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What is the International Year of Astronomy 2009?
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) is an exciting global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first glimpses through a telescope and the birth of modern astronomy, it gives people all over the world the chance to get involved in this fascinating science and experience the wonders of the night time sky.

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With the participation of 140 countries worldwide, and with events taking place nationally, regionally and globally throughout the year, IYA2009 is not only allowing people to observe first hand some of the amazing celestial bodies that make up our Universe, but is providing a wide variety of events and projects, from touring astronomy exhibitions to virtual blog interactions with practicing astronomers.

Projects like “She is an Astronomer” provide positive role models for students considering a future in science, while projects like the “Universe Awareness” focus on sharing the wonders of astronomy with young disadvantaged children.

Astronomy has come a long way in the last 400 years and has vastly changed our understanding of the Universe. IYA2009 give those involved a chance to share some of these amazing and often breathtaking discoveries with the public and reveal why astronomy, one of the oldest sciences, is also one of the most exciting. The UK is a very active participant in IYA2009 and is hosting a series of events, such as spring and autumn moon-watches, a competition for 1000 schools to win a telescope, and a national programme of dark sky activities that are dedicated to having as many members of the public looking up at the night sky as possible.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Institute of Physics (IOP) are supporting UK national co-ordination of the year and many activities through their public engagement schemes.

The UK Single Point of Contact (SPoC) is Professor Ian Robson at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, who is also Chair of the UK Steering Group. To download Ian Robson's latest IYA2009 presentation click here (6Mb .pdf)

The UK co-ordinator is Steve Owens, who can be contacted