Special stargazing event at Oxford Island

Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain, presenters of BBC2's Stargazing Live.
Professor Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain, presenters of BBC2's Stargazing Live.

THIS year, The Open University will be participating in a stellar event at Oxford Island, Lough Neagh, as part of BBC TWO’S hugely popular programme, Stargazing Live.

Taking place on Thursday, January 10, at The Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, from 6pm-10pm, with over 20 free activities for all ages and stages, The Open University is one of the organisations involved in this national stargazing celebration, organised by BBC Learning.

The Open University will be showcasing its very own telescope called PIRATE.

Two PhD students from the Department of Physical Sciences, Richard Busuttil and Jakub Bochinski will show the audience how to control the Mallorca-based telescope remotely via the PIRATE computer software to take images of small areas of the sky (weather permitting).

The data collected will allow you to measure the star’s brightness and colour, and from this determine the distance to and even the age of the star cluster being observed.

John D’Arcy, Director of the OU in Ireland, based in the Belfast office, says: “This technology is mostly used by students of physics and astronomy at the OU, so to share it with members of the public at the Stargazing event is a real treat.”

As well as having access to the power of a professional 17 inch telescope, the audience will also benefit from the clearer skies of Majorca which give better viewing conditions than in the UK.

Set on the shores of the largest freshwater lake in the UK and Ireland, the Stargazing Live event will host over 20 free activities for all ages.

These include live observing with the Irish Astronomical Association, night time star cruises on the lake, a telescope surgery and live science shows.

There will be topical talks with Dr Steve Meyers, Director of Accelerators and Technology at CERN in Geneva and Dr Patrick Harkness, a Chartered Engineer and Lecturer at the University of Glasgow.

Both speakers, originally from Northern Ireland, are making the trip home especially to take part.

As well as star shows in Armagh Planetarium’s mobile inflatable dome there will be live science shows, crafts for younger children and much more.