On the bright and sunny morning of Saturday 9th December 2006, members of the EAAS met up at newly re-opened Armagh Planetarium for their new Christmas Show, titled “The Mystery Of The Christmas Star”.
We’d a good start as we arrived at the car park, with a chance to look at the sun through Neil Patterson’s Coronado PST solar telescope, with prominences quite clearly visible. We also had a good solid group of just over twenty people of all ages, from young children to people enjoying retirement, all looking forward to the experience of the new projection and sound system.
As usual, the show started with an interesting look back over the history of the Planetarium, with an award winning presentation by Julie Thompson. We also got to see a preview of "Pole Position" which looked to be an audio and visual treat, the music levels being somewhat too strident for some members! However, I found everything to be quite comfortable, and the main show proved to be both entertaining and informative, well-suited to a lay audience whilst dealing with the astronomical side in careful detail.
Next came a trip to the Rocketry room, where EAAS members got the chance to assemble and decorate their own rockets Blue Peter style, from soft drinks bottle, card and sticky tape, and within moments deadly rivalry had set in with a vengeance, with everyone determined to see their invention travel furthest into “space”! The competition was won by ten year old Judith, whose design sailed off into the distance beyond the trees, beyond most of the miserable efforts from older members!
Afterwards we were treated to a full guided tour of the Planetarium by Naomi, one of the very capable presenters. During this tour we got a rare chance to actually see and handle some actual meteorites and tektites, which are currently on loan from the Ulster Museum.
Lunch followed, and this was both appetizing and very fresh, quite a change from normal café fare, and attention and service were as excellent as the food.
After that, we’d a surprise and very welcome invitation for a quick tour of the Observatory from Dr Miruna Popescu, one of the Observatory research staff who has been present at EAAS meetings recently and gave us probably the most outstanding lecture ever given to the EAAS since its inception.
This was a real treat, as we got a chance to see some of the historical items on show, including the marine chronometer used in the winning attempt for the Longitude prize, and some of the old telescopes, as well as the meteor cameras now in situ on the roof of the Observatory.
The tour continued to the Astropark, where Miruna carefully explained how it was set up and how it represented the scale of the Solar System and Universe. It had been a great day out, with something for everyone, including the bracing walk around the Astropark, and, as the sun sank into the west, it was time for the trek home.
Sincere thanks must go to Miruna from the observatory; Naomi, and all of the Planetarium staff for their time and attention to our party, and to Mark Stronge, our chairman, for organising the event so well.
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