With 2009 just over the horizon, stargazers around the world are busy preparing for the International Year of Astronomy. A staggering 135 nations collaborate on bringing the Universe closer to Earth. Events and activities will take place over the coming 365 days and beyond, in a spectacle of cosmic proportions.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) has been launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) under the theme, "The Universe, yours to discover".
|During 2009, the sky will provide some exciting events, including the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, occurring on July 22 and lasting 6 minutes 39 seconds.
The official IYA2009 Opening Ceremony will take place in Paris on 15 and 16 January 2009. It will feature keynote speakers, including Nobel Laureates, and live video feeds to scientists working in remote locations. Many nations are holding their own Opening Ceremonies in January and February, showing their dedication to the Year. But events will begin before then. Don't be surprised to see telescopes on the streets on New Year's Day. The IYA2009 Solar Physics Group has been busy planning a grand worldwide campaign, with more than 30 countries involved at more than 150 venues, which will see amateur stargazers set up their telescopes on pavements as well as in science centres, letting passers-by observe the Sun using special safety equipment. The National Node of Sri Lanka for IYA2009 chaired by Prof. Kavan Ratnatunga, in collaboration with six astronomical related institutions, will bring various astronomy related programs for all levels throughout the year 2009.
100 Hours of Astronomy, another IYA2009 Cornerstone project, is a worldwide event taking place from 2-5 April 2009, with a wide range of public outreach activities including live webcasts, observing events and more. One of the key goals of 100 Hours of Astronomy is to have as many people as possible look through a telescope, just as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago. There will be observing sessions taking place in Sri Lanka on April 3 throughout the country with more than 30 schools. The From Earth to the Universe (FETTU) another IYA2009 Cornerstone project is an exhibition arranged by the IYA2009 that will bring large-scale astronomical images to a wide public audience in non-traditional venues such as public parks and gardens, art museums, shopping malls and metro stations.
There will be a collection of images displayed in public places in Sri Lanka as well. One of IYA2009's aims is to raise awareness of light pollution, and how the beauty of the night sky is progressively being drowned out, particularly over urban areas. The project Dark Skies Awareness is tackling these issues head-on in a practical, inclusive manner. One way in which it is doing this is by holding star-counting events, where the public are encouraged to see how many stars in a particular area of the sky are actually visible from their location. When compared with data from truly dark sites, the results are often very surprising! The "How Many Stars" event will run from this month.
A list of event highlights is available on the official IYA2009 - Sri Lanka website, http://aalk.lakdiva.net/iya2009/projects/.
During 2009, the sky will provide some exciting events, including the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century, occurring on July 22 and lasting 6 minutes 39 seconds over a narrow corridor through countries including India, Bangladesh and China.
A strong shower of Leonid meteors is also expected in mid-November 2009, with forecasters predicting upwards of an incredible 500 shooting stars per hour. In mid-October in the northern hemisphere, Jupiter will be placed at dusk, a perfect time to show public the giant planet and its moons.