UCLan professor to lead year-long global celebration of astronomy in UK

21 December 2018

Astronomical breakthroughs, shaping science, technology and culture to be highlighted.

A leading academic from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is to play a key UK role in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2019.

UCLan’s Robert Walsh, Professor of Solar Astrophysics at the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute, has been named as the UK IAU National Outreach Coordinator and will lead the UK arm of the world celebration to highlight the astronomical breakthroughs that have shaped science, technology and culture throughout the last century. The year-long event also aims to highlight the importance of astronomy as a tool for education, development and diplomacy.

With 100 established IAU100 National Committees and more than 700 activities already registered in 72 different countries, the IAU is preparing for a year full of excitement.

In the UK, as well as supporting the IAU100 events, there will also be an extensive programme of activities to recognise the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings as well as giving young people the opportunity to name an exo-planet! Along with UCLan, these events are currently being supported by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Society for Popular Astronomy. More information on specific UK activities will be released throughout 2019.

Commenting on the year-long celebration Professor Walsh said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for people in the UK to not just learn about, but to be fully engaged in, astronomy in new and inspiring ways. I am thrilled that the UK has the chance to be part of the IAU 100 worldwide programme across 2019 and I am particularly looking forward to working with young people to come up with the official name for an exo-world orbiting another star; how exciting is that!”

Dr Sheila Kanani, Education Outreach and Diversity officer at the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) added: ”The RAS education and outreach team are delighted to be supporting the IAU100 events and activities in 2019. IAU100 is a fantastic precursor to our own bicentennial in 2020 and it is superb to see astronomy celebrated internationally.”

"This is a wonderful opportunity for people in the UK to not just learn about, but to be fully engaged in, astronomy in new and inspiring ways."

The celebrations start with the truly global star-party

100 Hours of Astronomy, which is taking place from 10th to 13th January 2019. Spread over four days and three nights, amateur and professional astronomers, astronomy enthusiasts and the public are all invited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for astronomy. Currently, there are more than 250 events registered in 50 different countries. Communities around the globe can participate in this joint effort to bring astronomy to the general public.

The global astronomy community comes together to celebrate the foundation of the IAU with a flagship event: the International Astronomical Union 1919-2019: 100 Years Under One Sky meeting that will be held on 11th–12th April 2019 at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels, Belgium. A ceremony on 11th April will gather together hundreds of participants, among them eminent scientists, high-level officials, members of industry, decision-makers and prominent young researchers. It will include the participation of the Nobel Prize Laureate Brian Schmidt, the astronauts Chiaki Mukai (JAXA) and John Grunsfeld (NASA), Director General of the European Commission’s DG Research & Innovation Jean-Eric Paquet and literary and cultural critic Maria Popova.

The IAU centennial celebrations in 2019 will stimulate worldwide interest in astronomy and science and will reach out to the global astronomical community, from professional and amateur astronomers and policy-makers to teachers and students, families and the public. Plan ahead for an exciting year and find out how you can get involved and make the most of this global celebration of astronomy.

Professor Robert Walsh with children at a workshop
Professor Robert Walsh with children at a workshop