The International Astronomical Union (IAU) launched 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) under the theme, The Universe, Yours to Discover. I was selected by the Royal Astronomical Society to be the UK Student Representative for the Opening Ceremony, held in Paris at UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation). (University of Leicester Press Office – “Out and About”, 09 January 2008). The opening ceremony launched the year with definite style.
Representatives were present from over 100 countries, as well as other students like myself that were specially selected to attend. Nobel prize winners including Robert Wilson, as well as other top scientists of the world were present – such a prestigious honour to be selected to be alongside. There was even a live video conference with the European Very Large Telescope in Chile, to hear from researchers there at the cutting-edge of science.
As well as many great talks, we had a reception on the first evening at the Palais de la Découverte. A video clip was presented of “Around the World, Around the Sky” by Robert Pansard-Besson and a film of the Adler Planetarium presented by José-Fransisco Salgado with the music “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. The following evening provided a spectacular entertainment of the “Sun Rings” performance by the Kronos Quartet with the participation of the UNESCO choir, providing great imagery of the sky. The ultimate message from the ceremony and receptions, following from the theme is that “the sky belongs to everybody”. No matter where you are from, whatever your background, it is there to inspire. “Astronomy is one of the oldest fundamental sciences, yet continues to make a profound impact on our culture and is a powerful expression of the human intellect. This is the year in which we can all make a difference,” – a message from the IAU President, Catherine Cesarsky.
On the Saturday we were given the great opportunity to visit L’Observatoire de Paris, the Paris Observatory. The rest of the time we were given to explore Paris in its magnificence. Paris of course wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, for one, which we were very close to for the conference. We also visited the museum Le Louvre, Notre Dame, Les Invalides and L’Arc de Triomphe as well as much, much more.
Attending this spectacular event and particularly meeting others from around the world has truly given me an even greater passion to travel. Meeting people from so many different countries enabled us to share our cultures, experiences and idealisms which rarely one would experience, as well as our passion for astronomy. It was a great chance to see what other students are doing around the globe and how they make an impact to astronomy; to share our knowledge and our ambition, then to go home with new ideas for how we can get even more involved in the subject and make an impact in the subject in our home country. For me, it has fuelled me to further share my passion and enthusiasm with the general public and to promote the subject more widely. By working together we can make this International Year of Astronomy a success!
For more information about IYA2009 please visit: http://www.astronomy2009.org/
Videos of the event can be seen at: http/www.canalc2.tv/video.asp?idEvenement=451
Picture courtesy IYA2009 from http://ama09.obspm.fr/ama09/open.php