Those of you who didn’t spend the last few days up a mountain may have noticed that it’s no longer 2008, and is in fact 2009. Hopefully, it’s equally obvious that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, as designated by the United Nations.
IYA is a big deal; whatever you’ve heard already is almost certainly only the surface. Many of my friends and colleagues have been working incredibly hard over the last year and more to bring the joys of astronomy to everyone on the planet. I’m sitting in my first press conference of the American Astronomical Society conference in Long Beach, California which is detailing some of the things that are going on ahead of the formal launch of IYA tomorrow night.
One date for your diary – or rather set of dates – is April 2-5th which is set to be the 100 hours of astronomy. Roughly 100 observatories around the world will be coordinating webcasts so that as night falls around the globe you’ll be able to listen in on the work that professional astronomers are doing – if it isn’t cloudy, of course.
In the meantime, cyberspace has been well and truly taken over. I insist you all immediately go and subscribe to 365 Days of Astronomy, the podcast that will give you your daily dose of astronomical content each and every day throughout IYA. As the first episode said, 365 Days of Astronomy is a nutritional part of your breakfast (or lunch, or dinner). Given that you’re reading this, then the Carnival of Space is the only guide that you need. If you’re a Second Life person, then the Second Astronomy island will be officially opened tomorrow. Oh, and a little project called Galaxy Zoo is a tiny part of IYA too…
There are plenty of IYA websites, too : here are efforts mentioned in the press conference from NASA, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (who are targeting astronomical societies) and the US national site. And let’s not forget the UK’s own contributions. There’s also the Portal to the Universe which will be a one-stop shop for blogs, press releases and just about everything else.
Happy New International Year of Astronomy. Have a good one.