IYA2009 Updates

India and Bangladesh unite for IYA2009 star party, replacing conflict with peace

20 August 2009

While many astronomers worldwide were focused on the total solar eclipse, a small group of amateur stargazers from India and Bangladesh used this as an opportunity to carry out an activity of peace. For the first time in the history of the two countries, whose relations are marred with cross-border firing, terrorism, kidnapping, and acts of violence, a special event was held, which had members of the armed forces of both sides of the border rubbing shoulders with amateur astronomers at the international border dividing the two countries.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 has been quite a surprise in the region. A few years ago, an impact of a large iron meteorite in Bangladesh was originally assumed to be a bomb from India. A telescope would be mistaken for a bazooka.

The demarcation between the two countries is visible through numbered pillars. The Indian side has multi-layered, heavily built, flood-lit border fence around 150 yard off from the zero line. No-one is allowed to cross the fence between sunrise and sunset. To host a star party would have been a highly improbable event. But against all odds, one was held on Ground Zero between two different countries.

In the first week of July, Mr Debasis Sarkar the President of the Sky Watchers Association of North Bengal (SWAN), affiliated with Confederation of Indian Amateur Astronomers, India requested for an appointment with Border Security Force of the North Bangla Frontier. He had a long meeting with the Inspector General Mr. Nand Kishore, and also the Director General of BSF, highlighting the need to use astronomy to encourage peace and harmony. Mr Sarker apprised both of them the role of an international organisation called Astronomers Without Borders and their activities worldwide. He also explained about the Star Peace project of IYA2009 and also highlighted the events held between Indian and Pakistan earlier this year. The simple term that "boundaries vanish when we look skywards" helped convince both of them, and the Border Security Force formally gave permission to hold the event.

Mr FR Sarker of the Bangladesh Astronomical Society had a similar discussion with the Bangladesh Rifles, who, when informed that BSF, India had formally agreed to hold such an event on the border, found no reason to deny.

It was mutually decided by both sides that the event would be held at border pillar number 433, about 20 km from Panchagarh, Bangladesh. The strength of team members for either side was restricted to 15 members each.

On the 21 July, 5:20PM, a team of 15 SWAN members under the leader ship of Mr Debasis Sarker headed for no man's land. No cameras, materialistic gifts, or weapons of any sort were allowed as per the international protocol.

A similar delegation headed by Mr FR Sarker in company of 15 members of the BAS also arrived. The routine protocol was slightly lowered as a mutual understanding between both security forces. Both the Teams carried with them their national flags and banners of their organisations which were hoisted. They greeted each other but could not control their emotions. Crying with joy, they started hugging each other, ignoring the political demarcation line between the two countries. The security forces present had no desire to stop the emotional avalanche.

The first speech was delivered by Debasis Sarkar, the General Secretary of Sky Watcher's Association of North Bengal. "Sun is one, we are looking at the Sun around the world to observe solar eclipse, we are all same, we do not believe in border between India and Bangladesh." He concluded his talk by asking, "can any border keep love, greetings, faith, between two friends separated into two halves?"

Mr F. R. Sarker, the General Secretary, Bangladesh Astronomical Society continued in the same vein. "When we look at the Earth from the Space, we see Earth as one entity without any border. We human beings are the same species all over the Earth, we are one, and we do not believe any border on planet Earth."

Both of them went on to highlight the objective of Astronomers Without Borders. The security forces admitted that this was the first time that civilians from both countries had met at the border for peaceful means.

As sunset drew closer, the amateurs were asked by the security forces to leave the area as no movement is officially permitted after sunset.

Later, a brief press conference was held. This Star Peace event appeared in various newspapers and TV the next day.


Earlier link on the Star Peace Website


Link to story on the Bangladesh Astronomical Society Web Site


Link to story on Astronomers Without Borders


Link to AWB Gallery


Links to news story on various websites






Space & Time

20 August 2009

"Space & Time" is a play for the International Astronomy Year 2009, written by the experimental work group "Cidadania".

