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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# grand stretch
Crowds gather at Newgrange to watch winter solstice despite overcast weather
For the second year in a row, the chamber itself remains closed due to Covid-19.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 21st 2021, 12:35 PM

CROWDS OF PEOPLE gathered at Newgrange in Co Meath today to watch the winter solstice at the neolithic monument.

However, overcast conditions meant the view was not as bright as hoped at the 5,200-year-old passage tomb.

For the second year year in a row, members of the public were not admitted to the chamber itself due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The solstice sunrise event was live-streamed from within the chamber, and a playback video can be viewed here. Another live broadcast will happen from the site tomorrow morning.

The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon that marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice happens on 21 or 22 December.

At sunrise on the shortest day of the year, for 17 minutes, direct sunlight can enter the Newgrange monument through the specially contrived small opening above the entrance known as the ‘roof box’ to illuminate the chamber.

“I understand the disappointment of the public with the closure of the chamber, especially at this significant time of the year, but we have to be mindful of the Government guidelines in relation to Covid-19 and the health and safety of our visitors at all times,” Patrick O’Donovan, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, said ahead of today’s event.

The Department of Housing had asked that members of the public to not travel directly to the site, as there are road closures in place around Newgrange itself.

While the tomb chamber has remained closed during the pandemic, the National Monuments Service and the OPW have been able to expand their archaeological research programme and gather further information on the winter solstice phenomenon over the month of December.

The research project is measuring and monitoring in great detail the movement of the winter sunlight coming through the roof box into the passage and chamber to determine how the beam of dawn light interplays with the chamber as we move towards the solstice and then past it.

With reporting by Órla Ryan

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