22.09.2009 -

Gazing at the stars - UNESCO International Year of Astronomy

UNESCOVENICE Media Advisory (Venice) 22/9/2009 : Under the Organization’s patronage, the international symposium “Astronomy and its Instruments. Before and After Galileo” will be convened from 28 September to 3 October 2009 at the island of San Servolo, Venice, Italy. This symposium is jointly organized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Astronomical Observatory of Padua, Italy (INAF). Sessions of the symposium will also highlight Galileo’s life long passion and contributions using mathematical and mechanical instruments such as the telescope. Within the symposium, a round table “Astronomy and UNESCO’s World Heritage Initiative” will be convened on 28 September 2009. This initiative outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by UNESCO and IAU on 30 October 2008 is aimed at recognizing, promoting and preserving astronomical sites of “outstanding Universal Value”. Significant landmarks from around the world, symbolically and historically related to astronomy, will be identified and criteria for submitting them for inscription to UNESCO’s World Heritage List will be elaborated. The initiative is also focused on finding ways of protecting and preserving this immense cultural and natural heritage from further neglect and deterioration. 

Discover, rediscover and learn more about our stars, our sky, our planets. The UN International Year of Astronomy (IYA) is a celebration of astronomy. It is also the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s fist observations using a spyglass, today known as the telescope. The pleasure of star gazing is a common right of all to enjoy. The sky is a shared natural resource. The sky is also part of our collective cultural heritage. Astronomy inspires reflection on how we relate to the universe and can be considered as a shared universal science. 

As the lead UN Agency, UNESCO is actively involved in promoting the “rediscovery” of the vast and marvellous frontier above our heads. It is paying special attention to promoting wide spread public appreciation and awareness of astronomy, our universe and science education. In the Director-General’s address during the opening ceremony of the IYA held on 15 January 2009, he underlines that, “The skies belong to all of us, and everyone has the right to enjoy the wonders that they contain and to seek to penetrate their greatest mysteries. Astronomy is an instrument of peace and understanding between peoples and is entitled to place in the heart of UNESCO’s mandate.” 

Following the symposium, the UNESCO Venice Office (Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe-BRESCE) will host at its premises of Palazzo Zorzi, the exhibit entitled “Galileo, Venice & the Moon”. When Galileo began observing the sky with his spyglass (today’s telescope), a new Astronomy – the telescopic astronomy - was born. His first observations of the Moon, lead to a significant scientific revolution. Thanks to Galileo, telescopes improved, lunar cartography developed, and the theory of lunar motion was perfected. All this lead to the ultimate conquest by humanity… We walked on the Moon. This exhibition open daily from 19 October – 16 November 2009, 10 am -5 pm, is organised by INAF with the collaboration of the Vatican Museums, the National Maritime Museum–London, the State Archive of Venice, the University Library of Padua, Italy, the San Servolo Service, Italy, the Asiago Municipality and UNESCO-BRESCE. 

The UNESCO Venice Office is also supporting other astronomy activities in the South East European (SEE) Region such as: 
Astronomy Camp on the Megalithic Observatory Site of Kokino 
Astrophysics & Astrodynamics in Balkan Countries 
South Eastern European Practical School on Spectroscopy for Young Researchers 
International workshop "Recent Insights into our Universe" 

For more information concerning all the IYA events, please visit the related webpage 

Contacts : 

UNESCO Office in Venice 
Ms Iulia Nechifor Email: i.nechifor(at)unesco.org 
Ms Rosanna Santesso Email: r.santesso(at)unesco.org 
website : www.unesco.org/venice 

INAF - Astronomical Observatory of Padua 
Prof. Luisa Pigatto Email: venice2009(at)oapd.inaf.it 

Photo credit: The Moon. 1999, Wide Field Imager (WFI) La Silla European Southern Observatory ©ESO 
Author(s): UNESCO Venice Media Advisory N° 2009 - 11 

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