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About the International Year of Astronomy 2009

The International Year of Astronomy in 2009 (IYA 2009) is a global celebration of astronomy and its many contributions to society and culture. Originally conceived to honor the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei in 1609, IYA 2009 is a worldwide education and public outreach effort whose central goal is exposing as many people as possible to the wonders of astronomy and building sustainable programs for the future.

In the United States, our goal is simply

To offer an engaging astronomy experience to every person in the country, nurture existing partnerships and build new connections to sustain public interest in astronomy

Endorsed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) , UNESCO and the General Assembly of the United Nations , IYA 2009 aims to stimulate worldwide interest in astronomy and science, especially among young people and in audiences not normally reached, under the central theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover.” A variety of events and activities throughout 2009, established through a multinational coordination process, will promote a greater appreciation of astronomy as a shared resource for all.

Background and Chronology

At its 33rd General Conference in October 2005, UNESCO recommended that the United Nations General Assembly adopt a resolution proclaiming 2009 as International Year of Astronomy. On 17 December 2007, the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations officially endorsed the International Year of Astronomy.

In July 2006, the IAU established an IYA 2009 Executive Committee Working Group (IYA 2009 EWG), chaired by IAU President Catherine Cesarsky, to lead the IAU’s efforts for IYA 2009. In the United States, Susana Deustua and Doug Isbell were selected to serve on this committee. The IAU will organize a number of global events, such as formal opening and closing ceremonies, events on the occasion of the XXVIIth IAU General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (August 2009) and a global “100 Hours of Astronomy” celebration April 2-5, 2009. The IAU supports an IYA 2009 Secretariat, which coordinates the Global Cornerstone Projects, serves as the focal point and clearinghouse for country-level IYA 2009 activities and hosts the international website, .

International Year of Astronomy 2009 Objectives – Global and National

The IAU’s IYA 2009 key objectives focus on young people – the next generation of citizens, scientists and leaders and aim to

Increase scientific awareness

Promote widespread access to new astronomy knowledge and observing experiences

Empower astronomical communities in developing countries

Support and improve formal and informal science education

Provide a contemporary image of science and scientists

Facilitate new astronomy education networks and strengthen existing ones

Improve the gender-balanced representation of scientists at all levels and promote greater involvement of underrepresented groups

Facilitate the preservation and protection of the world’s natural heritage of dark skies and cultural heritage of historical astronomical sites.

Descriptions of the IYA 2009 “Cornerstone Projects” that support these goals are listed on the international website . By international consensus, the US leads four of these projects:

The Galileoscope – an inexpensive, reasonable-quality telescope kit designed to enable millions of people to observe the moons of Jupiter and craters on the Moon, just as Galileo did four centuries ago.

Dark Skies Awareness – a multifaceted effort to facilitate the preservation and protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage of dark night skies in places such as urban oases, national parks and astronomical sites, as well as to support UNESCO’s goals of preserving historical astronomical sites for posterity.

From the Earth to The Universe – a photographic exhibit of 100 awe-inspiring astronomical images from ground- and space-based observatories designed to be easily duplicated and localized and hosted in parks, urban centers, transportation hubs, museums and other popular locations.

Galileo Teachers Training Programme - an international program for the professional development of teachers, focusing on increasing teachers’ proficiency in astronomy and science teaching, adapted to the realities which vary from one country to the next–and one school district to the next.

While the IAU will organize a small number of truly global events and projects, most IYA 2009 activities will be implemented by each country’s national IYA 2009 organization, tapping into their existing national, regional and local networks that promote astronomy education. On this website, we will share with you our plans for the IYA in the US. Are you planning something special? Let us know at , and we’ll announce your programs on this website.

Reaching New Audiences


International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA)