Archbishop John McDowell, Chair of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) Board of Governors welcomed invited guests to the Planetarium to formally launch its ambitious new 2021-2026 Strategy.

In his opening address Archbishop McDowell reflected on how impressed he has been since taking up the role of Chair in April 2020.

Commenting on the advancements he has seen he said: “I am impressed by the drive and enthusiasm of Professor Michael Burton and his team and the scale and ambition of the plan to ensure AOP’s long-term viability and sustainability.  It is exciting to know the valuable outcomes AOP can potentially deliver in terms of economic, educational and community benefits.  I truly believe that if AOP are able to harness the necessary resources to work collaboratively with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in the co-development of the Armagh Leisure Village and Armagh Science and Education facilities, it will be game changing not only for the local community but the whole of Northern Ireland”.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I welcome Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s (AOP) new 5-year strategy and its progressive approach which dove tails with the Department’s common purpose of Supporting People; Building Communities and Shaping Places.   The recent transformation of its Planetarium has made it an engaging and accessible visitor destination for all including the provision of a Changing Place. I also commend AOP on embracing the challenge of educating, informing, and influencing the public on the important topic of climate change. “

Professor Michael Burton and his senior team reflected on how far AOP has come since the two organisations merged under a new management structure in 2016.  Guests were able to see for themselves the impact new investment has made to the Planetarium visitor experience and hear the scale of ambition and enthusiasm of the team, who collectively believe they can make great things happen with support, investment and commitment from partners and funders.

Professor Burton concluded the event by giving guests a preview of a new Planetarium Show, ‘Our Place in the Cosmos’ created in house with support from the Southern Regional College on music and sound production.  The show has been specifically created for the COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow in November and will be shown twice a day in the Green Zone event and exhibition space in the Planetarium at the Glasgow Science Centre during the event.

In introducing the show Professor Burton told guests, “We are extremely proud to be representing Northern Ireland and our work here, in Armagh, on a global scale. COP26 is a hugely significant event, with the ears and eyes of the world on it. To have the ability to talk space and demonstrate the uniqueness of Earth and illustrate how ongoing research can inform the decisions of tomorrow. The presentation I have created clearly demonstrates what we know about our planet but also poses questions for future discovery. Our planet is fascinating! Both COP26 and our new strategy demonstrates how we will continue to platform the importance of science and space discovery to protect our planet for future generations.”