Friday, June 5, 2009
Canadian IYA So Far, and Cool Cosmos
Last week I was at the Canadian Astronomical Society’s annual meeting at the
CASCA meetings are always lots of fun, and I enjoy catching up with people I haven’t seen in awhile. Over three days, there were talks by Canadian astronomers on all manner of things: solar system, extrasolar planets, stars, star formation, the interstellar medium, nearby galaxies, galaxy clusters, dark matter, pulsars, cosmology, instrumentation, and more. My favourite talk title was: “Non-Gaussian Spikes from Chaotic Billiards in Inflation Preheating” (I went to this talk, and I still don’t know what it was about). Lawrence Krauss gave the Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture on “Life, the Universe, and Nothing”, which was very well received. A talk that I really enjoyed was by René Doyon from the
(and also the Director of the Observatoire du
Megantic, whose funding has recently been cut by NSERC), who received the Peter G. Martin Award for Mid-Career Achievement. René gave a nice overview of his very impressive career designing and building astronomical instrumentation, and his involvement in the discovery of the first images of extrasolar planets using the Gemini telescopes.
More relevant to this blog was a talk given by Jim Hesser, the Canadian IYA chair. Jim gave a great talk about Canadian IYA activities to date, what’s coming up later this year, and how we can create IYA legacies beyond 2009.
We heard that there are 1,340 registered Canadian IYA events, more than 270,000 ‘Galileo Moments’, and lots of ‘media moments’. Some of the amazing Canadian IYA activities include the “Cool Cosmos” campaign that ran in Toronto and Montreal (more about that below), displays of astronomical images in Victoria’s Bay Centre, Tafelmusik’s “Galileo Project”, the “Galileo Live” planetarium show playingacross the country, the release of Canadian astronomy stamps, and 100 Hours of Astronomy. The RASC have done a fantastic job producing Star Finders (planispheres), Astro Cards, and the excellent books “Mary Lou’s New Telescope”, and “Become a Sidewalk Astronomer”. Just as important are all the starparties, astronomy talks, andother events being put on by many groups in all parts of
. I think by any measure that IYA has been a great success in
so far, and there’s a lot more to come (e.g. Galilean Nights, taking place this Oct 23-24). Thinking of the future, the Canadian IYA office has hired a part-time education and public outreach coordinator to carry on IYA activities beyond 2009; groups such as CASCA, RASC, and FAAQ, will also carry on the IYA legacy.
Since I was in Toronto I have to tell you about “Cool Cosmos”, a wonderful initiative of the
’s astronomy department (especially Ray Jayawardhana together with science journalist Ivan Semeniuk). I’ll let them describe it: “CoolCosmos is an unconventional initiative – an approach we call "in-your-face outreach" – to pique people's curiosity about the cosmos they live in, as we celebrate the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.” One great thing they did in January was to put 3000 ads on
subway cars, street cars, and buses. There are 5 designs (two of them shown below), which got people’s attention, and were linked to their website, where the science behind the ads was explained through articles and podcasts. The campaign generated a huge amount of publicity, and was a brilliant idea. There is now a French version of the campaign running in Montreal. If you would like to bring Cool Cosmos to your city, contact Ray Jayawardhana.
That’s all for now. Please continue to send us your IYA reports and pictures (don’t forget, you could win a telescope!), and let us know what you’ve been doing. I’ll feature as many of them as I can in my blog.
Until next time, Terry
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