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We are delighted to bring you speakers from Ireland and abroad, highly regarded in their fields of expertise.  

They will help to bring to life the magic of our natural dark skies and how important they are for science, culture and the environment.

"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment,
not the other way round"


(Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day)

2-4 November 2018
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2018 Festival


Below you will find more detail on events from the 2017 festival weekend...

(For 2018 speakers check out the SPEAKERS page)

Susan McKenna-Lawlor


Physicist and researcher at CERN Switzerland

Dr. Luis Roberto Flores Castillo, professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is a distinguished researcher who has participated in the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) 

experiment with CERN in Switzerland

for over ten years.  He is also recognised for his participation in the discovery of the Higgs Boson,

often called the “God particle”.
In 2012 he was acknowledged with the Scientific Research Prize by the Mexican Physical Society. His research interests include the measurement of the properties of the Higgs Boson, the search for dark matter particles, and searches for new

high-mass particles.


CEO of Space Technology Ireland Ltd. and Professor Emerita at Maynooth University

Susan in the 1980s was the Principal Investigator for an experiment on the ESA's Giotto mission to Halley’s comet.  She founded the high-tech company Space Technology Ireland Ltd. (STIL), which manufactures instruments and sub-systems for space applications.

Over the years, Space Tech. has successfully provided instrumentation for many flagship missions flown by ESA and NASA, as well as by the Chinese, Indian and Russian Space Agencies.  Most recently, STIL's Electrical Support System (ESS) constituted mission critical hardware for ESA's Rosetta Mission, forwarding commands to, and received pioneering data back from, the Philae Lander located on the surface of comet 67P/


(photo: Beta Bajgar

Susan McKenna-Lawlor
Duncan Stewart


Architect and Environmentalist

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An award-winning architect and television producer, Duncan has been a leading Irish advocate for environmental, health and conservation issues for over 40 years.  

His early shows ‘Our House’ and ‘About the House’ leaned on his architectural background as he promoted the values of craftsmanship, efficient and sustainable materials and the value of energy conservation.  Duncan’s current television programme ‘Eco Eye’, now in its sixteenth series, is driven by his interests in the protection of our environment, Ireland’s biodiversity, supporting local communities and the communication of climate issues.


Astrophysicist UCD

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Antonio’s research involves the study of gamma-ray bursts, the most violent and energetic explosions in the Universe since the Big Bang.  He is motivated by his love for Science, and in particular Physics and Astrophysics.  Since he was 8 years of age, he dreamed of becoming a scientist and study the stars - a dream that came true in 2006 when he started working at the European Space Agency in Madrid. He then moved to Dublin to do his PhD in Astrophysics and he currently lectures in UCD. Antonio also leads an outreach programme where he uses astrophotography to explain in simple words the science behind the photographs

Antonio Martin-Carrillo
Emer O Boyle


UCD College of Science

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Irish artist Emer O Boyle has been collaborating with Professor of Astronomy, Lorraine Hanlon and her team at UCD since 2010. Her work includes using drawing, photography, video, sculpture and robotic telescopes to reweave the fascinating stories of under recognised women in astronomy into the popular canon of science. She is co-founder and Director of UCD Parity Studios, Artists in Residence programme and teaches an undergraduate module that brings students of Fine Art and Science together in collaboration. 

Her public art projects have been funded by the EU Partnership for Peace Programme, Amnesty International, an EUFP7 project called GLORIA – Global Robotic Telescope Intelligent Array, The Creative Engagement programme and The Arts Council of Ireland. 


Broadcaster and Academic

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Aoibhinn is an Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics. She studied Theoretical Physics in UCD and conducted her PhD research at Trinity College Dublin. She is a renowned science communicator and has actively promoted the subjects of mathematics and physics on TV, radio and social media. A presenter of RTE’s flagship science programme, ’10 things to know about…’ and regular science columnist with the Irish Times, Aoibhinn also founded and directs the SFI funded ‘Maths Sparks’ outreach programme encouraging students from disadvantaged areas to continue studying mathematics. In 2016 she was awarded a Praesis Elit by the Dublin Law Society for her work promoting gender equality in science, and in 2017 has been named as one of the '40 under 40' European Young Leaders.

Aoibhinn ní Shúilleabháin
Jon Bennie


Conservation Ecologist, Exeter University

Jon Bennie is a conservation ecologist based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus in Cornwall.  Jon’s research aims to understand the ecological effects of changes in our environment, from climate change to atmospheric pollution to urbanisation. 

Inspired by a childhood fascination with the night time environment, for several years Jon has been studying how light pollution affects nocturnal animals, plants and ecosystems, and he has published over 20 scientific papers on the subject.  His work has been frequently featured in the media, including BBC Radio 4’s Shared Planet and the Observer newspaper.


