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Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy International Year of Astronomy

The International Year of Astronomy is here. IYA2009, whose official opening ceremony will take place in Paris on January 15 and 16, was launched by the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization yesterday to mark the 400th anniversary of the first time Galileo turned his telescope toward the sky.
To join in the celebration, more than 25 scientists from around the world, including Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit brother and a scholar at the Vatican Observatory in Arizona, will contribute explanations, stories, and images to the Cosmic Diary, a blog about astronomy and what it's like to be an astronomer. Another effort, 365 Days of Astronomy, will produce one podcast per day over the year.
"Among my predecessors of venerable memory there were some who studied this science, such as Sylvester II who taught it, Gregory XIII to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X who knew how to build sundials," Pope Benedict XVI said during a late December speech in which he welcomed the year of astronomy and all those participating in it. "If the heavens, according to the Psalmist's beautiful words, "are telling the glory of God" (Psalms 19[18]: 1), the laws of nature which over the course of centuries many men and women of science have enabled us to understand better are a great incentive to contemplate the works of the Lord with gratitude." —Heather Wax