With 2009 just over the horizon, stargazers around the world are busy preparing for the International Year of Astronomy. A staggering 135 nations are collaborating to bring the Universe closer to Earth. Events and activities will take place over the coming 365 days and beyond, in a spectacle of cosmic proportions. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) has been launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the theme, “The Universe, yours to discover”. Thousands of IYA2009 events are described on the national websites, as well as on astronomy2009.org, and a few of the global projects are listed here. The official IYA2009 Opening Ceremony will take place in Paris on 15 and 16 January 2009, and the press is invited to attend. It will feature keynote speakers, including Nobel Laureates, and live video feeds to scientists working in remote locations. Many nations are holding their own Opening Ceremonies in January and February, showing their dedication to the Year. But events will begin before then. Don’t be surprised to see telescopes on the streets on New Year’s Day.
The IYA2009 Solar Physics Group have been busy planning a grand worldwide campaign, with over 30 countries involved at more than 150 venues, which will see amateur stargazers set up their telescopes on pavements as well as in science centres, letting passers-by observe the Sun using special safety equipment.The Cosmic Diary is an example of a global activity occurring during 2009, with the release of its official website on New Year’s Day. The project concerns the daily lives of full-time astronomers. More than 50 bloggers, professionals from over 35 countries and employed by organisations such as ESO, NASA, ESA and JAXA have already begun producing content, writing about their lives, the work they conduct and the challenges they face. The public can see what being an astronomer is really like, and how ground-breaking research is conducted. Another project, 365 Days of Astronomy, will publish one podcast per day over the entire year. The episodes will be written, recorded and produced by people around the world. 100 Hours of Astronomy, another IYA2009 Cornerstone Project, is a worldwide event taking place from 2-5 April 2009, with a wide range of public outreach activities including live webcasts, observing events and more. One of the key goals of 100 Hours of Astronomy is to have as many people as possible look through a telescope, just as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago.
The From Earth to the Universe (FETTU) Cornerstone Project is an exhibition arranged by IYA2009 that will bring large-scale astronomical images to a wide public audience in non-traditional venues such as public parks and gardens, art museums, shopping malls and metro stations. Over 30 countries around the world are currently in the development phase of FETTU projects, many with multiple locations. Some 15 countries plan to begin FETTU exhibitions within the first month of 2009, ranging in size from 25 to over 100 images on display. FETTU will be introduced to the global community at the Opening Ceremony at UNESCO headquarters in January 2009. The World at Night is an IYA2009 Special Project that is producing and bringing to the public a collection of stunning photographs and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks with the sky in the background. The World at Night is preparing more than 30 exhibitions and educational events around the world.