Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Universe - Yours to Discover

Are you fascinated by the Universe? Do you ponder the Big Bang (did you know it didn't make a sound!)? Do you dream of alien life forms or of space travel? Was your nickname as a child, Moondog? Well, if so...

Did you know that the IYA2009 is currently underway?!

Say whhhhaaattt?!

Yep, that's right...the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 is happening on a Planet near you...oh, I mean...on YOUR Planet!

There is even an organization dedicated to planning this year's special celebrations...the IYA2009!

Check out their stated mission and network.

"IYA2009 will promote and facilitate the creation of international networks to foster a global appreciation of the role and value of science and astronomy as a unifying activity for humanity.

IYA2009 will start up, connect and support networks of professional and amateur astronomers, educators and astrophysicists from all over the world, so that all these valuable sources of knowledge can be shared. The networks of hundreds, if not thousands of astronomical organisations, nationally and internationally, will be one of the legacies of IYA2009 that will last far beyond the year 2009.

The activities of IYA2009 are taking place largely at the national level, but a significant global network has already been created. This global network has reached 136 countries and a total of 140 are eventually expected to take part, making it possible to reach out to 97% of the world's population."

The IYA2009 was initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is located in Paris and was founded in 1919. It's mission is "to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international cooperation." The IAU has approximately 10,000 members in 87 countries.

"Safeguard" the science of astronomy. Wow. That really hits home. Not just promote - SAFEGUARD. Those of you who know your history understand the critical importance of this one word. Galileo Galiliei, the first scientist to use a refracting telescope to make important astronomical discoveries, was imprisoned (under house arrest due to his advanced age) for his teachings of a heliocentric (sun-centered) Universe. (BTW..he also pioneered the "experimental scientific method.") Galileo was convinced of Copernicus' sun-centered theory based on his own observations of the Earth and other Planets through his use of telescopes. He went on to teach of his profound discoveries until he was convicted of heresy and forced to recant his support of the heliocentric theory by the Roman Catholic Church during the 1633 Inquisition. Galileo died in 1642 - the year Isaac Newton was born.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - GALILEO GALILEI

So, I say let's CELEBRATE science..and most specifically, ASTRONOMY, in honor of this year's celebration and in honor of all people who have been persecuted for their pursuit of KNOWLEDGE and of a better understanding of the natural world/universe around them! Get out our binocs and your telescopes and let the star-gazing begin!

Click here for your US representative information and ask about National Nodes. National Nodes are subgroups within the International IYA2009 group who are responsible for organizing collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers. 136 countries are already involved and over 140 are expected to participate eventually.

If you want to participate on a local level, check out Kansas City's astronomy club:

Astronomical Society of Kansas City
Contact: Gary Pittman
phone: (816) 228-4238

Coming soon to the sky above you...
Comet Lulin: one to watch in 2009

The bright Comet Lulin is expected to put on an excellent show in our night skies this month. It is easily visible in binoculars, and sharp-eyed observers may even be able to spot it with unaided eyes, if conditions are favourable. Estimates suggest it will be brightest around 24 February, when it will also appear to pass close to the planet Saturn.

For more information about Comet Lulin, along with charts of where to find it in the sky, check Sky and Telescope's webpage:

Image Caption: Comet Lulin on February 2nd, glowing at magnitude 6.5 with tail and antitail.

Credit: Paolo Candy (

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