International Astronomical Union

International Astronomical Union

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The International Astronomical Union IAU (Union astronomique internationale (UAI), in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

) is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D.
Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy
Astronomy
Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

. It acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (star
Star
A star is a massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity. At the end of its lifetime, a star can also contain a proportion of degenerate matter. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth...

s, planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

s, asteroid
Asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

s, etc.) and any surface features on them, and is a member of the International Council for Science
International Council for Science
The International Council for Science , formerly the International Council of Scientific Unions, was founded in 1931 as an international non-governmental organization devoted to international co-operation in the advancement of science...

 (ICSU). The main aim of the IAU 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 Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.

Working groups include the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), which maintains the astronomical naming conventions
Astronomical naming conventions
In ancient times, only the Sun and Moon, a few hundred stars and the most easily visible planets had names. Over the last few hundred years, the number of identified astronomical objects has risen from hundreds to over a billion, and more are discovered every year...

 and planetary nomenclature
Planetary nomenclature
Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is a system of uniquely identifying features on the surface of a planet or natural satellite so that the features can be easily located, described, and discussed. The task of assigning official names to features is taken up by the International...

 for planetary bodies. 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
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
The Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams is the official international clearing house for information relating to transient astronomical events....

. The Minor Planet Center
Minor Planet Center
The Minor Planet Center operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory , which is part of the Center for Astrophysics along with the Harvard College Observatory ....

 (MPC), a clearinghouse for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

, also operates under the IAU.

History


The IAU was founded in 1919, as a merger of various international projects including the Carte du Ciel
Carte du Ciel
The Carte du Ciel and the Astrographic Catalogue were two distinct but connected components of a massive international astronomical project, initiated in the late 19th century, to catalogue and map the positions of millions of stars as faint as 11th or 12th magnitude...

, the Solar Union and the International Time Bureau
International Time Bureau
The Bureau International de l'Heure or the International Time Bureau, seated at the Paris Observatory, was the international bureau responsible for combining different measurements of Universal Time. The bureau also played an important role in the research of time keeping...

 (Bureau International de l'Heure). The first appointed President was Benjamin Baillaud
Benjamin Baillaud
Édouard Benjamin Baillaud was a French astronomer.-Biography:Born in Chalon-sur-Saône, Baillaud studied at the École Normale Supérieure and the University of Paris. He worked as an assistant at the Paris Observatory beginning in 1872...

. Pieter Johannes van Rhijn
Pieter Johannes van Rhijn
Pieter Johannes van Rhijn was a Dutch astronomer. Born in Gouda, he studied at Groningen. He served as director at the Sterrenkundig Laboratorium in Groningen and later served for many years as president of the International Astronomical Union .He died in Groningen...

 served as president from 1932 to 1958. In the IAU Information Bulletin No. 100, twelve of the fourteen past General Secretaries since 1964, each one in office for the three years between General Assemblies, recall the IAU history with its difficulties, e.g. with Soviet bloc officials, with the Greek military junta, and the reasons behind the unpopular decision to hold an additional Extraordinary General Assembly in Poland on the occasion of Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe....

' 500th birthday in February 1973, shortly after the regular GA in Australia.

Composition


The IAU has 10,145 individual members, all of whom are professional astronomers and most of whom hold PhD
PHD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

s. There are also 64 national members who represent countries affiliated with the IAU. 87% of individual members are male, while 13% are female, among them the union's former president, astronomer Catherine J. Cesarsky.

The sovereign body of the IAU is its General Assembly, which comprises all members. The Assembly determines IAU policy, approves the Statutes and By-Laws of the Union (and amendments proposed thereto) and elects various committees.

The right to vote on matters brought before the Assembly varies according to the type of business under discussion. The Statutes consider such business to be divided into two categories:
  • issues of a "primarily scientific nature" (as determined by the Executive Committee), upon which voting is restricted to individual members, and
  • all other matters (such as Statute revision and procedural questions), upon which voting is restricted to the representatives of national members.


