Armagh Observatory will be opening its doors to the public on Saturday, 8th September as part of the annual European Heritage Open Days organized by the Environment and Heritage Service of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
These Open Days are a Europe-wide celebration of our heritage, culture and architecture. Many countries throughout Europe will be taking part by opening, free of charge, many properties not normally accessible to the general public.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Robinson, founded the Observatory around 1789, to the plans of Francis Johnston. The recently restored original building is constructed mainly of a type of sandstone, known as Armagh ‘marble’, a tough reddish conglomerate that takes a fine polish, together with limestone dressings and superior interior joinery. On the south side of the main building there is a high telescope tower with a dome. There is an 1820s eastern extension with another telescope tower.
The Observatory stands in approximately 14 acres of landscaped grounds and gardens including two sundials, the Observatory Astropark, Telescope Domes and the Human Orrery. The Astropark is a scale model of the solar system and the wider Universe, while the Orrery is an accurate scale model of the solar system located close to the historic main building in which people can play the role of the moving planets orbiting the Sun and work out their positions at any time. The grounds are open all year round, while the main Observatory building is open for tours by appointment only.
The Observatory has a specialist Library and Archive and an important collection of scientific instruments that reflect the development of the whole of modern astronomy. A daily meteorological register has been maintained since 1795, and is the longest continuous meteorological series from a single site in the UK and Ireland (see http://star.arm.ac.uk/ and http://climate.arm.ac.uk/).
Access to the Observatory is from College Hill by the road leading off the northeast corner of the Mall, close to the Courthouse and opposite the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum. The Observatory is also signposted at the nearby Armagh Planetarium carpark. Five guided tours are available on Saturday 8th September commencing at 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00.