In 1609, Galileo turned his telescope–then recently invented–towards the sky above him. What he saw amazed him and led him openly to question the then-prevailing teachings that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and that, above the near-Earth environment, the heavens were pure and unchanging. Moreover, Galileo’s observations and his interpretations of them opened up every received dogma about the natural world to critique based on personal measurements and personal reason. To mark the 400th anniversary of that system-shattering event, the International Astronomical Union organised the 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) under the theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover”.

Many spectacular initiatives took place during 2009 and early 2010, from the twelve global Cornerstone projects to the thousands of national activities where millions of people got involved in astronomy-themed events. Citizens previously unaware of astronomy became involved in this most democratic of sciences in vast numbers. Activities ranged from star parties to street parades, touching old and young alike. Take, for example, the two worldwide star parties “100 Hours of Astronomy” and the “Galilean Nights” where more than 3 million people got involved with many citizens seeing night sky objects through a telescope for the very first time; the Indian astronomers proudly showcasing their work at the Republic Day parade in Delhi, where around 30.000 people participated; or the Guinness World Record 4.8 km-long canvas painted during the astronomy-themed Oceans Festival with more than 300,000 participants in Portugal.

But how was the celebration of an essentially western, essentially European, “scientific revolution” received across the globe, with its various social and cultural environments? Making use of the experiences of European, Indian, Brazilian, Korean, Japanese, etc experiences, this session will look critically at the experience of IYA2009. It will describe some of the events that occurred, their reception and what astronomers and science communicators have learned from their experiences.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

2009–The international year of astronomy
How did it go and what did we learn?

Pedro Russo   International Astronomical Union

Marta Entradas   University College London, Science and Technology Studies Department

Steve Miller   University College London, Science and Technology Studies Department

In 1609, Galileo turned his telescope–then recently invented–towards the sky above him. What he saw amazed him and led him openly to question the then-prevailing teachings that the Earth was at the centre of the universe and that, above the near-Earth environment, the heavens were pure and unchanging. Moreover, Galileo’s observations and his interpretations of them opened up every received dogma about the natural world to critique based on personal measurements and personal reason. To mark the 400th anniversary of that system-shattering event, the International Astronomical Union organised the 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) under the theme “The Universe, Yours to Discover”.

Many spectacular initiatives took place during 2009 and early 2010, from the twelve global Cornerstone projects to the thousands of national activities where millions of people got involved in astronomy-themed events. Citizens previously unaware of astronomy became involved in this most democratic of sciences in vast numbers. Activities ranged from star parties to street parades, touching old and young alike. Take, for example, the two worldwide star parties “100 Hours of Astronomy” and the “Galilean Nights” where more than 3 million people got involved with many citizens seeing night sky objects through a telescope for the very first time; the Indian astronomers proudly showcasing their work at the Republic Day parade in Delhi, where around 30.000 people participated; or the Guinness World Record 4.8 km-long canvas painted during the astronomy-themed Oceans Festival with more than 300,000 participants in Portugal.

But how was the celebration of an essentially western, essentially European, “scientific revolution” received across the globe, with its various social and cultural environments? Making use of the experiences of European, Indian, Brazilian, Korean, Japanese, etc experiences, this session will look critically at the experience of IYA2009. It will describe some of the events that occurred, their reception and what astronomers and science communicators have learned from their experiences.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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