Dunsink Lane, Dublin 15, D15 XR2R

Open Nights Early 2019

On 23 January 2019, DIAS Dunsink Observatory held our first Public Open Night of 2019 which included captivating talks from Sam Green, PhD student (DIAS) and John Flannery (Irish Astronomical Society, IAS) and a visit to the South Dome.

Sam Green (DIAS) speaking about the history of Dunsink Observatory. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

Sam Green began the evening by speaking to a full Meridian Room about the history and origins of Dunsink Observatory, including how time was measured from Dunsink, and about William Rowan Hamilton who worked and lived at Dunsink Observatory and invented quaternions. He also spoke about the origins of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) which was set up by De Valera, and how Patrick Wayman modernised the Observatory. Sam ended by discussing the Coelostat, which was built by Howard Grubb in Dublin, and was used to prove Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. May 29th 2019 is the 100th anniversary of this.


John Flannery (IAS) speaking about what to keep an eye out for in the sky. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

John Flannery (IAS member) then spoke about astronomical objects in the sky that are visible during the month of January. He showed screenshots from a star guide app with views of the night sky including labelled objects of interest, and also spoke about when the International Space Station would be visible from Ireland. John showed the 2019 Astronomy Calendar that he compiled, showing astronomy events and what to observe throughout the year and is available for free here. John spoke about the different activities the IAS is involved with, and then our visitors then went out to the South Dome where they saw the historic Grubb Telescope.

Dr. Jonathan Mackey welcoming everyone and speaking about upcoming events. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

We had another open night on 30th January, and then two more in February, on the 20th and 27th.  The 27th of February was a foggy evening which included talks from Prof. Peter Gallagher (DIAS) and Samuel McKeague (PhD Student at DCU) and a visit to the South Dome. The evening of talks began with a welcome from Dr. Jonathan Mackey (DIAS) during which he spoke about the upcoming events at Dunsink Observatory including Solarfest and the Moon Cycle.

Prof. Peter Gallagher (DIAS) speaking about the fascinating history of Dunsink Observatory. (Credit: Qi Qi Kennedy)

Prof. Peter Gallagher (DIAS) is the new Senior Professor of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section and Observatory Director then gave a talk about the history of Dunsink Observatory. As a former Trinity Professor, he had some interesting insights into the establishment early history of the Observatory under Trinity College Dublin. He discussed Dunsink Time and Sir William Rowan Hamilton, and how in the past Dunsink Observatory was also used as a farm and as a home of the Director. Peter spoke about The Grubb Telescope, the transition to DIAS management, and how currently Dunsink Observatory is used for scientific research and public outreach.

Samuel McKeague then gave a talk about “Our View of the Universe”, describing his research on massive stars, black holes and neutron stars, and the exciting potential of the planned observatories Athena and CTA. He talked about the Electromagnetic Spectrum of different types of light from radio waves to visible light to X-rays and Gamma rays, and then took us on a virtual tour of the observatories and telescopes that we use to measure it all. Samuel talked about optical astronomy which measures visible light with telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope, and about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is the infrared successor to Hubble. He then moved to radio astronomy and LOFAR, a radio telescope in Ireland that can be used to study the Sun, young stars, jets, nebulae, and supernova remnants. He finished with X-ray and Gamma-ray astronomy and the observatories XMM-Newton and the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope that he uses for his PhD research on binary star systems that emit X-rays, also mentioning the H.E.S.S. Observatory and CTA. Samuel spoke about a new field of astronomy that was predicted by Einstein, Gravitational Waves, first detected by LIGO in 2016.

Our visitors then went out to the South Dome with Sam Green where they saw the historic Grubb Telescope. Thank you to everyone for joining us during our Public Open Night. Keep an eye on our website and social media for upcoming events.

DIAS website:
Dunsink website:

Reported by our volunteer blogger Qi Qi Kennedy of DCU.