Modern Astronomy: 400 years and counting
The stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2009 heralded the traditional celebrations of New Year’s Eve. It also launched the first global celebration of modern astronomy. Known as the International Year of Astronomy, or IYA 2009, the event has inspired organizations and institutions around the world to host activities commemorating the first 400 years of modern astronomy—an era that began in 1609 when Galileo first turned his telescope to the stars.
Keck Observatory kicked off its own IYA celebration during its well-attended Open House on October 12, 2008. The Observatory is also very proud to host the 2009 Maunakea Lecture Series to commemorate IYA in a year long program that shares with listeners the world class research taking place on Mauna Kea. The directors of the Mauna Kea Observatories will give the monthly lectures at the Observatory’s headquarters in Waimea and at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo throughout 2009. The talks offer a chance for the speakers to engage the public in a discussion about the research taking place at their respective facilities, inspiring audience members to embrace the Year’s central theme—The Universe, Yours to Discover.
On Jan. 15, Chad Kalepa Baybayan, the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s Navigator in Residence, gave the inaugural 2009 Maunakea Lecture at Keck Observatory’s Hualalai Learning Theater. Baybayan’s talk, “Traditional Hawaiian Navigation and Sky Lore,” discussed how early Hawaiians used their powers of observation to understand the movement of the stars, as well as the conditions of the ocean and environment, to navigate the Pacific Ocean.
Worldwide more than 130 countries have planned events to let citizens appreciate astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Astronomical Union, which initiated IYA, hosted the Year’s kick-off party on Jan. 15 and Jan. 16 in Paris. Close to 800 government representatives, diplomats, scientists, astronomy undergraduates, astronauts, industrialists and artists mingled and listened to Nobel laureates’ thoughts on astronomy and on the humbling power that observing the heavens can have for all of humanity.
For information on upcoming Hawai’i Island, national and international IYA 2009 events, click the following links to see the Mauna Kea Observatories Outreach Committee’s list, the US IYA2009 Web site and the international IYA2009 Web site.