Blackrock Castle, (www.bco.ie) formerly Mahon Castle, is a 16th-century castle located about 2 km from the heart of Cork City on the banks of the River Lee. Originally built to defend the port and upper flows of Cork Harbour, the castle is now the site of an observatory, visitors centre and restaurant.
In the early-2000s the Castle was redeveloped under a joint venture between Cork City Council, Cork Institute of Technology and a private benefactor.
The "Cosmos at the Castle" project was intended to create a "centre for scientific research, outreach and communication". A feature of the facility is the manner in which children and adults are encouraged to interact with science.
Blackrock Castle now houses Ireland's first interactive astronomy center developed by the award-winning multimedia company Martello Media.
The exhibition is open to the public and is themed "The Search for Extreme Life in the Universe". Highlights of the exhibition include:
· A tour of the Universe using interactive floor-to-ceiling screens.
· A "social software" cinema designed by Martello Media, with digital post production by the award-winning Irish company The Farm
· A radio telescope that beams messages composed by school groups towards nearby stars
· An optical telescope that continuously searches for very short flashes of light that may be evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The castle already houses a team of astronomical researchers from Cork Institute of Technology who have been working on the exhibits and Ireland's first robotic observatory. At the same time, the team are currently engaged in a number of astronomy projects.
In our workshops, we use simple equipment (transceiver (or radio) and an antenna) in order to communicate with
other amateur stations in both Europe and beyond.
We offer the visiting public the opportunity to experience the hobby first hand by speaking with the contacts we make (usually giving their name, location, age etc) and having a brief conversation, if they’re brave enough! Some people can be quite shy!
We also have demonstrations on making contact with satellites passing overhead,
or even using the internet to see where we have been heard in the world!
Our workshops are totally free and are aimed at promoting the hobby, particularly to youth who may not have experienced amateur radio previously.
When we “activate” (operate from) Castles, we do so under the programs “WCA" (world castles award group) and "CASHOTA" (castles and stately homes on the air). Each Castle is given a unique reference which identifies them in an award program, Blackrock Castle is assigned the reference EI009/C under "CASHOTA" and EI-00055 under "WCA", this reference is used by stations who contact us at this location to help them achieve an award for contacting a number of venues similar to this (usually 25 to begin with).
See www.wcagroup.org for more details.
If you wish to visit us on our next activation, feel free! We would be delighted to meet you and show you what we love about our hobby, and give you the chance to experience it also!