IYA2009 Updates

News Round-up, 20 March 2009

20 March 2009

We want to spend much of 2009 looking up at the stars, but to do that sometimes we must pay attention to what's happening closer to home. 28 March will bring us Earth Hour, as mentioned on the 100 Hours of Astronomy blog, when as many as one billion people will be turning off their lights to promote global sustainability. But don't worry, there's an astronomical motive as well: preserving dark skies. Nevada News reports that their local Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center at the University of Nevada will be celebrating Earth Hour from 7-10pm. So they're three times as enthusiastic as most. Similar events are occurring in the Homer Glen (US) region, reports Neighborhood Star, and GenQ is hopeful that all Australians will participate. If you're near any Earth Hour events, try to make it along to show your support. Bring a torch though, it'll probably be dark.

If you are lucky enough to have lovely dark skies, what should you look out for?  Knox News has a commendable article about observing the planet Saturn, complete with tips from an astronomer. Nicely done, Knox News.

The News Herald (serving Burke County, NC, apparently) has a reassuringly lengthy article about an upcoming series of astronomy events held in Lake James State Park. Monthly star parties will be run by a Park Ranger assisted by the Catawba Valley Astronomy Club. There's a specially taken photo to illustrate the text, and they've included a link to astronomy2009.org in a prominent position. News Herald, you are setting an example for others to follow.

To the UK next, and This is Exeter has been advertising a special event hosted by the University of Exeter Astrophysics Group. It will be held on 1 April, and features hands-on demonstrations and talks from the astronomers. Dr Jennifer Hatchell, of the university's School of Physics, said: "The International Year of Astronomy is a chance for everyone to experience these things, and we look forward to sharing them with our visitors." I couldn't have put it better myself.

Not many articles begin with the line "What do the International Year of Astronomy and jazz music have in common?" To find out the answer, strut over to University of Guelph and read! But if your clicking finger is too tired, I'll tell you: a physics professor and singer/songwriter has produced a new album of songs inspired by people's fascination with the sky. Maclean's Magazine has written an article about her, which has got to be a good sign. If your curiosity has been sparked, there are music previews online.

That is all for now.

Lee Pullen
IYA2009 Staff Writer



20 March 2009

For the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) is releasing on DVD the movie "Hawaiian Starlight - Exploring the Universe from Mauna Kea".

The summit of Mauna Kea offers the best viewing of the Cosmos in the northern hemisphere, and this film delivers a pure esthetic experience from the mountain into the Universe. Seven years in the making, "Hawaiian Starlight" reveals the spectacular beauty of Mauna Kea and its connection to the Cosmos through the magical influence of time-lapse cinematography. Daytime and nighttime landscapes and skyscapes alternate with stunning true color images of the Universe captured by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, all free of any computer generated imagery.

The film is directed by Dr. Jean-Charles Cuillandre, astronomer, photographer and cinematographer. Awestruck at age 16 by photos of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope atop Mauna Kea, Jean-Charles Cuillandre focused his schooling on engineering and astronomy up to his Ph.D. in the mid 1990s. Astronomer at CFHT since 1996, he has widely contributed to wide-field imaging instrumentation and scientific programs. He has been collaborating with the editors of the Italian magazine Coelum since 1999 to produce stunning views of the cosmos for the large public.

"Hawaiian Starlight" is a 43-minute cinematic symphony without any word in any language. It is scored uniquely with excerpts of the riveting, critically acclaimed, music created for Halo by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori.

"Hawaiian Starlight" received the Experimental Film Audience Award Maui Film Festival in May 2008 at its world premiere which drew a crowd of hundreds. It was also presented at the Opening Ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on January 15-16 2009.

The DVD also comes with 20 minutes of special features describing Mauna Kea and CFHT, two slideshows: "Hawaii's natural beauty" & "Mauna Kea & the observatories" by the film's author, as well as production notes. In addition, 40 minutes of educational features: "The Physics behind the scenes" and "The Astrophysics behind the scenes" offer an interactive look back at various time-lapse sequences and information on distance, location, age, etc. for the astronomical objects portrayed in the film.

Rights were secured to allow public free viewing, no matter what the size of the screen is. However, the film is protected under the copyright act and some easy-to-meet conditions are attached to these public viewings. School teachers are encouraged to share the film and the DVD educational features in the classroom. Museums and planetariums are welcome to program for free the film as an exhibit, i.e., a standalone screen looping endlessly on the film for their visitors to enjoy a few minutes, or the entire film.

