IYA2009 Updates

Sri Lankan IYA2009 Star Party exceeds expectations

12 October 2009

Commenced in 2004, "Star Party" is an observational astronomy competition where student groups from different parts of Sri Lanka compete. Organised by the astronomical societies of Ananda College, Colombo and Mahamaya Girls' College, Kandy, it is held annually and has gained an excellent reputation over the years. Star Party 2009 was named as the main IYA2009 event in Sri Lanka. It was a huge success, attracting more than 50 groups.

The programme kicked off with a message about the importance and significance of IYA2009, and how proud the students are to continue the event for the 6th time. A workshop was held alongside the competition. This covered the basics of observational astronomy and served mainly to prepare beginners so they can participate competitively next year.

Participants were taken to a special observing site where Jupiter took centre stage, supported by a range of celestial objects and constellations. This was unforgettable for many students, especially those who had never before experienced the Universe in such a first-hand manner.

Awards were distributed the next day:

Champions: De Mazenod College, Kandana
Runners-up: Sangamitta College, Galle

Theoretical Round & Spot Test: Dharmaraja College, Kandy
Solar & Observational Astronomy: Royal College, Colombo
Constellation & Deep Sky Observation: Sangamitta College, Galle
Moon Mapping: De Mazenod College, Kandana
Planetary Observation: De Mazenod College, Kandana

This year the Star Party enjoyed international attention thanks to features in the Cosmic Diary, IYA2009, Cloudy Nights Telescopic Review, Portal to the Universe, Sidewalk Astronomers, and in many other websites, forums, and e-mail listings.

Star Party has become the foremost annual event in the Sri Lankan astronomy community, encouraging many student groups to study and sharpen their observation skills.

Based on a report by Thilina Heenatigala, IYA2009 Sri Lanka National Node Secretary. See the original text and photographs here: http://thilinaheenatigala.blogspot.com/2009/10/iya2009-sri-lanka-starparty2009.html

Galileo to join Columbus Day Parade celebrations in New York City, USA

12 October 2009

Famous Italian astronomer Galileo, complete with telescope, will be marching as part of the Columbus Day Parade on 12 October. This Galileo-actor will be part of an astronomy-themed float which will also feature an astronaut and various telescopes - including an IYA2009 Galileoscope.

TV channel NBC will be showing a segment about Galileo to start their coverage of the parade and will feature the Galileo float, which will have the IYA2009 logo proudly displayed on its side. In all, there are expected to be around one million spectators.

Columbus Day Parade is the world's largest celebration of Italian-American culture. The parade celebrates the spirit of exploration and courage that inspired Christopher Columbus's 1492 expedition and the important contributions Italian-Americans have made to the United States. Over a dozen high school bands, as well as virtuosi professional groups from the United States and Italy, will make the march up Fifth Avenue and fill the canyons of midtown with joyous, heart-pounding music.

Columbus Citizens Foundation website: http://www.columbuscitizensfd.org/

Cinematic documentary 400 Years of the Telescope makes its French debut

11 October 2009

A sweeping film, celebrating four centuries of astral discoveries, 400 Years of the Telescope; A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought will make its foreign-language debut at the Pariscience Film Festival, in Paris, on Saturday, October 10, 2009. 400 Years of the Telescope takes viewers on a visually stunning journey from Galileo's first telescopic look at the cosmos in 1609, to today's thrilling quests to discover new worlds and to glimpse the formation of the first galaxies and stars after the Big Bang.

Emmy® award-winning writer and producer Kris Koenig and the Interstellar Studios production team traveled the globe, interviewing leading astronomers and cosmologists against a backdrop of the world's greatest observatories, to create a vivid film presenting the human quest to understand the structure and nature of the universe over the past four centuries. 400 Years of the Telescope, narrated by French-Canadian voice talent Michel Keable, features an opulent score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and is an official product of the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

400 Years of the Telescope is but one piece in a multifaceted set of experiences funded by a single National Science Foundation award, designed to reconnect humanity with its all-too-forgotten starry nights.  A broad and informative website complements the film at www.400years.org, and a planetarium program produced by the Buhl Planetarium, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and Interstellar Studios, entitled Two Small Pieces of Glass has been distributed to planetariums around the world, free of charge.  Donald Goldsmith, Ph.D, has written a companion book to the documentary by the same title.

From reenactments of Galileo's invention and animation of his early pen drawings of the moons of Jupiter, to vivid multi-colored nebulas captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, 400 Years of the Telescope lifts viewers from their armchairs and carries them through the wonders of the cosmos. With warmth and humor, the planet's top astrophysicists enthusiastically contemplate momentous discoveries such as dark energy - a mysterious energy in empty space that is accelerating the expansion of the universe. Peering into the future, viewers learn of emergent telescopes the size of stadiums, of a massive array of radio telescopes perched on one of the highest plateaus on the planet, and of,gigantic innovative instruments that one day may detect life outside our solar system and enable humans to view the initial moments of the Big Bang. Like Galileo's first telescopic observations, these new technologies will recast our perception of the universe.

