The International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYAs)

Supported by the Office for Young Astronomers (OYA)


Educational activities are one of the essential tasks of the Union. The International School for Young Astronomers (ISYAs) is a project of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), established in 1967. The objective of ISYAs is to broaden the participants’ perspective on astronomy by lectures from an international faculty on selected topics of astronomy, seminars, practical exercises and observations, and exchange of experiences. The IAU Commission 46 Astronomy Education & Development is engaged in two Schools for astronomy development, namely the ISYA and TAD (Teaching for Astronomy Development).

The Office for Young Astronomers (OYA) was established in 2015 in collaboration between the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters (NASL) and the IAU, with the aim to ensure a robust financial and organizational basis for the operation of the ISYA program. The OYA is a virtual office operated by a Steering Committee chaired by an IAU Vice-President. The domicile of OYA is the NASL in Oslo, Norway.


It is a three-week international postgraduate school for regions where students have less opportunity to be directly exposed to the full extent of up-to-date astrophysics (mainly, but not exclusively, from astronomically developing countries). During the school both theory and observations are addressed.

The curriculum includes a standard set of self-contained, coherent lectures that cover the basic concepts and theories of selected fields of astronomy and astrophysics, along with relevant instrumentation and observation, and data reduction and calibration, understandable to students with good college mathematics and physics (but not necessarily astronomy) training, plus selected thematic topics of the latest development and trend of the fields.

The participants are essentially coming from countries in the region of the country hosting the ISYA. The lecturers are experts coming from all over the world.

For countries with a national astronomy program, part of the school could take place at an observatory site for training in observational techniques and if possible in data reduction. However, if this is hard to organize, then observational training with data reduction can be provided through the use of remote robotic telescopes.

Guidelines for organization of an ISYA

ISYA schools are funded by the concurrence of local and IAU-NASL funds. The local host takes responsibility of covering boarding and accommodation, lecture rooms with internet access, space and computers for lab work, and any other local needs for both students and professors during the duration of the school. IAU-NASL are responsible for procuring the funding for travel expenses, both national and international, for students and professors, to attend the school.

The ISYA Director corresponds with the local Director of the school so that the proposal follows the working rules and guidelines currently in force for the ISYA. The duration of the school is recommended to be 3 weeks, with a minimum duration of 2 weeks. The student body is estimated to be between 30 and 50, depending on local facilities. A good ratio of about half national students and half regional international students is recommended, providing ethnical and gender balance within the region.

The level of the lectures aims at students in the MSc to 1st year PhD level (It also depends the local situation.), and should include theoretical and observational lectures and lab work with local observing facilities (when available), data reduction and analysis labs, and virtual observatory/data mining labs. The ISYA professors can be both national and international, with an international reputation in their respective fields of research. It is highly recommended to select professors who can extend their participation in the school for most of the duration of the school and maximize their interaction with the students, and observe ethnical and gender diversity. Usually there are ~8-12 professors to cover the full syllabus and lab workload of the school.

Full proposal should reach the Director and the Steering Committee of IAU Office for Young Astronomers that oversees the ISYA program for approval at least one year before the intended date of the school. Interested host are strongly encouraged to contact/submit a letter of intent to the Director of the ISYA, at least one and half years beforehand, in order to leave enough time to develop, with the Director, a full proposal that meets the goals and guidelines of ISYA, and to consider about a two-year window for when the school could be hosted.

The letter of intent should contain the following information, in a free format

  • Brief introduction to local host background in Astronomy education at the ISYA level.
  • Intended date to host the school (a 2 year bracket is recommended, specifying the best dates for local organizers).
  • Brief description of local facilities to host an ISYA: lecture rooms, internet access, library, lab space, observing facilities (when available) and lodging.
  • Logistics, e.g. estimated time for students and professors to commute from ISYA facilities to their respective lodging, distance to local observatory (when available), etc.
  • Intended list of topics for the school and suggested lecturers.
  • Targeted student population (countries likely interested in the school other than host country), and level of the school.
  • Intended local organizing committee.
  • Estimated budget for local expenses and funding avenues for local hosts to support the ISYA local expenses.
The Final Proposal will be forwarded to the Office for Young Astronomers (OYA) Steering Committee for approval. A lead-time of 1 year before the intended date of the school is required.

ISYA Director and Deputy Director

ISYA Director and Deputy Director are jointly responsible for operation of the ISYA program of the IAU. Their work involves soliciting ISYA host countries, developing and executing ISYA programs in collaboration with the Local Organizers.

The present ISYA leadership

Kam-Ching Leung, ISYA Director

Itziar Aretxaga, ISYA Deputy Director

Past and Future ISYAs

  • A list of events, links and final reports are available on this page.


Kam-Ching Leung, (University of Nebraska, USA), Director
Itziar Aretxaga,, (INAOE-Astrophysics Dept, Mexico), Deputy Director
Xiaowei Liu, Peking University, China, IAU Vice-President and Chair of OYA

ISYA 2016

Teheran, Iran. Click on the image for more download options

ISYA 2015

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Click on the image for more download options

ISYA 2011

Lijang, China. Click on the image for more download options

ISYA 2010

Byurakan, Armenia. Click on the image for more download options

Quotes from ISYA students:

I will be an ambassador for Astronomy science in my country.

I definitely got clues on where to go and what research topics to focus on thanks to the talks and discussions, with lecturers and other students during ISYA. And this was one of the reasons I came for.

I felt that the ISYA was beneficial for me to attend as it opened my eyes to the different fields available and has given things to think about regarding my career plans.

The financial support to participants from across Africa was marvellous and most appreciated.