IYA2009 Updates

IYA2009 News Round-up

5 June 2009

Congratulations to Australian astronomy professor Jeremy Mould and his colleagues, who have won the 2009 Gruber Prize for Cosmology. News.com.au has the full story, reporting that the award recognises work done for definitively measuring the Hubble constant, which explains the Universe's expansion. Jeremy Mould, Wendy Freeman, and Robert Kennicutt share a big pot of cash: around 350,000 Euros. Lend us a fiver, guys?

Regular readers of the news round-ups (there must be some, surely?) may remember last week's story about the UK's Society for Popular Astronomy donating telescopes. Their good work has been continuing at pace says Chronicle Live, as Newcastle Church High School has been presented with a telescope to celebrate IYA2009. The school even started its own astronomy club, where pupils can achieve certificates to show their dedication to the science. Anna Richardson, 11, from the fabulously-named town Seaton Sluice, says: "Ever since I looked through my dad's telescope and saw Saturn when I was four I have been especially interested in learning more about astronomy." 2009 is *your* year, Anna!

To Science Daily now, who have a fascinating story about an IYA2009 Special Project called Celebrating the 1919 Eclipse at Príncipe. The article begins, "In 1919, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) launched an expedition to the West African island of Príncipe, to observe a total solar eclipse and prove or disprove Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Now, in a new RAS-funded expedition for the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), scientists are back." The history of the exhibition and recent celebration are fascinating, and has even been deemed worthy of an article on the IYA2009 site.

BREAKING NEWS from The Shields Gazette. This year's Face of 2009 and Search For A Catwalk Star finalists (based in the UK) have been announced! And YES it's relevant to this news round-up, because the theme is... you guessed it, IYA2009. Although after watching the accompanying video, it must be said that the theme is not evident. Says the article, "Out of This World is on at the Customs House, in South Shields, on July 13 and 14, when all the models will hit the runway in a bid to impress model scouts and scoop the coveted title of Face of 2009." Do they need someone from IYA2009 to be a judge? Maybe..?

Time for some shorter stories that have been in the media this week. Herladsun.com.au has a slightly bizarre tale about an astronomy-themed poetry session initially inspired by a 15 year-old finding the words "Gutterpirates, ahoy" scrawled in a toilet cubicle, and being "overcome by the images the words evoked". Seriously. CNW Group has been promoting an upcoming Canadian festival in Montreal, which boasts star-finding workshops and astronomy presentations. Also in Canada, KBS Radio says that an event hosted by the Kootenay Association for Science & Technology will be showcasing the stars and Solar System. Project coordinator Terry VanHorn says "2009 is the year of astronomy", so it must be true,

Ok, that's your lot. See you next week!


Ceremony celebrates the 1919 eclipse at Príncipe

3 June 2009

In May 1919, the famous astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Geographical Society of Lisbon launched an historic expedition to observe a total solar eclipse. Historians now recognise this as a major achievement of 20th Century science. To commemorate the 90th anniversary, IYA2009 has given Special Project status to the Celebrating the 1919 Eclipse at Príncipe initiative and endorsed a ceremony that took place on the island.

The 1919 eclipse was visible from equatorial regions on both sides of the Atlantic; Eddington sent one team to Sobral in Brazil, and went himself went to the African island of Príncipe. Stars in the Hyades cluster were behind the Sun during the eclipse, and appeared to shift from their true positions by 1.75 arcseconds. This gravitational deflection of light by the Sun's mass provided the first experimental verification of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. Neither Einstein nor Eddington initially foresaw practical applications for the effect known as gravitational lensing, although 90 years later it has emerged as the most promising probe of our Universe.

