IYA2009 Updates

Colombian astronomers enjoy successful starparty

26 August 2009

A starparty held in Colombia has been celebrated as a great triumph. Held in the Tatacoa Desert, Observatorio Astronomico de la Tatacoa, during 17-20 July 2009, around 3000 astronomy enthusiasts and complete beginners enjoyed the spectacle.

Designed to honour IYA2009, the location was carefully chosen to give crisp views of the skies. Situated in one of the driest places in Colombia and far away from light pollution, areas were secured for astronomical observations, astrophotography, and conferences.

Various lectures and workshops were given, on topics as varied as "how to be a good amateur astronomer" to "the Colombian satellite programme".    


Astronomical exhibition on tour during IYA2009

25 August 2009

The International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) have developed a travelling exhibition to tour a variety of venues during IYA2009. Called The Artists' Universe, it contains 31 astronomical artworks by 23 artists. Visitors will be introduced to the art and science of astronomy illustration, brought to life by the meticulous work of the artists.

For more information, please visit: http://iaaa.org/exhibit/overview.html

Citizen Sky Invites Public to Help Resolve a Stellar Mystery

25 August 2009

This fall a bright star will begin a puzzling transformation that only happens every 27 years. To help study this event, astronomers have launched a new citizen science project called "Citizen Sky" at www.CitizenSky.org.

Epsilon Aurigae is a bright star that can be seen with the unaided eye even in bright urban areas of the Northern Hemisphere from fall to spring. This fall it is predicted to gradually lose half its
brightness until early winter. It will remain faint during all of 2010 before slowly regaining its normal brightness by the summer of 2011.

Since its discovery in 1821, the cause of this dip in brightness has remained a mystery to astronomers. But this time they have a powerful new resource to help study the upcoming event: thousands of citizen scientists.

"This star is too bright to be observed with the vast majority of professional telescopes, so this is another area where public help is needed," said Dr. Arne Henden, director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO).

Supported by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Citizen Sky will recruit, train, and coordinate public participation in this project. What makes this project different from previous citizen science projects is its emphasis on participation in the full scientific method. Participants are not being asked simply to collect data. They will also be trained to analyze data, create and test their own hypotheses, and to write papers for publication in professional
astronomy journals. Participants can work alone on all phases of the project or they can focus on one stage and team up with others.

"Citizen science can be much more than data collection. Participants often have real-world experience and/or advanced degrees in areas that can be applied to astronomy. Our goal is to introduce the public to authentic science and at the same time use this talent to help
astronomers," Henden said.

The lead astronomer for this project is Dr. Robert Stencel, the William Herschel Womble Professor of Astronomy at Denver University. Dr. Bob, as the amateur astronomy community knows him, studied the last event in 1982-84 while working at NASA. "This is truly an amazing
star system. It contains both a supergiant star and a mysterious companion. If the supergiant was in our solar system, its diameter would extend to Earth, engulfing us," Stencel said. "The companion only makes its presence known every 27 years and is a type of ‘dark matter' in that we indirectly detect its presence but don't know what it is.

"To make things even more fun, we also have some evidence of a substantial mass, perhaps a large planet, spiraling into the mysterious dark companion object. Observations during the upcoming eclipse will be key to understanding this and predicting what will happen if the putative planet does eventually fall into the star," Dr. Bob added.

Citizen Sky is a collaboration of the AAVSO, Denver University, Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Johns Hopkins University, and the California Academy of Sciences. The United Nations and the United States Congress have both endorsed 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009). Citizen Sky was developed as part of the coordinated United States' IYA2009 effort.

Astronomy competition for children offers rare books as prizes

25 August 2009

The European Space Agency (ESA) are celebrating IYA2009 and the Moon landing anniversary with a children's competition.  Up for grabs are copies of Tintin's Moon cartoons, signed by an ESA astronaut.

20 lucky youngsters will win a copy of the book if they can correctly answer the question "what is the next alien world ESA wants to explore?" Answers should be sent to apollokids@esa.int, and the winners will be chosen at random on 1 September.

For more details, please visit the official competition website:http://www.esa.int/esaKIDSen/SEMJI87CTWF_OurUniverse_0.html 

Japanese IYA2009 song is a smash hit

24 August 2009


IYA2009 is enjoying great success in Japan, in part due to popularisation campaigns such as astronomy book fairs, official movies, and even cakes. The idea was raised to supplement these with an IYA2009 song, and this has now come to fruition.