Beautifully photographed in 4K digital cinematography, 400 Years of the Telescope is one of the first documentaries to be filmed with 35mm RED technology. Recorded at 4520 X 2540 pixels per frame, the RAW format output offers more than five times the resolution of high-definition (HD). To accompany the film's brilliant visuals, Interstellar Studios commissioned modern English composer Mark Slater to create a vibrant musical score which was performed and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Slater composed the elements of the score based on the numbers one, six, zero and nine, (1609, the year Galileo made his pivotal discovery), in which the numbers correspond to pitch classes and numerical values are assigned to tones.

400 Years of the Telescope was produced and directed by Kris Koenig, written by Donald Goldsmith, Ph.D. (author, co-author, and editor of more than two-dozen books on astronomy), Albert van Helden, Ph.D. (President Emeritus of the History of Science Society and author of several books including The Invention of the Telescope and Measuring the Universe) and Mr. Koenig. Mr. Koenig is founder and director of one of the most successful community observatories in North America and the world's only outdoor planetarium, as well as creator of the Emmy award-winning, ten-hour PBS telecourse "Astronomy: Observations and Theories." His astrophotography is featured on the covers of nationally-acclaimed astronomical textbooks, and in numerous publications and videos.

The French-dubbed version of the documentary has been produced with the assistance of DBcom Media of Montreal, Canada.  Mr. Keable's voice was joined by those of Jacques Lavallee, Luciano Zema, Claude Prefontaine, Jean-Rene Ouellet and Valerie Gagne.  Scientific translations were provided by Franck Marchis, Ph.D., and Donald Goldsmith.

The script for 400 Years of the Telescope was developed in collaboration with a board of advisors some of the world's leading astronomers, cosmologists, including the immediate past president of the International Astronomical Union, Catherine Cesarsky, Ph.D.  Dr. Cesarsky, together with Dr. Goldsmith and Kris Koenig, will attend the Pariscience screening.  Furthermore, Dutch actress Irma Hartog, who appears in the one of the documentary's reenactments, will also be present.  Further information can be found at www.400years.org.

Apply for free Galileoscopes, courtesy of the EurAstro association - Important update!

11 October 2009

Free Galileoscopes from EurAstro - applications closed
It was a nice surprise for us to see such a quick and overwhelming response to our offer. Now, all of our Galileoscopes have been allocated. No further applications will be considered. Thank you for your commitment towards astronomy. Jean-Luc Dighaye for EurAstro

The EurAstro association, an organisational node of IYA2009, was awarded 200 Galileoscopes in the frame of the Cornerstone project "Developing Astronomy Globally". These will be shared between Germany, in particular but not exclusively in the Munich area, and the Republic of Mali. They are intended to be used by deserving schoolchildren and institutions during the end of IYA2009 and beyond.

They are ideally suited for the upcoming Cornerstone project called "Galilean Nights", which has special focus on observations during the 22-24 October 2009. EurAstro and Galilean Nights will provide further free information and educational material such as sky maps. Supported languages will be English, French, German, and Italian.

If you are interested in astronomical activities for children, typically in middle school curriculum but possibly also in junior/lower school, please apply for free Galileoscopes by contacting EurAstro's Jean-Luc Dighaye by e-mailing jdighaye(at)eurastro.de. Please indicate how many of them you would need, who would use them, and for which purposes.

The Galileoscopes will be granted according to the following criteria:
   - order of the received applications for Galileoscopes;
   - merits of the intended purposes of use. To organise a Galilean Nights event is considered of high merit;
   - willingness to participate in the shipping costs.

You will be informed about delivery details if your application is selected.

Galilean Nights: http://www.galileannights.org/
EurAstro: http://www.eurastro.de/
Galileoscope: https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/
Developing Astronomy Globally: http://www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/cornerstones/developingastronomy/

An evening with Galileo in Iraq

11 October 2009

25 September 2009 was an historic day for Iraq. In the middle of one of most popular parks in Erbil city, an astronomy event was held after the holy days of Eid Al-Fitr. This was project between the Amateur Astronomers Association of Kurdistan (AAAK) and one of the most active cultural centres in Kurdistan, known as Future Center for the Youth Issues (FCYI).

Activities began between 04:40 and 10:30 pm on 25 September with an exhibition, traditional presentation and songs, and then an AAAK show. Using an 8-inch Meade LX200 telescope supported by a solar filter, hundreds of people were very lucky to see new sunspots.

