Address at closing ceremony

24 August 2006, Prague
By IAU President Catherine Cesarsky
We started this conference, in magnificent Prague, with a lovely rendition of “What poor astronomers are they”, from John Dowland. I would like to close it with my motto: “what lucky astronomers we are”: we lead purposeful and interesting lives. Look at this General Assembly. We have just had two weeks of passionate discussions. From black holes, dark energy, NEOs, to the meaning of the width of a spectral line or of a glitch in the radio emission of a pulsar, detection limits for extra solar planets, confusion limits in the infrared, the definition of a planet, every celestial object, every concept, every observation, every prediction got scrutinized, debated, refined… until next time. Among astronomers, there are no national barriers; we all share the Universe. And thus, the Union- the IAU, is not a vain word; it embodies one small and distinctive part of humanity, completely absorbed in the study of the heavens. I really love the feeling of togetherness in intellectual adventure and path finding, enhanced by our continuous arguing and squabbling. This is why I am not so much proud, as deeply happy, that you have elected me President of the IAU.
In the next three years, we will not have only the fortunate fate of astronomers to celebrate. We will be commemorating, in 2009, the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations with a telescope, which brought about a fundamental change in our perception of the universe. We have decided through a resolution passed at the last General Assembly, at the initiative of Franco Pacini, that 2009 would be the International Year of Astronomy. UNESCO has endorsed our resolution and we hope that soon the UN will follow through. This offers an ideal opportunity to highlight astronomy’s role in enriching all human cultures, to promote astronomy in the developing nations, to inform the public about our latest discoveries, and to emphasize the essential role of astronomy in science education. Individual countries will be undertaking their own initiatives, considering their own national needs, while the IAU will act as catalyst and coordinator of 2009 IYA on the global scale. We plan to liaise with, and involve, as many as possible of the ongoing outreach and education efforts throughout the world, including those organized by amateur astronomers. One interesting example is a programme geared at small children primarily in developing countries, “Universe Awareness”. There will also be international events, at the General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, as well as an opening and a closing event. 2009 is also the year of the 90th anniversary of the IAU, and on July 22 will come about the longest duration total solar eclipse of the 21st century. More celebrations! We welcome your involvement and your ideas. Let us all together make this exceptional year an astounding success.




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