January 6, 2009

2009 will be the International Year of Astronomy

Declared the International Year of Astronomy by the United Nations and UNESCO, 2009 will give professional and amateur astronomers alike a chance to share their passion with youngsters and the broader public.
24 December 2008

Astronomy for all

In 1609, Galileo* was the 1st to observe the heavens through a telescope. What he saw cast the Universe in a new light.

Using his rudimentary instrument, he discovered that the Moon’s surface was dotted with mountains similar to those on Earth, that Venus orbited the Sun and that Jupiter had its own satellites.

400 years after Galileo’s discoveries, 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy (IYA09) on the initiative of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

“More than 130 nations are taking part in this event,”enthuses Anny Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, who chairs the French steering committee for IYA09.. “Nations with a rich astronomical heritage as well as smaller countries like Cape Verde and Mali, which have no astronomy communities.”

The event is dedicated to youngsters and to anyone who has never taken the opportunity to stargaze on the grass.

“We want to bring astronomy to all and especially to the visually impaired, people in hospital and all those it doesn’t normally reach,” stresses Anny Chantal Levasseur-Regourd.

“Some lectures will be interpreted in sign language, for example.”

100 hours of observations, 100 lectures

One of the emblematic projects of IYA09 will be “100 hours of astronomy”. The idea is to get as many people as possible across the globe to look to the heavens at the same moment.

IYA09 video. Credits: UNESCO.

“This viewing session will take place from 2 to 5 April, at night and during the day to admire the Sun and its spots,” says Anny Chantal Levasseur-Regourd.“CNES will be taking part at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse.”

Another flagship IYA09 project in France will be “100 key lectures”.

The lectures will cover a wide range of topics from the History of the Universe by Hubert Reeves to the Latest from Mars by Francis Rocard and Major space astronomy projects by Fabienne Casoli.

There will also be a packed programme of exhibitions, including Journey to the centre of the galaxy at the Palais de la Découverte, Paris, offering visitors a far-reaching tour from Earth to black holes.

This exhibition will also be showcasing a series of images acquired by instruments like CoRoT. Four hundred years after Galileo, advances in astronomy instruments continue to enhance our understanding of the Universe..


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