To mark the 90th anniversary, on 29 May 2009 a team visited Roça Sundy, the former colonial plantation where Eddington took measurements. A series of public lectures were given in Santo António, the capital of Príncipe. A new set of postage stamps for São Tomé and Príncipe were released, commemorating Sir Arthur Eddington and the 1919 eclipse. On the big day, a convoy with almost 100 delegates (particularly impressive given the island has fewer than 5000 inhabitants) was greeted with dancers and banners. A commemorative plaque was then unveiled which explains the experiment and its significance in Portuguese and English.

The event proved to be a real success, and IYA2009 is proud to be associated with honouring the 90th anniversary of this historic experiment. A personal account of the recent expedition and ceremony, including photographs, is available on the project's blog page.


IYA2009 and Web 2.0

3 June 2009

Astronomy is a science which embraces modern technology, so it is no surprise to see IYA2009 represented on the most popular Web 2.0 sites. Keeping up-to-date with developments and reading or seeing the latest news stories has never been easier. Thanks to the advent of social networks, it is also straightforward to contact and talk with other astronomy enthusiasts from around the world, helping to spread the word of IYA2009 far and wide.

The problem is that with such a dazzling array of websites, where is the best place to start? This short guide to the English speaking web 2.0 websites, will help you decide which sites are best for you.

First of all, we have Twitter. This free social networking / micro-blogging service has become incredibly popular. Users provide short updates called Tweets, which are delivered to people following the feed. The IYA2009 Twitter feed is updated regularly, and is an excellent way to keep track of IYA2009 news.

If videos interest you more than short updates, then the official IYA2009 YouTube site is worth a look. This site is used to upload and share videos, and with generous limits on length and resolution, offers a high-quality service. More videos will be continually added to the IYA2009 site throughout the year.

Facebook is a widespread social networking site which people primarily use to stay in contact with their friends and family. It also features "groups" which many users can join, where news and information is spread. IYA2009 has several groups: the official IYA2009 Facebook page is a great way to meet astronomy enthusiasts. Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal has a Facebook group where it is possible to ask questions to communicators. Several IYA2009 Cornerstone Projects have groups, including Cosmic Diary, Portal To The Universe, and She Is An Astronomer. If you are interested in these initiatives then you will certainly be welcome!

LinkedIn is a business-orientated networking site. The IYA2009 LinkedIn page is very useful for anyone wanting to organise astronomy events, as it is always constructive to talk through ideas with specialists.

Orkut is another social networking site, particularly popular in India and Brazil. Users can add information about themselves and create or join communities. The IYA2009 Orkut page is frequented by astronomy fans.

Finally, MySpace is an interactive site that people use to share blogs, photos, videos, music, and much more. Since its launch in 2003, it has proved to be incredibly successful. The IYA2009 MySpace page is worthy of attention for interested MySpace users.

By the very nature of Web 2.0 sites, content is rich, dynamic, and created constantly. So it is worth looking out for new IYA2009 sites, groups and communities as they emerge. Thanks to the power of Web 2.0, the inspirational nature of astronomy is being brought to more people than ever before, and the public are at the forefront of developments.


Astronomy haiku competition: winner announced!

3 June 2009

Readers of the weekly news round-ups may remember a story about the UK IYA2009 contingent running a competition to celebrate the launch of full-dome digital planetarium show "We are Astronomers". To win four tickets to the show, followers of the Astronomy 2009 UK Twitter feed had to write their own astro-themed haiku!

Now the competition is over, and the winning entry has been announced. Congratulations to @MazP who produced this haiku:
Archer's bow stretched tight
Sirius and Orion
hunt the night sky down

@JustNoah was awarded second place:
Look into the night
The whole universe looks back
Suspended on stars

@AJAshworth won third place:
Explosions of stars,
lighting the black universe.
The dust-blooms of life.

Well done to all participants, and thanks to @astronomy2009uk for keeping us updated via Twitter.



