Path to Mars #981: Astronomy Without Borders

SALT (South African Large Telescope)

SALT (South African Large Telescope, not Angelina Jolie)

Astronomy brings humanity closer together.  You could even say it makes the world a better place. In fact, that is exactly what the IAU (International Astronomical Union) has proclaimed as a tagline since meeting in 2009 (the international year of astronomy). That must have been one fruitful meeting, because the IAU released an awesome 10-year strategic plan for the hopeful future of international astronomy, targeted at the developing world.

I love so many things about this plan. Firstly, that it has such a funky cover.

The IAU Strategic Plan loves illustrators too

RGB space pods – what’s not to like? As a lighting designer, I know that Red + Green + Blue = white light, so I appreciate the fact that it cheekily ignores this and splits out from a black centre. Astronomy being one of the dark arts, after all.

Secondly, the fact that this 10-year plan is geared towards fueling interest and making astronomy accessible to developing nations thrills me to bits. As a broad sweep, it wins my vote a thousand-fold. Science that reflects the nature of our largest quest, at the heart of world development – isn’t that simply the epitome of human grace and compassion?

Thirdly, I love the way this plan is laid out. It covers the big three: Culture/Society, Technology/Skills, and Science/Research. There’s room for everyone in there, and artists can comfortably find a home under the Culture/Society umbrella. As a structured plan, it looks to develop astronomy in the areas of Education (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary), Research, and Science Public Outreach.

Which means if you don’t happen to find that you are a teacher or scientist you can still fit into the category of Culture/Society>Science Public Outreach. And guess what? They are looking for volunteers.

If you don’t have time this week, not to worry. It is, after all, a 10-year plan. After reading all about the plan, head over to the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development website and register as a volunteer. Still questioning why you should donate your time? Their volunteer page sums it up:

The greatest resource that will enable the OAD to achieve the vision of “Astronomy for a Better World” is the volunteers. Whether it comes in the form of professionals, amateurs, educators, students or members of the public, all assistance from anyone anywhere in the world will be appreciated.

Astronomy, and the world, needs you.

Blast Off!


About Renate Pohl

Theatre Designer, Space and Stained Glass Artist, Writer.
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