Galilean Nights – The Galileo Experience

23 September 2009

Wind the clock back 400 years and follow in the footsteps of a giant - it amazed Galileo in 1609, now everyone can experience it in 2009! On 22-24 October 2009, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone Project, Galilean Nights, will see amateur and professional astronomers, enthusiasts and the public taking to the streets all around the globe, pointing their telescopes to the wonders that Italian astronomer Galileo observed 400 years ago. Spread over three nights, astronomers will share their knowledge and enthusiasm for space by encouraging as many people as possible to look through a telescope at our planetary neighbours. The focus for Galilean Nights is the objects that Galileo observed, including Jupiter and the Moon, which will be well-positioned in the night sky for observing.

Public Observing

The focus of Galilean Nights is to bring a Galileo moment to the many people around the world who have yet to see the night sky through a telescope. Public observing sessions will take place all over the world, from small events in remote locations, to large events in the centres of capital cities.

Alongside these public observing events, people are running observatory open days and astronomy presentations, as well as other central Galilean Nights activities: a Jupiter Observation Campaign, where people will be encouraged to record their observations of Jupiter; Remote Observing sessions and an astrophotography competition.

Remote Observing

Over the Galilean Nights event, several large observatories will be making their telescopes available to the world.  Members of the public will be able to control telescopes on the other side of the world and take photos of astronomical objects from the comfort of their own homes - all for free!

Astrophotography Competition

The stunning images of distant objects in the Universe are well know around the world and do more to bring astronomy to the wider public and to inspire future astronomers than words ever could. Take a different approach to your observing, don't just look at the skies, take a photograph of what you see. Enter the Galilean Nights Astrophotography Competition and have your image inspire others.

The aim of the Galilean Nights Astrophotography Competition is to encourage more people to photograph the night sky and add a different angle to their astronomy interest. The competition will run from September to November and is split into two categories:

Earth and Sky

Highlighting the link between the Earth and our astronomical neighbourhood, entries to this category must show part of the surface of the Earth with one or more of the Galilean Objects in the sky above.

Beyond Earth

Entries to this category must show one or more of the Galilean Objects, but not show any aspect of the Earth. Use of a small telescope is permitted in this category.

For full competition details, see the Galilean Nights website:

Local Contacts

Overseeing Galilean Nights events is a lot to organise alongside other IYA2009 events. One approach that some countries have taken up is to appoint specific contact(s) to oversee Galilean Nights activities and you are all encouraged to do this to help spread out the work. Appointing Local Contact(s) will also help you to tap into the knowledge, experience and enthusiasm of those within your local astronomy networks. If you decide to appoint Local Contact(s) then please let the Task Group Chair know their details as soon as possible so that they can be listed on the website

Publicise Galilean Nights

Please help us to raise the profile of Galilean Nights among your astronomy and science communities to get a wide range of groups organising and running events. People from all backgrounds and level of experience are encouraged to organise events, from one person sharing the night sky through a telescope with a small group of neighbours and friends, to large astronomical groups holding large observing sessions in public areas.

Publicity among the wider public and school groups should be increased to let people know about Galilean Nights and to encourage as many as possible to attend events and experience a Galileo moment for themselves!

Make use of all networks available to you to communicate about the event. Apart from those networks that are more obvious to you (universities, research institutes, amateur astronomers), there are surely many people working in science and scientific and cultural communication in your country. Use their contacts, use their networks for the benefit of Galilean Nights. You probably know who these people are much better than we do, but here are some examples:

  • Science centres
  • Public libraries
  • Science clubs at schools
  • Teachers associations
  • Science journalists
  • Science communicators
  • Science teachers
  • Youth groups - boy scouts and girl guides

With less than one month to go until the event, preparations need to increase to ensure events take place in many places and run as smoothly as possible.

Register Now!

Registration is now open. If you are planning any activities for Galilean Nights, then please ensure that you register the details of your event on the website. All registered activities will be listed on the Galilean Nights website, helping organisers to reach more people. The registered list is how we will keep track of all Galilean Nights events and the numbers of countries and locations that the project is reaching.

More information:

Organisational Associates:

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