Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Get ready for the International Year of Astronomy 2009!

Video credit: International Year of Astronomy 2009, IAU and UNESCO
Click here for additional versions of the video and additional credits.

There's a touch of fall in the air here in Austin, a none-too-subtle reminder that another year is starting to wane. Looming on the horizon is one of the biggest coordinated astronomy events ever, the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009). The goals of the IYA 2009 are "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. " That's a pretty lofty goal, and we need your help to make it happen.

Next year, there will be numerous astronomy events around the world and throughout the year, and I and my fellow astronomers will be advertising these events in the coming months. But now is the time to get connected and organized; this is difficult in a world that contains over 6 billion people and only about 20,000 professional astronomers. So, I'm asking for your help. How can you contribute?

  • If you teach science at any school level, or if you know someone who teaches science: The IYA 2009 is preparing many special events for all educational levels. In the USA, we are further working on ensuring that these events meet state and federal science education standards (so teachers don't need to feel guilty about talking about astronomy in school). Many of these programs are still in the planning stages, and not too much information is available (to our chagrin). But if you are a teacher, please get connected (see below) and stay in touch for details! Also, if you are a teacher, even if you don't teach science, please encourage your colleagues throughout your district to get involved. Even if you aren't a teacher, chances are you know several, especially if you have kids in school. If you know a teacher, please encourage them to learn about the IYA 2009, to get connected, and to use the IYA 2009 in their curriculum! Now is the time to get networked! (It's been a little disappointing how few teachers know about the IYA 2009...)
  • If you are an amateur astronomer: Chances are good you've heard about the IYA 2009. But if you haven't, get connected (see below). We'll need you and your clubs to be outreach, especially to areas where professional astronomers are few and far between. Special observing nights are being planned, and we'd like you to pull out your telescopes and let members of the public take a peak! Also, we encourage you to encourage your friends and colleagues to get connected as well.
  • If you are a professional astronomer: get your department involved, look into AAS-sponsored activities, stay in touch, and HELP GET PEOPLE NETWORKED! There's no excuse for any professional astronomer not to be working their tail off for IYA 2009. None whatsoever. Professional astronomers not helping out deserve scorn and derision and tenure revocation and a pox upon them and their students. Plus, when you need to fill out that EPO section on your next NSF or NASA grant, IYA 2009 may give you some ideas....
  • If you are a leader of a community or organization: Get connected (again, see below)! In addition to the science, the IYA 2009 provides opportunities for outreach to underprivileged parts of the country and the globe. The IYA 2009 is a chance to introduce people of all ages to science and technology education.
  • If you don't fit into these categories: Get connected! If you are reading this blog, you clearly have some interest in science and astronomy. And, chances are pretty darn good that you know other people who fit one of the above categories -- help us by getting them connected, too! Finally, when IYA 2009 activities and opportunities come to your community, you can help us by convincing family and friends to attend and learn about the Universe in which we live!
So, how do you get connected?
  • First, see the IYA 2009 web sites and read about all of the activities that are being planned. The primary websites are: astronomy2009.us (for people in the United States) and astronomy2009.org (for everyone throughout the world). Each country also has their own National Node; visit their website or get in touch with that office (see astronomy2009.org for contact information).
  • Stay connected. Bookmark the main websites and any specific activities, and check them regularly. Read astronomy blogs for updates. If you are involved in social networking, most major networks have IYA 2009 links, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
  • Donate money. Alas, none of this is free. The US National Node lists specific areas where financial aid is needed, such as the Galileoscope program, which intends to provide low- and no-cost telescope kits to classrooms across the globe.
  • Volunteer! The US Node website is keeping track of ways you can volunteer to help. Whether you only want to help for an hour at a star party, or if you want to get deeply involved, your help is needed.

I'll be blogging much more about the IYA 2009 in the future. For now, Get Connected!

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