On budget matters (which fall into the second category), votes are weighted according to the relative subscription levels of the national members. A second category vote requires a turnout of at least two thirds of national members in order to be valid. An absolute majority is sufficient for approval in any vote, except for Statute revision which requires a two-thirds majority
Supermajority
A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority . In some jurisdictions, for example, parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of the minority has a supermajority...

. An equality of votes is resolved by the vote of the President of the Union.

General Assemblies


Since 1922, the IAU General Assembly meets every three years, with the exception of the period between 1938 to 1948, due to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

After a Polish request in 1967, and by a controversial decision of the then President of the IAU, an Extraordinary IAU General Assembly was held in February 1973 in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Poland, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe....

, soon after the regular 1973 GA had been held in Australia.
Meeting Year Venue
Ist IAU General Assembly (1st) 1922 Rome, Italy
IInd IAU General Assembly (2nd) 1925 Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, England, United Kingdom
IIIrd IAU General Assembly (3rd) 1928 Leiden, Netherlands
IVth IAU General Assembly (4th) 1932 Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, United States
Vth IAU General Assembly (5th) 1935 Paris, France
VIth IAU General Assembly (6th) 1938 Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

, Sweden
VIIth IAU General Assembly (7th) 1948 Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, Switzerland
VIIIth IAU General Assembly (8th) 1952 Rome, Italy
IXth IAU General Assembly (9th) 1955 Dublin, Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

Xth IAU General Assembly (10th) 1958 Moscow, Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

XIth IAU General Assembly (11th) 1961 Berkeley
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, United States
XIIth IAU General Assembly (12th) 1964 Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, West Germany
XIIIth IAU General Assembly (13th) 1967 Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

XIVth IAU General Assembly (14th) 1970 Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

, England, United Kingdom
XVth IAU General Assembly (15th) 1973 Sydney, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
XVIth IAU General Assembly (16th) 1976 Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

, France
XVIIth IAU General Assembly (17th) 1979 Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, Canada
XVIIIth IAU General Assembly (18th) 1982 Patras
Patras
Patras , ) is Greece's third largest urban area and the regional capital of West Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers west of Athens...

, Greece
XIXth IAU General Assembly (19th) 1985 New Delhi, India
XXth IAU General Assembly (20th) 1988 Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

, Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, United States
XXIst IAU General Assembly (21st) 1991 Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

, Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

XXIInd IAU General Assembly (22nd) 1994 The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

, Netherlands
XXIIIrd IAU General Assembly (23rd) 1997 Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

, Kansai, Japan
XXIVth IAU General Assembly (24th) 2000 Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

, England, United Kingdom
XXVth IAU General Assembly (25th) 2003 Sydney, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
XXVIth IAU General Assembly (26th) 2006 Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Czech Republic
XXVIIth IAU General Assembly (27th) 2009 Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

XXVIIIth IAU General Assembly (28th) 2012 Beijing, China
XXIXth IAU General Assembly (29th) 2015 Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

The XXVIth General Assembly and the definition of a planet


The XXVIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union was held from 14 August to 25 August 2006 in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, Czech Republic. On 15 August the Assembly decided to restore to individual members the right to vote on scientific matters, which had been removed from them at the XXVth Assembly in 2003. Among the business before the Assembly was a proposal to adopt a formal definition of planet. During the General Assembly the text of the definition evolved from the initial proposal that would have created 12 known planets in the solar system
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

 (adding initially the asteroid, for a short time around 1801 a planet, Ceres, Pluto
Pluto
Pluto, formal designation 134340 Pluto, is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun...

's present moon Charon
Charon (moon)
Charon is the largest satellite of the dwarf planet Pluto. It was discovered in 1978 at the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station. Following the 2005 discovery of two other natural satellites of Pluto , Charon may also be referred to as Pluto I...

