Much of the green grounds of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium comprise the Astropark: a scale model of the Universe, brought down to Earth in a beautiful natural setting.
As you stroll around it, you will discover some of the amazing phenomena in our Solar System, our Galaxy, and the Universe at large, with beautiful nature helping to bring you back to Earth.
The Solar System Model
Our scale model of the Solar System shows you the distances between the planets on a 1:30,000,000,000 scale (1 m = 30,000,000 km, 1 ft ≈ 6,200,000 miles), and the sizes of the planets and the Sun on a scale that makes them 200 times larger (1:150,000,000; 1 m = 150,000 km, 1 ft ≈ 31,000 miles). You can check how close together the rocky planets are, marvel at the size of the Sun – represented by the white arches – or venture past the “telescope horizon” hedge to find Uranus and Neptune.
The Universe is absolutely enormous, so a simple map of it wouldn’t show any of the beautiful planets, stars, or galaxies up there. To represent all of these objects, which are at different distances from us, astronomers need to get creative. We know a lot about things closer to us, but as we look further away, we can see a larger area at once, in less detail. A scale which varies like this is called a logarithmic scale, and usually uses the powers of ten. The Hypercube has three cubes nested within one another to show this in action: the large one has its sides ten times longer than the middle one, which is ten times longer again than the small cube. If we put those lengths on a logarithmic measuring stick, they would be equally spaced along it. This is the concept used to lay out the entire Universe on the Hill of Infinity.
The Hill of Infinity
Venturing out into the Hill of Infinity you will discover distant objects in the Galaxy and further afield using the logarithmic scale and the powers of ten introduced at the Hypercube. Discover how far the Pole Star is from the Earth, and how far away the Orion Nebula is, until you reach the very edge of the Universe.
The Stone Calendar
At the top of the Astropark resides the Stone Calendar. Stone circles have been used as calendars since the ancient times to help track the changing of the seasons. Our Stone Calendar will help you see where the Sun sets during the solstices and the equinoxes. A serene setting, with stunning views of Armagh, this is the perfect place to take those atmospheric photographs.
The Meadow Walk
Beyond the Stone Calendar, views of a green hillside and more of the Armagh skyline open up. A winding path leads you around the wildflower meadow. See if you can spot both cathedrals, or the old windmill! Watch the meadow change through the seasons.
The Woodland Walk
There are three ways to connect between the Stone Calendar and the Solar System Model: past the Observatory, along the Hill of Infinity, or through the Woodland Walk. Our forest might be small, but it boasts a large variety of different trees, bushes, and other plants, as well as being a safe haven for innumerable squirrels, crows, magpies, jays, robins, blackbirds, and other animals. Marvel at the majestic beeches, lovely holly bushes, beautiful yew trees, towering coastal redwood, and more.