So winter is here. We’ve already had the snowfalls and the colder days and nights and Christmas is just around the corner. I love the cooler weather and getting to wrap up warm, get outdoors at night and gaze into the wondrous night sky. Star gazing is always something I’ve loved and I remember at school being given a gift voucher for the school prize giving which I used, to everyone’s amazement, to buy a book about astronomy.
I’ve watched the night sky in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and been in awe of what’s happening out there, millions of light years away.
Next week marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year and one of the key astronomical events of the year.
There are a few events happening to celebrate Winter Solstice in Northern Ireland:
The tomb at Slieve Gullion
On December 19 and 20 at 2pm join a guided walk to the summit of Slieve Gullion from the top carpark at Slieve Gullion to the passage tomb at the summit. On December 21 join archaeologist, Dr Brian Williams who will give a lecture at 1pm in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard on the passage tomb, walk commences at 2pm and on December 22 from 2pm there will be a guided walk in Irish, led by Dermot Somers, to the summit of Slieve Gullion.
On December 20 at 1pm – 2.15pm and 2.30pm – 3.45pm in the Slieve Gullion Courtyard there will be two Clay Workshops with Mary Cowen based on the geology and archaeology of the Winter Solstice and Frances Quinn will perform ‘The Cúchulainn Saga’ for adults and children over 9 years of age.
All of these events are free but booking is essential. Only those with experience should take part in the walks as the descent is at dusk and participants are advised to wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
The mesmerising Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis are visible from parts of Northern Ireland during the winter.
The lights can sometimes be seen from various locations including the mythical Beaghmore stone circles in the Sperrins and along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route.
Astronomy at the planetarium
Armagh Planetarium at this time of year is a must. Until December 23rd, the Mystery of the Christmas Star will be playing in the Dome helping to explain in a colourful and engaging way the magical story of the star that changed the course of history. As well as this, there are lots of other ‘out of this world’ shows taking place and kids will love learning about the cosmos at the fun interactive exhibition.
If gazing up at the actual night sky is more your thing then get all starry eyed and visit a site perfect for a stargazing. Head out into the countryside to any area of low light pollution and just watch the sky. Look out for those comet and shooting stars. Or keep an eye out for passing satellites or the International Space Station! Download one of the apps for your phone to help you figure out what’s up there!
For more information on exciting things to do in Northern Ireland this winter log onto www.discovernorthernireland.com.