ESA presence at the International Year of Astronomy Opening Ceremony
1 December 2008A spectacular launch to the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) will take place on 15 and 16 January 2009 at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Headquarters in Paris. Events will include showcases of two major ESA contributions to IYA2009: the Planck Dome and the Groningen Discovery Truck featuring Herschel.
The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is a global effort, initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO, with the aim of helping people to rediscover their place in the Universe by reconnecting to the day- and night-sky. Thousands of individuals, from over 130 countries, are involved in organising events and activities for this special year, around the theme of "The Universe – Yours to Discover".
During the two-day opening ceremony, which will be web cast live, the breath and depth of astronomy will be featured: its role in society and culture will be discussed, highlights of modern day astronomy will be presented, real-time observations will be performed, and live video conferences are scheduled with some of the remotest observatories on Earth: the South Pole Station and the European Very Large Telescope at Paranal in Chile.
Many notable attendees are expected, including Nobel Prize winners, eminent scientists, government ministers and members of royal families.
Other special guests include 200 students, aged between 18 and 21 years, who have been selected, based on merit and motivation, by national organisations involved in IYA2009. These students will participate in the question and answer sessions and in the remote observing activities that form part of the dynamic programme.
Herschel & Planck – key European contributions to astronomy
In 2009 ESA will launch two major astronomical spacecraft, Herschel and Planck, providing a first-class scientific contribution to astronomy. The Opening Ceremony will showcase two projects that celebrate the launch of these significant missions.
The Planck Dome – Looking back to the dawn of time
Walk into the 10m Planck Dome and see the sky as it will be observed by Planck. A model of the spacecraft takes centre stage in the middle of the dome, demonstrating how this surveying satellite will scan the sky. In tandem, a high-tech simulation of the Cosmic Microwave Background is projected onto the dome. This project is an initiative of Francois Bouchet on behalf of HFI France, and was created with the support of CNES, CNRS, ESA and Thales Alenia Space. During 2009 the Planck Dome will travel to a number of venues around France.
The Groningen Discovery Truck – bringing the marvels of the infrared closer to home
The Groningen Discovery Truck is a mobile, interactive, discovery exposition bringing science to students and the general public in the Netherlands. Since mid-2008, the exhibit has included a section with the theme of "Discover the Invisible Universe" featuring the Herschel mission. This project was developed by a team of astronomers led by Peter Barthel and Gijs Verdoes Kleijn from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands, and was awarded the Academische Jaarprijs for 2008 – awarded annually in The Netherlands for excellence in science communication.
Spotlight on Cosmic Vision
Cosmic Vision, ESA's continuing science programme, will be the subject of a talk by David Southwood, (Director of Science and Robotic Exploration), on the final day of the ceremony. Within the Cosmic Vision plan a number of advanced missions are currently under study to address fundamental questions such as "How did we get from the Big Bang to here?" and "Are there other Earths elsewhere in the Universe?"
Further details of the Opening Ceremony can be found on the dedicated web site (see link on right hand menu).