For more information on the DVD, how to obtain it, and the conditions attached to its public use, visit the following URL: http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/dvd/ or http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/HawaiianStarlight/iya09.html

or contact CFHT at the following e-mail address: hawaiianstarlightdvd@cfht.hawaii.edu


NASA Celebrates Sun-Earth Day With Illuminating Webcast

19 March 2009

NASA scientists will reveal new information and images about our sun and its influence on Earth and the solar system for Sun-Earth Day, recognized each year in conjunction with the spring equinox. The highlight of this year's celebration is a webcast for students and teachers around the world, beginning at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT), Friday, March 20. 

This year's theme, "Our Sun, Yours to Discover," celebrates the International Year of Astronomy and emphasizes daytime astronomy. During the live, interactive event, participants from around the world and NASA scientists will share new discoveries and visualizations about our sun. Participating students will have the opportunity to demonstrate personally designed sundials, while others will be monitoring the sun and preparing their own space weather forecast. 

"Tremendous strides have been made with satellite and ground-based observations of the sun, which have enabled us to monitor the sun to gain a better understanding of the processes that govern its influence on our solar system," said Eric Christian, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. 

Sun-Earth Day is a celebration of the sun and how it affects life on our planet and the space around Earth, known as geospace. For the past nine years, NASA has sponsored and coordinated education and public outreach events for Sun-Earth Day that highlight NASA heliophysics research and discoveries. NASA's goal is to use celestial events to engage the public and students in kindergarten through 12th grade via webcasts, podcasts, space science activities, demonstrations and interactions with space scientists. 

"These events also support the spirit of international collaboration," said Lou Mayo, project manager at Goddard for Sun-Earth Day 2009. "We are excited about sharing the latest discoveries about our sun and encourage others to join our quest for a greater understanding of our closest star." 

Goddard is producing the Sun-Earth Day webcast. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago also are participating in the broadcast. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will broadcast the event live. 

For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information about Sun-Earth Day, visit: http://sunearthday.nasa.gov/2009/index.php . 

For more information about NASA's Education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education . 

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Media Contact: DC Agle 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Sonja Alexander 202-358-1761
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Dewayne Washington 301-286-0040
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


Grants Available for IYA2009 Projects

18 March 2009

The IAU and UNESCO are please to announce a call for grants proposals for IYA2009 projects and activities. This call for proposals comes via the Developing Astronomy Globally cornerstone and is thus targeted at providing seed funding and basic support in order to stimulate astronomy activities in developing regions. Note that although this funding is aimed specifically at "developing countries", exceptions with appropriate motivation will be accepted - the main concern simply being who the beneficiaries would be. Proposals should also be in alignment with the IYA2009 goals and more specifically the Developing Astronomy Globally goals.



More information: http://www.developingastronomy.org/


ESO Messenger: ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Opening Ceremony

17 March 2009

The ESO contributions to the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and the Opening Ceremony, held in Paris in January 2009, are summarised in the latest ESO's Messenger: http://www.eso.org/sci/publications/messenger/archive/no.135-mar09/messenger-no135-54.pdf

Star Walk: Astronomy for Everybody.

17 March 2009

You are getting ready for the 100 hours of Astronomy event, you have an iphone, you love stargazing but you haven't tried doing it with StarWalk yet! If this sounds exactly like you, we have a great initiative you definitely should take part in. StarWalk is one of the official product of IYA2009 and we are offering 5 free applications to the first 5 people who express interest in trying out StarWalk and write a review on it. Read below what Pedro Russo Global IYA2009 coordinator thinks about this application and let us know if you agree with him:


"Star Walk is a great piece of software. It's so easy to scan through
maps of the night sky and find exactly what I need. It looks great
which is always a bonus, but I believe that features are just as
important as graphics. Star Walk has some cutting-edge elements, such
as night mode and direct links to Wikipedia. Star Walk is making
astronomy accessible for everybody!" - Pedro Russo


It is very simple, just write back to us and we will give all you need: the promocode to download StarWalk on your phone for free and reviews options, your thoughts where to post your thoughts about the application. Remember this is a unique opportunity only offered to IYA2009 affectionate. 

Still not convinced? Click here to see what great impressions Starwalk has collected so far.


