International Year of Astronomy to reignite wonder, promote peace – UN agency

15 January 2009 – A large cluster of astronomers have been sighted in Paris today at the official launch of the International Year of Astronomy, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said.

The year, also known as IYA2009, was planned to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations of the heavens with a telescope and, under the theme ‘The Universe, Yours to Discover,’ is meant to reignite the wonder that the starry realms have always provoked in humankind, according to a UNESCO news release.

“People have always looked to the sky for answers to the questions ‘How did we get here?’ and ‘Why are we here?’” Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO said at the gala opening at the agency’s headquarters, where astronauts, artists, diplomats, industrialists and astronomy undergraduates from over 100 countries have gathered.

“The sky belongs to everybody,” Mr. Matsuura added, avowing that “Astronomy is an instrument to promote peace and understanding among nations and as such is at the heart of UNESCO’s mission.”

The two-day launch ceremony will host presentations by Nobel prize winners Bob Wilson and Baruch Blumberg, revelations of the latest discoveries, discussions on the role of astronomy in culture and public engagement, real-time astronomical observations and a closing performance by the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet.

Hundreds of events on the global, national and regional levels have also been planned for the first weeks of the Year in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union (IAU), UNESCO said.


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