An Tánaiste, Mary Harney T.D., officially opened the Imbusch Observatory in NUI Galway today (26 January). The fully-fitted observatory provides exciting opportunities for students of the B.Sc in Physics and Astronomy programme, to carry out project work using the latest observational equipment.
While in NUI Galway, the Tánaiste will also discuss the proposed new Engineering facility at the University.
Speaking at the opening the Tánaiste restated the strategic importance of continued investment in science, engineering and technology. "The importance of a vibrant Irish third level education sector cannot be overemphasised in our quest to make Ireland a secure, knowledge based economy. Knowledge, know-how and an educated skills base are imperative for successful industrial and technological development".
"I am confident, from what I have seen here today, that this new observatory, and the innovative Physics and Astronomy degree course will assist in attracting the best and brightest students to Galway", the Tánaiste added.
Professor Michael Redfern of NUI Galway's Department of Experimental Physics says that the observatory will add an important dimension to the study of astronomy. "For instance, students will now be able to make observations of the transits of a planet orbiting a distant star, a so-called 'exo-planet," he said. In order to stimulate interest in astronomy, Professor Redfern added that secondary school students would also be encouraged to visit the observatory to experience the excitement of astronomy first-hand.
In addition to a telescope, the observatory is equipped with a fiber-fed spectrometer, a photo-counting photometer and a 3m radio telescope, which will be used in a project to map the distribution of matter in our galaxy and to 'weigh' our galaxy.
Students of physics and astronomy acquire a high level of mathematical, computational and problem-solving skills which are in demand across a wide range of careers. In recognition of this, the introduction of a perpetual prize for the best project in Physics and Astronomy, sponsored by Agilent Technologies Ltd. Dublin, will also be announced at today's event.
The observatory is dedicated to Professor George F. Imbusch, recently retired Professor of Experimental Physics in NUI Galway, a great astronomy enthusiast, who has been instrumental in facilitating the development of the subject at undergraduate and at research level in the University.