The Year coincides with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations with an astronomical telescope. It is an opportunity for people all over the world to rediscover their place in the universe by observing the sky at night and during the day. It is also intended to provide a platform for informing the public about recent discoveries in astronomy, while demonstrating the central role that astronomy can play in science education.
The opening ceremony will be held on 15 January (Room I, 10.15 a.m.), with presentations by, among others, Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, and Catherine Cesarsky, President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which initiated the idea for the International Year of Astronomy. It will be followed (10.45 -12.00) by a session moderated by the French writer Jean-Claude Carrière, on the history of astronomy, especially Mayan and Islamic astronomy, as well as radio astronomy. The programme for the first day will also include other topics, such as From Galileo to Einstein, Exploration of the Solar System, Discovery of the Big-Bang Fossil Radiation, etc., and will conclude with a live video conference with an astronomy station in Antarctica.
The events of 16 January will start at 9.00 a.m. with a live video conference with the European Very Large Telescope in Paranal (Chile), followed by a number of presentations, including one on parallel universes by Hubert Reeves. The late morning and early afternoon will be devoted to sessions on Life and Death of Stars, and Black Holes and Astronomy from Space, respectively. From 4.00 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., three parallel sessions will provide opportunities for remote observation and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI): observations from Hawaii using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (CFHT); hydrogen line radio observations of the Milky Way in HI-21cm with the Salsa telescope in Onsala (Sweden); a demonstration of Very Long Baseline Interferometry with radio telescopes in six continents. The closing ceremony will be held from 7.30 – 9.30 p.m., featuring the French première of Sun Rings by the Kronos Quartet, which mixes the music of Terry Riley with sounds from space.
An exhibition, entitled Astronomy: Crossroads of Science and Culture (15 - 23 January), will show the latest advances in astronomy and space science, with contributions from 12 organizations (including NASA, which will show real-time images from the Hubble space telescope), as well as paintings and sculptures inspired by astronomy.
From 19 - 23 January, UNESCO and IAU will co-host a Symposium on the Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture, as part of the International Year. The programme is divided into three main themes: Astronomy in Culture and the Culture of Astronomy; Astronomy and Society; and Education in Astronomy across the Planet.
Some of the many events planned for the Year include: 100 Hours of Astronomy, the Galileoscope, which aims to offer millions of free telescopes that are simple, accessible, easy to assemble and to use; the From Earth to the Universe, Dark Skies Awareness and Universe Awareness projects; the 19th Nuit des étoiles (Night of Stars) on 24 - 26 July, etc.
Why is astronomy important? What challenges are in store? What are the key features of the International Year? To answer these questions, a press conference will be held on 15 January (12.30 p.m., Room IX) with Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Natural Sciences, Catherine Cesarsky, Canadian astrophysicist, Hubert Reeves and Bob Wilson, Nobel laureate in Physics, 1978.
- Broadcast live of the opening ceremony