Friday October 28th
Martin Byrne is a Bord Fáilte tour guide who has been giving guided tours for 20 years to Neolithic sites across Ireland but mainly in Connaught. He originally studied art and archaeology, and more recently became especially interested in the art and astronomical alignments of the monuments known as chambered cairns or passage graves. He moved from Galway to Sligo in the mid 1990’s close to the main group of cairns at Carrowkeel. Here he became enchanted with the landscape, mythology, traditional music and archaeology of Lough Arrow and south Sligo region. Over the next decade, as he became familiar with the monuments and mythology and documented the midsummer sunsets at Carrowkeel and at Moytura across the Lake, where the sinking Sun in Irish mythology represents the “Balor’s Evil Eye” who was king of the Fomorians, a group of supernatural beings. Martin now lives in Cliffoney, close to Creevykeel, the huge Neolithic court cairn looking over the Head of Mullaghmore on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Martin is has a wonderful website entitled “The Sacred Island”. If you have an appreciation of history, archaeology and beautiful landscapes then you will enjoy this page. The website is strewn with beautiful images court cairns to caves, portal tombs to standing stones from across the Emerald Isle. Just go to http://www.carrowkeel.com/
Georgia MacMillan: Project Manager of the Mayo Dark Skies Steering Committee
After a 20 year career working in financial services in London & Dublin, Georgia used redundancy as an opportunity to make a complete lifestyle change. She escaped the city and moved to Newport, County Mayo to get closer to nature. Here she completed an honours degree in Outdoor Education and obtained her Mountain Leader Award. After getting settled in her new surroundings she returned to college at GMIT Mayo, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Outdoor Education and obtained her mountain leader award. Georgia’s Outdoor Education dissertation was entitled “Preserving the Night-time skies” prompted her to further research the possibilities of establishing a Dark-sky Park for the Ballycroy National Park & Wild Nephin region.
She then formed the “Friends of Mayo Dark-Skies” steering group; a collaboration between Professor Brian Espey of Trinity College Dublin, the National Parks Wildlife Service , Coillte, Mayo County Council, Community representatives and became its project manager.
Saturday October 29th
Dr. Norah Patten is adjunct faculty at the International Space University and Co-Chair of the Space Humanities Department for the Space Studies Program (SSP). Norah recently initiated and coordinated ‘The Only Way is Up’ project at The Irish Centre for Composites Research in which, through a partnership with Nanoracks, the first experiment designed by Irish secondary school students was sent to the International Space Station in July 2014. She graduated with a 1st class honours degree in Aeronautical Engineering and in 2011 received her PhD from the University of Limerick in Ireland. She was Chair of the Space Management and Business Department at the SSP13 in Strasbourg. Norah has interned at the Boeing Company in Seattle Washington USA and Bell Labs Alcatel Lucent in Dublin; she has featured on national television and other media including national radio and newspapers; and is a regular speaker at public events. Norah also writes articles for the Astronomy Ireland magazine and was listed by Technology Voice as one of Ireland’s ‘Talented 38’ Technology Women 2015. Norah’s mission is to inspire the next generation of engineers and astronauts.
John O’Mahony is an Irish / Australian amateur astronomer currently based in the North Mayo and Limerick areas. John has had a keen interest in astronomy since he was a teenager which encouraged him to pursue a career in science. His main focus of interest is in observational astronomy and astrophotography, especially wide field astrophotography using DSLR cameras and wide field lenses.
John spent a number of years studying and working in Australia where he was a member of the Mornington Peninsula Astronomical Society, just outside Melbourne, and the Astronomical Society of New South Wales based in Sydney. A long time member of the Shannonside Astronomy Club, John enjoys public outreach events and sharing the night sky through his collection of six telescopes.
A co-founder of the Shannonside Astronomy Club in 1985 and was a co-founder and primary organizer of the SAC’s Whirlpool Star party based in Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, an internationally recognised event. He is currently Secretary of Shannonside Astronomy Club, starting his 25th year in the post and provides Astronomy and Science outreach for the general public at the Glor Theatre in Ennis, County Clare.
Other post he held included; Vice President of the Irish Astronomical Association, he presented star shows and public outreach activities at Armagh Planetarium. Tony has also been fortunate to spend time at large professional observatories around the world. For more information go to www.shannonsideastronomyclub.com
Very few can speak as knowledgably on science and space as Leo Enright and we doubt if anyone can do so more enthusiastically. Starting as a space commentator in the 1960’s Leo has broadcast live commentaries on every major space event since the first Moon landing. He was the network’s Middle East Correspondent, before taking up posts as North America correspondent and later London Correspondent. Most recently, he has been the BBC’s correspondent in Ireland for more than a decade, before resigning to concentrate on personal projects in the area of public understanding of science. He continues to broadcast regularly on BBC radio and television and on RTE and also contributes articles to national newspapers in Britain and Ireland. He is the author (with Prof. Carl Sagan, Sir Bernard Lovell and others) of “The Encyclopaedia of Space Travel and Astronomy
He has a science degree from UCD and in 2003, Leo Enright was appointed Chairman of our Government’s “Discover Science and Engineering”, a national programme to co-ordinate public and private promotion of engineering and science throughout Irish society. Besides being an accomplished broadcaster, a recognised ‘voice’, Leo is a most entertaining and informative speaker.
