After last year’s success, BBC2’s Stargazing Live returned to our screens this month for another three nights of astronomy wonders.  Holding the reins again were the charismatic Professor Brian Cox and his side-kick comedian Dara O’Briain, who actually happens to be a physicist as well!

To coincide with the television programme, Armagh Planetarium held a special night on Wednesday 18 January with the fantastic amateur astronomers from the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society (NIAAS) joining us.

Image of NIAAS logo

At the fore of night sky observing.... the NIAAS (Image credit: NIAAS)


As the evening progressed we waited on baited breath to see if the clouds would stay clear to allow us to view the amazing giant gas planet Jupiter and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the Pleiades Star Cluster.  As our car park began to fill up and people started to filter into the Planetarium we had a feeling that luck was on our side, and for the second year running we had dry weather, and even better, a clear sky!


Telescopes are always popular attractions for the public. (Image credit: NIAAS)

It was great to see how many children had brought along their telescopes to join in with the viewing and the astronomy experts were very busy answering queries about the night sky and giving advice on the best telescopes to purchase.  At many stages during the course of the night huge queues formed to catch a glimpse of Jupiter and some of its Moons that were on display!  The ever-helpful NIAAS members braved the chilly January air as they enthused the crowds of on-lookers.  If you need any help or advice a great point of contact is their website, packed full of helpful tips and some photographs of their night in Armagh as well


Image of Jupiter through small telescope

Image taken with a 10inch LX200 telescope coupled with a Meade Deep Sky Imager CCD camera. Image taken 27 May 2006. Stargazers at the Planetarium were greeted with a similar sight of Jupiter at the event night.(Image credit: Julie Thompson, Armagh Planetarium)


In addition to all the stargazing that was happening, we also had free theatre shows on offer.  To cope with the demand we put on two extra screenings of our new show “Experience the Aurora”, totalling four fully packed viewings in total!  Our Director, Dr. Tom Mason also provided Meteorite presentations and some lucky people even got to touch a piece of the Moon!  For our younger visitors we had an arts and crafts workshop and I seen many rockets blasting off out of the Planetarium to infinity and beyond!


image of stargazing jan 2012 in armagh

Calm before the storm! NIAAS members get ready for the crowds of enthusiastic stargazers. (Image credit: Philip Matchett)


As the 400 people who came out to visit us began to head home, the lights went off at the Planetarium. The NIAAS also began to pack up their gear and they headed off into the night, as we reflected on what was an amazing evening, and one that we hope can be repeated again in the future.  Many thanks to everyone that turned up and made the night possible and especially to the NIAAS who volunteered their time to show us the wonders of the night sky.  In particular I wish to thank Stevie who was instrumental in helping to organise the event, and also to Phil, Simon, Neil, Geraldine, Mia, Jason, Gary, Gilly and Colette who were on hand the whole night with the telescopes.


Here’s to clear skies in 2012!


Image of Tom Mason and stargazers

Planetarium Director Tom Mason introduces audience members to rocks from across the Solar System. (Image Credit: NIAAS)


1 Comment

Margaret Basson · January 27, 2012 at 21:21

Was looking at the sky 2nite approx 7pm. What an amazing show of stars all visible with the naked eye. A lovely clear nite to stargaze not always possible in Ireland.

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