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30 December 2007
Another perfect Solstice watch at Newgrange

A clear frosty morning ensured perfect conditions at Newgrange last Friday morning as the sun illuminated the chamber of the world-famous megalithic tomb on the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the phenomenon. It was on the 21st December 1967 that Professor Michael O'Kelly witnessed the sunlight creep through the roof box and light up the burial chamber of the 5,000-year-old tomb. Professor O'Kelly's three daughters were invited along to witness the illumination for themselves on the 40th anniversary of the moment their father stood in the chamber and witnessed the spectacle. It was an emotional and moving experience for them as they recalled their late father going to Newgrange 40 years before and the impact of his discovery on archaeology.
     This year, the ancient site was introduced to the latest in technology so that the winter solstice spectacle was broadcast live on the internet to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. However, such was the demand to view the solstice, too many hits meant not everybody was able to access the webcast and many were left disappointed. Manager of the Bru na Boinne centre, Clare Tuffy, said the conditions on the shortest day of the year "couldn`t have been better" and were "perfect".  Ms Tuffy said it was a glorious morning and that everything had gone according to plan, other than the glitch with the webcast.
     This year, a record 28,106 people from around the world applied to be one of the 50 lucky people allowed into Newgrange's cramped chamber, on one of the five days surrounding the solstice. There were 20 people inside the chamber on Friday morning, including Ministers Noel Ahern and John Gormley, Professor O'Kelly's daughters and winners in the annual lottery to pick the lucky few who get inside the chamber to witness the phenomenon. Outside the megalithic monument, around more than 200 'dawn watchers' had been gathering from the very early hours to wait for the sun to come up over the hill on the far side of the Boyne Valley and, this year, they got to see the spectacle as it was broadcast on the large screen erected outside.
     From 8.58am to 9.15am, the winter sun shone through the roof box beginning with a small shaft of light that culminated in the full illumination of the chamber. The solstice phenomenon doesn't just occur on the shortest day of the year but for a number of days either side of the date and 'dawn watching' takes place for a total of six days when members of the public who won their places in the draw conducted earlier in the year are permitted to enter the passage tomb.
     To view the highlights of the winter solstice, log onto www.heritageireland.ie. Victor Reijs has also posted a six minute compilation on YouTube of the one hour
long OPW streamed video. To view to full one hour OPW achieve or the six minute compilation click on www.newgrange.com/webcast.htm

Source: BBC News (21 December 2007), The Meath Chronicle (29 December 2007)

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