You are invited to wind the clock back 400 years and follow in the footsteps of a giant — to experience now just what first amazed Galileo in 1609! The latest Cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), Galilean Nights, will see thousands of public observing events around the world replicating Galileo’s observations and bringing what he saw 400 years ago to the public of today. From October 22 to 24, amateur and professional astronomers, science centers, schools and all interested groups are invited to be part of the Galilean Nights project.
The Galilean Nights builds on the unprecedented success of April's 100 Hours of Astronomy, another IYA2009 Cornerstone project. Over three nights amateur and professional astronomers, and enthusiasts, will share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the Universe by encouraging as many people as possible to look through a telescope at our neighboring planets. The focus for the Galilean Nights is on the observations made by the Italian astronomer Galileo 400 years ago, including those of Jupiter and the Moon, which will be well-positioned in the night sky for observing during the event. For many members of the public it will be their first look through a telescope, when they can see such breathtaking sights such as the cloud bands of the gas giant, Jupiter, and intricate details on our cratered Moon. It will be an unforgettable experience.
Anyone, from any background and with any level of experience is encouraged to organize events, from one person sharing the night sky through a telescope with a small group of neighbors and friends, to large astronomical groups holding major observing sessions in public areas.
IYA2009 Executive Committee Chair, Catherine Cesarsky says, "Amateur observations have always played an important role in astronomy, a fact highlighted by one of the most exciting events of this year when it was an amateur astronomer who noticed that Jupiter had suffered a massive impact by an asteroid or comet. So it is fitting that Galilean Nights continues this tradition as thousands of amateur astronomers and the public will turn their attention to Jupiter and other objects that Galileo observed 400 years ago."
Stunning images of distant objects in the Universe are well known around the world and do more to bring astronomy to the wider public and to inspire future astronomers than words ever could. The public have been set the challenge of capturing the inspirational nature of our local solar neighborhood in the worldwide Galilean Nights photography competition. Run in partnership with Europlanet, the Galilean Nights competition encourages anybody with an enthusiasm for astronomy to try a different approach to their observations and create their own inspirational photographs of our planetary neighbors. The contest is being officially launched today during Europlanet's European Planetary Science Congress, held this year in Potsdam, Germany.
Links include: Galilean Nights website and IYA2009 European Planetary Science Congress website.