New stargazing experience to open in Tyrone next month

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The new £1.2million stargazing experience, OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory, will open on October 17th, reports Clodagh Dooley

My Ireland travel bucket list is getting longer and longer by the day! If you’re looking for a new experience to add to your own staycation bucket list, this might just be the one.

Set in an area of outstanding beauty, in the foothills of County Tyrone’s Sperrin Mountains, OM Dark Sky Park is the first dark sky park in Northern Ireland.

Located at Davagh Forest – less than three hours’ drive from Dublin – OM will welcome its first visitors on Saturday, October 17th. And there’ll be a new moon in the sky, offering a perfect weekend for stargazing!

With some of the darkest skies in the world in an area free from light pollution, the setting is ideal to savour exceptionally clear views of star constellations.

The new visitor centre and observatory uses state-of-the-art technology to deliver a completely immersive experience for visitors. The exhibition has touch screens, binoculars, mini-telescopes and interpretative panels to help visitors explore our solar system, while donning a virtual reality headset means visitors can witness the birth of a star and the mesmerising Aurora Borealis, day or night.

The centrepiece of the building is the first-floor observatory, with a retractable roof where the 14-inch LX600 Meade telescope will be in action during special star-gazing events and VIP tours.

As well as the guided exhibition tour, the night-time experience includes the OM Odyssey. This is an outdoor film screening which either speeds the audience from urban lights into the vastness of the universe, or swoops them through an ancient forest, under the fast-flowing Broughderg River before they soar into the sky.

Mid-Ulster Council Chair, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said: “To be opening a major new visitor attraction during a pandemic is an achievement in itself and where better than in the midst of a vast outdoor space at Davagh Forest. Davagh Forest is part of our newly designated Dark Sky Park, one of only 78 across the entire globe and only the second in Ireland.

“This is a unique development in a truly special place, with an ancient landscape, and amazing archaeology. Including Beaghmore Stone Circles which is considered by some to have been the first observatory on this land, all under the darkest of skies with unrivalled views of the galaxy.”

The opening of OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory comes after the reopening of Northern Ireland’s existing major visitor attractions, meaning you don’t need an epic trek to have epic fun on a staycation or short break this autumn.

Co Tyrone is steeped in history and heritage and boasts stunning landscapes to explore on your staycation. Explore the ancient Hill of The O’Neill at The Ranfurly House Arts and Visitor Centre or the spectacular Harry Avery’s Castle. You’ll find The Grant Ancestral Homestead in Ballygawley and the Wilson Ancestral Home near Strabane. Both are real treats for those with an interest in Irish Ancestry, as is the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.

For further information on OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory or to plan your staycation in Northern Ireland, visit discovernorthernireland.com and omdarksky.com/ for tickets

 

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Clodagh Dooley

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