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Armagh Planetarium marks 50th anniversary

John Briggs, Chair Management Committee AOP; Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell; Archbishop Richard Clarke and Professor Michael Burton, Director AOP. Picture by Liam McArdle

ARMAGH Planetarium is offering free entry tomorrow afternoon so everyone can join in the start of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Already this week, there has been a `Women in Science' event and special school projects.

Director Michael Burton hosted special guest, Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell and a number of industry experts, political leaders and educationalists.

Dame Jocelyn is the highly acclaimed astrophysicist from Northern Ireland, credited with "one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century" when, as a postgraduate student, she discovered the first radio pulsars in 1967 - a year before the planetarium launched.

The discovery was recognised by the award of the Nobel Physics Prize.

Dame Jocelyn's father was the architect of the planetarium and as a PhD student, when she first visited the new building, she asked then director Sir Patrick Moore to point out the constellation Vulpecula (`little fox') to her.

It was that constellation where she had detected the first pulsar, just a few weeks before.

"I am honoured and delighted to welcome Jocelyn home to Co Armagh for this important anniversary," Professor Burton said.

"She embodies the passion we all share for space. For everything we know and everything we have yet to discover.

"The planetarium welcomes over 50,000 people of all ages each year, with a yearning to know more about the cosmos, and our part in it.

"...On the 1st May 1968, Dr Eric Lindsay's dream for a Planetarium to sit alongside the Armagh Observatory he was director of, came true.

"His drive and commitment to provide a place where everybody could learn more about astronomy and space, made an impression on government and councils and funding was secured."

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