A famous singer, MISIA, made a song called Ginga (Galaxy), and asked if it could be used as a theme-song. The decision was made to accept, and so moves were made to create a video accompaniment. The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) provided some computer simulation footage, while the Japanese IYA2009 Committee produced a replica of Galileo's telescope.

Ginga was released on 10 June and became a hit, recording an impressive 22nd in the Oricon ranking. During MISIA concerts, the song is played along with an introduction to IYA2009.

Ginga and the video are available to watch online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHkGZAOc9Ow


400 years of telescopes being used for outreach

24 August 2009

25 August is an important day for IYA2009 as 400 years ago Galileo conducted the first astronomical outreach activity when he met with policy and law-makers from the Venetian Republic.  He ushered them into the bell tower of St. Mark's Square, and then presented them with a telescope design which he himself had improved. Impressed with seeing objects such as ships from a great distance, they saw great potential in continuing work on this eight-powered telescope, and improving the design further.  Galileo's salary was doubled and he was awarded life tenure at the University of Padua, an excellent reward.

This first outreach activity with a telescope was a resounding success for Galileo. He used his novel telescope to communicate with policy-makers and the public, and as a result obtained funding for continuing his research, and presented people with a tool to expand their horizons.

Telescopes are invaluable instruments to both amateur and professional astronomers. Collecting more light than the unaided eye is able, they allow us to peer into the depths of space and witness sights previously beyond our realm. They are also iconic, instantly recognisable even to someone with no knowledge of astronomy. Telescopes conjure images and emotions of exploration and investigation, which is at the heart of IYA2009.

When Galileo first turned his telescope to the skies, he was awestruck by what he saw. This same feeling is being imparted to millions of people during IYA2009, as telescope observing sessions are being run around the world, allowing all members of the public, many for the first time, to view the Universe in all its glory.


The 365 Days of Astronomy project has released a podcast marking this occasion: http://365daysofastronomy.org/2009/08/23/august-23rd-galileo-presents-a-telescope-to-the-venetian-senate/

Two IYA2009 movies describe the history of the telescope:
Eyes on the Skies: http://www.eyesontheskies.org/
400 Years of the Telescope: http://www.400years.org/

Galileoscopes offer sights similar to those experienced by Galileo: https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/


The World at Night Newsletter

23 August 2009

News and Report

- The World at Night Travels Across the United States : From August to November 2009, families and children in 24 United States communities experience The World at Night (TWAN) images.

- Photo Report: The World at Night in Thailand : The World at Night arrived in Thailand with a major exhibition in the National Science Museum.

- The World at Night in collaboration with Dark Skies Awareness project, organize the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Earth and Sky Photo Contest on the importance of dark skies. It is open to anyone of any age, anywhere in the world. More

 Latest Photos and Videos  

There are new stunning photos and time-lapse videos on TWAN website, featuring starry nights of the planet's landmarks from around the world.



Reach for the Sky (Sequoia National Park) by Wally Pacholka

Sequoia Starry Morning (Sequoia National Park) by Wally Pacholka



Meteor above Canadian Rockies (Banff National Park) by Yuichi Takasaka

Hale-Bopp and Dancing Aurora by Akira Fujii/David Malin Images

Sky Motion above Waterton Lakes (Time-lapse video) (Waterton Lakes National Park) by Yuichi Takasaka

Meteor Strikes the Sky (Time-lapse video) (Banff National Park) by Yuichi Takasaka



Bizarre Sunsets (Atacama Desert) by Stephane Guisard




Full Moon above St George (Athens) by Anthony Ayiomamitis



Lake View  (Tolna) by Tamas Ladanyi



Flying Moon and Shooting Star (Stockholm County) by P-M Heden

Summer Vacation (Stockholm County) by P-M Heden



Stonehenge Moonset  (Stonehenge) by Fred Espenak



Milky Way and Mirror Lake (Auvergne) by Bernd Proschold


Asia and Middle East


Korean Meteors  (Geoje) by Kwon O Chul

Leonid Meteors (Mount Sobaeksan) by Kwon O Chul



Lights from the Heavens (Ayutthaya) by Oshin Zakarian



Meteor above Martian Landscape (Alborz Mountains) by Babak A. Tafreshi
Meteor by Moonlight (Alborz Mountains) by Babak A. Tafreshi
Red Rock Moonset (Alborz Mountains) by Oshin D. Zakarian

