IYA2009 Updates

The RĂ´le of Astronomy in Society and Culture

19 January 2009

The International Astronomical Union Symposium 260: "The Rôle of Astronomy in Society and Culture" has just started in Paris, at UNESCO HQ, with a top-level scientific programme.

The inaugural session is setting the context. Here is the programme for this morning:

09:00 David VALLS-GABAUD & Alec BOKSENBERG: Welcome

09:10 Walter ERDELEN (UNESCO):Opening

09:20 Baruch S. BLUMBERG (USA): Astronomical exploration and the public imagination

09:50 Martin J. REES (UK) Our cosmic habitat

10:30 Coffee break

11:00 Martin HARWIT (USA) The growth of astrophysical understanding - a societal


11:40 Lawrence KRAUSS (USA) The Big Bang, modern cosmology and the fate of the

universe: impacts upon culture

12:20 Catherine CESARSKY (IAU) Astronomy

Complete programme: http://iaus260.obspm.fr/images/documents/piaus260.pdf

You can follow the conference through the webcast on:  http://canalc2.u-strasbg.fr/direct.asp?idEvenement=452


IYA2009 Opening Event: stay tuned!

16 January 2009

IYA2009 Opening Event Ceremony: www.astronomy2009.org/opening

IYA2009 Opening Event Webcast: www.astronomy2009.org/webcast

IYA2009 Opening Event Cosmic Diary Blog: http://www.cosmicdiary.org/lee_pullen/

IYA2009 Opening Ceremony launches today!

15 January 2009

After months of anticipation, the official launch of IYA2009 is occurring today, in Paris. Around 900 delegates are in attendance, including eminent scientists and heads of state.

The  Opening Ceremony site is offering a live video feed, and is an excellent way to see what is happening.

The Cosmic Diary website is also running a liveblog from Paris, where the Secretariat has been posting regular updates about events.

 It promises to be a spectacular few days!


IYA2009 opens in Ireland!

14 January 2009


On Wednesday 7 January 2009 the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) was officially opened in Ireland, in the presence of the Irish President Mary McAleese and the Northern Ireland Minister for Education, Caitriona Ruane in a most impressive launch ceremony, at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in Dublin.

Thursday 8 January saw the launch of another two International Year of Astronomy highlights in Ireland. Professor Michael Redfern, Director of the Centre for Astronomy, National University of Ireland Galway and IYA2009 Single Point of Contact, launched the Faulkes Telescope Universe Challenge. This is a competition for students to undertake astronomy projects using the state of the art 2 metre telescopes in Hawaii and Australia. The prize, which is very generously sponsored by the European Southern Observatory, even though Ireland is not a member, is a trip to see the world's largest telescope in Chile.

The main sponsors for the events of the International Year of Astronomy in Ireland are Discover Science & Engineering, the European Southern Observatory and BT.

More info: www.astronomy2009.ie


Explosive inauguration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden

13 January 2009

The IYA2009 Swedish Inauguration will take place in Stockholm, starting on Jan. 15 at 17:00, when the Stockholm Globe Arenas present a dramatic light show projected on the world largest spherical building, namely the Globe in Stockholm. 700 lamps surrounding the Globe theatre are programmed to project a movie sequence on the surface of the building starting with the active Sun in bright red, turning on flares and active regions in white and yellow, and fading to a dark sky with stars and supernova explosions. The sequence, which is repeated, can with some imagination also be seen as the Universe some time after the Big Bang slowly cooling to today's dark night sky. In addition, a high-resolution projector produces an image with text and symbols of the year on the side facing Stockholm City.

Read more: http://ttt.astro.su.se/sas/press/inauguration.html

Anniversary of Galileo's Observations

13 January 2009

IYA2009 may only be two weeks old, but it is already time to mark an important historical event.

399 years ago to the day, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei had completed improvements to his astronomical telescope, and turned this instrument to the heavens. He observed the distant planet Jupiter, then an enigmatic and mysterious body. Galileo discovered three faint dots either side of this world; what could they be?

