From International Astronomical Union (FR) and From National Astronomical Observatory of Japan [国立天文台] (JP): “New Agreement Signed for Astronomy Outreach”

From International Astronomical Union (FR)


From National Astronomical Observatory of Japan [国立天文台] (JP)

14 April 2021

Hidehiko Agata
Supervising Director of OAO IAU, NAOJ
Tel: +81 422 34 3929

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

The IAU is delighted to announce that it has signed a new agreement with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) for the continued operation and expansion of the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO) (FR). This new agreement not only renews the previous one, but also significantly increases the OAO’s funding and capacity.

Established in 2012, the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO) is dedicated to engaging the public in astronomy, which it achieves through its global network of IAU National Outreach Coordinators (NOCs) with representation in over 130 countries, and through its numerous initiatives to communicate astronomy to a wide audience.

The new agreement signed by the IAU and NAOJ not only ensures the continued operation of the OAO, but recognises its achievements and strengthens the commitment of both organisations to this fruitful collaboration, thereby enabling the OAO to grow its activities further.

Key changes brought in by this agreement include the introduction of a Director and Deputy Director of the OAO, additional staff for the OAO, and a Steering Committee to oversee the OAO’s activities. These changes bring the structure of the OAO into line with that of other IAU Offices, which has proven to be an effective framework for organising projects. The new agreement also includes a significant increase in the level of financial support, empowering OAO to bring astronomy to even more people.

Over almost a decade the OAO has led many international outreach and public engagement projects, including NameExoWorlds (2015), the first competition to establish official names of exoplanets and their stars with over half a million votes from 182 countries and territories, publishing the free peer-reviewed journal Communicating Astronomy with the Public, and co-organising the centennial celebrations of the IAU in 2019.

With the IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030 in place, which puts emphasis on access to astronomical information and communication of the science of astronomy, the OAO has focused its programme. The support provided to the outreach community has been strengthened with programmes such as the NOCs Funding Scheme (2020), dedicated funding for the OAO’s central network of national representatives, Telescopes for All (2020), which distributes telescopes to underserved communities around the world and connecting IAU-members with the public through online meetups with the Meet the IAU Astronomers! (2020) programme.

“I am thrilled that the IAU and NAOJ are reaffirming their support for the OAO through this agreement,” says Teresa Lago, General Secretary of the IAU. “This is an important collaboration based on shared values between our two organisations.”

The OAO is a joint project of the IAU and the National Astronomical Observatory (JP), under the auspices of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences [NINS] [自然科学研究機構] (JP), and is based in Tokyo at the NAOJ Mitaka campus. The IAU’s and NAOJ’s shared goals in the promotion of astronomy are advanced by the OAO’s activities. This strong collaboration between OAO and it’s host institution led, in 2018, to the first Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference in Japan, the largest and most diverse to date with 446 participants from 53 different countries and the IAU Symposium on Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2019. Through these initiatives the OAO has gained both national and institution-wide recognition, winning the 2018 International Conference Attraction/Hosting Contribution Awards from the International Conference Hosting Division of the Japan National Tourism Organization (for CAP2018). Lina Canas received the 2019 NAOJ Director General Prize on Management, on behalf of the IAU Symposium 358 Core Team, for their role in leading the IAU358 central organisation.

“We have always envisioned the OAO as bridge-builders, facilitating access to astronomical information across our diverse communities, with critical thinking, tolerance and cooperation at its heart,” says Saku Tsuneta, NAOJ Director General. “This newly strengthened agreement between the IAU and NAOJ, and the IAU Strategic Plan, will allow us to more effectively continue our ambitious pursuit of bringing astronomy to all” adds Hidehiko Agata, OAO Supervising Director.

Almost 10 years ago, the passion for astronomy outreach and vision of Norio Kaifu (1943–2019), IAU President from 2012 to 2015, led to the creation of the OAO. His memory and his legacy live on into the next decade, with this strengthened commitment to astronomy outreach aligned with the IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030, which the expansion of the OAO will help to fulfill.

The IAU looks forward to continuing a fruitful collaboration with NAOJ and to supporting the OAO’s future activities, which will bring the wonder of astronomy to an even wider audience.

See the full article here.


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The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) [国立天文台] (JP) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

Solar Flare Telescope

Nobeyama Millimeter Array Radioheliograph, located near Minamimaki, Nagano at an elevation of 1350m

Mizusawa VERA Observatory

Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

NAOJ Kyoto U 3.8m SEMEI Telescope

The International Astronomical Union[astronomique internationale](FR) exists to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy through international cooperation, assign official names and designations to celestial bodies, and liaise with organizations that include amateur astronomers. Founded in 1919 and based in Paris, the IAU is a member of the International Science Council.

The International Astronomical Union is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. Among other activities, it acts as the recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.

The IAU is a member of the International Science Council (ISC). Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institute of Astrophysics of Paris [Institut Astrophysique de Paris] (FR) in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

This organisation has many working groups. For example, the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies, and the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), which catalogues and standardizes proper names for stars. The IAU is also responsible for the system of astronomical telegrams which are produced and distributed on its behalf by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams at Harvard (US). The Minor Planet Center also operates under the IAU, and is a “clearinghouse” for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the Solar System.