Skygazers (Mount Damavand) by Oshin Zakarian



Assos All-Sky View (Assos) by Tunc Tezel

Conjunction above Hot Springs (Pamukkale) by Tunc Tezel

Mercury, Saturn, and Light House (Knidos) by Tunc Tezel




Night of Desert People (Tassilli National Park) by Babak Tafreshi

Magnificent Sahara Milky Way (Tassilli National Park) by Babak Tafreshi



Egypt Desert Night by P.K. Chen



Fireworks by David Miller/David Malin Images

Partial Eclipse at Moonrise by David Miller/David Malin Images

Aurora in Australia by David Miller/David Malin Images

McNaught Visits Australia by Akira Fujii/David Malin Images

The Southern Pole (Western Australia) by David Miller/David Malin Images


Guest Gallery is a well-received section on TWAN website to feature selected outstanding Earth and sky photos by non-TWAN creative photographers from around the globe. If you have such remarkable photos to share with TWAN Guest Gallery, please contact us. There are new featured photos on the Guest Gallery:

- El Capitan in Moonlight (USA) by Paul Gardner

- Scenic Pre-dawn Moon and Venus (Iran) by Amir H. Abolfath

- Nighttime Spring Flowers in Iran (Iran) by Amir H. Abolfath

- Owens Valley Radio Night Sky (USA) by Tony Rowell
- Bouldering under the Milky Way (USA) by Tony Rowell
- Zodiac Light and Messier Marathon (Iran) by Arman Golestaneh
- Pointing at the Milky Way (Macedonia) by Martin Stojanovski

- Starry Night in Central Portugal (Portugal) by Goncalo Lemos
- Moon and Planets above New Delhi (India) by Ajay Talwar
- Crescent moon over Naghsh-e Jahan_Square (Iran) by Mohamad Soltanolkotabi
- Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon over Starometska (Czech) by Robert Slobins
- Holiday Moon and Venus in Prague (Czech) by Robert Slobins


Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), a NASA's world-known website, has featured new TWAN photos:

- The Milky Way Over the Badlands by Wally Pacholka
- Meteor by Moonlight by Babak A. Tafreshi
- Moonbow and Rainbows Over Patagonia by Stephane Guisard


- TWAN is featuring six special galleries:

Latest Images
Dark Skies Importance
Cosmic Motions
World Heritage Sites
TWAN Podcast


TWAN is a global program of Astronomers Without Borders (www.astrowb.org) and a Special Project of International Year of Astronomy 2009, an initiative by IAU and UNESCO. The World at Night is to produce and present a collection of stunning photographs of the world's most beautiful and historic sites against the nighttime backdrop of stars, planets and celestial events. The eternally peaceful sky looks the same above all symbols of different nations and regions, attesting to the truly unified nature of Earth as a planet rather than an amalgam of human-designated territories.

 uilding bridges through the sky
The World at Night

 If you wish to unsubscribe from TWAN Newsletter please reply to this email with "Unsubscribe" in the subject.

IYA2009 Update

21 August 2009

Canada Takes IYA2009 to Space

Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk who is presently aboard the International Space Station has recorded a "get involved in IYA2009" message which can be viewed in French or English from the CSA website (http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/images/recherche/photo.aspx?id=1700&format=&search=&l=eng) or on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiJfyevRjj8).  While the message is directed primarily to encourage involvement by Canadians, his message is universal.

India and Bangladesh unite for IYA2009 star party, replacing conflict with peace
While many astronomers worldwide were focused on the total solar eclipse, a small group of amateur stargazers from India and Bangladesh used this as an opportunity to carry out an activity of peace. For the first time in the history of the two countries, whose relations are marred with cross-border firing, terrorism, kidnapping, and acts of violence, a special event was held, which had members of the armed forces of both sides of the border rubbing shoulders with amateur astronomers at the international border dividing the two countries. Read about this astonishing tale here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/430/

Women in Astronomy and Space Science 2009
 Meeting the Challenges of an Increasingly Diverse Workforce (Oct 21-23, 2009, College Park, MD, USA): http://wia2009.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Space & Time
"Space & Time" is a play for the International Astronomy Year 2009, written by the experimental work group "Cidadania". It is a multidisciplinary event which faces the questions of science, philosophy, religion and art. The goal is to call attention to the close relationships between astronomy, natural sciences, philosophy, and civilisation, and their influence in the shaping of our future. A mind-boggling performance combining video projections and live music at an unconventional stage. See a preview here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/429/

400 Years of the Telescope earns Best Director at the 2009 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film
400 Years of the Telescope director Kris Koenig has earned the Best Director award at Australia's 2009 SCINEMA Festival of Science Film. The prestigious science film festival will screen across Australia from August 15-23, 2009. This year's theme includes the International Year of Astronomy and the Darwin anniversary. The details are here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/428/

