New Year's Day 2009 marked the beginning of what will undoubtedly be more than 12 months of celebrating astronomy. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has designated 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first celestial observations using a telescope. IYA2009 has been endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.N. General Assembly.
The opening ceremonies were held in Paris on January 15–16. Mike Simmons was there and filed this report.
Much of IYA2009's activities revolve around 11 Cornerstone Projects. While some initiatives are already underway, others still remain under development. The links to their individual sites are listed below. You'll find even more information at U.S. National Node. If you don't live in the U.S., see IYA2009's main site for a link to your country's node.
100 Hours of Astronomy: 400 Years in the Making
The Galileoscope: Millions of People Looking at the Sky
Cosmic Diary: The Life of an Astronomer
Portal to the Universe: A One-stop Universe of News
She Is an Astronomer: Breaking Down Misconceptions
Dark Skies Awareness: Seeing in the Dark
Astronomy and World Heritage: Universal Treasures
Galileo Teacher Training Program: Teaching the Teachers
Universe Awareness: One Place in the Cosmos
From Earth to the Universe: The Beauty of Science
Developing Astronomy Globally: Astronomy for All
And while it's not an official Cornerstone Project, the amateur-led The World at Night project is another important element for IYA2009.
Make room on your iPod for the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. There's a fact-filled, fun episode every day.
We're happy to provide the article "The Year to Celebrate Astronomy" by organizers Catherine Cesarsky, Pedro Russo, and Lars Lindberg Christensen from the January 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope as a free download in PDF format. (To display PDF files, download and install the free Adobe Reader.)
Be sure to check out the official movie of IYA2009: Eyes on the Skies produced by the European Space Agency and European Southern Observatory.
Bookmark this page (SkyandTelescope.com/IYA2009) and check it often, as we'll add more articles throughout the year.