The United Nations will mark the 400th anniversary next year of Galileo’s use of the telescope to gaze at the stars by focusing its attention on stimulating interest worldwide, especially among young people, in astronomy and science.
Under the theme “The Universe, yours to discover,” the Organization has proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy and designated the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as its lead agency, with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) acting as implementing body.
“Encouraging the spirit of discovery and sharing of fundamental knowledge about the Universe and our place in its midst, it (the year) will provide an ongoing platform for international cooperation beyond all barriers including age, race, gender, status, time, place, and space,” UNESCO said in a news release today.
To date, 99 nations and 14 organizations have decided to contribute to promoting the Year - an unprecedented network of committed communicators and educators in astronomy.
In close cooperation with IAU, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre will pursue the “Astronomy and World Heritage” initiative launched in 2003 to promote the nomination of cultural property linked to astronomy. Many State Parties to UNESCO’s World Heritage Convention have already designated national institutions which will identify the most representative sites and propose them for nomination on the World Heritage List.
UNESCO’s Space Education Programme (SEP) organizes workshops for secondary level students and teachers in developing countries in cooperation with their Ministries of Education and of Science & Technology, planetariums, science centres, industry and non-governmental organizations.
It has donated portable telescopes to schools through an agreement with Meade Instruments and the National Space Society’s “Permission to Dream” initiative. Cooperation will be enhanced for further educational activities and organization of events related to the Year.