Beyond the International Year of Astronomy

Introduction:

IYA2009 wrap-up activities are essentially complete both in Canada and internationally. The new national BIYA coordination team is:

  • CASCA: Dennis Crabtree (EPO Committee Chair), James Di Francesco (CASCA Board liaison to EPO)
  • FAAQ: Rémi Lacasse (Past President), Damien Lemay (President)
  • RASC: Ron Macnaughton (Education Committee Chair), Mary Lou Whitehorne (President)
  • Ex officio: Julie Bolduc-Duval, John Percy (NSERC grant); Jim Hesser (continuing as SPoC through 2010 until the IAU clarifies the future of that position) [Julie is presently on maternity leave following the birth of her second son.]

The focus on BIYA activities over the summer has been on outreach in parks and on light pollution abatement, both of which reflect momentum established during IYA, as does planning for the fall International Observe the Moon Night (18 Sept.), International Astronomy Day Part 2 (16 Oct.) and National S&T week (15-24 Oct.). Under the leadership of John Percy we are leveraging the three-year NSERC Promo Science grant awarded to the partnership in 2009 to enable astronomy education and public outreach (EPO) focused on youth in underserved communities (inner cities, rural and First Nations).

Each of us can contribute to BIYA’s impact on science literacy in Canada over and above our ‘day job’. Your efforts, large or small, contribute to the future health of astronomy. Please continue to share your passion for astronomy within your communities and networks. Send your inspired suggestions to members of the committee, and let me know about activities you are conducting (with estimates of the numbers of people reached by them). The latter brief reports serve both as examples to inspire others and as evidence to support fund raising efforts.

As the vision for BIYA develops, volunteers will remain the foundation in Canada, as they did during IYA. Many thanks to everyone who has sent notes about their BIYA activities; I’d welcome more! A selection of interesting activities follows.

IYA Final Report:

On 7 Sept. the IAU’s IYA Secretariat released a 1300-page final; see: http://www.astronomy2009.org/resources/documents/detail/iya2009_final_report/

The report shows that at least 815 million people in 148 countries participated in the world’s largest science event in decades. How often Canadian activities and contributions are mentioned in the IAU report reflects the work of hundreds of volunteers in Canada: ‘thank you!’ once again.

Should you have missed it during the summer, the Canadian IYA Final Report has been available since June on www.astronomy2009.ca or www.astronomie2009.ca . On that site you will also find a series of appendices (predominantly in English) that capture some specifics of Canadian efforts that conceivably could be of interest to persons planning similar national education and public outreach (EPO) activities. (We already have been approached by one Canadian organization for advice regarding the international year in which they are involved.)

NSERC PromoScience Grant Activities:

As you can see from John Percy’s (principal investigator of the grant) report, things are happening! If you are inspired to contribute, please contact John about possible (modest) financial support. John writes:

“As part of our BIYA initiative, supported by NSERC PromoScience, to use astronomy to interest and inspire youth from underserved communities, we have supported professional and amateur astronomers who have given presentations in parks from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. In the Greater Toronto Area, partnerships have been established with the Toronto Region and Credit Valley Conservation Authorities, and the Riverwood Conservancy (Mississauga). Through a message distributed by the Ontario Library Association, we have made contact with over a dozen libraries, or library systems in rural areas, and astronomy events are being planned in these for the 2010-2011 season.

 

 
“In Toronto, a major Multicultural Astronomy Festival is planned for Saturday October 16, at the Ontario Science Centre. Invited speakers include Julieta Fierro (Mexico), one of the world's foremost astronomy communicators, and Wilfred Buck (Manitoba), a noted First-Nations educator. The Festival will include a wide assortment of engaging activities, including storytelling, hands-on activities, a planetarium program, student presentations, and ask-an-astronomer sessions. The Festival is the start of several months of school and public activities, whose goal is to connect with diverse cultures through their astronomy, and to inspire their youth to develop an interest in science, and science careers.”

First Nations Activities:

I’m aware of a number of presentations that have been made in the past three months that featured the trilingual animated version of the Mi’kmaq story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters, including ones in BC (Andy Woodsworth) and Nova Scotia (Murdena Marshall, Cheryl Bartlett). Muin, a culturally significant story about circumpolar motions, may be downloaded from the Canadian IYA2009 website, our archive, www.iya.astrosci.ca , or from Cape Breton University, http://msit.capebretonu.ca/ .

