  Everything was so well presented and explained by Heather Alexander, and it was fun, they all stated it was a major highlight of their week in Northern Ireland. In December 2020 I had the pleasure of attending the wonderful event “Space Lights” in the grounds of AOP. It was truly spectacular, the grounds were  transformed into a magical, colourful, luminous world of sound and light as you can see from my photos. The Planetarium is currently being refurbished and will be ready to receive visitors at a date yet to be revealed. I know from personal experience that they have a super welcoming team who are so enthusiastic about the solar system, astronomy and all things celestial to share with their visitors so watch this space – pardon the pun! Whether you want to take a few steps back in time or transcend into the solar system AOP is the place to go and why not combine it with a walking tour of Armagh City.
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