It is a multidisciplinary event which faces the questions of science, philosophy, religion and art. The goal is to call attention to the close relationships between astronomy, natural sciences, philosophy, and civilisation, and their influence in the shaping of our future.

A mind-boggling performance combining video projections and live music at an unconventional stage.

4 - 7 October
UN City - Vienna

16 - 17 October
Staatstheater Darmstadt

More information: http://www.cidadania-darmstadt.info/

400 Years of the Telescope earns Best Director at the 2009 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film

18 August 2009

400 Years of the Telescope director Kris Koenig has earned the Best Director award at Australia's 2009 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film. The prestigious science film festival will screen across Australia from August 15-23, 2009. This year's theme includes the International Year of Astronomy and the Darwin anniversary.

The film, a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, is beautifully photographed in 4K digital cinematography, a visually stunning chronicle of the history of the telescope from the time of Galileo, its profound impact upon the science of astronomy, and how both shape the way we view ourselves in the midst of an infinite universe.

400 Years of the Telescope features interviews with leading astrophysicists and cosmologists from the world's renowned universities and observatories, who explain concepts ranging from Galileo's act of revealing the cosmos with a simple telescope, to the latest discoveries in space, including startling new ideas about life on other planets and dark energy - a mysterious vacuum energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe.

A companion planetarium program, Two Small Pieces of Glass, produced by ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, Buhl Planetarium and Interstellar Studios and distributed by the International Planetarium Society, is screening at over 1000 theaters worldwide. Australian planetariums include Launceston Planetarium, BlueScope Steel Planetarium, Horizon, Melbourne Planetarium and the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.

400 Years of the Telescope will now tour with the SCINEMA traveling film festival, playing across Australia in more than 200 venues. A DVD, companion book and the film's original score are available from the producers.

Kris Koenig shares his love of astronomy with the public through his inspired outreach efforts, photography and films. His work has taken him all over the world, including most of the major astronomical observatories. Kris is also founder and director of one of the most successful community observatories, and the United States! only outdoor planetarium.

A film producer from the ground up, his expertise in camera work, interviewing, lighting, editing, and production management is apparent in the ten-hour PBS telecourse "Astronomy: Observations and Theories", for which he won two Emmy® Awards in 2005, for Instructional Programming and Outstanding Nonnews Writer. His footage has been used in National Geographic productions, and his astrophotography graces the covers of acclaimed astronomical textbooks and appears in various publications and videos worldwide.

Interstellar Studios specializes in producing award-winning, multimedia productions that entertain and educate the public about the wonders of space, science and aviation. Conceived as a way to forge new links between the sciences and the arts, SCINEMA has explored ways to enhance communication to raise public and stakeholder excitement and trust in science through the medium of film, while also celebrating the scientific advances in film technology itself. http://www.csiro.au/scinema/

400 Years of the Telescope - A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought http://www.400Years.org


Galileoscopes donated for astronomy competition

18 August 2009

A lucky Brazilian student will soon be whizzing their way to the Kennedy Space Centre and National Aerospace Centre in the USA, as part of a competition run by the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Planetarium Foundation, State Department of Education, and Gávea Planetarium.

100 Galileoscopes will also be donated to participants, by chief executive of the American Astronomical Society, Kevin Marvel.

To be in with a chance of winning, contestants must answer astronomy questions as part of an Olympiad quiz, with early rounds being online, eventually building to a finale in Gávea Planetarium.

Read the full story (in Portuguese) here: http://odia.terra.com.br/portal/rio/html/2009/8/estudante_podera_fazer_jornada_nas_estrelas_28119.html


The University College London is hosting events to celebrate IYA2009

18 August 2009

The University College London is hosting events from 20 - 23 August, to bring IYA2009 to an even greater audience. The family-friendly activities include talking to young scientists working at the forefront of astronomy research, holding in your own hands rocks that are older than the Earth, using telescopes to safely observe the Sun and Venus, and much more.