Eamonn Ansbro has been involved in astronomy since the age of 8 when given a present of “The Boy’s Book of Space”. From being an enthusiastic observer, Eamonn progressed to making his own mirrors and he then went on to make telescopes. He eventually set up an observatory in Dublin where he made a number of significant discoveries (co-discovery of a hydrogen envelope around the rings of Saturn in1974; discovery of moonquakes in 1975; and discovery of a new star in 1976).
From his Dublin observatory Eamonn carried out groundbreaking work in the area of variable stars. He coordinated the work of variable star observing groups around the world, and was Co-Editor of the Amateur Variable Star Directory of the IUAA. Always one to promote Irish astronomy, as Vice President of the International Union of Amateur Astronomers he brought the IUAA general assembly to Dublin.
Eamonn has always taken a hands-on approach to his learning in astronomy, with an emphasis on practical observing skills. In addition to receiving training as a meteorologist, he received a Masters degree in Astronomy from the University of Western Sydney in Australia, a M.Phil from Open University and a PhD from Planetary Space Science Research Institute. He is currently carrying out research for a PhD at the Planetary Space Science Research Institute (UK). He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and has written and published over 40 articles and papers about astronomy, optics and extraterrestrial intelligence. He took time out from astronomy to set up a business in optical engineering with factories in Dublin and Bantry, and is currently developing 3D imaging products.
Eamonn’s current astronomy projects include the development of a range of telescope facilities at Kingsland Observatory in County Roscommon. The focus of his current research is Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects (EKBOs) using his 0.9-m (36-in.) reflector. This topic meshes with another life-long interest, that of discovering a Tenth Planet in the solar system. He recently discovered that his early correspondence with Clyde Tombaugh (discoverer of Pluto) has been catalogued in Tombaugh’s archives at the University of New Mexico. Eamonn is now collaborating with some of the current experts in “Planet X” research. For more information go to
Nick James is a secretary of the British Astronomical Association, Director of its Comet Section and Assistant Editor of The Astronomer magazine. Professionally he is an engineer working in the space industry leading a team developing deep-space communication and tracking systems. His interest in astronomy started as a ten-year old when he received a small telescope for Christmas, and it has developed over the years to the point where he now has a fully equipped back-garden observatory. He has written many articles for magazines and is the joint author of Observing Comets, published by Springer in 2003. He regularly gives talks on astronomical subjects to a wide range of audiences ranging from Year 1 primary school children through to advanced astronomers at venues such as the Royal Institution.
He has travelled widely to view astronomical events such as eclipses and has observed, photographed and videoed spectacular displays of the northern lights from Alaska and northern Sweden. In 2013 Nick was the astronomer guide on ‘Active Arctic and Northern Lights’ – a Northern Lights tour in Sweden while during the 2010 Total Eclipse Nick was one of the first people to obtain an HD video of shadow bands projected on to thin clouds.For more information see http://www.nickdjames.com/meteor/
Sunday October 30th
Loraine Hanlon has a BSc and MSc in experimental physics at UCD, and spent 4 years in the Netherlands to do research in space-based gamma-ray astronomy at the ESA research headquarters in Noordwijk. Hanlon received a PhD and began as a lecturer in UCD in 1997, becoming Associate Professor of Astronomy in 2007. Her research activities are in the areas of space science and astrophysics, with a particular emphasis on ground-based and space-based studies of gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful and distant explosive events in the universe. She develops hardware and instrumentation for astrophysics. Her team has built the Watcher robotic telescope, which is located in South Africa and is Ireland’s only professional telescope at a high quality observing site. She also works on advanced techniques for gamma-ray detection, for both astrophysics and medical applications. She is co-founder of UCD’s Art in Science programme (www.ucdartinscience.com), which brings scientists and artists together in collaboration, through an artist in residence programme, joint exhibitions and seminars. Exotic windows on the Universe are also becoming available, heralding an era of ‘multi-messenger’ astronomy, in which light, particles and gravitational waves together may provide a more complete understanding of the processes and interactions that shape our Universe.
John McKeon is an amateur astronomer based in Dublin. Beginning in 2012, John specialises in planetary astrophotography as well as lunar and solar work. In particular John attempts to capture time-lapse videos of planetary events such as the moon transits of Jupiter.
John recently had the luck to record an impact event on Jupiter on March 17 2016. The data captured from this impact contributed to an adjustment in the estimated rate of of visible impacts on Jupiter. John is a member of Meath astronomy club and enjoys outreach events and sharing techniques for astrophotography.
Dave Grennan is an amateur astronomer who is a committed watcher of the skies and devotes many hours to astronomy taking hundreds of deep sky images of Galaxies in the hunt for supernovae from his backyard observatory in Raheny, North County Dublin. Back in September 2010 he hit headlines nationwide and became the first person in Ireland to discover a supernova (2010 IK), an explosion that happened 290 million years ago and followed this up with a second in August 2012. He has made his mark on the Universe before as back in 2008 he discovered a small asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, the 3km-wide rock has since been named ‘Catherine Griffin’ after his late mother. See his photos at http://www.webtreatz.com/
Other speakers include Nick James and Tony O’Hanlon, both previously mentioned above.