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No solstice sun at Newgrange

Story by Ann Casey

Wednesday, 23rd December, 2009 4:47pm

The sun failed to shine on Monday morning, the shortest day of the year, as 'dawn watchers' inside the megalithic tomb at Newgrange waited as morning broke.

The phenomenon of light entering the passage tomb did not materialise on Monday, but glorious sunshine on Saturday, Sunday and again yesterday (Tuesday) meant that 'dawn watchers' on those mornings saw the magnificent sight of light entering the tomb to mark the winter solstice.

Over 100 people flocked to Newgrange on Monday morning and waited for dawn to break over the megalithic site. These included a woman who was celebrating her 80th birthday and wanted to spend it at Newgrange for the solstice.

Inside the tomb, invited guests included De Ed Krupp of Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, a renowned arhaeological astronomer; John Jameson of the International Council for Monuments and Sites, and OPW Minister, Martin Mansergh.

According to Bru na Boinne visitor centre manager, Clare Tuffy, they knew before they entered the tomb on Monday that it was unlikely anything would happen because of the heavy bank of cloud on the horizon, but there was still a wonderful atmosphere.

An attempt to recreate the Solstice phenomenon at Newgrange was made by student archaeologists on Thursday morning.

They had built a replica of the megalithic tomb to see if they could create a lightbox that would allow light into the chamber at dawn.

Cloud cover meant that light didn't enter either the recreated tomb or the original monument on that morning.

However, the students were pleased with the experiment, which will be broadcast on RTE's 'Nationwide' programme on 7th January.

Meanwhile, 52 people who won a place in the tomb at Newgrange in a raffle earlier this year joined the 'dawn watch' this year.

Among the lottery winners who were in the tomb on Saturday morning to see a brilliant sunrise was a US college lecturer and a young boy from Northern Ireland.

On Sunday, visitors from France, Switzerland, Sweden, the US and England were among those in the tomb and, on Tuesday, the early risers included a young girl from the US.

The names of the winners were drawn from 32,995 entries by children from Slane, Knockcommon and Donore National Schools last September.

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