IYA2009 Update

29 May 2009

Brief status report on IYA2009
Get up-to-speed with this concise document. Read it here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/299/

ReVista: Exploring the Universe
Check the special Spring 2009 issue of ReVista, Harvard Review of Latin America, under the theme: "The Sky Above, The Earth Below: Exploring the Universe". http://www.drclas.harvard.edu/files/SpringRevista.pdf

IYA2009: telescopes donated to budding astronomers
Many astronomy enthusiasts vividly remember their first sight through a telescope, whether it was the cratered lunar landscape, rings of Saturn, moons of Jupiter, or the myriad of sparkling stars just waiting to be unveiled. IYA2009 supporters have been donating telescopes to spread this sense of awe around the world. http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/292/

Good reading from other sources on astronomy education and outreach
Dr. Andrew Fraknow presents the fourth annotated listing of readings about astronomy education and outreach. Read more: http://dx.doi.org/10.3847/AER2009031

Grenada starts IYA2009 celebration
On 22 and 23 May, students, teachers, parents and the general public in the Caribbean island of Grenada (known as the Isle of Spice) got the opportunity to attend informative workshops on Astronomy in the day and view the night skies in the evening. For many attendees, it was the very first time that they had the opportunity to view the skies through a telescope. More information: http://www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/nodes/national/view/GD/

StarPeace event between Macedonia and Serbia
After a difficult month of preparations and weather concerns, the StarPeace event between Macedonia and Serbia finally came true on the weekend between 22- 24 May. The event was held on the peak "Odvrakjenica" on the mountain Golija, near the city Novi Pazar in Serbia.
Read the report by Martin Stojanovski from the Skopje Astronomical Society here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/297/

European Hands-On Universe awarded with EC silver medal
"Hands-On Universe, Europe - Bringing frontline interactive astronomy to the classroom", IYA2009 Organisational Node, has been awarded the silver medal by the European Commission in the category "Information and Communication Technologies". More information: http://www.llp-conference.eu/awarded-projects

Weekend of astronomy education workshops Sept. 12 & 13 near San Francisco -- scholarships available
A weekend of hands-on workshops and exciting science talks will be offered as part of the 120th anniversary meeting of the non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific at the Westin Hotel near the San Francisco Airport in Millbrae, California. For details, please visit: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/295/

The World At Night update
For the latest TWAN information, go to: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/294/

The mutual phenomena of the Galilean satellites of Jupiter
In 2009, the planet Jupiter will experience an equinox (it occurs only every six years) allowing the observation from Earth of mutual occultations and eclipses between the Galilean satellites. We will take the opportunity of the "International Year of Astronomy 2009" to encourage every one to look at these satellites and to make astronomical observations. Learn more about this fabulous opportunity here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/293/

Answer engine can help to plan IYA2009 events
A new computational answer-engine called Wolfram|Alpha has been released. Unlike conventional search engines, facts are given directly based on questions provided by users. This has particular relevance to astronomers, as the dedicated astronomy section shows. Sky charts can be quickly produced for any date and location, calculations of astronomical properties can be performed, and astrophysical calculations are simplified. This has important implications for planning IYA2009 events such as star parties and lectures. Read all about it here: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/291/

StarPeace newsletter
For news on the StarPeace project, be sure to visit: http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/updates/290/

IYA2009 News Round-up

29 May 2009

Have you been wondering what kind of IYA2009 stories have been in the news over the past week? Read on to find out...

Roll up! Roll up! Get your Galileoscopes now! That's the message being given over at the Bad Astronomy blog (which despite the name is very good). These low-cost telescopes are shipping, so get your orders in as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. The message is being spread by the Asymptotia blog, too. Phil Plait, author of the Bad Astronomy blog recommends you donate some Galileoscopes to friends, schools, or kids in a "faraway land".  Perhaps he gained inspiration from this story on the IYA2009 site.

