Leading astronomical research and education centre, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, recently announced the introduction of a new interactive outdoor activity. Launched on 1st July 2023, the attraction is comprised of two trails. The astronomy-themed Cosmo Lost in Space route is for children, whilst Astropark Journey, an augmented reality trail, is for an adult audience.

Designed by Brilliant Trails and supported by Tourism NI and the Department for Communities, the attraction is based at the organisation’s Planetarium. The Cosmo Lost in Space trail follows the story of Cosmo, a dog that enters a spaceship which accidentally takes off to the Moon.

Young adventurers must follow the trail marked on a map to discover clues and locate the 11 Cosmo Lost in Space markers located along the route. Once all the clues have been collected, they will be able to decipher a secret code word to help Cosmo launch his spaceship and return home to Jake.

Astropark Journey, which is suitable for an adult audience, is a self-led tour of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s Astropark. Technology for the trail which uses Augmented Reality to provide an interactive experience, will be downloadable to personal mobile phones via a QR code obtainable within the Planetarium.

In addition to the interactive trails, work has been completed to enhance the Astropark’s accessibility, with new signage in braille, additional paths and seating areas, and a panoramic viewing gallery, which is nestled within an ecology area that overlooks the city of Armagh.

John McCord, Acting Director of Culture, Department for Communities, said: “The Department for Communities is delighted to have partnered with Tourism NI in funding Armagh Observatory Planetarium’s development with the launch of its newly enhanced Astropark, which will provide innovative and exciting ways for the whole family to engage with science at this heritage location.”

Tourism Northern Ireland supported the project through its Experience Development Programme 2021-2023

Esther Dobbin, Regions and Investment Manager at Tourism NI, says, “Tourism NI is delighted to see the launch of the new experience at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, adding another outdoor experience to the tourism offering in Armagh.

“It brings new reasons to pay a visit and will appeal to all ages, delivered in a fun, innovative and accessible way.”

The trails are part of a wider initiative by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium to increase the accessibility of its facilities. In addition to the new outdoor activity, the organisation has implemented a number of other inclusive features. These include a Changing Places facility, improved wheelchair accessibility and a Sensory Room on the ground level of the Armagh Planetarium.

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium also screens ‘Relaxed’ and ‘Chilled’ Digital Theatre Shows for children who find large crowds and loud noise challenging, and has launched an Irish language accessibility Dome Show, with plans in place to introduce Ulster Scots and British Sign language versions of the show in the coming months.

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium is sited in a heritage environment with a rich scientific history. The organisation delivers internationally recognised research in astronomy and related sciences and vibrant educational and outreach programmes for all ages.

Professor Michael Burton, Director at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, adds, “It is a pleasure to launch these interactive trails at the newly enhanced Astropark.

“We would like to thank Tourism NI and the Department for Communities for the joint funding of this initiative. We would also like to thank Brilliant Trails for designing and delivering the innovative trails and app, Ruth Foster the Construction and Procurement Delivery Property Service Division Project Manager for co-ordinating the enhancement of the grounds, and the team of staff at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, who worked collaboratively to make sure everything ran smoothly.

“Whilst we are passionate about making our facilities accessible to everyone, the topography of our site can be challenging.  We have compensated for the more difficult terrain by adding easily accessible seating areas with interpretative signage.

“We hope that the enhancements and trails will provide a fun and educational experience for children and adults alike.”

Suitable footwear is recommended for both trails.

To find out more about Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, visit: https://www.armagh.space.co