It sounds like a tall tale thought up by a seven-year old Mr Gadget fanatic, but it’s true: the good folk in Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) have commissioned a large 32 metre transmitter just north of Midleton, Co. Cork for radio astronomy.

The site was originally developed in the 1980’s as a satellite transmission site for the Irish telecoms agency (now Eircom) to enable international communications. As is typical of the industry, it was already defunct by the mid-1990’s, with optical fibre replacing satellite as the primary medium for global telephony. The site was mothballed and in 2009, it was sold by Eircom to a private company.

The use of the site as a radio telescope is terrific from a number of standpoints. It will help to develop skills in space-science here in Ireland. It will provide fantastic outreach opportunities for kids who might be interested in science as a career. With CIT’s backing, it will create a focus for international research projects. It also has tourism potential for the east Cork region. Win, win, win, win!

I am genuinely delighted for the hardworking team in CIT and Blackrock castle, including Niall, Claire and Alan, Deirdre and Francis, all of whom I have had the pleasure to get to know in the last year. With their involvement and leadership, this is going to be a huge success.

I have a very fond memory of the station, in that it was the very place where I saw the fabulous auroras in October 2003. It’s a memory that I will never forget.

News reporting: Irish Examiner article. Irish Times article.