For more details, see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/youruniverse/


Shoppers Across the U.S. to Experience "The World at Night"

18 August 2009

An exhibit of stunning photographs of the night sky as viewed over many of the most beautiful natural, historic and cultural landmarks in the world is being shown at 24 shopping centers across the United States from now through November 8.

Known as "The World At Night," the exhibit is a special project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), an ongoing global celebration of the science of astronomy and its contributions to society over the 400 years since Galileo's first use of the telescope.Among the well-known sites featured in "The World at Night" (TWAN) are Yellowstone National Park in the United States, the Parthenon in Greece, and magnificent monuments across Asia, all set against the grandeur of the starry sky. Supported by Developers Diversified Realty for the properties it manages, this exhibition is the largest showing of TWAN mounted in the United States during IYA2009, according to the organizers. More than 30 countries have hosted TWAN exhibits this year.

"We have found that TWAN images not only capture the public's imagination, but also bring educational value," says Project Director Babak Tafreshi. Each of the shopping centers hosting a TWAN exhibit will add localized educational elements such as contests, family workshops in astronomy, "Dancing Under the Stars" or "Movies Under the Stars," and the participation of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts working toward their astronomy merit badges.

TWAN is collaborating with a variety of venues around the world to hold major exhibitions and educational events during IYA2009 and beyond. These exhibitions are meant to enhance the offerings of any museum or public space with eye-catching photographs produced by the TWAN team of specialized photographers. The exhibitions are designed to be shown either indoors or outdoors, and can be organized either as standalone exhibits or in conjunction with other IYA2009 exhibits or cultural or educational activities.


TWAN exhibitions will take place in a variety of U.S. cities, large and small:

August 1 - August 16:

Aspen Grove, Littleton, CO

Buena Park Downtown, Buena Park, CA

Deer Park Town Center, Deer Park, IL

Prairie Hills Mall, Dickinson, ND

Berlin Mall, Berlin, VT

Quincy Place Mall, Ottumwa, IA


August 22 - September 6:

Tamarac Square, Denver, CO

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, Long Beach, CA

Times Square Mall, Mt. Vernon, IL

Paul Bunyan Mall, Bemidji, MN

The Waterfront, Homestead, PA

Copper Country Mall, Houghton, MI


September 12 - September 27:

Town Center Plaza, Leawood, KS

Paseo Colorado, Pasadena, CA

Village at Stone Oak, San Antonio, TX

Westgate Mall, Brainerd, MN

Liberty Fair Mall, Martinsville, VA

Tiffin Mall, Tiffin, OH


October 3 - October 18:

Great Northern Plaza, North Olmsted, OH

Christown Spectrum Mall, Phoenix, AZ

The Shops at Midtown Miami, Miami, FL

Birkdale Village, Huntersville, NC

Tri-County Mall, Cincinnati, OH


October 25 - November 8:

Watertown Mall, Watertown, SD




The World At Night (TWAN) is an international program by Astronomers Without Borders to create and exhibit a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world's most beautiful and historic sites against a nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. More than 40 of the best landscape photographers, coordinators and consultants in 25 countries have contributed to TWAN.


TWAN aims to be a bridge between art, humanity, and science. "The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all the landmarks and symbols of different nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories," says Project Director Babak Tafreshi. "We are all one family under one sky."


See more than 1,500 images from TWAN: http://www.twanight.org

International Year of Astronomy 2009: http://www.astronomy2009.org

Astronomers Without Borders: http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org

Stars Over Developers Diversified Realty program: http://www.starsoverddr.com

IYA2009 U.S. Web site: http://astronomy2009.us


For Further Information:

Babak Tafreshi

TWAN Director

E-mail: btafreshi@twanight.org


Mike Simmons

President, Astronomers Without Borders

Phone: +1 818-597-0223

E-mail: twan@astronomerswithoutborders.org


Lisa Wieting

Stars Over Developers Diversified Realty

Phone: 303-839-1415

E-mail: Lisa@CohnMarketing.com


IYA2009 Updates

14 August 2009

Press release: IAU General Assembly finishes with the launch of successor to the International Year of Astronomy
The XXVIIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had its Closing Ceremony today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition to the discussion of new scientific results one of the major outcomes of the 2009 General Assembly is the launch of a decadal global strategy with the aim of fostering education and capacity building throughout the world. Read the release here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/pressreleases/detail/iya0914/

