Birr Castle, Ireland - The historical home of Irish science and astronomy
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Birr Castle, Ireland – The historical home of Irish science and astronomy

18 months ago, in December 2020 a Solar System Trail was installed on the grounds of Birr Castle, home of the ‘Leviathan’ the world’s largest telescope until 1917 and the historical center of Irish Science and Astronomy attracting tens of thousands of visitors annually.

In 2020 Birr Castle celebrated 400 years. An illustrious past that can be witnessed in its beautiful grounds and the Science Center. Birr Castle has never stopped aspiring to be at the cutting edge of science and education. Today it houses I-LOFAR the Irish base of The Low Frequency Array, an international network of state-of-the-art telescopes used to observe the Universe in unprecedented detail at low radio frequencies. LOFAR is one of the largest astrophysics projects in Europe, consisting of 12 international stations spread across Germany, Poland, France, UK, Sweden and Ireland, with additional stations and a central hub in The Netherlands, operated by the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). The network uses state-of-the-art data processing and storage systems as well as sophisticated computing techniques to combine the entire network into a telescope with the effective size of the European continent.

Grainne O’Malley – General Manager – “Since we introduced the Solar Trail to the public it has been very well received, I hear children as young as four call-out the name of the planet that comes next, learning without even knowing it, all part of the fun. Our trail takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete. We find this to be the best length of time, it works for those on school class outings and families who end up exploring our Science Galleries.

“Our Solar System Trail starts at the Science Centre, seven exciting galleries tell the story of the extraordinary achievements of the Parsons family who lived here at Birr Castle Demesne for over 400 years and ends at the Great Telescope, built in 1845 by the 3rd Earl of Rosse, it remained the largest in the world for over 70 years, this wonderful machine still stands tall in the parklands and is admired by all. In more recent times we continue with our relationship with space, I-LOFAR the Irish part of the European-wide radio telescope was built on site, and is part of a network making great discoveries right now. All in all, the Solar System Trail is a wonderful addition to this remarkable location with strong links to Astronomy”