When Astronaut Al Worden was invited to visit Limerick in 2014 by Science enthusiast and Lough Gur local Paul Ryan, no one could have anticipated the response. The visit by Al received more received more coverage and more column inches that the arrival of the Giant Granny, an event that took teams of people, one year to plan. No one could have anticipated the interest that surrounded the visit by one of the very few people who have flown to the moon – 24 in the entire world to be exact. Al was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971.

Al was so impressed by his visit to Limerick last year that he making a return trip in June to the one place that he truly fell in love with – Lough Gur. Since the voluntary board members took over the lakeside Heritage Centre in 2011 and under the management of Kate Harrold the visitor attraction has reached the number one spot on trip advisor for places to visit in Limerick City and County. Al was clearly among those many people who declared their new found curiosity and joy while walking near the shores of Lough Gur. In a world so preoccupied with “doing”, Lough Gur is one of the few special places to “be” and enjoy the unspoilt landscape while absorbing the electric atmosphere.

On his tour of Lough Gur in 2014 Astronaut Al Worden was so visibly moved by the beauty and tranquility of this sacred site that he agreed to become a Patron of the organisation. This signified a commitment to promote and assist with positively developing the area through established networks. Other Lough Gur Development Patrons elected for the first time in 2015 along with Al Worden include well known actor and local Lough Gur man Jon Kenny, International referee and Lough Gur local George Clancy, acclaimed singer and author Dr. Nóirín Ni Riain, life-long expert on Lough Gur and senior archaeologist in UCC Dr. Rose Cleary along with author & historian Michael Quinlan. Al Worden represents the international representative in the extreme sense. On June 8th all of the Lough Gur Development Patrons will gather for the first time to mark their approach to positively develop, protect and promote the great and ancient site of Lough Gur.

Before these evening formalities take place, first on the agenda for Astronaut Al Worden on the morning of June 8th will be a presentation to the lucky students of Manister National School. The school entered an online competition and won 25 tickets to meet with this space explorer. The students will be treated to a view of the photographs taken within the original Apollo 15 shuttle. They will also find out exactly what happens in space from the science part to the fun parts. This is a once in a life time opportunity for these lucky students.

After the primary school presentation Al Worden will visit the Great Grange Stone Circle to meet with Music Generation Limerick to officially launch the Summer Solstice Festival for 2015. Music Generation will perform a sound art act on June 21st within the stone circle to test the archaeoacoustiics of the ancient monument. This phenomena has been researched and studied by Conservation Officer Tom Cassidy and Mikael Fernstrom from the music department in the University of Limerick. Their study proves that the Stone Circle is an amphitheatre possibly built with music specifically in mind.

Following on from this visit to the Stone Circle Al Worden will   will receive honorary membership from Ballyneety Golf Club at a private function to mark the occasion. Al is a proficient golfer and will enjoy honorary lifetime membership at the award winning Ballyneety Golf Club. This brief visit will see Al ushered back to Lough Gur Heritage Centre to officially launch the Dark Sky Park Initiative presented by the Shannonside Astronomy Club. Recent tests have shown that Lough Gur has some of the darkest skies in Europe. The last reading measured 21.1 which is a staggering figure given the proximity of many local towns. The towering hills of Knockadoon and Knockfennel have worked to shield Lough Gur from the light making the area a lake side haven for Astronomers of the amateur and professional kind. If Lough Gur becomes successful with their Dark Sky Park application it will have significant implications for astro and eco-tourism in Limerick.

The ethos of Share, Learn and Inspire will flow through the event on June 8th as the original reason why Al Worden first came to visit Lough Gur through Paul Ryan in 2014. As part of the Lough Gur Science Advisory group that also includes Frank Ryan from the Shannonside Astronomy Club, Dr. Norah Patten, Dr. Vincent Casey combined the group work with Lough Gur to develop the wonder an awe of Lough Gur not only from an archaeological, historical and folklore point of view but through the lenses of science and engineering.

The event is supported by Share, Learn & Inspire, Ballyneety Golf Club and Plant Cert Ltd.