Galileoscopes donated for astronomy competition
A lucky Brazilian student will soon be whizzing their way to the Kennedy Space Centre and National Aerospace Centre in the USA, as part of a competition run by the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Planetarium Foundation, State Department of Education, and Gávea Planetarium. 100 Galileoscopes will also be donated to participants, by chief executive of the American Astronomical Society, Kevin Marvel. To be in with a chance of winning, contestants must answer astronomy questions as part of an Olympiad quiz, with early rounds being online, eventually building to a finale in Gávea Planetarium. Read the full story (in Portuguese) here: http://odia.terra.com.br/portal/rio/html/2009/8/estudante_podera_fazer_jornada_nas_estrelas_28119.html

The University College London is hosting events to celebrate IYA2009
The University College London is hosting events from 20 - 23 August, to bring IYA2009 to an even greater audience. The family-friendly activities include talking to young scientists working at the forefront of astronomy research, holding in your own hands rocks that are older than the Earth, using telescopes to safely observe the Sun and Venus, and much more. For more details, see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/youruniverse/

Shoppers across the U.S. to experience "The World at Night"
An exhibit of stunning photographs of the night sky as viewed over many of the most beautiful natural, historic and cultural landmarks in the world is being shown at 24 shopping centres across the United States from now through November 8.


Canada Takes IYA2009 to Space

21 August 2009


Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk who is presently aboard the International Space Station has recorded a "get involved in IYA2009" message which  can be viewed in French or English from the CSA website (http://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/images/recherche/photo.aspx?id=1700&format=&search=&l=eng) or on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiJfyevRjj8).  While the message is directed primarily to encourage involvement by Canadians, his message is universal. 

Dr. Thirsk has also brought both an English and a French copy of ‘Mary Lou's New Telescope' or ‘Le nouveau téléscope à Chloé' on board the Station with him. This short story on light pollution was written and illustrated by amateur astronomy members of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and translated by members of the Féderation des astronomes amateurs du Canada for distribution to children during (and beyond) IYA2009; it may be viewed at,  or downloaded from: http://www.rasc.ca/education/mlnt.shtml.

News round-up, 21 August 2009

21 August 2009

Another Friday means a new IYA2009 news round-up. If only everything in life were this predictable.

Readers of the IYA2009 updates will have read a story about The World At Night exhibiting astronomical images at shopping centres across the U.S. The magazine Astronomy has gotten in on the action by writing a blog entry with the marvellous title "Popularizing the heck out of astronomy". The author, Bill Andrews, outlines the idea and then offers his support, stating why he thinks it's a good idea. Nicely done, Bill Andrews. oneindia also has an offering about this story, including a quote from project director and skilled photographer Babak Tafreshi.

Next, news from Pakistan. The Nation has run a story about the Perseid meteor shower. It specially plugs The Society of the Sun, and a star party at their Jati Umra headquarters. The same website also has a slightly more depressing story about the Pakistan International Airlines Planetarium at Chauburji being rather run-down and neglected. Says the article, "The deplorable and outdated standards of imparting knowledge and entertainment are proved by the fact that no innovation or up-gradation has been introduced since its inauguration in 1987." That's a bit insulting to the designers of 1987.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology is opening its observatory doors to the public on 28 August. Their 16-inch telescope will be used to look at the Moon and Jupiter and probably some other things too.

KeremeosReview.cooooom! They've been harkin' on about The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory holding an open house to help the public learn about radio astronomy, as part of IYA2009. It's happening on 26 September, so you have officially been given plenty of notice.

New snippet! Kingston This Week has some short text - and a photo! - about astronomers from the Royal Military College, Queen's University, Canada, volunteering to help the public view celestial sights though telescopes in Market Square.

The Southgate Amateur Radio Club have a scoop about a troop of Swiss girl and boy scouts planning an interview with space people. Apparently the Scouts will ask astronauts on board the International Space Station questions such as "What is dangerous in space?", "Do you feel homesick?", and "Is your family in fear?" Pretty intense stuff, the astronauts had better be prepared. Wow, the Scouts are even going to make a telescope out of a drain. Swiss Scouts are the best!

Ok, one more. MyNews.in is encouraging people to organise astronomy events to get the public, and in particular young people, interested in science. Says the article, "According to Wikipedia, IYA 2009 is a year-long celebration of astronomy, taking place in 2009"-great investigative journalism there!

We're all done here. Until next week, of course.


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Organisational Associates:

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