Armagh Observatory & Planetarium

Professor Burton is the new Director at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. Michael has recently arrived in Ireland from Australia.  His own astronomical career spans the globe, from telescopes on the peaks of volcanic mountains in oceans and continental mountain ranges, through the deserts of Australia, to the frigid wastes of the high Antarctic plateau, all chasing the best views of the cosmos obtainable from planet Earth.  


His journey has now come to the green tranquility of Armagh, where his job is to bring together the Observatory and the Planetarium into a single institution.

Prof Michael Burton
Conor Macgregor


Entomologist, University of York

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Callum Macgregor is an ecologist interested in the effects of a changing environment on butterflies and moths.  Callum’s PhD studies utilized a variety of field and lab based methods to investigate the importance of moths as pollinators and the effects of artificial light at night upon these nocturnal interactions. His first-author research paper, "Pollination by nocturnal Lepidoptera, and the effects of light pollution: a review", was named Best Paper in the journal Ecological Entomology for 2014-2015. Callum has been a guest on BBC Radio 5Live and BBC 1’s Countryfile talking about the effects of street lights on moths and pollination.


Founder of Planet Zebunar & Faculty at International Space University

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Derek Dempsey


Emeritus Research Fellow DIT

Dr. Frank Prendergast is an Emeritus Research Fellow of the Dublin Institute of Technology. He has a specialist interest in Cultural Astronomy and been engaged in that field since the early 1990s. His early professional career as a surveyor working in Central and East Africa generated an interest in ethnicity and culture. Recent significant contributions to interpretative archaeology include his publications associated with the discovery of an Iron Age temple site at Lismullin, Co. Meath. He has contributed three chapters to the Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy by Springer Reference. A recent venture is in the area of promoting the conservation and protection of the dark sky at landscapes of archaeological importance. 


Astronomer, Artist and Educator

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Deirdre Kelleghan invents designs and enacts creative workshops  to help children understand our solar system through drawing. A recurring feature of connecting with her audiences is being actively attentive to astronomy or space events that are ongoing in real time.  ICT, eLearning and blended learning play a key role in many of her programs.

In 2011 Deirdre was awarded the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  She is co author of Sketching the Moon an Astronomical Artists Guide.

Deirdre is a contributing artist / writer for BBC Sky at Night Magazine . She is also a regular contributor to the
Vatican Observatory Foundation.

Norah Patten
Derek Dempsey


Chairman, Newport Astronomy Club

As a teenager in secondary school, Derek Dempsey became firmly hooked on astronomy by the excitement of the Apollo moon landings and has been reading about the subject and observing the night sky ever since. Derek graduated from the UCD School of Engineering in 1978 and has spent his professional life working in telecommunications – but has always found time for amateur astronomy. He is one of the founder members of the Newport Astronomy Club, motivated in no small part by the Gold Tier accreditation of the Mayo Dark Sky Park in May 2016 by the International Dark Sky Association.


Dr. Norah Patten is a faculty member at the International Space University and is the founder of Planet Zebunar, which produces STEM educational products to inspire the next generation of engineers, astronauts and scientists. Through a partnership with NanoRacks, Norah initiated and managed ‘The Only Way is Up’ project which launched Ireland’s first student experiment to the ISS in 2014. She is a regular speaker at public events, and has featured on national television and radio. Norah has recently been selected for the PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Program.

Norah Patten

Dr. Russell Poole of the Fisheries Ecosystem Advisory Services in the Marine Institute has more than 30 years experience of eel and salmonid population biology and fish stock assessments, has published extensively with over 50 peer-reviewed papers on both eel and salmonids and has collaborated in many joint projects, first in the Salmon Research Agency of Ireland and now at the Marine Institute. Russell has a PhD in eel biology from Trinity College Dublin and has a general interest in fish, fisheries and the great outdoors.  He has been a chair for seven years of the international stock assessment group on eel and is the current Irish Focal Point for the European Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Advisory Commission of FAO.


Marine Institute, Newport, Co. Mayo

Norah Patten
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Derek Dempsey


Associate Professor of Astrophysics, Trinity College Dublin

Brian Espey is an Associate Professor in Astrophysics in the School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin. He received a B.A. (Mod) Experimental Physics from Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge in 1990.

Brian was the first astrophysics staff member in the School of Physics and acted as Course Director for the Astrophysics programme for a number of years. His current duties are as Junior Sophister Year Head. He is active in the Irish astronomy community and has been involved in a number of projects, including the bid to get Ireland to join the European Southern Observatory (ESO)


2017 speakers...

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