Over the following months, Galileo systematically observed Jupiter and these pin-pricks of light, discovering a fourth, and that they were moving around Jupiter. Could they be moons, other world in their own right? That is exactly what they were eventually revealed to be. Galileo had discovered the first moons around a planet other than our own! Now called Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, collectively they are known as the Galilean Satellites, in honour of their discoverer.

This was such an important event, it's no wonder that we are marking the occasion 399 years later. For a start, it proved beyond any doubt how useful telescopes could be. These new instruments had begun to expand mankind's horizons like never before. But perhaps even more importantly, Galileo's realisation that the moons were orbiting Jupiter cast doubt on the generally accepted view that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. Observations of the Galilean moons would be used to support Copernicus' theory of a Sun-centred Universe, which we now know is much closer to the truth.

You can mark the occasion as part of IYA2009. Galileo was able to see the moons using his basic telescope, so it is no problem for even simple modern instruments. A Galileoscope, for example, will let you see the planet and moons, much as Galileo did all that time ago. On a crisp and cloudless night, find a location to set up your telescope. Ideally, this should be far away from street lights. Next, locate the planet Jupiter using astronomy software like Redshift. You may need to observe later in the year, to get a good view. Then focus your telescope on Jupiter, and try to pick out the dots of light either side. These are the moons, just as Galileo saw them! You can even track their positions over consecutive nights, as he originally did. Sky and Telescope's website has interactive observing tools, such as maps and charts of the moons' positions, to help even more. Local observatories and science centres are also excellent sources of information and may have instruments that you can use.

Even if you don't observe Jupiter and the Galilean moons during 2009, it's still worth looking up on a starry night and remembering how, 399 years ago, history was made by an astronomer doing the same thing. Humanity had taken its first steps into the wider Universe, thanks to Galileo and his telescope.


From Earth to the Universe - Update

13 January 2009

Greetings all FETTU participants,

IYA2009 is officially here and From Earth to the Universe is progressing very well! Please see the latest list of updates on the project at: http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/updates.php

Highlights include:

--The opening of the "For Visitors" section which contains image tours, maps and other "fun stuff". http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/learn_more.php

--A new online Events Calendar with dates and locations listed for all events that are underway. If you have corrections or additions to this list, please email me as soon as possible. http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/table_events.php

--FETTU will be available at the opening ceremonies at UNESCO in Paris, France this week (Jan 15-18). Stay tuned for photos and video.

--"Digital FETTU" is now available for request on DVD. A short preview version has been posted to the FETTU web site. http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/DigitalFETTU.php

--Coming soon: A press release template for your FETTU events and FETTU evaluation sheets.

Please keep us informed as your exhibition develops - any specific dates you can send will be added to (or edited on) the online FETTU calendar of events and be incorporated into various press releases and advertisements for the project. In addition, any photos, videos and other information on the event that you can provide after it has occurred would be wonderful to help us evaluate the success and report back to all the interested and supporting organizations.

Many thanks & best wishes for success,
Kim et al.



"Europe builds on centuries of cooperation in astronomical research" by Janez Potocnik

12 January 2009

Not just stargazing: Europe builds on centuries of cooperation in astronomical research

© Nathalie Perault

by Janez Potocnik (European Commissioner for Science and Research)  in Prague, Czech Republic on 7 January 2009.

"Thank you for inviting me to be the first speaker at today's event. 

Happy 2009!  I'm here to talk about astronomy, not astrology, but if I did have a crystal ball I would predict a successful six months ahead. It is easy to say that a year will be important or significant. But 2009 will undoubtedly be so for the Czechs, and for astronomy.

It is the year of the first ever Czech Presidency of the European Union. Presidencies are rewarding and demanding in equal measure - especially for a relatively new Member State. I can say this as a Slovenian. But I can also say that I am confident that you are up to the task.

It's a real pleasure for me to be here in Prague for another reason. It is a city that has been home to some of the great names of astronomy. People like Tycho Brahe, famous for his detailed astronomical observations in the 16th century; people like Johannes Kepler, who took those observations and formulated the mathematical laws defining the motion of planets.

This was ground breaking science then and it seems even more astonishing now when you think what resources we have at our fingertips, compared to what these innovators and brilliant thinkers had back then.