Four new IAU resolutions in the framework of IYA2009 have been approved!
Four important resolution in support of IYA2009 have been approved in the IAU  XXVII General Assembly:
RESOLUTION B1 on IAU Strategic Plan:Astronomy for the Developing World
RESOLUTION A1 on Implementing the IAU Strategic Plan
RESOLUTION B4 on Supporting Women in Astronomy
RESOLUTION B5 in Defence of the night sky and the right to starlight
You can find the full resolutions here: http://www.astronomy2009.com.br/08.pdf

Twitter Perseid meteorwatch took place on August 11 and 12
For details, see: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/421/

IYA2009 breaks another record
Longest canvas in the world painted at the Oceans festival in Lisbon, under the theme Oceans and Astronomy. In this creative event that was open to families, a 4.8 km long canvas was painted with the help of many enthusiastic volunteers. More information: http://www.festivaldosoceanos.com/home_en.html

NASA Celebrates IYA2009
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in partnership with the U.S. national node and the IAU/UNESCO, of which it is an Organizational Associate, has developed a rich and vibrant program for the International Year of Astronomy 2009.  See http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/410/ for details. New resources useful for IYA2009 events have also been created: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/407/

2009 total solar eclipse broadcast reaches a huge audience
Organisers of a live broadcast of the recent total eclipse have announced that the event reached millions of people using their feeds. 25 clients utilised the video stream, including 10 TV stations and 14 network portals. Viewers came from all over the world, from countries including Japan, USA, Poland, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, and many others. Visit http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/409/ for more.

IYA2009 coins celebrate this special year
Learn about them here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/408/

The 300th anniversary of the airship Passarola falls within IYA2009
One of the many important anniversaries being celebrated during IYA2009 is the flight of the balloon ship Passarola in 8 August 1709. Read the fascinating story here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/392/

News from SARM, Romania  
Along with its usual technical and organisational activities on astronomy (which have culminated with a "Highly Commended" astronomical festival in Targoviste for 100 Hours of Astronomy), the Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy-SARM has decided to develop a creative vision on the International Year of Astronomy in its astro-humanist web portal Cosmopoetry - SARM and Friends: http://www.cosmopoetry.ro/

Here are some samples. Firstly, a dedication to the main Romanian astronomical jubilee in 2009: 150 years since the birth of Ion Otescu, the founder of Romanian astromythology, at http://www.cosmopoetry.ro/romanianastrohumanism20/ Secondly, an ample photo-chronicle with poetic valences of the IYA2009 Opening Ceremony and Symposium 260 (Paris, January 2009) at: http://www.cosmopoetry.ro/sarmatunescoiauiyagalilei/

Thirdly, an international super-project (with the participation of some leaders of international groups of astronomy, literature and science fiction), which follows the chronology of the sky in 2009 in an astronomical-photographic-artistic-philosophic-poetic manner, and includes chapters and pages dedicated to a few global IYA2009 projects: 100 Hours of Astronomy, She Is an Astronomer, Dark Skies Awareness, The Sky At Night (for which SARM organised an amazing astrophotography expedition in the Bucegi Mountains, at 2500m altitude), etc.

Astropoetry to the International Year of Astronomy: http://www.cosmopoetry.ro/astropoetrytoiya


News round-up

14 August 2009

Hitting the headlines HARD this week has been the International Astronomical Union's General Assembly in Brazil. Economist.com has an in-depth look at how individual astronomers are being drowned out as big projects keep getting bigger, and possible solutions. EurekAlert! has featured a press release issued from the Assembly, about the successor to IYA2009 and new resolutions, including boosting astronomy in the developing world. Important stuff! The General Assembly is also about SCIENCE, and i09 has a taste.

