2009 marks the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009). Under the theme "The Universe, Yours to Discover," stargazers everywhere are invited to raise their eyes to the stars and rediscover the beauty of the sky just like the first astronomers did.
Initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the UNESCO, IYA 2009 celebrations highlight astronomy's contribution to society and culture. Professional and amateur astronomers come together worldwide to offer original activities designed especially for the IYA 2009. In over 140 countries, people will rediscover the night sky through these events organized at the local, regional and national level. The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA), the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ) (available in french only) coordinate the Canadian node. Together with the National Research Council Canada (NRC), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) participates by developing Canadian content and organizing activities.
2009 is a special date for modern astronomy, as it is the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first use of a telescope for astronomical observations. Early telescopes were used by sailors, and became increasingly popular for stargazing. Far from being as powerful as the great observatories astronomers now use, Galileo's first handmade telescope could magnify an object up to three times. Galileo's rudimentary telescope lead to a number of significant scientific discoveries such as his discovery of Jupiter's four largest moons. Galileo's observations also lent support to the theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
Follow Galileo's footsteps and live your very own "Galileo Moment" by taking part in an IYA 2009 event! Activities include lectures, exhibits, planetarium shows and star parties that will bring the Universe down to Earth. Then, register your Galileo Moment on the IYA 2009 Canada website and join millions of other participants. This simple gesture will also automatically add your name to the list that will launch to space on board NEOSSat, an asteroid-hunting satellite.