And if you want more evidence, all you have to do is look behind me at the Prague Orloj: a working astronomical clock, a six hundred year-old example of humanity's desire to look up and beyond the clouds and of humanity's ingenuity and intelligence.

I ask you then, what better place could there be to open the International Year of Astronomy 2009?

Europe has its place in this year. It has a long and proud tradition of excellence in astronomy. I've already spoken about Brahe and Kepler, I could also cite Galileo Galilei, the Italian who took a Dutch invention - the telescope - and used it to observe and understand the mysteries of the stars and the planets. Europeans have been at the forefront of astronomical research for many years. And they have been cooperating across borders for many years.

Back then, astronomical theory depended on access to the best technology of the time - and the innovations inspired by these theories pushed the development of technology. You won't be surprised to hear that this is still the case!  Each new telescope or new instrument represents a new technological battle won and a stepping stone to new discoveries...and the need for even more sensitive and powerful instruments...and so on and so on...

These are exciting times for astronomical progress. There is a new generation of instruments so powerful that they really blow your mind! Some like the Atacama Large Millimetre Array in Chile are under construction; others, such as the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array or the Kilometre Cube Neutrino Telescope are in the advanced design stage.

They are dealing with and trying to answer some of the biggest questions of all, such as whether there is life on other planets, or how super massive black holes are formed. 

But astronomy is not just about the big questions; it can also have a profound, but less acknowledged, influence on our everyday lives. Take adaptive optics for example, which are now being applied in medicine by visual researchers to allow for a clearer examination of the retina, and which can lead to earlier and more precise diagnoses of eye diseases.

...This is science made in the stars, but used by us.

Astronomy is the kind of science that gets peoples' attention. And it's that appeal which can have another important impact: as a showcase for a new generation of scientists and engineers. This is very important at a time when it is becoming more difficult to convince young people to pursue a career in science: it can attract students to physics, engineering and ICT.  We need them.

Astronomy has yet another function: as a lever for strong economic and social recovery.

Advanced 21st Century instrumentation needs a high-tech industry to support it. It is at the core of what we call the knowledge triangle: the three corners of that triangle being research, industry and education.  Now more than ever we need to remind ourselves just how important it is to invest in building a knowledge economy that can ride out our current economic and financial problems and sow the seeds for future prosperity through the creation of economic growth and new jobs. The free circulation of knowledge throughout a European Research Area - what we call the "fifth freedom" - is a crucial element of Europe's future competitiveness and growth.

What does this 5th freedom mean in reality? It means open access to research results, the right framework conditions, cross-border mobility for researchers, better cooperation between businesses, the public sector and universities, and public-private partnerships.

It will also need the kind of research infrastructures which have created these new astronomical wonders - research infrastructures that share the burden of innovation and research and optimise the funding available for increasingly complex and expensive research facilities. Because even looking at the heavens requires us to organise ourselves a little at ground level first!

Let me finish by wishing every success to the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.  And I hope that I've convinced you - if you needed to be convinced - that this isn't just stargazing.

Thank you."

Origina source: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/potocnik/news/docs/20090107_speech_astronomy_en.pdf


The World at Night Newsletter

11 January 2009

- Starry nights Vs increasing lights: TWAN has launched a new special gallery for public awareness of Dark Skies Importance.

- The new Events page explains how and where TWAN exhibition and educational events will take place. TWAN calls for the best world-wide venues to host the events during International Year of Astronomy 2009 and beyond.  There are plans for hold TWAN events in about 30 countries. The progressing Event Calendar lists some of them.  

-  Variety of interesting products with The World at Night logo and slogans are available now on TWAN Shop for the world wide TWAN enthusiasts and collaborators. Specially designed New Year greeting cards are available for the celebration of International Year of Astronomy 2009.