Did you see them? Did you? Eh? The shooting stars? The Perseids? This writer was clouded out, but at least the Guardian's Science Blog wrote some good stuff. They plugged Newbury Astronomical Society's Twitter meteorwatch, an internet observing plan in support of IYA2009. The media obviously liked the story, as it was also mentioned on BBC News and Times Online. Ansa.it also has coverage of the meteor shower, with an interesting twist: drinking lots of wine as you observe. Even SoccorBlog.com got in on the action. Really, check it out!

IYA2009 has been mentioned in a Times & Transcript article. If you're thinking of getting into observational astronomy then it's worth a look. Binoculars, telescopes, and light pollution are mentioned, along with the merits of astronomy clubs.

It's time for one of the semi-regular IYA2009 in Second Life features, woop! This one is from Examiner.com, who report that in the virtual world you can visit the courtyard of the house where Galileo was kept under arrest and "climb through the mammoth gothic stone arches and wooden scaffolding that housed the Leviathan of Parsonstown". Apparently IYA2009 is being celebrated on a collection of virtual islands called SciLands. How high-tech!

Hello, Times of India. You like IYA2009, don't you? That must be why you've written about Jupiter coming close to Earth (relatively speaking) and so being a good object for amateur and professional astronomers to observe. It's like a warm-up for Galilean Nights.


Four new IAU resolutions in the framework of IYA2009 have been approved!

13 August 2009

Four important resolution in support of IYA2009 have been approved in the IAU  XXVII General Assembly:

RESOLUTION B1 on IAU Strategic Plan:Astronomy for the Developing World
RESOLUTION A1 on Implementing the IAU Strategic Plan
RESOLUTION B4 on Supporting Women in Astronomy
RESOLUTION B5 in Defence of the night sky and the right to starlight

You can find the full resolutions on: http://www.astronomy2009.com.br/08.pdf

Twitter Perseid meteorwatch set for August 11 and 12

12 August 2009

One of the annual highlights of stargazers' calendars is the Perseid meteor shower. Occurring every August, they regularly astound with their bright trails lingering in the night sky.

To help everyone around the world be involved with this spectacle, the UK's Newbury Astronomical Society has organised a Twitter meteorwatch for 11 and 12 August 2009. Using the site Twitter and the hash tag #Meteorwatch, people can ask questions, follow the event, and enjoy the night sky with other beginners and enthusiasts. Images and information will be tweeted live. The meteorwatch will begin at 21:30 BST on 11 August, continuing through to the evening of 12 August.

No special equipment is needed to watch the shower. In fact, your unaided eyes are probably the best instruments to use, as you can take in a lot of the sky at the same time. Sit on a recliner facing east, and simply look up. Perseids are distinct, being bright and often leaving a telltale trail. To get the best views, try to observe as far away from city lights as possible. Skyglow from urban areas will hamper observation attempts, although bright shooting stars should be visible even with light polluted skies.

The shower is actually visible from 17 July to 24 August, but the peak - when the most will be seen - is around the night of 11 / morning of 12 August. This year the bright Moon will drown out dimmer streaks, but many will still be visible.

The search engine Google has changed their logo to celebrate this year's Perseid meteorwatch: www.google.com

Remember to wrap up warmly, and take a hot drink in a flask. Try to avoid lying on the ground, as that will sap your warmth. The longer you observe the more you will see, so plan to be out for a few hours if possible. Remember to let friends or family know where you are, for safety.

The Perseids are easy to observe, and after watching them for yourself you will see why they are a firm favourite of amateur astronomers!


Meteorwatch Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/NewburyAS/
Newbury Astronomical Society: http://newburyas.wordpress.com/2009/08/03/twitter-meteorwatch/
Twitter meteorwatch press release: http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk/index.php/press-and-media/122
Sky & Telescope article on observing the Perseids: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/objects/meteors/3310516.html


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Organisational Associates:

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is endorsed by the United Nations and the International Council of Science.