, Eris
Eris (dwarf planet)
Eris, formal designation 136199 Eris, is the most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth most massive body known to orbit the Sun directly...

 and would retain Pluto as a planet) to the final definition of a planet resolution that was passed on 24 August by the Assembly, which classified Ceres, Eris
Eris (dwarf planet)
Eris, formal designation 136199 Eris, is the most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth most massive body known to orbit the Sun directly...

 and Pluto as dwarf planet
Dwarf planet
A dwarf planet, as defined by the International Astronomical Union , is a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is massive enough to be spherical as a result of its own gravity but has not cleared its neighboring region of planetesimals and is not a satellite...

s, and reduced the number of planets in the solar system to 8. The voting procedure followed IAU's Statutes and Working Rules. The General Assembly lasted 12 days and had 2412 participants, most of them for only part of the duration of the Assembly. 424 of the 9785 individual IAU members attended the Closing Ceremony on 24 August 2006. Following the Closing Ceremony, parts of the scientific community did not agree with this ruling, especially the specific wording of the resolution, and criticized IAU's authority to name celestial bodies. In the ensuing public debate, a number of laypersons expressed (at times strong) disagreement with the vote. Another, less vocal, fraction of the scientific community backs the resolution, including the discoverer of the dwarf planet Eris
Eris (dwarf planet)
Eris, formal designation 136199 Eris, is the most massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the ninth most massive body known to orbit the Sun directly...

, Mike Brown
Michael E. Brown
Michael E. Brown has been a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology since 2003....

.

A final decision was made, announced 11 June 2008, for acceptance of the term Plutoid and its official IAU definition:

Plutoids are celestial bodies in orbit around the Sun at a semimajor axis greater than that of Neptune that have sufficient mass for their self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that they assume a hydrostatic equilibrium (near-spherical) shape, and that have not cleared the neighbourhood around their orbit. Satellites of plutoids are not plutoids themselves.

The Commission 46: Education in astronomy


Commission 46 is a Committee of the Executive Committee of the IAU.
As a prestigious international scientific union, the IAU plays a special
role in the discussion of astronomy development with governments and scientific academies and in interceding about such matters at the highest levels. The IAU is affiliated with the International
Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), a non-governmental organization representing a global membership
that includes both national scientific bodies and international scientific unions. When
appropriate, the President and officers of the IAU are proactive in persuading the authorities of
the importance of astronomy for development and education and in encouraging countries to
become members of the IAU. A strategic plan for the period 2010-2020 has been published.

The Commission seeks to further the development and improvement of astronomical education at all levels throughout the world, through various projects initiated, maintained, and to be developed by the Commission and by disseminating information concerning astronomy education at all levels.
Part of Commission 46, the Teaching Astronomy for Development (TAD) program is intended to help enhance astronomy education significantly in countries where there is currently very little on offer. TAD operates on the basis of a proposal from a professional astronomy organization or a contract between the IAU and an academic institution, usually a university.

The IAU has launched in 2009 the Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP), a Cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, among which Hands-On Universe is a major partner. Hands-On Universe is now officially included in the Astronomy for the Developing World Strategic Plan 2010-20 of IAU, under Section 3.4.2 Astronomy for Children and Schools. During the next decade the IAU will concentrate more resources on education activities for children and schools designed to advance sustainable global development.

The GTTP is concerned with the effective use and transfer of astronomy education tools and resources into classroom science curricula. By training a worldwide network of "Galileo Ambassadors" who will train new "Galileo Teachers" the effect of the program will be multiplied. The GTTP is closely affiliated with the Global Hands-on Universe
Global Hands-On Universe
In a paper published in 2007 by Dr. Carl Pennypacker, the Global Hands-On Universe is presented as an educational program that enables students to investigate the Universe while applying tools and concepts from science, math, and technology...

 Program.

Outreach to teachers will involve the provision of training courses, development and translation of materials and harnessing global technological resources in the service of primary and secondary education. A specific goal will be to provide expertise for at least one teacher training course in each region every year, to be organized together with the regional coordinators.

Related programs (leader name): Hands-On Universe (Dr Roger Ferlet), and Universe Awareness (Dr Carolina Ödman).

See also



  • Astronomical naming conventions
    Astronomical naming conventions
    In ancient times, only the Sun and Moon, a few hundred stars and the most easily visible planets had names. Over the last few hundred years, the number of identified astronomical objects has risen from hundreds to over a billion, and more are discovered every year...

  • Planetary nomenclature
    Planetary nomenclature
    Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is a system of uniquely identifying features on the surface of a planet or natural satellite so that the features can be easily located, described, and discussed. The task of assigning official names to features is taken up by the International...


External links