Everyone at sometime or another has gazed up at the moon and the stars and wondered what is out there. Well our group was no different as we headed off to the Planetarium in Armagh full of anticipation and wonder. In many ways it was a day of differing firsts for the group. First time in the North for some, first time in Armagh for others and so on.
There was great banter as the bus cruised up the motorway to the North. Suddenly all our phones started pinging as we crossed the invisible border. There were gasps of delight and amusement then people saying “Did we go through the border didn’t see it” or “My phone has just welcomed me to the UK”. More comments as we passed the English flag and the red letter boxes. The bus driver Liam gave us a running commentary on the area as we headed into Armagh Town.
Next stop was lunch at the Armagh City Hotel, an experience we all thoroughly enjoyed. Paddy Minogue’s sister is manageress and ensured we were made very welcome. After a gorgeous carvery we were given complimentary tea, coffee, fruit juice and the most beautiful rounds of homemade shortcake any of us had ever tasted. Everyone enjoyed relaxing over lunch and listening to the different accents of our fellow diners.
Then it was on to the main event the Planetarium. On the way we passed the famous Armagh Cathedral and the Museum of the Irish Fusiliers. There were lots of comments on the architecture and the town itself. It would have been nice to walk around but we didn’t have the time. We rounded a corner and there was the Planetarium.
The education team met us in the reception area and explained the agenda to us. We had great fun browsing in the shop (no problem accepting our euros) and exploring the different rooms and exhibitions. After about twenty minutes Heather, our education guide. gathered us all together and took us to the Digital Theatre. We had the experience of our lives. We lay back on reclining chairs and looked up at the huge dome above us. Every one of us gasped in wonder as the dome began to display the universe. Staring at the constellations, The Little Dipper, The Little Bear, Orion – The Hunter, Taurus – The Bull, Gemini – The Twins, we were absolutely mesmerised. Heather described their formations and how far from Earth they are. She also had lots of little anecdotes which she amazed us with. Then came the show ‘Solar Storms in Space’ narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch. It was phenomenal and so vivid we could have been there; none of us could take our eyes away from the dome. We all realised at that point just how vulnerable and amazing our Planet Earth is.
Before we left the theatre we had a ride on the Space Roller Coaster it was incredible, screams, whoops and gasps galore. We exited the theatre with shaky legs, churning tummies and dizzy heads. It was great!!
Heather then proceeded to give us a guided tour of the Planetarium and explained how astronauts function in Space and how the plans for developing Mars are well under way. She told us many fascinating facts about the distance of other planets from Earth and just how tiny our Solar System is in the whole scheme of things. Everyone got a chance to dress up in space costumes (we are never too old to dress up) and some of the group were even serenaded with the lyrics of David Bowie’s ‘Major Tom’ as they donned their costumes. Our laughter could be heard throughout the Planetarium.
All too soon the visit was over and we were once again heading southbound on the bus. Back across the invisible border our phones pinged and welcomed us home. We stopped at a service station for tea and cakes. For some of the group it was their first time in a service station and they marvelled at the amount of food outlets and shops. We arrived back in Dublin about an hour later our heads buzzing with all of the day’s activity. We all agreed that we had had a brilliant day and learned so much.
Below are some comments from the group:
‘I would recommend it to anyone – brilliant very relaxing and educational day’
‘Excellent I enjoyed everything about the day – couldn’t believe what I learned’
‘Wonderful day I loved it – learned so much’
‘I learned so much about what goes on out there – couldn’t believe it
‘Great experience – the dome was amazing, well worth the trip’
‘Fantastic – very educational we all learned from it’
By Carol McDermott, Tutor in DALC