IYA2009 Press Release 0912
INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY PRESS RELEASE
Ref: RAS PN 09/12
25th March 2009
EMBARGOED UNTIL 0001 GMT, 27TH MARCH 2009
Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
RAS PN 09/12 (EMBARGOED): TENS OF THOUSANDS TO GET A FIRST GOOD LOOK AT THE MOON
Tens of thousands of people across Britain should get their first view of the Moon through a telescope during next week’s ‘Spring Moonwatch’, which runs from 28th March to 5th April. Together with the Autumn and Schools Moonwatch weeks (which will take place in October and November), it is a key event in the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) that celebrates the 400 years of astronomy since Galileo first used a telescope to look at the night sky.
Galileo and his contemporaries, like the English astronomer Thomas Harriot, used their early telescopes to study the Moon. Four centuries on, amateur and professional astronomers across the UK will help members of the public repeat those early observations but with modern telescopes.
Even a modest telescope or pair of binoculars gives a spectacular view of the Moon, our own natural satellite, and at an average distance of 384400 km (240000 miles), easily the closest world to the Earth. This basic equipment makes it easy to see the craters, mountain chains and lava-filled basins that dominate the lunar landscape.
Astronomers chose the period from late March to early April as it offers the best chance to see details on the lunar surface. During the week the Moon changes its phase, starting as a crescent and ending with more than half the visible side illuminated (when it is described as ‘gibbous’). Throughout this time, the Sun will cast long shadows from lunar features, making obvious the dramatic topography of our nearest astronomical neighbour.
During Spring Moonwatch astronomical societies, public observatories and planetariums in Britain will host more than 130 different events, making it one of the largest-ever mass participation events in British astronomy. At each event, weather permitting, a suite of telescopes will be pointed at the Moon, giving potentially tens of thousands of people their first chance to take a close look at another world.
Professor Andy Fabian, President of the Royal Astronomical Society sees Spring Moonwatch as a route to inspire the public to understand more about one of the oldest sciences. He commented, “Your first view of the Moon through a telescope is something you remember for the rest of your life. After a career spent studying exotic objects across the Universe, I still feel moved when I look at the extraordinary grandeur of the lunar surface.”
Guide to the 2009 Moonwatch weeks (from the Society for Popular Astronomy)
International Year of Astronomy (UK home page)
A high-resolution image of children looking through a telescope is available from
Caption: Two schoolchildren enjoying the view through a telescope. Image: International Year of Astronomy 2009 - UK
Dr Robert Massey
UK Co-ordinator, IYA 2009
c/o Glasgow Science Centre
50 Pacific Quay
Glasgow G51 1EA
Tel: +44 (0)141 420 5010 x.299
Mob: +44 (0)771 772 0749
NOTES FOR EDITORS
THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009) will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture. It is intended to stimulate worldwide interest not only in astronomy, but in science in general, with a particular slant towards young people. IYA 2009 will mark the 400th anniversary of the monumental leap forward that followed Galileo Galilei’s first use of the telescope for astronomical observations. In the UK the chair of IYA2009 is Professor Ian Robson, director of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, and the co-ordinator for IYA 2009 activities is Steve Owens, also a UKATC employee. UK IYA 2009 activities are jointly funded by the Royal Astronomical Society, the Institute of Physics and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
IYA 2009: UK home page
THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
RAS home page
THE INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS
The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of more than 36 000 and is a leading communicator of physics-related science to all audiences, from specialists through to government and the general public. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in scientific publishing and the electronic dissemination of physics.
IOP home page
THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FACILITIES COUNCIL
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange partnerships. The Council has a programme of public engagement to inspire students, teachers and the public with UK science.
STFC has a broad science portfolio including Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science, It gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA). It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory.
STFC is a partner in the UK space programme, coordinated by the British National Space Centre.
STFC home page