Today the United Nations (UN) 62nd General Assembly proclaimed 2009 the 'International Year of Astronomy'. The Resolution was submitted by Italy, Galileo Galilei's home country, and was co-sponsored by Ireland. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO.
The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, highlighted by the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei. The aim of this celebration is to stimulate worldwide interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science under the central theme "The Universe: Yours to Discover".
National Nodes in each country have been formed to prepare activities for 2009. In Ireland this will be headed by Professor Michael Redfern, Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway. Professor Redfern will establish collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers, science centres, educators and science communicators in preparing activities for 2009.
Professor Redfern said, "We are proud that Ireland is a co-sponsor of the motion that went before the UN, and a collaborator in IYA2009. In Ireland, we will focus on showing the universal appeal of astronomy to the public, and use the year to encourage more students to consider science as a career. As part of the process we will seek to provide a modern gender-balanced view of science and scientists, and will work especially hard to support our colleagues in the developing world who will also be using IYA2009 to promote science education at all levels."
Professor Redfern added, "IYA2009 will also highlight global cooperation for peaceful purposes. For millennia, astronomers have worked together across boundaries including those of geography, gender, age, culture and race. These are precisely the principles embodied in the UN Charter. In that sense, astronomy is a classic example of how science can contribute towards furthering international cooperation."
So far 99 nations and 14 organisations have signed up to participate in the IYA2009 – an unprecedented network of committed communicators and educators in astronomy.
The President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Catherine Cesarsky, says, "The International Year of Astronomy 2009 gives all nations a chance to participate in this ongoing exciting scientific and technological revolution."
For more information on the 'International Year of Astronomy 2009' please visit the website at http://www.astronomy2009.org/
For information on Irish activities in IYA2009 visit the website at http://www.astronomy2009.ie/