Dunsink Lane, Dublin 15, D15 XR2R

Culture Night 2018

Culture Night 2018 was held on Friday 21st September at DIAS Dunsink Observatory along with many other events happening across Ireland. Giving the evening talks were Professor Tom Ray from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and Dr. Robert Izzard from the University of Surrey, England. Visitors were free to explore the observatory and visit the South Dome. Volunteers from DIAS, the Irish Astronomical Society (IAS), the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) and Dublin City University (DCU) were located throughout the observatory on the evening liaising with our many visitors.

Dr. Jonathan Mackey (DIAS) speaking about the previous directors of Dunsink Observatory and the science past and current. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

Two talks were held in the Meridian Room, both to a full house. Dr. Jonathan Mackey (DIAS) introduced both of these talks and spoke to our visitors about the previous directors of Dunsink Observatory. He spoke about the early history of the observatory including the life and work of Sir William Rowan Hamilton who lived and worked at the observatory (1827–1865). Jonathan spoke to our visitors about DIAS Dunsink Observatory coming under the jurisdiction of DIAS and its current use as a centre for fundamental research, scientific meetings and workshops plus as a facility for Citizen Science. He spoke about his groups research being done in collaboration with many visiting international researchers within the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section of DIAS located both in Dunsink Observatory and 31 Fitzwilliam Place.

Professor Tom Ray (DIAS) speaking about Thomas and Howard Grubb. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

The first speaker of the night was Professor Tom Ray (DIAS). He spoke about the lives of Thomas and Howard Grubb, a father and son. Tom mentioned that it has been 100 years since Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was proven using a Grubb Coelostat designed and manufactured at the Portobello Grubb Engineering Works. He spoke about the different types of telescope lenses which gives us refractor and reflector telescopes. Tom told our visitors about The Charlemont Bridge Works where their company began making billiard tables and then developed an interest in astronomy and making telescopes while also owning his own observatory. He spoke about the different Grubb telescopes that are located around the world, some are in Ireland, Melbourne and Vienna. One of these historical Grubb telescopes is located in the South Dome at Dunsink Observatory. They also made telescopes for astrographs and developed periscopes for use in submarines. In the final years of the company’s operation in Ireland, it was acquired by Charles Parsons of Birr Castle who moved the company to Newcastle and it became known as Grubb Parsons. Tom then answered many interesting questions from the audience relating to dark matter, the universe expanding and various space missions so giving a great varied discussion to the evening.

Dr. Robert Izzard speaking about Binary Stars. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

The second speaker of the night was Dr. Robert Izzard from the University of Surrey, England who spoke about his research about Binary Stars. Robert firstly described binary stars, which are two stars that are attracted to each other by means of gravity. He informed the audience about the very interesting topic of how binary stars have a  circular orbit. Robert spoke about how most massive stars which are bigger than our Sun are binary. He spoke about the life cycle of stars and the Lagrange Point that is located between two binary stars systems. Robert spoke about how when a binary star grows to its massive stage and passes the Lagrange Point its material is dumped onto the companion star. He spoke about supernovae in binary stars and runaway stars that travel fast enough to enable them to escape their galaxy. Finally he gave an overview of gravitational wave radiation. At the end of his talk, Robert answered many different questions about binary stars and massive stars, showing that his talk was the catalyst for many topics of discussion.

Throughout the evening our unending stream of visitors were free to wander around the main part of the Observatory and the South Dome. John Flannery (IAS) was in the South Dome informing our visitors about the Grubb Telescope with all its history and detail plus helping our visiting observers to view our night sky using the historic telescope.

Sam Green (DIAS) our PhD student at Dunsink Observatory enjoying the ICHEC Virtual Reality headset. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

ICHEC set up Virtual Reality and facial recognition systems, and a machine learning installation, in the boardroom for our visitors to use, and these were very popular with young and old.

Sam Green (DIAS) and Mike Foylan (IAS) were in our Solar Room speaking to our visitors about the Meteor Cameras which are part of a node of the NEMETODE Network, showing them the optical and radio meteors that are observed using our radio antenna and cameras at Dunsink Observatory.

Patricia Carroll (IAS) and Val Dunne (IAS) were helping visitors to observe Mars, the Moon and Saturn using modern portable telescopes.

The evening ended after 12.30 am with Sam Green (DIAS) and John Flannery (IAS) in the South Dome speaking about the Grubb telescope and helping people to look through the Grubb telescope. We at Dunsink Observatory would like to thank the large number of people that came to join us throughout that evening. Please keep an eye on our Dunsink Observatory website and our many other forms of social media for future events. We were delighted that Dunsink Observatory was able to contribute to the festivities on Culture Night 2018.

Reported by our volunteer blogger Qi Qi Kennedy of DCU.