Armagh Observatory and Planetarium Announces Submission of Application for World Heritage Status – Armagh I

The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) could soon be on a par with some of the world’s most famous landmarks as it bids for UNESCO World Heritage status.

AOP, in partnership with the Irish astronomical observatories of Birr in Co Offaly and Dunsink in Dublin, have submitted the first stage of an offer.

The application is to seek inclusion on the UK’s tentative list for World Heritage status.

Although it is only a first step, if he finally succeeds in obtaining the distinction, the monument of Armagh would join the Sydney Opera House, the Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Taj Mahal!

Professor Michael Burton, Director of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, worked with colleagues from Armagh, Birr and Dunsink to develop the app and deliver it.

“World Heritage requires Outstanding Universal Value,” said Professor Burton.

“A meaning so exceptional that it transcends national boundaries. We believe that our collective astronomical heritage is out of this world and firmly meets the robust 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.

“I think our World Heritage case is strong and fully supported by the incredible history of the Armagh Observatory. This 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.

The three observatories at Armagh, Birr and Dunsink were at the forefront of world astronomy in the 19th century, making vital contributions to telescope design and understanding our place in the cosmos.

Not only have these telescopes been used over the decades for important research, but they also retain their original physical form today, making them an exciting and incredibly important part of this collective heritage.

Among the telescopes that can be seen in Armagh is the Troughton Equatorial. Installed in 1795, it is the oldest telescope in the world still in its original cupola.

In fact, the Armagh 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, used to train doctoral students.

World Heritage belongs and must remain accessible to all, regardless of culture or location.

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Arline J. Mercier