"International Year of Astronomy: 815 million participated"
September 7th, 2010
September 7th, 2010
At least 815 million people in 148 countries participated in the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the world’s largest science event in decades.
The 1300-page final report for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (or IYA2009 for short) was released today at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, according to a media release issued by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) on 7 September.
Star parties, public talks, exhibits, school programmes, books, citizen-scientist programmes, science-arts events, IYA2009 documentaries and parades honouring astronomy made IYA2009 the largest science event so far this century.
"We have to go back more than 40 years, to the Apollo Moon programme, to find another science event that has engaged the public as much as the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009)," says the report.
"At its peak in 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first steps on the Moon reached an audience of more than a billion. Forty years later, IYA2009 has brought space back to a mass audience once again."
The report details the achievements of the IYA2009 stakeholders -148 countries, 40 international organisations and 28 global projects, making 216 in total and shows the excitement, engagement and community involvement engendered by IYA2009.
Catherine Cesarsky, chair of the IYA2009 Working Group, and the IAU’s President for most of IYA2009, says: “As this report clearly shows, IYA2009 was an immense success. We can see that the variety and quality of projects around the world touched the lives of literally millions of people. It’s the first time that such a huge network has been put together to promote a single science communication project, so IYA2009 was also a learning process for everyone involved. This report, and the lessons we have drawn from IYA2009, will be a big help to anyone organising in a similar project in future.”
Robert Williams, the current IAU President, agrees: “Looking back at the activities and events and the popular reaction, we are able to truly gauge how often and how deeply IYA2009's motto, The Universe, Yours to Discover, was fulfilled during the Year.”
Funds equivalent to at least 18 million euros were devoted to IYA2009 activities — and this financial investment was complemented by enormous in-kind contributions from the amateur and professional astronomers, educators and organisers who helped to run the events.
Some examples of the activities during IYA2009:
* The IYA2009 Cornerstone project, From Earth to the Universe, a worldwide exhibition, brought the striking beauty and intriguing science of astronomy images to the public. It was staged in unexpected and accessible locations such as parks, metro stations, shopping malls, hospitals, libraries and even prisons: it was seen in about 1000 locations in about 70 countries and 40 languages throughout the world in 2009 and has been viewed by at least 10 million people. The exhibition continues in venues around the world.
* Two worldwide star parties were held in 2009: 100 Hours of Astronomy in April, and Galilean Nights in October. In total more than three million people were involved, with many members of the public seeing night-sky objects such as the planets and the Moon through a telescope for the very first time — a life-changing experience for many.
* The highest participation figures came from India, where over 700 million people were reached by IYA2009 events. Indian astronomers showcased their work at the Republic Day parade in Delhi. With 30 000 people watching in person and an estimated 700 million watching on television, this was by far the biggest single event in the IYA2009 programme.
* In Brazil, 2.2 million people were reache via than 16 600 events around the country, from national Olympiads of astronomy and astronautics to exhibitions and regional meetings on astronomy teaching. There was a big focus on education, with educational astronomy kits being produced, and 55 000 astronomy books and 20 000 Galileoscopes being distributed to state schools.
* In South Korea more than 500 activities reached some 11 million people. A partial solar eclipse on 22 July was the highlight of the year, with viewing events widely held across the nation in 45 locations with over 400 000 people reached, from kindergarten children to the President of the Republic of Korea.
* In the United Kingdom, the organisers used a budget of more than 1 million euros to reach over one million people: 300 000 at local star-parties, 300 000 at IYA2009 planetarium shows and the 400 000 people who attended "From Earth to the Universe".
* Several IYA2009-affiliated movies were released during IYA2009, and received critical acclaim. More than 450 000 DVDs of Eyes on the Skies, a film documenting the history of the telescope, were distributed worldwide in 33 languages. The film received a MEDEA 2009 Jury Award. Another IYA2009 film, 400 Years of the Telescope, has been seen by over ten million individuals.