- There are new stunning photos on TWAN website, featuring starry nights of the planet's landmarks from Australia, Asia and Middle East, to Europe and Americas:




Moon Adventure  (Kansas) by Doug Zubenel

Sentinel  (Arizona) by Doug Zubenel

Desert Snow  (California) by Wally Pacholka

Iridium Flare  (Massachusetts) by Dennis di Cicco

Eyes to the Cosmos  (Hawaii) by Serge Brunier



Winter Night at Banff Springs Hotel  by Yuichi Takasaka

Meteor Watch at -28 C  by Yuichi Takasaka



Celestial Pair and Zodiacal Light  by Stephane Guisard

Clouds in Atamaca  by Serge Brunier



The Umbra  by Juan Carlos Casado




Windmill and Triple Conjunction  by Tamas Ladanyi



White Covered  by P-M Heden

Castle Moonlight  by P-M Heden

Christmas Night Dream by P-M Heden


Stars from Autumn to Spring  by Laurent Laveder



Leonids and Leica  by Juan Carlos Casado



Alpine Conjunction  by Tamas Ladanyi


Asia and Middle East


Stars and Swans  by Shingo Takei



Island Night  by Kwon O Chul

Window to the Heaven  by Kwon O Chul



Morning Lights on Damavand  by Oshin Zakarian

Comet and Meteor  by Babak Tafreshi

Martian Sky  (Flash time-lapse video) by Babak Tafreshi

The Ghost  by Babak Tafreshi

Night of Dogs  by Oshin Zakarian

Gemenid Streak  by Oshin Zakarian

Belt of Orion and Historic Tower  by Babak Tafreshi

Gone with the Light   by Babak Tafreshi




Astrophotography on Crater Rim  by John Goldsmith

Gravity Discovery Center  by John Goldsmith

Five Planets Align  by John Goldsmith

Leonid Storm in Western Australia by John Goldsmith



Stars and Lights  by David Malin


Guest Gallery is a a well-received section on TWAN website to feature selected outstanding Earth and sky photos by non-TWAN creative photographers from around the globe. If you have such remarkable photos to share with TWAN Guest Gallery, please contact us. There are new featured photos on the Guest Gallery:


- Poseidon and Passing Stars   (Greece) by Chris Kotsiopoulos

- Myanmar at Night (Myanmar) by Boothee

- Triple Conjunction Over Syria (Syria) by Mahmoud Alamir

- The Curves  (Iran) by Amir H. Abolfath

- Venus Meets Pleiades  (France) by Patrick Lecureuil

- Pic du Midi Under Moonlight  (France) by Patrick Lecureuil

- Eclipse and National Observatory of Athens  (Greece) by Elias Chasiotis

- Castle Comet  (Italy) by Daniele Cipollina

- The Pair Above Germany (Germany) by Jens Hackmann

- Natural Beauty Vs Light Pollution  (Alaska-USA) by Leopoldo Andriao Junior

- Himalaya Skygazing (India) by Ajay Talwar

- Rio Red Moon  (Brazil) by Jose Carlos Diniz

- Comet McNaught Over Argentina  (Argentina) by Eduardo Alejandro Pulver



- TWAN is featuring five special galleries of selected photos:

Latest Images

Dark Skies Importance

Cosmic Motions


World Heritage Sites


TWAN is a global program of Astronomers Without Borders (www.astrowb.org) and a Special Project of International Year of Astronomy 2009, an initiative by IAU and UNESCO. The World at Night is to produce and present a collection of stunning photographs of the world's most beautiful and historic sites against the nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all 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.


Building bridges through the sky

The World at Night




IYA2009 news round-up #1: 9 January 2009

9 January 2009

Astronomy captures the attention of not just the public, but also the media. IYA2009 has been featuring prominently on news websites and blogs, leading to a veritable explosion of coverage since New Year's Day. Gathered here are some selected highlights, giving a taste of what is out there.

Let's start with an article from India PR Wire, all about the Goa-based Association of Friends of Astronomy (AFA). The AFA have a commendable range of activities planned for 2009, with enthusiasm that sets an example to all. One particularly active member is described as being "possessed by astronomy", which certainly conjures an interesting image. They may have their eyes to the skies, but their feet are firmly on the ground, as they realise the need to capture an audience before unleashing scientific facts. How will they do this? A public screening of the film "Aliens". Sign me up!

