IYA2009 Updates

Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra performs “The Planets” by Gustav Holst in special IYA2009 concert

4 November 2009

The Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Roselín Pabón has perfomed the concert "The Planets". Each movement was accompanied by the presentation of images of the planets which the public could view on two screens set above the musicians. The selected images included samples from the "From Earth to the Universe" (FETTU) Cornerstone project. The superb performance of the orchestra, the illumination and the selected images conveyed the emotions of each movement and transported the audience into outer space. The concert took place at the Rafael Mangual Coliseum at the Mayagüez campus of the University of Puerto Rico on Saturday 10 October at 7:00 pm, and was free of charge.

Members of the "Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe" (amateur astronomy association) and members of the "Starry Messengers" (college level student volunteers for IYA2009-Puerto Rico) greeted the public as they arrived and distributed the programme for the concert and a commemorative lithograph of the planets.

Among the invited guests was Dr. Orlando Figueroa, past Director of the Mars Exploration Mission (NASA) and who is currently the Director of Applied Engineering and Technology at NASA, Goddard.

This event was organised by the IYA2009-Puerto Rico node, the Puerto Rico Space Grant consortium and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus.

Links for further information:

Nepal’s largest school science event ready for November 10 and 11

3 November 2009

The Inter School Young Scientists' Fair is Nepal's largest event on school science activities. Held this year on 10 and 11 November at Nepal Academy, Kamaladi, Kathmandu, the Science Fair is an excellent opportunity for students to learn more about science as they search for answers to specific problems. It also helps to develop an understanding of the scientific method while having fun. Students are encouraged to come up with a project that would be interesting to them. This year has particular emphasis on astronomy, to mark IYA2009.

For more information and entry forms, please visit http://www.youngscientistsnepal.org/

German TV channel 3Sat dedicated a week to astronomy

3 November 2009

With programmes on astronomy topics from stars to telescopes, the week-long celebration was welcomed by viewers with burning questions about our cosmos.

See the schedule here: http://www.3sat.de/dynamic/sitegen/bin/sitegen.php?tab=2&source=/specials/138661/index.html

Galilean Nights Update

2 November 2009

We would like to start by saying a very big thank you for the amazing work that you have all carried out in putting on your events.  With more than 1250 events in almost 90 countries, your work and outreach activities are what made Galilean Nights as successful as it was, so congratulations to all of you for bringing astronomy to so many people.

Now that Galilean Nights is officially over, we would like to hear from all of you about how your events went. Even if your event was affected by bad weather - tell us what alternative activities took place or simply tell us if the event had to be cancelled. Please go to the website and submit a short report:


The reports will be an opportunity to share your stories and will be used to help us to evaluate how the whole project went. They will also be used to select a few events for some awards: Outstanding Galilean Nights Event; Largest number of registered events held by a single group; Highest attendance at a single registered event; Community outreach; Most innovative event; Best "Plan B" for those bad weather afflicted events.Please submit reports by Monday 16th November 2009.

Thank you all once again for being part of Galilean Nights, we look forward to hearing all of your stories and wish you all well with your outreach events of the future.

Best wishes,

Pedro Russo

IYA2009 Coordinator


Catherine Moloney

Galilean Nights Coordinator

IYA2009 and dark skies raised in UK Parliament

2 November 2009

The British Prime Minister has been quizzed by David Heathcoat-Amory, representative for Wells, over IYA2009 and the Campaign for Dark Skies. Heathcoat-Amory asked whether the Prime Minister agrees that lights in public places and 10 Downing Street (the Prime Minister's residence) should be turned off or dimmed.

See the question and response here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO6hwPud5YY

Dark Skies Ranger Campaign

2 November 2009

The Dark Sky Awareness (DSA) and the Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP) decided to launch a joint effort: "Dark Skies Ranger Campaign", for the new school year joining both cornerstones' goals. Students will enhance their awareness of the growing light pollution problem, learn how to assess this problem and at the same time engage in the use of the science research method and techniques to evaluate it.

DSA educational resources are part of the GTTP offered package and a joint campaign is an effective mean to provide incentive to practical use of the educational resources in an effective project.

Students will be invited to evaluate the light pollution problem in their school neighborhood, assess the consequences and deliver reports to school boards or local authorities. Participants will have an active participation in the raise of awareness among peers and local community and have the possibility to suggest practical ways to tackle the problem.  While performing the task students will enhance several skills like: communication, evaluation, creativity, critical thinking.

All participants will receive a participation certificate. The most active ones will be entitled to receive a Dark Sky Ranger Certificate. They will have improved their skills and helped our planet to be a better place while building their citizenship awareness.

This is a very useful program as it not only raises awareness on a much ignored problem but allows students to take an active participation in the solution of the problem or at least to attract attention to a dormant issue.  The program will be open to all countries in the world. Students around the globe will be able to compare their results learning about their differences and similarities.

We are hoping that all IYA2009 participants will help us materialize a truly global effort. A global effort with no borders or frontiers.

