The Irish space industry took a giant leap forward yesterday as Cork welcomed delegates to the International Space Studies Program, where 320 international professionals, academics and astronauts will spend the next nine weeks in the city.

Hosted by Cork Institute of Technology, the programme, run annually by the International Space University, is the biggest space event to ever take place in Ireland or the UK. Launched last night at Cork City Hall, the opening ceremony was followed by a performance of ‘The Sunset is Blue on Mars’ by renowned Irish singer Jack Lukeman (Jack L), and a showcase of modern Irish dancing by Prodijig.

Speakers included John Halligan, minister of state for training, skills and innovation; Christian Sallaberger, chairman of the board of the International Space University; Prof Walter Peeters, president of the space university; Brendan Murphy, president of CIT; Omar Hatamleh, Space Studies Program director; and Niall Smith, chair of the local organising committee.

Previous programmes were held in Australia, Austria, at Nasa, in China, Canada and, last year, in Israel. This is the first time the world space industry has convened in Ireland and there has never before been so many astronauts in the country at one time.

The 30th Space Studies Program will attract space professionals from 25 countries, including five astronauts, academics, faculty members of the ISU, and the ISU’s alumni, in addition to families of participants and visitors travelling from all over Ireland for the public engagement events.

Astronaut Dan Tani, who is married to Corkwoman Jane Egan, will deliver the opening lecture of the programme today, deputising for Buzz Aldrin who had to abandon plans to come to Cork because of illness.

Meanwhile, another cosmic first for Ireland was recorded when an Irish astronomer led an international team to create the most detailed image of the surface of a star, other than the sun. The image was taken of Betelgeuse, the famous red supergiant located in the constellation Orion, using Atacama Large Millimetre/ submillimetre Array (Alma), the world’s largest radio telescope. Irish Research Council scholar Eamon O’Gorman led the team of astronomers.

The image led to the discovery that the temperature in Betelgeuse’s inner atmosphere is not uniform. This could help explain how the atmosphere of these stars is heated.

“We have known for decades that the visible surface of Betelgeuse is not uniform, but Alma has now shown us in detail that the temperature in its inner atmosphere is also not uniform.

“It looks like these temperature fluctuations could be caused by magnetic fields, similar to what we see on the Sun, our nearest star,” said Dr O’Gorman.

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