A Galileoscope being used to view Saturn in Washington, D.C.Science centers around the world are encouraging people to look to the skies as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). Through a partnership with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), ASTC is promoting two cornerstone IYA2009 projects: Dark Skies Awareness and night-sky observing with a newly released high-quality, low-cost telescope named the Galileoscope.

Designed by a team of astronomers, optical engineers, and educators, the Galileoscope, is powerful enough to allow users to examine lunar craters and mountains, Saturn’s rings, and countless stars invisible to the unaided eye. The project’s goal is to put telescopes into the hands of as many people around the world as possible, allowing them to view the skies as Galileo did 400 years ago.

Dark Skies Awareness aims to educate the public about adverse impacts of excess artificial lighting on local environments and the ongoing loss of a dark night sky for much of the world’s population. One initiative of the project is GLOBE at Night, which invites citizen scientists to observe the constellation Orion between March 16–28, take measurements of stars using GLOBE’s magnitude charts, and report observations on the GLOBE at Night web site.

With NOAO support, ASTC has paired 22 science centers with partner institutions in other countries, all committed to public programming using the Galileoscope and Dark Skies Awareness materials. Each U.S. institution is providing its partner with a set of materials to use throughout IYA2009.

About the image: A Galileoscope being used to view Saturn in Washington, D.C.

Photo by S. Pompea (NOAO)

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