400 years ago Galileo crafted a telescope and pointed it up at the sky. He might not have been the first person ever to do this, but he was the first to document his findings. By using visual evidence, he was able to shake up the truths of the world as it was known and understood in the early 17th century.
Now in 2009 it is time for us to celebrate his great work by turning our attention skyward and connecting ourselves with the sky - perhaps with a telescope, with binoculars, or just looking up with the unaided eye and taking it all in. Whether we uncover great new science or just learn the names of a few stars, The International Year of Astronomy (IYA) is already underway. Here is the purpose statement on the IYA website.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.
As an amateur astronomer, I am very excited about the potential of such an effort. To that end, I am adding a second new years resolution to my list, and that is to get out with my telescope and show off the sky to anyone who will care to stop by and look and talk. I have always found "sidewalk astronomers" to be good people, committed to raising awareness of the planets and moon and sun and ultimately, of science.
A highlight of the IYA will be "100 Hours of Astronomy" in April. From the IYA website: This is a 100-hour, round-the-clock, round-the-globe event that includes live webcasts from research observatories, public observing events and other activities around the world. I will certainly plan to do some public work such as sidewalk astronomy. I expect there will be local, national and international events as the date draws nearer. I'll post to the blog as I hear about interesting events.