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11 January 2012
Stargazing at Irish stone circles

Astronomers from Armagh Observatory and archaeologists from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) will be hosting the Stargazing Live Universe Awareness (UNAWE) activities at the fascinating Beaghmore stone circles near Cookstown (County Tyrone, Northern Ireland) regarded as the best Dark-Sky site in the region.
     The event - an international astronomy outreach programme funded by the European Community - is to be held on Wednesday 18th January 2012. Mark Bailey, Director of the Observatory, said: "Astronomy captures the imagination of children, young and old, as well as others young at heart. A view of the stars and of our Milky Way on a clear night from a Dark-Sky site such as Beaghmore can be an awe-inspiring, sometimes life-changing experience."
     Schoolchildren will undertake a series of astronomy and science-based activities, including those that illustrate the lives of the people that built the stone circles at Beaghmore, in those early times. There will also a fascinating shadow theatre provided by EU-UNAWE presenters from the Arcetri Observatory in Florence, Italy. Later, children, their parents and everyone else are invited to a free Stargazing live event at Beaghmore. This will take place from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm - weather permitting.
     Living History enactors will greet them and demonstrate Bronze Age weapons and artefacts technology, including food and agriculture, highlighting possible reasons for the need to use astronomy and the science behind the circles' original purpose. There will also be opportunities to view the stones at sunset and observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible after sunset. If the weather's bad, as there will be an alternative Living History programme, a slide show illustrating the night sky from this special Dark-Sky site, and a EU-UNAWE presentation.
     The last part of the event, from 8.00pm to 9.30pm, comprises two public lectures, the first by Claire Foley (NIEA) entitled "Stone Circles and the Bronze Age Perception of the Skies", and the second by Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory) entitled "Comets and Cometary Concepts in History: Identifying the Celestial Connection".
     Those wishing to attend these events should obtain free tickets by contacting Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: ambn@arm.ac.uk.

Edited from Mid-Ulster Mail (10 January 2012)

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