Monday, August 18, 2014

Birr Caslte, Birr, Ireland.
August 18, 2014-- We boarded the intercity bus at 10:30 a.m. for Birr and the Birr Castle. After trying a few times to get to Birr, we found we could simply take the bus from Dublin to Athlone and then on to Birr itself. Birr is a little town in the center of the country and west of Dublin by about 2 1/2 hours by bus. It's a small village of about 4,500 people, and the main attraction is Birr Castle itself. On the castle grounds, and the attraction for me, is the big 72" telescope built by the Third Lord Rosse in 1845.

The great 72" reflector at Birr, Castle.
The remains of the telescope are impressive to all of those who visit the telescope. It's 7-foot dimeter wood tube sites between two 50-foot high stone walls that were used to support the telescope. The telescope moves in altitude as well as a limited amount of azimuth. The poor weather in that part of the country is said to render the telescope of little use. Still, it was used by Rosse to make some important discoveries in the field of astronomy. The telescope was built is 1845, so our understanding of the universe was just unfolding. Interestingly, too, is the fact the 72" speculum (metal) mirror was then the largest telescope in the world and remained so until the 100" telescope was built on Mt. Wilson in 1917.

The Eyepiece.
We explored the grounds of the castle for a couple of hours. The "castle" site has been in existence since 1170 and became the property of the Parson's family in 1620. Parson's, was also known as the Earl of Rosse. We noticed the castle said "private residents only". Upon asking, we found that, to this day, the Parson's family still inhabit the Castle and still own the grounds. The current Earl of Rosse isn't an astronomer or interested in telescopes, per se', but maintains the instrument because of its historic value.

The visitors' center has a nice "science center" with an astronomy theme. It tells the story of astronomy in Europe from the earliest days to the present. Additionally, there are artifacts of the old telescope itself -- including a 24" speculum mirror built by Rosse as an experiment.

An earlier 24" speculum telescope mirror.

Our return bus wasn't until 6:40 p.m., so once we left the castle we found a comfortable "pub" for a snack and "pint". It was delightful. I noticed that, in Ireland, the pub seems to be the meeting place for just about everyone. Families with children come for dinner and socializing. Friends and families populate the booths, tables and bar stools to enjoy the food, drink and conversation. The perfect "social experiment"!!

Our ride back to Dublin was easy. As it became darker, the driver dimmed the lights in the bus that made for an enjoyable ride and a chance to catch a nap. Tomorrow our plan is continue our exploration of Dublin and take a double-decker tour bus to see some of the city, We plan to leave by "sail/rail" for London on Thursday morning.

Stay tuned, as always!!