And so begins the International Year of Astronomy! This year-long celebration commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first recorded astronomical observations with a telescope by Galileo Galilei and the publication of Johannes Kepler's Astronomia nova in the 17th century.
As stated on the ITA2009 website, 135 nations have committed themselves to supporting thios global project in any way they can, fully embracing the ethos of "bringing the Universe down to Earth." The overall aim is to stimulate worldwide interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science under the theme: “The Universe, Yours to Discover”. IYA2009 events and activities will take place locally, regionally and nationally… with “nodes” fostering collaborations among amateur astronomers, science centers and organizational associates such as NASA, ESF, SciTech and JAXA.
Their main website is a fantastic resource for events and gatherings, and we also just became the newest member of their Myspace group, where varied space enthusiasts and event coordinators put bulletins and updates.
Highlights for NASA in the US this year include the 5th anniversary of the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers landing on Mars, seven [planned] space shuttle launches, a test flight of Ares I of the Constellation program and last, but certainly not least, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July! That's right Stargazers, it's been almost 40 years since the Eagle landed. Wow.