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United Underneath The Stars

S A Mohan talks about the International Year of Astronomy and what it is all about

 


Astronomy is a sub discipline of physics. It is an observational science in which perspective is a key consideration. Except for the Solar System, astronomers are constrained to study celestial bodies using light from distant objects. Astronomers use both observational and theoretical techniques to understand heavenly objects, the material in the spaces between them, and how all these interact.

Year-long celebration

The year 2009 has been declared the “International Year of Astronomy” by the General Assembly of the UN (United Nations). It is a year-long celebration of astronomy, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and the publication of Johannes Kepler’s ‘Astronomia nova’ in the 17th Century.

 
The year was declared by the 62nd General Assembly of the UN. A global scheme, laid out by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), has also been endorsed by UNESCO - the UN body responsible for educational, scientific and cultural matters. The International Astronomical Union and UNESCO are coordinating the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. This initiative is an opportunity for the citizens of the Earth to gain a deeper insight into astronomy’s role in enriching all cultures and about the latest astronomical discoveries.
The activities will take place locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. This will help people rediscover their place in the universe through the sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. National nodes have been formed in each country to organise activities for 2009.

These nodes will establish collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers, science centres, and science communicators to prepare for the activities. To help coordinate this huge global programme and to provide an important resource for the participating countries, the IAU has established a central secretariat and an IYA 2009 website as the principal resource for amateurs, professionals and media alike. More than 100 countries are already involved.

IYA 2009  is intended to be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. To stimulate interest, especially among young people, programmes under the central theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover” are the main focus of the year.

Eleven cornerstones

The IYA2009 is supported by eleven cornerstone projects. These are global programmes centred on specific themes and projects that will help to achieve IYA2009’s goals. Whether it is the support and promotion of women in astronomy, the preservation of dark-sky sites around the world or educating and explaining the workings of the Universe to millions, the eleven cornerstones will be key elements in the success of IYA2009. The cornerstones include 100 Hours of Astronomy, The Galileoscope, She is an Astronomer, Dark Skies Awareness, World Heritage, From Earth to the Universe, and The World at Night, among others.

The event will promote and facilitate the creation of an international network, which will be one of the legacies IYA2009 will leave behind. This network has reached 135 countries and a total of 140 are eventually expected to join, making it possible to reach out to 97% of the world’s population.

Not just for the big guys

The event will also help lesser known organisations in the developing world to become involved with larger organisations and deliver their contributions. The initiative also aims to reach economically disadvantaged young children across the globe and enhance their understanding of the world.

Let’s celebrate the International Year of Astronomy in a grand manner and spread the awareness and magnanimity of astronomy.

 

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