After the Sun set behind a very clear horizon with steady winds, the half Moon (just like Galileo saw with his small telescope) began to shine brightly. The cratered lunar terrain fascinated and charmed everyone regardless of age or language.

Attentions were then turned to Jupiter and its marvellous Galilean satellites. It was very easy to see Jupiter and its belts with lower magnification powers, and new observers frequently asked whether the sight seen through the telescope was real or just an illusion!

There were a great many attendees as guests from the USA, Japan, and Bangladesh joined with hundreds of Iraqi Arab citizens from Baghdad, Basrah, Slahaddin, Naseryah, Najaf, Karbala, Mosul and Kirkuk to Erbil city.

Based on a report by Azhy Chato Hasan.

IYA2009 News round-up

10 October 2009

President Obama's starparty made headlines, so let's link to some of those stories. The Washington Post  gives a good overview, including a video of the President's speech. USA Today also has lots of details, as does The Boston Globe and Examiner.com. Looks like it was a good event!

Physorg.com are spreading the word about the GalileoMobile IYA2009 Special project. Touring around South America, the aim is to bring astronomy education to isolated communities, via the gift of hands-on activities. You can follow this venture via their blog, available on the Cosmic Diary website.

Penticton Western News has a good story, about how the Okanagan Astronomical Society want to help visitors to Munson Mountain better appreciate the sunset by placing markets at specific points, showing where the Sun will meet the horizon at different times during the year. They also say that the markers will be erected to commemorate IYA2009.  The last paragraph is the best: "City staff had voiced concerns surrounding the safety and liability of having markers located on top of a mountain but the astronomical society representatives said they would work to minimize the concerns."

Videos make for a nice change of pace from words, so it's with relief that an Arizona Illustrated feature about the Galileoscope made it online. The video in question shows a Galileoscope being made, as well as hearing about the project from those working on it, and a real-life user! They're all awfully impressed with it.

Check out this daily Bangla newspaper article, called the Daily Prothom Alo. Even if you can't read the text, you can marvel at the page - click on the articles to make them bigger. It's like a form of tech-magic. The piece to be most interested in is actually about Galilean Nights, the imminent astro-fest. If you haven't organised an event for this, go and do so NOW. Well, after you finish reading the round-up.

Canada's Napanee Guide are kindly publicising an event happening over Galilean Nights. Held at the Lennox & Addington County Museum and Archives, visitors will get the chance to see astronomical sights through a telescope, as well as asking experts questions about all things spacey. The accompanying photo looks like the guy is balancing a telescope on his head. Also in Canada, The Camrose Canadian has highlights of the night sky during October, and mentions IYA2009 in both the opening and closing paragraphs. Thanks, guys.

Join the Great World Wide Star Count!

9 October 2009

Join thousands of other students, families, and citizen scientists  counting stars in 2009 for the Great World Wide Star Count! This international event encourages everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report  what they see online. This Windows to the Universe citizen science campaign is designed to encourage learning in astronomy. The Great  World Wide Star Count will be held October 9 - 23, 2009! For more information visit www.windows.ucar.edu/starcount or contact starcount_info@ucar.edu.

IYA2009 Update

9 October 2009

Will you be sharing the Galileo Experience?
With two weeks to go until the highly anticipated Galilean Nights Cornerstone Project on 22-24 October, preparations are in full swing for the hundreds of activities taking place all over the world.  If it isn't already, get those dates marked in your diaries and head over to the project website http://www.galileannights.org/ and find details of all of the events near you, enter the astrophotography competition, find out about remote observing and check out the many great resources available.  If you are organising any astronomy activities over the Galilean Nights dates, then you must make sure that you let us and the world know by registering your event on the website today: http://www.galileannights.org/register_event.html

Apply for free Galileoscopes, courtesy of the EurAstro association
The EurAstro association, an organisational node of IYA2009, was awarded 200 Galileoscopes in the frame of the Cornerstone project "Developing Astronomy Globally". These will be shared between Germany, in particular but not exclusively in the Munich area, and the Republic of Mali. They are intended to be used by deserving schoolchildren and institutions during the end of IYA2009 and beyond. More information is available here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/513/

U.S. President Obama hosts star party at the White House
See updates here:

Galileoscope video released by Arizona Illustrated
A new video has been made about the Galileoscope initiative. Featuring interviews with prominent project members and a typical user, it shows how these low-cost instruments can be easily assembled and used to discover the Universe. See the video here: http://ondemand.azpm.org/videoshorts/watch/2009/9/3/kuat-galileo-telescope/

Probes set to crash into the Moon and unveil lunar secrets
See a news story about the LCROSS mission here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/511/

