|Beaghmore Stone Circles. Photo: © Steve Emerson|
Children and their teachers will hear how the Bronze-age people who built the stone circles and rows might have lived and how they constructed the stone circles. The children will learn how to make a stone circle and have a go at making a clay pot. They will also learn about the stars, planets and Seasons, and why the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. The astronomers participating in this morning session are supporting a new education and public outreach programme called European Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE). This programme, which involves scientists in five European countries and South Africa, is funded through the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement 263325. It is directed mainly at young and disadvantaged children with the important aim of using the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to encourage them to have an interest in science and technology and a sense of global citizenship from the earliest age.
In the long term, EU-UNAWE will help to produce the next generation of engineers and scientists and raise awareness that we are all part of a much larger global and space-based European community. Universe Awareness (UNAWE) was founded five years ago and is already active in more than 40 countries comprising a network of almost 500 astronomers, teachers and educators worldwide. Later in the day, from 16:00 to 20:00 this free event is open to adults and families. Here, they will have the opportunity to participate in astro-archaeological tours at 17:00 and 19:00, led by NIEA archaeologist Claire Foley and astronomer Mark Bailey, Director of Armagh Observatory. Weather permitting, visitors will also have a chance, courtesy of members of the Irish Astronomical Association, to obtain a safe view of the Sun through special astronomical telescopes and, under the supervision of NIEA archaeologists, to participate in a real research survey into the surrounding peat bog to see if further stones can be identified by “bog probing”.
The Beaghmore Stone Circle complex, County Tyrone, is located roughly halfway between Cookstown and Omagh, close to An Creagán and approximately an hour’s drive from either Armagh or Belfast. It is one of the most important stone-circle sites on the island of Ireland and discovered less than a hundred years ago during peat cutting in the 1940s and 1950s. There are three pairs of open stone circles and a single in-filled one built of quite low stones, and each circle is associated with a double alignment or “stone row” pointing roughly in the direction of midsummer sunrise or midwinter sunset. The combination of circles and alignments at Beaghmore is matched at other sites in Northern Ireland, and many, but by no means all, appear to have been designed as pointers to parts of the horizon that saw the rising or setting of the Sun or Moon.