The winter solstice sunrise will stream live this year from inside the passage tomb of Newgrange.
The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year, occurring on December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere.
At sunrise on the shortest day of the year, for 17 minutes, direct sunlight can enter the Newgrange monument to illuminate the chamber of the Stone Age tomb through a small opening above its entrance known as the ‘roof box’.
With the chamber currently closed to the public in light of Covid-19, the event can be viewed live each morning from December 20th to 22nd on gov.ie/opw and heritageireland.ie.
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan, welcomed the livestreaming “to the four corners of the world, allowing us all to gather and watch the passing of the longest night of the year and to welcome the new year of the solar calendar."
“Watching the light creep into the 5,000-year-old passage tomb in real time is a moving event that has the power to fill us both with wonder at the ancient architects’ ingenuity and with hope for the future,” he added.
The solar alignment of the tomb at Newgrange to face the rising sun on the winter solstice is a significant astronomical finding, originally re-discovered by Professor Michael J O’Kelly in 1967.
Analysis of high-resolution imagery taken during last year's event adds to the body of evidence that the solar illumination of the tomb was intentional, the OPW said.
This month, the National Monuments Services (NMS) of the Department of Heritage and the OPW re-commenced their archaeological research programme to obtain further information on this phenomenon, measuring and monitoring the movement of the sunlight coming through the roof box.
Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, said: “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 5,000 years ago.”
Minister for Heritage Darragh O’Brien said the 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 themselves," he said.
In line with Government guidelines, the 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.