Early this morning (CET) 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. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) celebrates the first astronomical use of the telescope by Galileo – a momentous event that initiated 400 years of astronomical discoveries and triggered a scientific revolution which profoundly affected our worldview. Now telescopes on the ground and in space explore the Universe, 24 hours a day, across all wavelengths of light. 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."
The IYA2009 will highlight global cooperation for peaceful purposes – the search for our cosmic origin and our common heritage which connect all citizens of planet Earth. For several millennia, astronomers have worked together across all boundaries including geographic, gender, age, culture and race, in line with the principles of the UN Charter. In that sense, astronomy is a classic example of how science can contribute towards furthering international cooperation.
At the IAU General Assembly on 23 July 2003 in Sydney (Australia), the IAU unanimously approved a resolution in favour of the proclamation of 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. Based on Italy’s initiative, UNESCO’s General Conference at its 33rd session recommended that the UN General Assembly adopt a resolution to declare 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. On 20 December 2007 the International Year of Astronomy 2009 was proclaimed by the United Nations 62nd General Assembly. The UN has designated the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the lead agency for the IYA2009. The IAU will function as the facilitating body for IYA2009.
The IYA2009 is, first and foremost, an activity for the citizens of planet Earth. It aims to convey the excitement of personal discovery, the pleasure of sharing fundamental knowledge about the Universe and our place in it, and the merits of the scientific method. Astronomy is an invaluable source of inspiration for humankind throughout all nations. 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.
For more information on the International Year of Astronomy 2009 please visit the website at www.astronomy2009.org
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Notes for editors
The vision of the IYA2009 is to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day and night time sky – and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery. All humans should realize the impact of astronomy and basic sciences on our daily lives, and understand better how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.
The aim of the IYA2009 is to stimulate worldwide interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science under the central theme "The Universe, Yours to Discover". IYA2009 events and activities will promote a greater appreciation of the inspirational aspects of astronomy that embody an invaluable shared resource for all nations.
The IYA2009 activities will take place at the global and regional levels, and especially at the national and local levels. National Nodes in each country have been formed to prepare activities for 2009. These Nodes establish collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers, science centres, educators and science communicators in preparing activities for 2009.
The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 10,000 distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world’s largest professional body for astronomers.
The United Nations 62nd General Assembly IYA2009 Resolution text (62/200):
International Year of Astronomy, 2009
The General Assembly,
Recalling its resolution 61/185 of 20 December 2006 on the proclamation of international years,
Aware that astronomy is one of the oldest basic sciences and that it has contributed and still contributes fundamentally to the evolution of other sciences and applications in a wide range of fields,
Recognizing that astronomical observations have profound implications for the development of science, philosophy, culture and the general conception of the universe,
Noting that, although there is a general interest in astronomy, it is often difficult for the general public to gain access to information and knowledge on the subject,
Conscious that each society has developed legends, myths and traditions concerning the sky, the planets and the stars which form part of its cultural heritage,
Welcoming resolution 33 C/25 adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on 19 October 2005,1 to express its support for the declaration of 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, with a view to highlighting the importance of astronomical sciences and their contribution to knowledge and development,
Noting that the International Astronomical Union has been supporting the initiative since 2003 and that it will act to grant the project the widest impact,
Convinced that the Year could play a crucial role, inter alia, in raising public awareness of the importance of astronomy and basic sciences for sustainable development, promoting access to the universal knowledge of fundamental science through the excitement generated by the subject of astronomy, supporting formal and informal science education in schools as well as through science centres and museums and other relevant means, stimulating a long-term increase in student enrolment in the fields of science and technology, and supporting scientific literacy,
1. Decides to declare 2009 the International Year of Astronomy;
2. Designates the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization as the lead agency and focal point for the Year, and invites it to organize, in this capacity, activities to be realized during the Year, in collaboration with other relevant entities of the United Nations system, the International Astronomical Union, the European Southern Observatory and astronomical societies and groups throughout the world, and, in this regard, notes that the activities of the Year will be funded from voluntary contributions, including from the private sector;
3. Encourages all Member States, the United Nations system and all other
actors to take advantage of the Year to promote actions at all levels aimed at increasing awareness among the public of the importance of astronomical sciences and promoting widespread access to new knowledge and experiences of astronomical observation.
1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Records of the General
Conference, 33rd session, Paris, 3-21 October 2005 (Paris, United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization), vol. 1, Resolutions, chap. V.
For more information, please contact:
IAU President, Chair of the IAU Executive Committee IYA2009 Working Group
Karel A. van der Hucht
International Astronomical Union
98bis bd Arago, F-75014 Paris, France
SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research
Sorbonnelaan 2, NL-3584CA UTRECHT, the Netherlands
IYA 2009 Secretariat
IAU & ESA/Hubble, Garching, Germany
Space Education Programme Coordinator
UNESCO HQ, Paris
IAU Press Officer/Secretary of IAU IYA2009 Executive Committee Working Group
Lars Lindberg Christensen
ESA/Hubble & IAU, Garching, Germany
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 web site:
The International Astronomical Union:
ESO Press release: