Lean back and take a visual journey across the night sky then step outside and repeat your voyage through space on foot – at Ireland’s leading astronomical education centre, you can do both and learn a great deal about our solar system in the process.
The domed ceiling of the planetarium is illuminated by a state-of-the-art digital projection system and plays host to a changing programme of family-friendly shows (pre-booking advised), from close-up tours of the Red Planet to learning how to identify those constellations visible with the naked eye. Aside from the planetarium itself, there’s an engrossing exhibition area featuring, among other displays, a 4.5-billion-year-old meteorite. Both the planetarium and the nearby Armagh Observatory are located in the fourteen-acre Astropark, whose rolling green landscape reveals all sorts of educational models that complement the starry scenes you’ll have seen inside. Wandering round the impressive scale model of the universe, for example, gives you an immediate grasp of the relative sizes of the nine planets, the distances between them and the supremacy of the sun.
The planetarium complex is straightforward to navigate, with ramped walkways approaching the main entrance and all areas of the ground floor, and two Blue Badge spaces nearby. A lift provides access to the first floor and there are designated viewing areas for up to eleven wheelchair users in the theatre itself. There’s an accessible toilet on each floor. Signage in the main areas and the lift are given in Braille, and assistance dogs are welcome – bear in mind, though, that the special effects used in the theatre could be unsettling for dogs, and the revolving images overhead can take a little getting used to for human visitors too! Both the reception and the theatre have an induction loop. Lastly, paved walkways weave around the Astropark and there are plenty of places to sit down en route.
Food & drink: The on-site café serves a good range of hot and cold drinks and snacks. In Armagh city, there are a lot of cafés to choose from: both the snack bar and restaurant in the Market Place Theatre (www.marketplacearmagh.com) are recommended, as is the Charlemont Arms on English Street.