IYA2009 Updates

Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 - Third Announcement - Updated

12 November 2009

The SOC has been very pleased with the response to attend and present papers at CAP2010 and is now in the process of selecting oral presentations and organising sessions. However, we have decided to extend the deadline as we have heard from a number of people that the timing was not optimum and they would like to submit in November. The deadline for abstract submission has now been extended to December 4th. This also applies to the special rate for on-site hotel accommodation.

For existing registrants, please ensure that you have selected your accommodation as soon as possible to make sure that you have a booking. Due to the annual Cape Town cycle tour, the Ritz hotel no longer has rooms available for the night of the 14th March 2010. We have successfully negotiated the same rates with the Cape Manor Hotel, which is 3 blocks away from the Ritz hotel, until the 15th March 2010. Bookings are being made on a first-come, first served basis. Please book your accommodation as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

More info: http://www.communicatingastronomy.org/cap2010/

Western Connecticut IYA2009 enthusiasts unveil impressive scale Solar System

11 November 2009

 On 14 November a magnificent "true scale" model Solar System was being installed. It will be spread across over 6 miles of New Milford, Connecticut as part of local IYA2009 celebrations. The scale is set by a six foot diameter Sun that is on the Observatory grounds, and each object is on public property (most on school grounds), out to a distance of over 6 miles where the Oort Cloud and the "gateway to the Galaxy" will reside. Each object is cast in bronze, and sits atop a 5 foot stainless steel pyramid.

Beautiful and informative outdoor signs accompany each object, with the object emblem in brass on them so students can take rubbings in their "Passport to the Solar System" and get it stamped at the local library. This is an extraordinary blend of art and science that has had students, local artists and artisans involved in every step of its creation, and private funding for every part of it.

More is planned for the winter, including building a very large equatorial sundial with a replica of Galileo's telescope in bronze as part of the gnomon, and building "Galileo's Garden" - a 3000 square foot garden area with celestial art, a large granite sculpture, and more besides.  All this will be done by a volunteer team of enthusiastic amateurs who run the McCarthy Observatory as a public facility.

Report by Bob Lambert.

McCarthy Observatory on the web: http://www.mccarthyobservatory.org/

Summary of the International Conference of Young Astronomers 2009

11 November 2009

The International Conference of Young Astronomers (ICYA2009) took place in Krakow, Poland between 7 - 13 September. The conference gathered almost 150 young scientists, researchers and advanced amateur astronomers from 30 countries and five continents.

A combination of seminars and workshops allowed exchanging ideas, discussing challenging issues and establishing links which might be useful in the future. During six lecture days participants gave more than 40 talks and presented almost 50 posters. The meeting was a contribution to IYA2009 and at the same time the first milestone on the way to a global, regular conference targeted at undergraduate and PhD students of astronomy and physics as well as more advanced astronomers.

Opinions received from participants suggest that the conference turned out to be a success. However the best description of this first edition is "proof of concept". It means there are issues which should be discussed and fields which might be improved.

The Organising Committee is in the final stage of evaluation and intends to present its results during two global astronomy conferences which involve individual astronomers as well as universities, research institutes, astronomical societies and international astronomical organisations.

Report by Jan Pomierny.

NASA's Great Observatories Celebrate International Year of Astronomy

10 November 2009

A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy is being unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event will commemorate the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609.

In celebration of this International Year of Astronomy 2009, NASA is releasing images of the galactic center region as seen by its Great Observatories to more than 150 planetariums, museums, nature centers, libraries, and schools across the country.

The sites will unveil a giant, 6-foot-by-3-foot print of the bustling hub of our galaxy that combines a near-infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multiwavelength picture. Experts from all three observatories carefully assembled the final image from large mosaic photo surveys taken by each telescope. This composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

Participating institutions also will display a matched trio of Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra images of the Milky Way's center on a second large panel measuring 3 feet by 4 feet. Each image shows the telescope's different wavelength view of the galactic center region, illustrating not only the unique science each observatory conducts, but also how far astronomy has come since Galileo.

