Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the craters of the moon with your very own eyes? Ever wanted to learn about astronomy, stars, and life on Mars from some of Ireland’s finest space scientists? Look no further than the U.C.D. Physics Society!

Dome

Last February, the U.C.D. Physics Society’s held their annual stargazing trip to Dunsink Observatory. This observatory is situated on the highest point to the north-west of Dublin, and is one of Ireland’s oldest scientific institutions! So, although I’m not exactly a huge astronomy nerd, I signed up eagerly, because I thought it would be interesting to learn about the stars, and their constellations, from someone who actually knew what they were talking about! Also, it’s a pretty cool experience to put your eye up to a massive telescope and see the fine detail of the hunk of rock that orbits our planet!

Telescope

In the days leading up to the event, the sky was noticeably cloudy for stargazing, and I was concerned that we might not get to see anything! Fortunately, by the time the event came around, the Atlantic winds had swept the sky clear and the stars were shining down at us once again! There was a bus organised to the observatory, which left the college around 18:00. After a short journey, we arrived at Dunsink Observatory and made our way to the lecture theatre, where one of the astronomers gave us a talk on the topic of stars. The group was a mixture of random intrigued students (like myself) and actual Physics students, but the talk was cleverly geared towards both parties, and we all came out of it with new knowledge.

Moon

After the talk, there was a short Q&A session before we made our way outside to the observatory dome. On entering, I was amazed at the sheer size of the telescope stretching upwards and outwards, taking up almost the entirety of the building! We all squeezed around the wall in single file, and it was very entertaining to watch each person’s reaction as the came in and lay eyes on the colossal telescope! At this point, another astronomer (Larry) gave us a short talk on the history of the telescope and Dunsink Observatory. It was all very interesting, but everyone was itching for him to finish talking so that we could get to have a look through!

Stargazing

When I eventually got to put my wee eye up to the telescope, I was blown away! Larry had aligned it so that it was directed towards the moon, and when I looked through, I could see the very craters of the lunar rock as it slowly moved across the eyepiece. It was incredible! I even queued up for a second look! As soon as everyone had a “go”, we went outside, where Ciarán (another astronomer) talked us through the visible star constellations, and the stories behind their titles. It was absolutely fascinating! It was a cold night to be outside, but the staff had prepared tea and coffee for us when we went inside, so that warmed us up again! Overall, it was a brilliant night, and I have been hooked on astronomy ever since!

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