Millions of eyes raised
to the skies
DR EMILY BALDWIN
Posted: JULY 1, 2009
At its half-way milestone, the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) is well on the road to success with over a million people looking through a telescope for the first time."The Universe, Yours to Discover" is the motto of the IYA, and the citizens of the world have been doing just that. Here's a quick round up of some of the fantastic achievements so far:
The Galileoscope project offers low cost 50 millimetre diameter telescopes that allow budding astronomers to view delights such as lunar craters and mountains, the Galilean satellites, the phases of Venus, Saturn's rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye. Sixty thousand telescopes have already been shipped, with one hundred thousand more in production. Four thousand telescopes have also been donated by the IYA2009 and individuals to organisations and schools in developing countries to really make the skies accessible to all.
Checking out the Galileoscope at the official IYA launch party at UNESCO in Paris in January.
100 Hours of Astronomy, a planet-wide celebration involving over 100 countries and two million people taking part in observing events across the world. The event also included a live 24-hour webcast - Around the World in 80 telescopes - which saw 150,000 individuals tune in.
From Earth to the Universe – a project that runs exhibitions in unusual locations around the world, from train stations to shopping malls. Sixty countries have signed up to hold the exhibition in over 200 locations.The Albert Dock in Liverpool hosted the first From the Earth to the Universe exhibit.
Dark Skies Awareness is an ongoing initiative to combat light pollution and raise awareness of the importance of dark skies for studying and appreciating the cosmos. One aspect, GLOBE At Night encourages members of the public to perform star counts and to submit their findings. In March 2009, 15,700 measurements were received, nearly 80 percent more than the previous record in 2007.
The Cosmic Diary Professional scientists are blogging about their lives and work, giving the public an insight into what it is really like to be a researcher. Sixty professional astronomers have been recruited from 28 countries, and over one thousand blog posts have attracted more than 97,000 visitors.
Portal to the Universe – a global, one-stop clearinghouse for online astronomy content – launched in April. During its first two months of operation, it featured more than 2,500 press releases, almost 1,500 podcast episodes, 10,000 blog posts and received almost 100,000 visitors.The Portal to the Universe website is a one stop internet shop for astronomy news, videos, podcasts, live images of the Sun and live links to telescopes around the globe.
National events have also brought people together. For example, more than 400,000 people gathered for the Sunrise Event on New Year's Day in Busan City, South Korea. In Brazil, the 2009 Brazilian Olympiad of Astronomy and Astronautics saw more than 750,000 students participate from 32,500 schools. In Paraguay, the IYA2009 launch featured a concert with more than 1,600 musicians and an audience of over 15,000.
And for the first time in postal service history, and in just six months, more than 70 postal agencies around the world have issued over 140 new stamps inspired by astronomy.
International Astronomical Union President Catherine Cesarsky says, "It's amazing to see just how far the International Year of Astronomy 2009 has progressed over the last six months. The hard work put in by professional and amateur astronomers is making the IYA2009's theme, ‘The Universe, Yours to Discover' a reality."
Although IYA2009's achievements to date are certainly impressive, it has only reached its halfway point and many new initiatives are still being developed. For example, 23-24 October will see the launch of Galilean Nights, the follow-up to the highly successful 100 Hours of Astronomy presentation. "Events such as this, in conjunction with ongoing projects, will ensure that the IYA2009 sprints to the finish, and will leave a legacy that lasts long into the future," says Cesarsky.
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