The composite image features the spectacle of stellar evolution: from vibrant regions of star birth, to young hot stars, to old cool stars, to seething remnants of stellar death called black holes. This activity occurs against a fiery backdrop in the crowded, hostile environment of the galaxy's core, the center of which is dominated by a supermassive black hole nearly four million times more massive than our Sun. Permeating the region is a diffuse blue haze of X-ray light from gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by outflows from the supermassive black hole as well as by winds from massive stars and by stellar explosions. Infrared light reveals more than a hundred thousand stars along with glowing dust clouds that create complex structures including compact globules, long filaments, and finger-like "pillars of creation," where newborn stars are just beginning to break out of their dark, dusty cocoons.

The unveilings will take place at 152 institutions nationwide, reaching both big cities and small towns. Each institution will conduct an unveiling celebration involving the public, schools, and local media.

The Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate supports the International Year of Astronomy Great Observatories image unveiling. The project is a collaboration among the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., the Spitzer Science Center in Pasadena, Calif., and the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Images of the Milky Way galactic center region and a list of places exhibiting these images can be found at:



Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
410-338-4493 / 410-338-4514
dweaver@stsci.edu / villard@stsci.edu

Whitney Clavin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.

Thirty-five radio telescopes around the world will conduct an unprecedented observation

10 November 2009

Thirty-five radio telescopes around the world will conduct an unprecedented continuous 24-hour observation of nearly 250 remote quasars this week. The collection of quasars, whose positions in the sky are precisely known, forms the core (or defining sources) of a grid of celestial landmarks called the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF2), which was officially recognized as the fundamental reference system for astronomy by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in August 2009. The ICRF2 has 295 defining sources that are spread evenly over the sky and out of which 243 will be observed. The small number of stations in the Southern Hemisphere is the reason why some of the southern defining sources will not be observed. The observation, the largest of this type ever conducted in terms of both the number of participating telescopes and the number of quasars to be observed, will mark the kickoff for the use of this new system. The session is also organized as a specific event for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) and is dedicated to reach out to the public and to promote science with open doors at the radio telescopes.

Telescopes in Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America, Antarctica, and in the Pacific will coordinate for the observation, forming a special network called a Very Long Baseline Interferometer (VLBI). Such a network has the spatial resolution of a radio telescope as large as the network, allowing one to pinpoint positions of quasars to unprecedented precision. The 35-element world-size radio telescope that was put together for the event will be unique in its ability to observe most of the ICRF2 quasars at once and to strengthen the ICRF2 grid.

The observation is coordinated by the International VLBI Service for Geodesy and Astrometry (IVS) and will take place from Wednesday 18 November, 18:00 UT to Thursday 19 November, 18:00 UT. Further details may be obtained from the IVS Web site at http://ivscc.gsfc.nasa.gov/program/iya09/

A dynamic Web site hosted by the University of Bordeaux at http://iya09-ivs.obs.u-bordeaux1.fr will show live VLBI images of the 243 quasars as they are observed during the session.

Send a message to Venus

10 November 2009

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is enhancing people's interest in space and the Earth by holding a message campaign. People are invited to send messages that will be printed in fine letters on an aluminium plate and placed aboard the Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI.

Messages are being accepted from Japan and overseas, so the feelings and thoughts of everybody in the world can be combined in a single place and injected into the orbit of Venus. Through this campaign JAXA aims to boost the public's knowledge about space science research activities in Japan as well as abroad. This project is in cooperation with the IYA2009 Japan Committee.

The Venus Climate Orbiter AKATSUKI is the world's first planetary meteorological observation satellite to unveil the mysteries of wind on Venus. It will explore the atmospheric movement and cloud formation process. Ultimately, this mission aims to deepen our understanding of the formation process of the Earth's environment and its future by comparing Venus and the Earth. Its planned launch date is May 2010, to arrive at Venus in December 2010.

