Journey into the Universe

Countdown to the Year of Astronomy

November 24, 2008

In just five weeks the corks will pop at New Year and the whole of Germany will see stars. The 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) begins in January. The ambitious goal is to make the universe something that everyone can experience.

400 years ago, Galileo directed his first astronomical telescope to the skies and discovered a new world. Millions of people will be able to have this same experience in the coming year. The calculations and observations of Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and other pioneers revolutionized our view of the world in the 17th century and created the foundations for modern astronomy and science. How has our view of the universe developed since then? What mysterious interrelations are astrophysicists exploring today and what will they explore in the future?

Germany has been preparing for the Astro Year for over twelve months. On Saturday, at a meeting in Bonn, plans were presented from all over the country. Partners from the fields of science, education and culture will offer a broad spectrum of events in the coming year. Visitors will be able to see exhibitions, lectures, guided sky observations and many other highlights. The focus will be on four themes: “Viewing the heavens,” “Astronomy and culture,” “World views of astronomy” and “Astronomy and the schools.” The latter theme is addressed to both teachers and students. While some are experimenting with binoculars, self-made comets and model rockets, others are invited to take special courses, such as the uses of robotic telescopes for teaching.

The opening of the 2009 IYA will be officially celebrated in Germany with a high-profile ceremony in Berlin on 20 January 2009. During the worldwide “100 Hours of Astronomy” from 2 to 5 April, the observation of space will be centred on what can be seen with one’s own eyes. Accompanied by numerous media and Internet campaigns, amateur astronomers will introduce people around the world to their telescopes. During this time, the gigantic exhibition “Magic Moments – Wonders of the Solar System,” will be open to the public in the Oberhausen Gasometer. It will bring to life the history of astronomy and its discoveries for an entire year. From 7th to 15th May, two dozen planetariums will premiere the joint show “Eyes on the Universe – Breakthrough into the Invisible Realm of Outer Space,” which takes place under the auspices of the European Space Agency. All events of the German Astro Year in Germany can be found on the homepage.

On 20.12.2007, the United Nations General Assembly officially declared 2009 the "International Year of Astronomy" (IYA 2009, Astro Year). The year was initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first heavenly observations by a Galilean telescope. Astronomy, the most comprehensive science of all, is deeply rooted in the cultural heritage of humanity. Astrophysical knowledge is still revolutionizing our world and our understanding of the universe. The universe: It’s your neighbourhood - discover it!

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