Newgrange Winter Solstice Webcast Marks Start of International Year of Astronomy

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Dr Martin Mansergh T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works has announced broadcast details of this year's Winter Solstice at Newgrange, County Meath. Minister Mansergh said: "Last year, for the first time ever, the Office of Public Works (OPW) broadcast a live internet web stream of the iconic sunrise in the 5,000 year old chamber at Newgrange, County Meath. Many thousands of people all around the world tuned in to enjoy coverage and I am delighted, this year, to announce that we are providing a similar live stream of the event on our Heritage Ireland website, www.heritageireland.ie. In addition, Free to Air coverage will be available to any television outlets who wish to broadcast the event". The Minister continued: "This year also sees an exciting collaboration between my Office and the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). Ireland will be the first country in the world to mark the start of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 with this special event and we are happy to work in partnership with IYA2009, Discover Science & Engineering and NUI Galway, the main sponsoring bodies of the Irish node of IYA2009". The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) is a global celebration of astronomy and its entirely peaceful contribution to society and culture. 2009 is the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo, in reality the beginning of the modern age in astronomy. The aim of IYA2009 is to stimulate a worldwide interest and encourage participation in astronomy and in science amongst students at all levels, and among the general public. In Ireland, a programme of events for IYA2009 is being organised by the Irish Node of IYA2009, headed by Professor Michael Redfern, Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway. According to Professor Redfern, who lectures in Astrophysics, the Newgrange event is the perfect way to mark the coming year: "The Solar new year actually begins with the winter solstice, so in terms of astrophysics we will already be entering 2009. Newgrange is an extraordinary structure, demonstrating what a deep understanding of astronomy and what great precision in building the passage tomb was shown by our Irish ancestors, some 5000 years ago. It is a most moving event to witness for oneself the first rays of sunlight entering and lighting up the inner chamber where they placed the cremated remains of their ancestors, as it must have been for them. The hope for 2009 is that initiatives throughout the year will encourage participation in science, will provide a modern gender-balanced view of science and scientists, and will encourage cooperation between astronomers in the developed and developing world. We are very grateful to the Office of Public works for the opportunity to work in partnership with them on this world-renowned event". In order to see the live webcast, viewers should log onto www.astronomy2009.ie
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