To register your message, please visit: http://www.jaxa.jp/event/akatsuki/index_e.html

"Sounds of the Stars" enchant at German IYA2009 concert

10 November 2009

One of the cultural highlights of IYA2009 in Germany has been a concert by the Bochum Symphonic Orchestra at the largest auditorium of Bochum University on 6 November. Not only was the music astronomy-themed, the whole performance was also sumptuously illustrated by space vistas panning over a giant projection screen.

This performance was orchestrated by a team of largely PhD students from the University's Astronomy Department under the direction of Prof. Ralf-Jürgen Dettmar. While the first half of the concert was devoted to classical tunes, both well-known (some of Holst's planets - he would have been amazed by the spacecraft images of these bodies) and surprising, after the intermission it was all John Williams. "Sounds of the Stars - from Haydn to Star Wars" had been the title of the concert, conducted by Rasmus Baumann and enjoyed by an audience of some 850 which demanded and got an encore.

More information (in German): http://skyweek.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/astronomie-kultur-noch-mehr-begegnungen-im-iya

Report by Daniel Fischer.

IYA2009 news from Congo

10 November 2009

The African nation of Congo has been working hard this year to popularise astronomy. Recently villages and cities celebrated the anniversary of men walking on the Moon. DVD videos and talks on the mysteries of the Universe captivated those in attendance.

Next year many African countries will celebrate their 50th birthday after independence. There will be large festivals in August 2010. In Congo, plans are being developed to take this opportunity to speak to a wide audience about science in general and astronomy in particular.

To capitalise on this situation, astronomers from Congo plan to request assistance from the Arab Emirates, to help with the development aspects. The plan is to educate the population about how astronomy, physics, biology, mathematics, and many other branches of thinking are all interlinked. Another aim is to discuss why globalisation is seen in Africa as neo-colonialism which impoverishes and drives cultural alienation, while other nations speak about lasting development and renewable energy sources. The challenge is to improve access despite lacking appropriate education, and to explain how the problems of climate change concern all inhabitants of the Earth.

If support can be obtained, science popularisers in Congo plan to continue their events well into 2010, with lecturers explaining why science education is important to children in school as well as university students in the cities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire.

IYA2009 Special project: “Millions of Earths” sheds light on exoplanets

10 November 2009

Exoplanet hunters are specialists working at the frontier of science. A new documentary film called "Millions of Earths" follows them in their exciting research, sharing their dreams and discoveries.

The film visits observatories from Chile to Germany, and talks with scientists from all over the world. It weaves threads together into a story to captivate and educate.

"Millions of Earths" is a Beta Prod production. See their website here: http://www.betaprod.fr/spip.php?page=sommaire-EN

Irish Science Week opens with astronomy exhibition

9 November 2009

The exhibition "Over us All is the SElfsame Sky" (OASES) opened at 11:00 am on Monday 9 November in the Rotunda Gallery, St Patrick's Trian, Armagh with a performance of music, poetry and dance by pupils from Mount St. Catherine's Primary School, Armagh and the Armagh Rhymers. The launch coincides with the beginning of the science week in Ireland. The aim of Science Week is to promote the relevance of science, engineering and technology in our everyday lives and to demonstrate the importance of these disciplines to the future development of Irish society and to the economy.

This interdisciplinary exhibition bringing together science, education and art, contains paintings by astronomer Miruna Popescu of Armagh Observatory and artist Dara Vallely of the Armagh Rhymers, as well as work done in Astro-Art Fun workshops and the entries for the Second Cross-Border Schools Conference art competition. The launch is open to the public and everyone is welcome to attend. The exhibition remains open till the end of November.

Astro-Art Fun is a registered UNAWE (Universe Awareness for Young Children) and IYA2009 project.

OASES on the web: http://astronomy2009.ie/local/oases.html
UNAWE: http://www.unawe.org/site/

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Organisational Associates:

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