With the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO's International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) almost here, the Albert Dock in Liverpool, UK recently hosted the first event displaying breathtaking images from an IYA2009 Cornerstone Project, "From the Earth to the Universe". This majestic photographic display, shown from 7-29 June 2008, took viewers on a colourful visual journey through the wonders of the Universe and allowed them to travel more than 13 billion light-years into the vast expanse of space. The 50 images were created by some of the world's best astrophotographers - professionals as well as hobbyists - and the display was generated by a collaborative task group including members from the European Southern Observatory and NASA's Chandra X-ray Center.
As stunning as the Liverpool display was, it was a mere prototype of the exhibit that will be shown in non-traditional public venues such as parks and gardens, shopping malls, metro stations and airports in major cities across the world next year. The goal is to engage individuals who might normally ignore or even dislike astronomy, or science in general, as part of the IYA2009.
The exhibition was sponsored by the world's leading specialist picture agency Science Photo Library and co-sponsored by Astronet.
Exhibition manager for the Liverpool IYA2009 From the Earth to the Universe exhibition Gary Evans from Science Photo Library says: "This exhibition is probably the first real IYA2009 event and we are very proud to be hosting it in the UK. We simply could not wait for 2009..."
The IAU has many more plans in store for 2009. The Union aims to celebrate astronomy's contributions to society and culture and to stimulate worldwide interest in astronomy through the creation of interactive networks. The vision is 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. Events and activities held throughout the year will further promote a greater appreciation of the inspirational aspects of astronomy that embody an invaluable shared resource for all nations.
Read the full IAU press release
-Kim Arcand & Megan Watke, CXC