Getting Astronomers Involved in the IYA2009: Astronomer in the Classroom Program

17 March 2009

The University of Hawaii Institution for Astronomy and Interstellar Studios will be facilitating the exciting new International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) educational program, Astronomer in the Classroom, starting next month. We are seeking astronomers that are interested in volunteering 3 hours to this worthy activity. 

The Astronomer in the Classroom Program will provide astronomers with the opportunity to interface with school children across North America during the IYA2009. Using Abode® Connect, a web conferencing solution, Interstellar Studios will host three 20-minute webcasts every school day in 2009 starting in mid-April.

The webcasts will be conducted at the same time each day, to accommodate national time zone differences and grade levels (3-5, 7-8, 9-12) allowing educators to drop-in when their curriculum and testing schedules allow it. This flexible scheduling will afford convenience to the teachers while avoiding bandwidth congestion.

A schedule of participating astronomers will be posted at www.astronomerintheclassroom.org with brief descriptions of the lectures allowing both the student and teacher a chance to plan for webcasts, which they would like to participate in.

The Adobe® Connect web-based interface will allow the astronomer to be viewed and heard over the web, as well as run a PowerPoint® presentation live. Students can interact by typing questions to the conference. A Moderator will be provided to help facilitate the follow-up Q & A period.

Graduate students, post docs and active researchers who can give three hours to this worthy cause are invited to volunteer.  The program should only require one hour of prep to create the presentation, ½-hour to upload and test the provided webcam and 1 1/2-hours to do the three webcasts.

IfA has donated the cost of the Abobe® licensing and Interstellar Studios is managing this free program. Volunteers need only provide a PC/Mac with a webcam and microphone. An Internet connection rated
DSL or better is required

No special training is needed. Astronomers who are passionate about their research, and enjoy sharing their discoveries and news of their institution, have already met the most important criteria for participation. Participating astronomers are simply asked to keep in mind the grade levels-- attention capacity, and to describe the subject matter with grade appropriate vocabulary.

For astronomers whose institutions are expected to perform outreach, and /or participate in the IYA2009, the Astronomer in the Classroom Program offers a convenient, high-impact means to meet those objectives.

Make a difference during the IYA2009! Inspire a child to look up and ask why!

Contact Information:

Interstellar Studios
11 Ilahee Lane
Chico, CA 95973
Telephone - (530) 343-5635



IYA2009 logo has been blasted off into space!

16 March 2009

On 15 March, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched toward the International Space Station. On board was Japanese astronaut and IYA2009 supporter Koichi Wakata. He took with him a special Official Flight Kit prepared by the IYA2009 Japan Committee, proudly displaying the IYA2009 logo. The kit will be brought back to Earth, and displayed in Japan this autumn.

For more information, please visit http://www.astronomy2009.jp/ (Japanese) and http://cosmicdiary.org/blogs/jaxa/seiichi_sakamoto/?p=254 (English).


Special telescope package and online seminar now available

16 March 2009

IYA2009 is attracting more people to invest in telescopes to observe the heavens. But buying an instrument is one thing... using it can be quite another! Fortunately, the "Astronomie-Startpaket" is available on Amazon's German site, giving a complete package for budding amateur astronomers.

The set includes a Celestron AstroMaster 70 AZ telescope, Redshift 7 planetarium software, Kosmos Himmelsjahr 2009 (Germany's most popular annual celestial calendar) and access to an online seminar along with downloadable multimedia lessons boosted by an expert moderator on hand to answer your questions. All together, it is everything you need to start out on your astronomical adventure of discovery. 

To learn more, please visit: http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001QUBOY4/baaderplanet-21/


Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures IYA2009 Event Draws almost 900 people to Talk at Foothill College,

16 March 2009

Wednesday, March 4th, over 850 people attended one of the public IYA2009 events planned at Foothill College (near San Francisco), as part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures, which is this year celebrating its 10th anniversary of bringing free public lectures by noted astronomers to a wide public.

Dr. Steven Beckwith, the recently retired Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, gave a public talk on "The Dawn of Creation: The First Two Billion Years".   There was so much interest from the audience that the evening, planned to last 90 minutes, continued with questions and answers for 2 and a half hours!

The series is jointly sponsored by: the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the SETI Institute, NASA's Ames Research Center, and the Foothill College Astronomy Program.

For more on the series, see: http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html
and a number of past events are available as podcasts.    

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Organisational Associates:

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