The Calgary partnership (TELUS World of Science, RASC and Rothney Astrophysical Observatory) is continuing their cooperative presentations begun last with the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Part for night sky viewing and Siksika Nation astronomical story telling.

On 10 September the National Association of Friendship Centres issued a press release announcing the website for Stories of the Night Sky. The press release is at: http://www.nafc.ca/home.htm , while the project website is at http://www.storiesofthenightsky.ca/ . As they wrote, the site represents “…the completion of an innovative multi-media preservation project that has brought Aboriginal youth and elders from across Canada together to share their ‘Stories of the Night Sky.’ [The site]…

is home to a variety of Aboriginal stories from across the nation. Using the latest technology, these stories provide insight into the rich and diverse Aboriginal cultures of Turtle Island [North America]… Among the many stories is the tale of the “Man in the Moon” gathered at Membertou First Nation Elementary School on Un’imaki (Cape Breton) in Nova Scotia, and another story where young people from Sageenk First Nation in Manitoba participated in acting out the story to the voice over of an Elder. There are also a variety of videos on the www.storiesofthenightsky.ca that relate to the science, the storyteller, the science journalist, the artist and the inspiration for this website and its content. The ‘Stories of the Night Sky’ project was a resounding success and was made possible by funding from Government of Canada —Heritage Canada, and joint partnership with the National Association of Friendship Centres and Maritime Television and Production Services.” Nova Scotia independent television producer Yvonne Mosley and her First Nations collaborators (Elders and youth) are to be congratulated for their creation of another IYA legacy.

 

Light Pollution Abatement:

In the years leading up to, as well as during, the IYA the FAAQ and RASC put major efforts into laying the ground for increasing the number of dark sky parks in Canada and on public education about the costly negative effects of current lighting practices. These efforts are continuing in many areas of the country; for instance, here in Victoria the RASC has taken on LPA as their initial BIYA focus. An excellent example of a possible outcome: On 1 July 2010 years of effort by the Halifax Centre led to the RASC officially designating Kejimkujik National Park and National Historical Site of Canada in southwest Nova Scotia as a new RASC Dark Sky Preserve through its National Certification Program. Kejimkujik is the 12th Dark Sky Preserve in Canada, and the first in Nova Scotia, to be designated by the RASC. Kejimkujik National Historic Site was home to the Mi’kmaq people for 2000 years and a novel element of the Kejimkujik DSP is the inclusion of aboriginal sky lore in the programming, connecting the cultural heritage with the star patterns visible from the site.

Upcoming Opportunities:

  • International Observe the Moon Night (18 September): With leadership from several NASA centres , Astronomers Without Borders, and other organizations IOMN is being held as an international event for the first time. Register your event at: http://observethemoonnight.org/
  • National Science and Technology Week (15-24 October): http://www.science.gc.ca/National_Science_and_Technology_Week-WS017D0A39-1_En.htm As you see from the image below captured on 15 September, not many events have been registered yet. NSTW hosting institutions grew enormously last year as a result of IYA2009: let’s maintain the momentum by keeping astronomy as a central theme of NSTW 2010. Please host an event – open house, observing session, public lecture or demonstration, partnership with a local arts organization – and register it on the national website. (And let me know how your event goes.)

  • International Astronomy Day (Part 2: 16 October): Falling on day 2 of NSTW, it’s another opportunity for an astronomy party in our communities. Take a look at the NSERC report above to become inspired by all the cool things astronomy
Once again, thank you to everyone who is contributing to BIYA activities in Canada. Keep up the great work: your efforts are deeply appreciated. New volunteers with good ideas or a bit of energy are welcome: it’s a big tent!
Jim Hesser - Canadian Single Point of Contact International Year of Astronomy 2009

On behalf of:
Julie Bolduc-Duval,
Dennis Crabtree,
James di Francesco,
Rémi Lacasse,
Damien Lemay,
Ron Macnaughton,
John Percy,
Mary Lou Whitehorne