"Be an INTEGRAL astronomer" competition winners announced
Students from India and South Africa have been selected as the winners of the European Space Agency's ‘Be an INTEGRAL astronomer' competition. See details here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/509/

New photo exhibition turns lens on UK astronomers
Some of the UK's finest astronomers have taken a break from their star gazing to become stars themselves of an exciting new photography exhibition by acclaimed photographer Max Alexander. The new exhibition, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and showing at the Royal Albert Hall, celebrates the careers of the talented UK scientists at the forefront of our understanding of the cosmos, and celebrates the UK's proud heritage in astronomy and space science. http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/506/

FETTU Braille exhibit
As part of the "From Earth to the Universe" (FETTU) project, a NASA-funded tactile and Braille exhibit for the visually impaired community was launched in July 2009. FETTU panels for the visually impaired were produced featuring tactile displays as well as Braille versions of the caption material for a subset of the FETTU images with materials based on the book "Touch the Invisible Sky". The tactile exhibit is currently at the Atlanta Center for the Visually Impaired (Atlanta, Georgia), the Perkins School for the Blind (Boston, Massachusetts) and Columbia University (New York, New York) and will move on to additional locations this fall in Maryland, Arkansas, and Puerto Rico. http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/505/

2009 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to inventors of CCD chips
The Nobel Prize for Physics 2009 has been awarded to two scientists for their work developing Charge Coupled Devices, or CCDs for short. These are used in digital imaging devices, notably for professional and high-end amateur telescopes. The remarkable pictures we see from the depths of the Universe are thanks to CCD technology. See the story, as reported on the IYA2009 website: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/504/

17,000 people visit German IYA2009-themed science festival
Every year since 2001 the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society) has organised a major science festival in a different venue and with a different lead topic. In 2009 the choice was easy, and so the late September "Highlights of Physics" in Cologne had the theme "Address: Milky Way", in honour of IYA2009. It is one of only a handful of federally funded IYA2009 activities in Germany, where most projects rest on the shoulders of volunteers. A short report is available here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/503/

International Telecommunications Union highlights the importance of radio astronomy during IYA2009
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has released a document bringing attention to radio astronomy and ITU activities in this area. Linking with IYA2009, the background to the Year is given, along with a list of ITU radio astronomy projects. See the IYA2009-related section here: http://www.itu.int/ITU-R/information/promotion/e-flash/3/article5.html

The Shaw Prize Lecture in astronomy
The Shaw Prize is an international award to honour individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and who have achieved distinguished and significant advances, who have made outstanding contributions in culture and the arts, or who in other domains have achieved excellence. The award is dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity's spiritual civilization. Preference will be given to individuals whose significant work was recently achieved. Learn more online: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/501/

The World at Night newsletter
Read it here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/500/

My Moon Campaign launches UN-declared World Space Week
My Moon Campaign is the first joint effort of the Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP), one of the Cornerstones of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), and the World Space Week Association (WSWA), a global celebration of space taking place between 4-10 October every year. In 2009 several important dates are marked including the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations, 150 years of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species", and the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing. The Moon is the ideal target for this campaign as it presents a perfect link between all these important turning points in science history. Read more here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/498/

Galileoscope video released by Arizona Illustrated

9 October 2009

A new video has been made about the Galileoscope initiative. Featuring interviews with prominent project members and a typical user, it shows how these low-cost instruments can be easily assembled and used to discover the Universe.

See the video here: http://ondemand.azpm.org/videoshorts/watch/2009/9/3/kuat-galileo-telescope/

Visit the Galileoscope website here: https://www.galileoscope.org/


Probes set to crash into the Moon and unveil lunar secrets

9 October 2009

A NASA mission to study the Moon is about to reach its final stage. First, a piece of rocket around the size of a car will smash into the lunar surface at twice the speed of a bullet, hurling debris above the impact. Next, a spacecraft will follow the rocket in, analysing the contents of material thrown up before also crashing into the surface. This ambitious mission, called the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), will impact at 13:31 CET on 9 October.

The idea behind this grand plan is to search for material, including water, which may be hidden in or just below the Moon's surface. This would have likely been delivered by comet impacts long in the past, and remained sheltered in shadowy lunar craters. If a location with ice is found, it will be a prime location for a future Moon base.

Professional astronomers will be observing the impact using instruments such as the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope. They will be joined by amateurs around the world who will also be looking skyward with their telescopes (10-inch diameter and above is required), hoping to catch a glimpse of this exciting moment.

LCROSS website, with countdown timer: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LCROSS/main/index.html
Watch the impact on NASA TV: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
Observing tips for amateur astronomers: http://lcross.arc.nasa.gov/observation.htm

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Organisational Associates:

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