Armagh Observatory was founded by the Archbishop of Armagh Richard Robinson in 1790 and is the oldest scientific institution in Northern Ireland. From its inception, Armagh Observatory has been at the forefront of astronomical investigation, with the New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (NGC catalogue) compiled by J. L. E. Dreyer while Director of the Observatory.
Armagh Planetarium reopened in 2006 following a major refurbishment. The Digital Theatre has been completely refurbished with the world’s most advanced digital projection system. The theatre will treat audiences to a full-colour 3D experience projected over the entire dome. Visitors can use interactive displays to learn about the cosmos and watch the latest space news in real time. The Astropark is a scale model of the Universe where visitors can walk through the Solar System and into the Milky Way and beyond.
Birr Castle is the ancestral home of the Earl of Rosse and in the 1840’s became home to the largest telescope in the world with the construction of the Leviathan of Parsonstown by the 3rd Earl of Rosse William Parsons. This was the largest telescope in the world from 1845 until the construction of the Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson in California in 1917. The Leviathan remains open to tourists, although it is no longer used for scientific measurements.
The Demesne at Birr Castle has recently become home to TCD’s Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory, a suite of radio telescopes used by Irish astrophysicists to study the Sun and its effects on the Earth. RSTO is operated by the Solar Physics Group at TCD and consists of an eCallisto solar radio burst monitor and an AWESOME ionospheric monitor, while it has also been proposed as a possible site for an Irish LOFAR radio telescope.
Blackrock Castle Observatory is home to one of the largest and most interactive astronomy exhibitions in Ireland. Originally built in the early 1600’s, it was designed to protect the city of Cork from invaders but was mainly used by Cork City Corporation for banquets and convivial gatherings. Although it passed into private hands at the start of the 20th Century, it was bought in the early 2000’s by Cork Corporation and fully restored as a science and astronomy centre.
Today, Blackrock Castle Observatory is a working research facility operated by Cork Institute of Technology as well as being home to an astronomy exhibition. Blackrock Castle Observatory is home to a number of optical telescopes and is also an official partner of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).
Dunsink Observatory is one of the oldest scientific institutes in Ireland and was constructed from 1783-1785. It was originally the official observatory of Trinity College and was operated by the Andrews Professor of Astronomy in Trinity College, who was also the Astronomer Royal for Ireland. The observatory was operated by Trinity College until 1947 at which point it was transferred to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
Although no longer used for scientific research, Dunsink Observatory continues to be operated by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and is used for meetings, workshops and regular open nights using its 12 inch refracting telescope.