Western celebrates International Year of Astronomy

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo turning his telescope to the sky and changing how the cosmos were studied forever, 2009 is being hailed the world over as the International Year of Astronomy (IYA).


The University of Western Ontario – along with its partners the Space Society of London, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (London Centre) and the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration – is kicking off a series of planned year-long festivities, in conjunction with IYA, with an all-day event on Saturday, Jan. 10 from 2 to 8 p.m.


Highlights of the family-friendly day include children’s activities like a space station obstacle course and designing your own Mars and Martians, as well as talks on subjects ranging from “The Future of our Sun” and “Quasars and Active Galaxies.”


The official opening ceremonies, complete with cake cutting and reception, commence at 5 p.m. in the Astronomy and Physics Building, Room 123.


At 5:30 p.m., observing in Cronyn Observatory with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada begins. In the case of rain, a science fiction or a documentary movie will be shown.


“People from all walks of life are interested in astronomy because it truly excites the imagination. Sci-Fi is part of it, but the whole topic of space and astronomy seems universally appealing,” says Peter Brown, an associate professor in Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, Canada Research Chair in Meteor Science and Acting Director of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration.


“I think it has to do with the huge sizes involved with space and the long time periods inherent in the topic. Plus, anyone can experience much of the astronomical sciences with their unaided eye by just looking up – big telescopes help address more specialized questions, but the basic universe is there for all to see.”


“In astronomy, we can imagine the unimaginable,” says Peter Jedicke, Honorary President and past Royal Astronomical Society of Canada President and also a Western alumnus. “Astronomy relates the unbelievably large with the impossibly small, and the message is that it’s all important, it all fits together.”


For a complete listing of the day’s schedule and for news on other upcoming events, please visit www.iya2009.uwo.ca.