The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium is a candidate to become the second UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland

The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium is a candidate to become Northern Ireland’s latest entry for UNESCO World Heritage status.

he site – based at College Hill in the city – is the oldest planetarium in the British Isles and has submitted the first stage application alongside the Birr and Dunsink observatories in the Republic of Ireland.

Such status would confer legal protection under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, with awards given to “cultural and natural heritage sites around the world considered to be of exceptional value. for Humanity”.

The observatory’s Professor Michael Burton said such a status would “support and inspire further collaborative work” within the astronomical community on the island of Ireland.

“World Heritage requires Outstanding Universal Value. A meaning so exceptional that it transcends national borders,” added the director.

“We believe that our collective astronomical heritage is out of this world and firmly meets the solid criteria necessary for this status.

“Our heavenly partnership with Birr and Dunsink spanned four centuries. By highlighting these origins as well as the developments in astronomy we have made, both separately and collectively, we believe we are in a strong position to seek this nomination.

“We believe that achieving World Heritage status will support and inspire closer collaboration with our community, stakeholders and research partners to unlock opportunities and highlight the exceptional value of our heritage.”

While the site of the modern Armagh Planetarium was first opened in 1968, the observatory itself was first established in 1790 by Archbishop Robinson.

Among the telescopes that can be seen in Armagh is the Troughton Equatorial which was installed in 1795 and is the oldest telescope in the world still in its original dome.


Professor Michael Burton, Director of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Professor Michael Burton, Director of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

The observatory is home to six generations of telescopes, ranging from the 1769 King George III Telescopes used to measure the transit of Venus to the 2010 Armagh Robotic Telescope.

Meanwhile, the planetarium’s original Starball Goto projector pioneered the introduction of the video revolution to planetariums in the 1970s.

These days things are slightly more advanced, with the Armagh site using a state-of-the-art digital projector system providing an immersive experience under the full dome.

“I think our case for World Heritage is strong and fully supported by the incredible history of the Armagh Observatory,” added Prof Burton.

“It sums up our desire to continue to explore, to ask questions, to dig deep, and to continue to play a leading role in influencing humanity’s perceptions of the cosmos.”

If the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium is ultimately successful, it would mark only Northern Ireland’s second landmark with status.

The Giant’s Causeway was granted organizational status in 1986.

Other sites with the status across the UK include Stonehenge, Blenheim Palace near Oxford and the Tower of London.

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, the prehistoric site of Bru na Boinne about 40km north of Dublin is on the list, along with the island of Skellig Michael, which lies in the far northwest of Dublin. Europe and is a spectacular example of an early medieval island monastic site.

Laura J. Boyer