Posted by: mdmusingsie | November 2, 2019

Dunsink Observatory

Part two of my Culture Night outing was spent at Dunsink Observatory, which turned out to be relatively close to where I live.  Dunsink is the oldest purpose-built scientific research centre in Ireland and an extension of Trinity College Dublin, built in 1785.It’s now managed by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.


Dunsink Observatory


Dunsink moving ceiling


Dunsink moving ceiling

Originally, the telescope was located in the room being used for lectures on Culture Night and the movable ceiling panels are still in place.


Dunsink telescope


Dunsink telescope


Dunsink telescope

Back in the 1700 and 1800’s there wasn’t the light pollution that detracts from celestial observation, nor was Dublin quite as large; however, Ireland doesn’t exactly have the best climate for scanning the night skies, unless you want to observe a lot of clouds.  Undeterred, the observatory is a popular attraction for amateur astronomers and hopefully the next generation of astrophysicists and scientists. The annual event was chock full of visitors enjoying the lectures, checking out the displays, and chatting with fellow enthusiasts.

Historically, Dunsink was used not only for research and science, but it also kept the time, with relays throughout the day to O’Connell Street where ships could set their clocks by the time ball.

It was at Dunsink where they determined that Ireland was 25 minutes (and 7.4 seconds) off from Greenwich Mean Time.  This aligns with my suspicions about why events always start late in Ireland – they are operating on Dublin Mean Time.  In 1916, Ireland moved the clocks back 35 minutes and switched over to Greenwich Time.

Around the mid 1800’s the second dome shaped building was added along with a new telescope.  This is where the main telescope resides today.  I was able to peak through it before dusk, but once darkness fell the queue to view the heavens was so long I didn’t stick around.  They are open twice a month in the winter for open viewings, so perhaps another time.

A fun fact I learned on the night, which might help you on trivia night, it is take 500 seconds (8 min 20 sec) for light from the sun to reach the earth.

I’ve had a long fascination with astronomy and have visited several observatories around the world when I (remember to look for and) find them, including Dominion Observatory on Victoria Island, Canada; Griffith Observatory near Los Angeles; and now Dunsink.  Had my stars been in a slightly different alignment, I might have been an astrophysicist.  Maybe on the next turn of the wheel..



  1. That’s a great observatory….I found an older one for you to check out too… Close?

    • Newgrange is actually pretty close to where I live. I’ve been there several times on tours. I’ll have to make another trip one of these days to get it on my blog. Maybe I’ll enter the Winter Solstice lottery for a chance to be there on the Winter Solstice where the sun shines through the roof box into the interior chamber (assuming the sun comes out which is very hit or miss in Ireland).

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