Italy next, and Lab Spaces have been writing about how a team of astronomers and museum creators from the Arcetri Observatory and the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, both in Florence, are trying to recreate the telescope and conditions that led to Galileo's observations. They have already checked the Moon and Saturn, and will soon move onto Jupiter's moons and the phases of Venus. Taking the aim of "seeing what Galileo would have seen" rather literally, the team want to open Galileo's tomb and obtain DNA evidence to determine the medical reason he died blind. 

Moving swiftly on to The Columbus Dispatch, which gives a United States-centred overview of IYA2009. It is a short but sweet article, and the author generously gives a plug to his colleagues' exhibit, "Planet Panorama". Also in that part of the world is news courtesy of Media Newswire that the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts aim to bring astronomy down to Earth with the Winter 2009 Theme Semester "The Universe: Yours to Discover." There will be high-profile lectures, star-gazing parties, science cafes, concerts, and much more, most of which are free and open to the public. And at the University of Wyoming, student Dan Lyons has been selected as a NASA IYA2009 Graduate Student Ambassador. He will receive a $2,000 grant and up to $700 for materials and travel reimbursement. Don't spend it all at once, Dan!

The marvellous astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope has a note about IYA2009 written by the editors and released on the website. Their dedication to the Year has even led them to post a superb article about IYA2009 online, free of charge. Thanks!

Now a notably fine article by Andrew Stephens from The Age about his discovery of observational astronomy and the science that surrounds it. Hopefully his experiences will be mirrored by many more during 2009. Half the length and including a significant section copied and pasted from the UNESCO website is an iTWire overview of IYA2009. It is informative and contains many useful hyperlinks, so gets some bonus points.

Torontoist has run an article about IYA2009 posters on Toronto public transport. The posters are well designed and clever, making commuters think about astronomy in novel ways. Bringing science to the people is an aim of IYA2009, and the project organisers are certainly achieving that. The same can be said of local planetarium staff, according to Tallahasee.com. The site has given some coverage to free events, where attendees are shown the constellations and then told mythology behind them.

Off to Oz next, and The Australian has featured a well-written article about how IYA2009 can help Australia. It serves as a warning of how neglecting science can negatively impact society, and so is a timely reminder that IYA2009 can go much deeper than simply showing people sights through telescopes. Not that that is a bad thing of course, as demonstrated by astronomy enthusiasts also in Australia, as reported on Sunshine Coast Daily Online. Four telescopes from the Wappa Falls Observatory were used to show passers-by what our nearest star is really like. Let's hope they remembered the solar filters.

More telescope news was provided by Contra Costa Times, which bagged an interview with Stephen Pompea, an astronomer working with Galileoscopes. These little instruments certainly impress, and will give many people excellent views of the heavens during 2009, and long beyond.

Light pollution is a growing concern, reports The Scotsman. Stating that a fifth of the world's population can no longer see the Milky Way with the naked eye due to artificial lighting, it sees the Dark Skies Awareness programme as a good way of turning the situation around. They also argue that sensible lighting could conserve energy, protect wildlife, and benefit human health. The report says that there are plans to create a "dark sky park" in Scotland, specifically for visitors to enjoy the night sky.

The blogs at Wired have been talking about IYA2009, and given special mention to the Cosmic Diary Cornerstone Project. Says author Todd Dailey, "If your geeklet is interested in astronomy as a career, the site is a great place to find out more about what astronomers do day-by-day." The Vatican also supports the Cosmic Diary, reports the Catholic News Service. Vatican astronomer Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno is one of more than 50 scientists from around the world contributing to the blog (see his entries here). The Vatican Observatory is also helping to organise a week on astrobiology at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in November, among many other projects. Church leaders hope that "the celebrations finally will put to rest the long suspicion that the church is hostile toward science."

And finally, hot off the press, AthenaWeb has just posted an announcement expressing their support and dedication to IYA2009. Astronomy films will be hosted and readily available on the site all year long. To make things even easier, you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter.

That's all the news there's time for, but this is just a sample of coverage. For even more stories, check out the press section of the official IYA2009 website. Expect another news round-up next week, so you can keep up to date with how the media are tracking IYA2009 developments.

See you then!

Lee Pullen
IYA2009 Staff Writer


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Organisational Associates:

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