Plait will also be in attendance for Kalmazoo's Astronomy Day, says mlive.com. Educator and actor Michael Francis will be portraying Galileo, complete with costume and telescope. It's hoped that he, along with other presenters, talks, planetarium shows, and a book signing from Plait, will attract at least 500 people. This story is in the section reserved for "Health, Religion, Food, Weddings, Engagements, Births, Anniversaries, & More." Presumably IYA2009 falls into the "& More" sub-category.

Incoming story from the Paisley Daily Express! Pupils from Gryffe High (UK) have been gifted with a free telescope. The instrument is a present from the Society for Popular Astronomy, and is intended to mark IYA2009. The new owners will use it to study the rings of Saturn and moons of Jupiter, as well as participating in a Moonwatch programme. 

To California next, where a new astronomy exhibit has been very well received, says The Desert Sun. The La Quinta Museum is hosting "400 years of astronomy" to celebrate IYA2009. The exhibition includes large photos from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, a 3D panoramic poster of a Mars rover, and other space artefacts. It's all on display until 30 September, so if you live in that area be sure to visit before then.

In these modern times it's easy to forget the traditional tales associated with the stars and constellations so it's good to hear from the Cape Breton Post about the 13th annual Cape Breton University Storytelling Symposium early next month. This year's theme is astronomy, in honour of IYA2009. Taking place in Sydney (Canada), Jim Hesser, Canada's IYA2009 Single Point of Contact, will be speaking to the assembled storytellers.

Still in Canada, let's give a plug to a star party set for Friday night at Win Del Park in Windham Centre. The Expositor has all the details, but for a quick overview here are the facts: celebrating IYA2009. Bring a torch. Eat hot dogs.

And finally, congratulations to the Hubble team on the successful Servicing Mission 4. An update has been given by Science Daily, which includes this lovely quote from David Southwood, ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration: "The addition of Hubble's renewed capabilities to those just brought to space by ESA's Herschel and Planck telescopes, launched last week, puts an impressive array of complementary and powerful tools at the disposal of scientists, and makes this a great moment for the International Year of Astronomy." 


Good Reading from Other Sources on Astronomy Education and Outreach

29 May 2009

by Andrew Fraknoi.

Dr. Andrew Fraknoi presents the fourth annotated listing of readings about astronomy education and outreach. Read more on: Astronomy Education Review


Brief Status Report on the International Year of Astronomy 2009

29 May 2009

The year 2009 will be remembered for many reasons, but the IYA2009 will hopefully be memorable for all astronomers - hobbyists as well as professionals. The IYA2009 fosters a global appreciation of the role and value of science, technology and astronomy as a unifying activity for humanity. The IYA2009 is a global endeavour, promoting astronomy and its contribution to society and culture. There is a strong emphasis on education and public engagement. The response from all the corners of the world has been extremely positive and encouraging, making the Year a great success already. This report outlines the status of its main projects and activities.

Participating Nations and Organisations

As of 27 May 2009, 141 National Nodes have signed up to participate in the IYA2009. Innumerable professional and amateur astronomers, educators, communicators and enthusiasts have invested time, resources and passion into organising local, regional, national and global activities. The full list can be consulted on the IYA2009 website: www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/nodes/national/

The most recent National Nodes are Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Maldives, Zambia, Fiji Islands, Grenada and Palestine.

The IAU is still welcoming suggestions for IYA2009 Single Points of Contact from countries or organisations that are not yet involved. Based on the report on the state of astronomy development by country, compiled by John Hearnshaw (IAU Commission 46), the IYA2009 Secretariat is particularly keen to establish contact with the following countries (in the Worldwide Development of Astronomy Programme Group (http://iau46.obspm.fr/spip.php?article53&lang=enspip.php?article53&artsuite=0#sommaire_1): Brunei, Barbados, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Monaco and San Marino.

Organisational Associates

The IYA2009 Organisational Associates are organisations, institutions and agencies related to astronomy, space science and natural science that provide financial support for the global coordination of IYA2009. Please check the full list on the IYA2009 website: www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/structure/partners/organisationalassociates/

The most recently joined Organisational Associates are EAS, NRAO, CEA and KASI. The IAU still welcomes organisations, institutions and agencies that wish to join the IYA2009 Organisational Associates, for more information please contact the IYA2009 Secretariat: iya2009@eso.org.


