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IYA 2009 January 15, 2010

Posted by orionrising in Uncategorized.
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Dear Readers,

As the International Year of Astronomy winds down,  it is time to reflect on the accomplishments of this historic international outreach project, and its implications for the future.

2009 was a great opportunity for astronomy, for amateurs, professionals and newcomers alike.

Newcomers found the hobby more accessible and more friendly, with the deployment of numerous outreach programs designed for people just starting amateur astronomy.  Programs such as the 100 hours of astronomy, development of the Portal to the Universe Website, and the Galileoscope meant that curious onlookers now were able to fully engage in the hobby.  Each cornerstone project was international in nature, so everybody with a mind to explore was welcome to do so. The Galileoscope, a fully capable 50-mm refractor telescope brought the hobby to people on a tight budget who could not afford the higher end telescopes and binoculars often regarded (incorrectly) as necessary for true exploration of the universe.  It also provided an easy, non commitment-heavy (wallet-wise) way for beginners to try out the hobby and see if it was for them.  Using quality materials and a durable design, the able Galileoscope was manufactured and delivered to many eager hands around the globe, and was a stunning success.  Selling for ~$30 USD for small orders and at discounted prices for orders above 102 units, the Galileoscope is still available for sale as of posting.

Amateurs found more avenues to popularize and expand their hobby, beyond solitary astronomy and the occasional star party.  The International Year of Astronomy brought amateurs from around the globe together, and through the incredible partnership of many enthusiastic volunteers each amateur, I think, learned something along the way.  The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast featured professional astronomers and amateurs knowledgeable in specific areas, who with their collective contribution created one pool of astronomy knowledge that would be unknown to most amateurs, making learning fun in bite-sized chunks.

With the popularity of this event, telescope makers around the world pushed out special telescopes, often at a reduced price, to attract potential customers.  Most were very high quality, such as the Sky-Watcher Heritage 130 P, a 5-inch dobsonian mounted reflector which at a price of $250.00 CAD is still a rock-bottom deal.  It was reviewed highly in SkyNews Magazine a few months ago.  Celestron also developed the SkyScout Personal Planetarium Special Edition, and the FirstScope, a small but able 60 mm dobsonian mounted reflector, with optional accessory kits.  All of these products increased the spectrum and availability of quality optical equipment, at a lower price than ever before.  With the currently weak economic confidence, this was a good thing.  (Especially for students on a pinched budget).

Few people look up at night these days, and even if they do, with the rampant light pollution that plague modern metropolises, they don’t see much.  The International Year of Astronomy raised the red flag to curb light pollution and several programs actively sought to reduce its effect on the hobby, a worthwhile effort.

Of course, amateur astronomy goes beyond just equipment and accessories, and outreach programs. Astronomy’s most important aspect is willingness to explore beyond the obvious and investigate the inconspicuous.   The awe of the night sky.  The adrenaline rush when you ‘discover’ a new object for yourself, seeing it for the first time, or an interesting juxtaposition of stars on the inky background. The International Year of Astronomy embodied this spirit, and the legacy that it leaves behind reminds everybody, myself included, of this vision.  Amateur astronomy is not a hobby anymore, in this sense.  It is a journey of discovery.

“The Universe, Yours To Discover”.

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