The Office of Public Works (OPW), in partnership with the National Monuments Service (NMS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, is delighted to announce it will once again live-stream the hugely significant Winter Solstice Sunrise from within the chamber at the Neolithic passage tomb of Newgrange. This can be viewed live on the mornings of the 20th, 21st and 22nd December on gov.ie/opw and heritageireland.ie.
While the tomb chamber has remained closed during the pandemic, the NMS and OPW have been able to expand their archaeological research programme and gather further information on the Winter Solstice phenomenon over the month of December.
The research project is measuring and monitoring in great detail the movement of the winter sunlight coming through the roof box into the passage and chamber to determine how the beam of dawn light interplays with the chamber as we move towards Solstice and then past it.
Speaking today, Mr Patrick O’Donovan, T.D, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), said: “I understand the disappointment of the public with the closure of the Chamber, especially at this significant time of the year, but we have to be mindful of the Government Guidelines in relation to COVID-19 and the health and safety of our visitors at all times.
“While the Chamber cannot be accessed, it is great that the OPW is able once more to broadcast the Winter Solstice Sunrise live each morning to the four corners of the world, where we can all gather and watch the passing of the longest night of the year and welcome the new year of the Solar Calendar. Watching the light creep into the five-thousand-year-old passage tomb in real time is a moving event that has the power to fill us with wonder and hope.”
The solar alignment of the passage tomb at Newgrange to face the rising sun on winter solstice is a significant astronomical finding of global importance. Originally re-discovered by Prof. Michael J. O’Kelly in 1967, other researchers have validated O’Kelly’s interpretation giving it scientific credibility and meaning. Analysis of high-resolution imagery taken during last year’s research programme adds to the convincing body of evidence that the solar illumination of the tomb was intentional.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD said
“The solstice has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth and renewal as we look forward to the prospect of brighter days ahead. I pay tribute to our National Monuments Service and OPW colleagues for their work to make sure we end another year with a ray of hope. As we continue our Newgrange Solstice Research Project I am very excited to learn more about how the dawn sun on the shortest days of the year interacts with this remarkable monument and how it may have engaged and enthralled our ancestors over five thousand years ago.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD said:
“Today’s celebration of the Newgrange Solstice phenomenon continues a long tradition of celebrating ancient ritual and engineering skills. It is a remarkable place and I am delighted that again, OPW and my Department’s National Monuments Service have put in place the technology to allow so many from around the globe to experience it for the themselves.”
Members of the public are advised not to travel directly to the site, as there will be road closures in place around Newgrange itself.
We want to encourage intending visitors to enter through the Visitor Centre prior to travelling to the Monument. In adherence with the Government Guidelines, we must remind visitors that the wearing of facemasks within the Centre and on the buses is obligatory. We appreciate the co-operation of the public.
Notes to Editor:
The Winter Solstice is an astronomical phenomenon which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 or 22, when the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn. At sunrise on the shortest day of the year, for 17 minutes, direct sunlight can enter the Newgrange monument, not through the doorway, but through the specially contrived small opening above the entrance known as the ‘roof box’, to illuminate the Chamber.
In line with the revised Government Guidelines, Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre and the site at the Newgrange Monument – though not the passage tomb itself – are currently open to visitors. Access to the site is only available through the Visitor Centre, which is open daily from 9am to 4pm. For further information and online booking please visit heritageireland.ie.