The IYA2009 Secretariat has produced a wide array of resources that can be used by laypeople and participants in the IYA2009. These include trailers, brochures and presentations, easily accessible through the astronomy2009.org website: www.astronomy2009.org/resources/

The public is free to use them in activities and events during 2009.


IYA2009 Cornerstone Projects

We would just like to highlight some of the achievements so far: 100 Hours of Astronomy was a major success, with more than 1 million people participating in events such as a global star party, the live 24-hour webcast "Around the World in 80 Telescopes", a Science Centre webcast, and Sun Day. As of May 2009, 60 000 Galileoscopes have been produced, 4000 of which will be donated to organisations and schools in developing countries, in collaboration with the Developing Astronomy Globally Cornerstone project. The Cosmic Diary has more than 60 professional scientists blogging from 28+ countries. To date there are over 1000 individual blog posts, which have attracted more than 55 000 unique visitors. In its first month of operation the Portal to the Universe had more than 12 000 news and blog posts indexed, which were read by more than 40 000 unique visitors. She is an Astronomer launched its own dedicated website on 21 April 2009. During IYA2009, GLOBE at Night, a programme in the Dark Skies Awareness Cornerstone, set a new record, with 80% more observations of the world's dark skies than the programme's previous best. The worldwide response to the FETTU project continues to be astounding. As of May 2009, over 55 countries around the world have signed up to host FETTU exhibits in more than 200 separate locations ranging from Brazil to Bulgaria and from Uruguay to the United States. 

Following the unprecedented success of the IYA2009's 100 Hours of Astronomy, another weekend of astronomy events has been lined up for 23-24 October 2009. This new IYA2009 Cornerstone project is called Galilean Nights and will see amateur and professional astronomers around the globe taking to the streets, pointing their telescopes at the wonders that Galileo observed 400 years ago. The project's focus is sidewalk observations of the gas giant Jupiter and its moons, and members of the public will also be able to observe the Sun, our own Moon and many more celestial marvels with their own eyes, much as Galileo did 400 years ago.

The list of IYA2009 Cornerstone Project is available on: www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/cornerstones/

IYA2009 Special Projects

While the focus of the global activities will rest on the Cornerstones, will also contribute towards the vision and goals of IYA2009. The list of IYA2009 Special Project is available on: http://www.astronomy2009.org/globalprojects/specialprojects/

The most recent Special projects is:

  • GalileoMobile: GalileoMobile is an itinerant science education project bringing IYA2009 to young underprivileged people across South America, to foster a will of learning by exciting wonder about our Universe, while supplying local teachers with educational resources to sustain our activities. More information: www.galileo-mobile.org

Final Remarks

Although 1 January 2009 marked the "real" beginning of the IYA2009, this immense worldwide science outreach and education programme began more than six years earlier with the IAU's initiative during the IAU General Assembly in 2003. The IYA2009 aims to unite nations under the umbrella of astronomy and science, while at the same time acknowledging cultural, national and regional diversity. Never before has such a network of scientists, amateur astronomers, educators, journalists and scientific institutions come together. IYA2009 is, thanks to many of you, truly the largest network in astronomy.

As the IYA2009 comes to an end, we will join in a celebration of astronomy and astronomical experiences. The Closing Ceremony is in preparation and will take place on 9-10 January 2010 in Padua, Italy and we believe that the momentum generated by the end of IYA2009 will leave a lasting legacy for global astronomy and the IAU.


