How we celebrated IYL 2015

On October 19th, President Obama opened the White House lawn to host an event for thousands of stars. These stars were not celebrities, however, but those actual giant balls of gas and dust found throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

The event, dubbed the White House Astronomy Night, was intended to help promote the president’s commitment to advancing the United States’ position in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (commonly referred to as STEM). Dozens of satellite events were held around the country, each allowing members of the public to connect, for free, with the stars above and the universe beyond.

On the White House lawn, October 19, 2015. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

On the White House lawn, October 19, 2015. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

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Celebrating Cosmic Light around the world

Cosmic Light is a program launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) celebrating the International Year of Light 2015 (IYL 2015). Invited by the IYL 2015 Steering Committee to organise activities under the Cosmic Light theme for IYL2 015, the IAU recognised the importance of light for astronomy and provided full support to the idea that technology leading to greater energy efficiency is key to the preservation of dark skies.

In the beginning of 2015, following a public call that gathered many high quality educational and outreach proposals from around the world, the IAU identified several key projects — the Cosmic Light cornerstone projects — that within the framework of IYL 2015 are making the difference in people’s awareness of the problems caused by light pollution and the importance of understanding our Universe through cosmic light.

Logo for the Cosmic Light program - an International Astronomical Union project within the framework of International Year of Light 2015.

Logo for the Cosmic Light program – an International Astronomical Union project within the framework of International Year of Light 2015.

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SkyLight Opera – a global project linking arts and science through education

During 2015, students from schools in around 35 countries have collaborated to create and perform Global SkyLight Opera together, providing a platform for both creative science learning as well as cross-border friendship and cooperation. Global SkyLight Opera has been endorsed by the International Astronomical Union as an official project of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015.

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Astronomy for Development

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015) is a celebration of the role that light and light-based technologies have played in global development. Astronomy and the scientific study of light, represented by the International Astronomical Union (IAU)-supported Cosmic Light component, have of course made major contributions. It was the feeble light from thousands of far-away stars and galaxies that probably sparked some of our earliest curiosity in the natural world. Over the centuries, our pursuit of light literally served as a beacon, as curiosity drove scientific understanding and ushered in technological, social and economic progress. For a long time, Astronomy propelled technological innovations that improved our scientific capabilities and went hand in hand with development.

Today, Astronomy continues to engage and inspire every new generation. By virtue of its nature, Astronomy holds a privileged position. It can stoke curiosity, spur innovation, and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. But can it still drive broader societal development? Can Astronomy still make the world a better place?

Pheneas Nkundabakura country coordinator in Rwanda for Dark Skies Africa. Credit: Dark Skies Africa.

Pheneas Nkundabakura country coordinator in Rwanda for Dark Skies Africa. Credit: Dark Skies Africa.

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Light: Beyond the Bulb | Exhibiting Light Around the World

Light: Beyond the Bulb is an international open-access exhibition program for the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015). The goal of this project is to showcase a variety of light-based topics stretching across the electromagnetic spectrum as well as scientific disciplines.  Light: Beyond the Bulb (LBTB) is being organized and hosted by local volunteers and can be found in parks, airports, cafes, galleries and many other kinds of public spaces throughout 2015.

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A selection of photos from Light: Beyond the Bulb events in China, Canada, Spain, USA, and India. View the full list of exhibits at http://lightexhibit.org/iylexhibits.html. Credit: Light: Beyond the Bulb

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