By Eoghan Moloney
Ireland’s leading astronomer, Mr. David Moore, visited UL last week to promote International Space Week (October 3rd-8th) and to encourage young children to consider careers as astronauts. Mr. Moore gave over 400 primary school students from Limerick, Clare and Tipperary an introduction into fascinating aspects of the universe including stars, super-massive black holes and dark matter.
In an interview recently conducted by An Focal, the distinguished astronomer was keen to point out the Irish link, past and present, with humanity’s conquests in outer space. People from all over the globe flocked to Birr, Co. Offaly in the 1840’s as the world’s largest telescope was located there, so the world’s leading scientists were all drawn to Offaly at one point, believe it or not. The first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong, can even trace his roots back to Fermanagh. Even as far back as Newgrange (which pre-dates the Eygptian pyramids and Stonehenge) people settled in this country were studying the skies and built the world’s first monument to monitor the sun’s movements.
In the present day there are many Irish scientists making waves in the cosmos including Laurence o’Rourke who headed the ‘Rosetta’ mission that landed a probe on a comet successfully for the first time in history, on the 12th November 2014.
Mr. Moore stressed that “Irish people have always had a massive interest in outer space, so much so that Astronomy Ireland, Ireland’s astronomy society, has per capita the largest subscription in the world, with over 15,000 members.”
There is now, more than ever, cause for excitement for third-level students who are inclined to gaze skyward as Elon Musk, the founder of Space X, has vowed to put one million people in space in the next century, with a lot of those young adults who wish to have “the astronaut” experience. Musk is now similar to what the Wright Brothers were to the early 20th century; a visionary that wishes to master and normalise a form of travel that seems unattainable or even a bit crazy. But with a worsening climate and a population that’s increasing aggressively, it may be an eventuality that humans migrate to another planet, the vision of Mars One, and establish a permanent settlement there.
Mr. Moore runs a monthly publication, Astronomy Ireland magazine, that’s available in Eason, O’Mahony’s, and Dunnes Stores and he insists it’s the “focal point for everyone looking to keep up to date with every aspect of outer space.”