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IYA Plenary Session I

The big session to kick off the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA) Symposium began promptly at 10:00 this morning with a welcome by Jim Manning, Executive Director and President-elect Dr. Bruce Partridge.  An overview of the goals, plans, and projects of IYA was presented by many of the key people involved.  Andy Fraknoi called IYA a “conjunction” of the major functions of the two groups here at the conference (the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS))–namely, education and public outreach (EPO) and research.  The goal is to reach as many people as possible worldwide and give them a memorable experience in astronomy which will last a lifetime.  The year 2009 was chosen because it will mark 400 years since Galileo first used his telescope to look at the sky.The IYA Symposium consists of 90-minute breakout sessions on a variety of IYA projects and issues as well as 10-minute oral papers and poster presentations.  The emerging themes seem to be “make connections” and “get involved!”  This is truly a global program.  112 nations are involved with over 63 national websites up and running.  Cornerstone projects have been developed such as Global Star Party, a Cosmic Diary, Dark Skies Awareness, and the Galileo Teacher Training Program.  These are projects that many (or all) countries will be involved in. As you can imagine, a huge program comes with some pretty huge challenges.  Funding is always an issue, as well as getting volunteers, encouraging involvement, and getting the word out to the many regional and local groups that will need timely information.  Perhaps the biggest challenge is what I’ve heard termed the “IYA Legacy.”  How will these exciting and impressive events be continued beyond 2009?  How will the work and vision of IYA be carried on?