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.

OYA provides financial support for all travel of students and faculty, both within the host country and international. The host institution must obtain the funds to cover expenses during the ISYA, such as r such as room and boarding for students and faculty, and provides the infrastructure for lectures and tutorials.

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.

Organization of an ISYA

The ISYA Director corresponds with the local Director of the school so that the proposal follows the working rules and guidelines for the ISYA currently in force. The correspondence includes the duration of ISYA, generally about three weeks, the range of topics to be accommodated in that time, the academic level of the lectures, the importance of faculty who have teaching experience and who can remain for the entire duration of the school, the opportunity of practical exercises including observing and data reduction, the time allotted to individual presentations by participants, the actual dates and location, practical arrangements for room, board, and academic facilities, the associated budget, and the adequacy of the host institution’s plans to obtain the needed funding.

The approval of an ISYA proposal, agreed to by the local Director of the School and the ISYA Director, is decided by OYA.

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 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.