1. December 2008 16:01

European Science Foundation announces plans for International Year of Astronomy 2009

The European Science Foundation (ESF) has announced a series of activities and initiatives that will significantly widen the support for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), a global initiative which aims to stimulate worldwide interest in astronomy and science. The ESF announcement came amid a recently signed agreement with the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to become an Organisational Associate for the initiative.  

During the IYA2009 ESF will help facilitate 1) the exhibitions of astronomical and space craft images, 2) participate in the Dark Skies Awareness programme which is to preserve and protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage of dark night skies as well as to support UNESCO’s goals of preserving historical astronomical sites for posterity, 3) contribute to the 'She is an Astronomer'  programme in which the ESF will conduct surveys on female astronomers, 4) promote the European Historical Astronomy sites,  which includes plans to recognise and promote achievements in science through the nomination of architectural properties, sites or landscape forms related to the observation of the sky through the history of mankind or connected with astronomy in some other way.

“There are many exciting possibilities when considering ESF involvement in IYA2009,“ said Professor Marja Makarow, the chief executive of the ESF, at the European Latsis Prize award on the 27 November in Stockholm, Sweden.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first astronomical observation through a telescope.  IYA2009 is set to become a global celebration of astronomy and aims to contribute to society and culture, with the emphasis on education, public engagement and the involvement of young people, with events at national, regional, and global levels throughout the whole of 2009. Its motto, “The Universe, yours to discover” encapsulates these aims.

“We are glad to count the ESF as a partner for this international initiative,” said IAU President Catherine Cesarsky. “Their participation will enhance IYA2009 activities in Europe, to the benefit of European science as a whole and of its image and attraction to the public.” IYA2009 has been launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an association of 80 member organisations devoted to scientific research in 30 European countries. Since its inception in 1974, it has coordinated a wide range of pan-European scientific initiatives, and its flexible organisational structure means ESF can respond quickly to new developments. The ESF's core purpose is to promote high quality science at a European level. The mission of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which counts more than 9500 individual members from 86 countries worldwide, is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation.

IAU and ESF have been brought together by a recently signed agreement. During IYA2009, the ESF will take on the role of Organisational Associate, joining an impressive list of institutions which includes the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This means that ESF and IYA2009 will be working closely together to run events and activities as well as design innovative initiatives.

Notes to editors:

ESF upcoming and current activities in Astronomy/Astrophysics

1)    Exploratory Workshops
a)    2008. Astrophysical tests of fundamental physics, Porto, Portugal
b)    2008. Extreme laboratory astrophysics, Paris, France

2)    Conferences and Schools
a)    ESF-EPSRC-STFC Summer Schools in Physics and Astronomy
i)    2008. High-pressure Physics, including Earth and Planetary Physics, Island of Skye, UK

b)    ESF-FWF Conferences in partnership with LFUI
i)    2009. The Origin of Galaxies: Lessons from the distant Universe. Obergurgl, Austria

c)    ESF-COST High-Level Conferences
i)    2009. Astronomy: Grids and Databases, Acquafredda di Maratea, Italy

3)    Research Networking Programmes
a)    From 2006 to 2011. ASTROSIM, Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology
b)    From 2008 to 2013. COMPSTAR, The New Physics of Compact Stars

4)    EUROCORES to be launched in 2009
a)    EuroGENESIS – Origin of the elements and nuclear history of the Universe


IYA2009 has been endorsed by UNESCO and the UN General Assembly. The vision of the International Year of Astronomy is to help citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, thereby engaging a personal sense of wonder and discovery. The aim of the Year is also to stimulate worldwide interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science. IYA2009 is supported by 129 National Nodes, 29 Organisational Nodes, 23 Organisational Associates  11 Global Cornerstone projects, 7 Special Projects and 7 Task Groups.

The ESF already features a strong astronomy research networking programme, called Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology (ASTROSIM). This seeks to bring together European computational astrophysicists working on a broad range of topics from the stability of the Solar System to the formation of stars and galaxies. The aim of the ASTROSIM is to strengthen the existing European activities in computational astrophysics, avoiding fragmentation as this field grows in strength and to exchange expertise through an active programme of conferences, workshops, training schools and exchange visits. The scientific objectives are to refine our computational techniques and multi-scale modelling in order to develop and test theories of structure formation in readiness for the grand challenge European projects planned by ESO and ESA over the coming decades.

For more information on IYA2009:


Dark Skies Awareness:


European Network for Computational Astrophysics:

Media contact:

Mr. Thomas LauE-Mail

Science contact:

Dr. Thibaut LeryE-Mail