More information:

DSA: http://www.darkskiesawareness.org/

GTTP website: http://www.site.galileoteachers.org/

Vatican City State celebrates IYA2009

2 November 2009

The Governorate of the Vatican City State and the Vatican Observatory organised a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 in Vatican City on 30 and 31 October. Catherine Cesarsky, IYA2009 Executive Committee Working Group Chair and former International Astronomical Union President, was the guest of honour. Catherine had the opportunity to exchange a few words with Pope.
The two-day celebration included an address at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Prof. John Huchra of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and President of the American Astronomical Society with the title "From Galileo to Hubble: Astronomy in the 21st Century". The programme also included a tour of the Tower of the Winds at the Vatican, a visit to the Vatican Secret Archives, the Sistine Chapel, and the exhibition ASTRUM 2009 at the Vatican Museums. An international group of astronomers also had a private audience with the Pope.
The highlight of the day was a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI who addressed an international group of renowned astronomers. A group of friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation also participated in the papal audience. The Foundation generously supports the work of the Observatory in the United States.

Pope Benedict XVI officially inaugurated the Vatican Observatory's new headquarters on 16 September.


This is the Holy Father's address:

Your Eminence,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet this assembly of distinguished astronomers from throughout the world meeting in the Vatican for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, and I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo for his kind words of introduction. This celebration, which marks the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first observations of the heavens by telescope, invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.

Your meeting also coincides with the inauguration of the new facilities of the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church's attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion. I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo's condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Observatory, and to the friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, for their efforts to promote research, educational opportunities and dialogue between the Church and the world of science.

The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand - today as much as ever - the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method? At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.


Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year - to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe - how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?" (Ps 8:4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation - the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, "moves the sun and the other stars" (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.

With these reflections, dear friends, I greet all of you with respect and esteem, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your research and teaching. Upon you, your families and dear ones I cordially invoke Almighty God's blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.

Special issue of UNESCO World Heritage Magazine

2 November 2009

The latest issue of UNESCO's World Heritage Review has been released, with astronomy and world heritage as its theme. This is a significant product of the Astronomy and World Heritage IYA2009 Cornerstone project.

Currently only the English version is out; it will be joined by French and Spanish translations within two weeks and then will be available to purchase for five Euros.

See the contents here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/review/54/
Astronomy and world heritage on the IYA2009 website: http://www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/cornerstones/astroworldheritage/

Nobel Laureate answers your questions

2 November 2009

YouTube viewers worldwide have the opportunity to ask questions to a renowned and highly respected scientist. John Mather, an astrophysicist from NASA, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2006, which he received with George Smoot for their discoveries regarding the echoes of the Big Bang - providing extraordinary glimpses of the beginning of the Universe.

Nobelprize.org, the official web site of the Nobel Foundation, is offering anyone the chance to pose their questions directly to a John Mather via the YouTube channel.

If you are in Stockholm, you can ask questions at the special YouTube pod stationed at the Nobel Museum during 20 - 24 October. Free admission will be given to visitors who ask a question at the Nobel Museum, Stortorget 2, Gamla Stan.

Ask A Nobel Laureate, John Mather, on YouTube 20 Oct - 30 Nov: http://www.youtube.com/thenobelprize
For more information about John Mather and his Prize-awarded discovery, visit: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2006/index.html

IYA2009 News Round-up

31 October 2009

The Examiner often has good astronomy articles, and they've stepped up this week too. Their latest offering describes the background of IYA2009 and then goes on to give some useful practical tips on how to get involved, such as night sky objects worthy of attention and websites with more information.

Alohaaa! Big Island Video News has released a video about the Hawaiian community's contribution to astronomy, as part of IYA2009. It was filmed during an event where scientists and prominent Hawaiians spoke about the science of astronomy and their local culture, while members of the public had the opportunity to tour research facilities and use telescopes to get all inspired.

TransWorldNews is a-calling. To help out with the Galilean Nights Cornerstone project, the DeepSkyDivas hosted a special show on Astronomy.FM Radio. It was about "all things Galileo", apparently.

We all know that WisBusiness.com is the source for Wisnonsin's business news. But what you might not know is that  the 66th annual Holiday Folk Fair International, 20 - 22 Nov,  at the Wisconsin Exposition Center at State Fair Park in West Allis, will be featuring a The World At Night exhibition. The photographs will have to compete for people's attentions against four Uzbekistan artists, a 1776 army camp, and a whole lot of food sampling.

We haven't had anything from News-Record.com before, and they've produced a good ‘un to start off. It's about North Carolina-based astronomy teacher Tom English, and his popular observing sessions. They often attract a crowd, and this year IYA2009 has spurred even more people on to visit Tom and his "humongous telescope, housed in a rotating dome".

TheWeek have an opening paragraph that demands nothing less than copy and paste treatment. "Danse e-Toile: Nata-raja et le Cosmos (Dance of stars: Nataraja and the Cosmos) was the first ever live, internet-streamed interactive dance and music programme between India and Europe." That's quite a claim to fame. Held in Bangalore on 17 October, it was a creative celebration of IYA2009. It sounds awesome! Listen: "Emrith did her own impressive interpretation of the cosmos, her lissome figure and lithe, superbly controlled movements providing a perfect complement."

President Obama's White House Star Party is still getting some coverage, as The Gov Monitor proves. Its article features both words and a video, mentions IYA2009, and talks about how YOU can discover things in the Universe. So all in all, a good effort.

That's it for this week. Check local sources for news stories in your own language, and all that.

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Organisational Associates:

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