OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory’s Barry Lynn set his sight on career in sky study

Staring at the skies may sound like the job of a day-dreamer, but for Barry Lynn, it’s the best and only job he has ever wanted.

Barry now works as the Technical Officer with OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory in Omagh, a role he had been hungering for since the early days of the building’s construction.

With a background in Physics and Astrophysics and a keen interest in Astronomy, he set his sights firmly on a career in looking up – and he has never looked back.

What is your role in the company and what does a typical day entail?

I’m the Technical Officer here, so I mainly work in the observatory with our Meade LX600 telescope.

A typical day is a mixture of tour groups, astronomy clubs and observing and imaging sessions.

I also work on the data from our Sky Quality Monitors to ensure the skies here are as dark as we need for our accreditation from the International Dark Sky Association.

What was your route into the company?

I used to visit the Beaghmore Stone Circles quite often and used to go for walks around Davagh forest while I was in the area. I spied the OM Observatory being built and kept an eye on things until I saw the job I’m doing advertised.

How long have you been involved in this type of work?

I’ve been working here for about 16 months now.

Where did you work before this?

I worked for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at National Museums NI. We were digitising and publishing material from the audio archive there. I got to listen to lots of interesting folklore and musical works.

What were your favourite subjects at school and why?

I always liked science, particularly physics, although I’ve never been great at maths so it was quite often a struggle!

Did you go on to university or further education and what did you study?

I studied Physics with Astrophysics.

Did you always have this career in mind?

I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was very young, it was always the job I’d talk about with careers advisers in school.

What do you enjoy about it?

I love sitting under the dark sky in Davagh Forest with the telescope. On a clear night there’s so much to see. Astronomical imaging isn’t easy so it’s tough getting good results, but I enjoy the challenge, there’s always more the learn.

What are the main skills required for it?

A good working knowledge of the physics of light, optics and sensors is very useful. Knowing the night sky and where the nice targets lie is essential too. Being able to communicate difficult scientific concepts to a diverse audience is also important.

What would your advice be to anyone thinking of it as a career?

Stick with the science subjects at school! Particularly physics and maths.

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