Pedro Russo, IYA2009 Global Coordinator 

Lars Lindberg Christensen IAU IYA2009 Secretariat Manager/IAU IYA2009 EC WG Secretary 

On-behalf of the IAU IYA2009 EC WG and IYA2009 Secretariat


Grenada starts IYA2009 celebration

28 May 2009

On Friday May 22nd. and Saturday May 23rd. students, teachers, parents and the general public in the Caribbean island of Grenada (known as the Isle of Spice) got the opportunity to attend informative workshops on Astronomy in the day and view the night skies in the evening compliments the Grenada National Commission for UNESCO, the Grenada Ministry of Education & Human Resource Development, the Caribbean Institute of Astronomy (CARINA) and corporate partners - Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), LIME (formerly Cable & Wireless) and the Flamboyant Hotel & Villas.

For many attendees, it was the very first time that they had the opportunity to view the skies through a telescope. (Telescopes were brought in to Grenada by CARINA for the event).


More information: http://www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/nodes/national/view/GD/


Star Peace event between Macedonia and Serbia

28 May 2009

Report by Martin Stojanovski, Skopje Astronomical Society

After the difficult one month of preparations and weather concerns the StarPeace event between Macedonia and Serbia finally came true on the weekend between 22nd and 24th May. The event was held on the peak "Odvrakjenica" on the mountain Golija, near the city Novi Pazar in Serbia.

On this event there were participants from 5 astronomy clubs from Macedonia and Serbia: Skopje Astronomical Society from Skopje - Macedonia, AD Novi Pazar from Novi Pazar - Serbia, Astronomy club Aristarh from Kraguevac - Serbia, Astronomy club Univerzum from Backa Palanka - Serbia and Astronomical Society Ruger Boshkovic from Belgrade - Serbia. In total there were 11 participants on the event from all the clubs and we had one special guest from Brazil that also participate in the event.

The weather on both of the observation nights was good and we had good conditions for observations and for astrophotography. There were 7 telescope setups, from which 4 were used for making astrophotography, and 3 for observations, and two binoculars that were available to us.

As the goal of the Star Peace we tried to join our forces in everything that we did during the event. Participants were learning from each other different techniques about astrophotography, making together photos of different objects on the sky, and participating together during the hunting for the Messier and NGC objects in the sky.

During both observation nights there were more that 30 students that visited the event from the city of Novi Pazar that were really interested to have the chance for the first time to see the sky through a telescope. They were amazed to see Saturn and its rings, the colliding between the Whirlpool galaxy (M51) and NGC 5195. During their visit except of this objects they had a chance to see more than 15 different and beautiful objects on the sky. Also we gave a little task for them to try to count all the visible satellites of Saturn that were visible at the moment. Most of them were interested to learn the constellations, so during both nights we did a short presentation of the constellation in the sky. The ones that were most interested and could stand the cold during the night had the chance to learn more about cosmology and the creation of the Universe. Every one of the participants was giving their best to explain every question and uncertainty that the students had. You can see their excitement from all they had the chance to see and hear during both days; at the end they thanked us 100 times and tell to us to come another time and to show them again the beauty of the sky.

The weekend was fulfilled with a lot of companionship that connect the members of different astronomy clubs together, under one sky, so they can make new friends, tell about different astronomical experiences, giving advices about astronomical observations and equipment and trying to give their best to give their knowledge to all the children that came and visit the Star Peace event on Golija.

We can proudly say that the event went perfectly. Maybe the remote location of the observation spot and the high mountain peak didn't allow for more people to come, but the point and the goal of Star Peace was fulfilled joining together people from Macedonia, Serbia and even Brazil. The International Year of Astronomy is still ahead of us and there is a lot of time to give our best to tell that astronomy is not just for the members of the amateur astronomy clubs and for people that are professionals, but also for every citizen of this beautiful planet of ours. The sky is one and the same for all of us, and there are no borders on it, the borders are just in our minds, and how much we can understand that out there, there are a lot of beautiful things that can connect us no matter of our nationality, religion or race.  

StarPeace Global Special Project of IYA2009



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Organisational Associates:

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