The Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory, which
will be opened on Saturday, June 28th, will be used to help better
understand solar phenomena affecting everyday life on Earth
Details: 3 pm, Saturday, June 28th, 2014
at Birr Castle Demesne, Birr, Co. Offaly (attending press/photographers are advised to arrive by 2:45 pm to
ascend the observatory).
27th, 2014 – The Rosse
Solar-Terrestrial Observatory – a Trinity College Dublin School of Physics
teaching and research facility devoted to studying the Sun and its effects on
Earth – will be officially opened with a ceremony at Birr Castle Demesne, Co.
Offaly, on Saturday June 28th.
The Sun is an enormous ball of hot
gas, which keeps our planet hot enough for life to flourish. From time to time
though, huge clouds of hot solar gas can be flung into space at hundreds of
thousands of kilometres an hour. These ‘solar storms’ can endanger astronauts
and cause problems for telecommunications and navigation systems here on Earth.
Scientists will use the observatory
and its set of scientific instruments to work out when solar storms erupt from
the Sun and when they hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field. Scientists
at Trinity have developed the observatory at Birr Castle in the midlands of
Ireland to monitor the effervescent Sun’s nearly unpredictable outbursts.
Director of the Rosse
Solar-Terrestrial Observatory and Associate Professor in Physics at Trinity,
Peter Gallagher, said: “We are delighted to reignite scientific research at Birr
and to honour one of Ireland’s greatest innovators of the 1800s, the 3rd Earl
of Rosse, by naming the observatory for him.”
Trinity has established links with
Birr that stretch back over a century and a half. Indeed, the 3rd Earl was
Chancellor in 1862–1867, the 4th Earl was Chancellor in 1885–1908 and the 6th
Earl was Pro-Chancellor in 1949–1979. The observatory will enable
researchers to study the Sun and its effects on the Earth like no other
facility in Ireland. A set of antennae will constantly monitor solar activity,
while another antenna will monitor solar effects on a layer of the Earth’s
upper atmosphere called the ‘ionosphere’. Ionospheric disturbances can cause
drop-outs in high-frequency communications with aircraft. An additional instrument, called a
magnetometer, which is operated jointly with the Geophysics Section of the
Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, will continuously monitor disturbances
in the Earth’s magnetic field. These ‘geomagnetic storms’ can cause deflections
in compasses and surges in electricity power grids.
Professor Gallagher added: “A
facility like this will also enable Irish students to gain valuable hands on
skills in programming, electronics, antennas, and cutting-edge scientific
research at a working observatory. Physics graduates are in great demand in
high-tech companies and end up working in a wide range of sectors including IT,
finance, engineering, education, which are all areas of particular importance
to the development of the smart economy in Ireland.”