National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

NAOJ and the IAU Sign New Agreement for Continuation of the Office for Astronomy Outreach

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Logo of NAOJ (left), OAO (middle), and IAU (right) (Credit: NAOJ, IAU/OAO, and IAU)

NAOJ and the IAU signed a new agreement ensuring the continued operation of the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (IAU OAO) (note 1).

In 2012, NAOJ and the IAU signed an agreement establishing the IAU OAO in NAOJ Mitaka Campus as one of the IAU’s offices. Since then, the OAO has coordinated several international astronomy outreach programs and provided access to astronomical information to people all over the world.

Under the new agreement, the positions of Director and Deputy Director of the OAO are officially established; additional staff for the OAO (note 2) is to be hired; and a Steering Committee, jointly established by NAOJ and the IAU, will oversee the OAO’s activities. These changes recognize the accomplishments of the office over the past decade and will financially support and empower the OAO to expand its international large scale astronomy outreach initiatives more stably.

Since its establishment, the OAO has conducted astronomy outreach internationally. The OAO has established and collaborated with the global network of IAU National Outreach Coordinators (NOCs) with representation in over 135 countries and regions. Through the NOCs, the OAO has communicated astronomy internationally and provided astronomical information over wide areas. The OAO has also led many international events and campaigns, including NameExoWorlds (2015), the first competition to establish official names of exoplanets and their stars which garnered over half a million votes from 182 countries and regions. Programs such as Telescopes for All (2020), distribute resources to underserved communities around the world. And the OAO has been connecting IAU-members with the public through online meetups with the Meet the IAU Astronomers! (2020) program. In addition, the OAO has been publishing the peer-reviewed journal “Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP) (note 3)”, which is free for readers to read and authors to post their papers. OAO members were instrumental in the success of the “Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2018 (CAP2018) (note 4)” conference cosponsored by NAOJ under the auspices of the IAU. Held in Fukuoka, Japan, CAP2018 welcomed 446 participants from 53 different countries and regions. This was record setting attendance for a “Communicating Astronomy with the Public” conference. In 2019, the OAO co-organized the centennial celebrations of the IAU with over 5000 registered activities in 143 countries and regions, and facilitated the direct involvement of an estimated 5 to 10 million people, along with an estimated further reach of 100 million people through communication activities (note 5). In NAOJ Mitaka Campus, the OAO also held IAU Symposium 358, “Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (note 6)” the IAU’s first symposium addressing these topics.

These activities have earned the OAO recognition. CAP2018 won the “2018 International Conference Attraction/Hosting Contribution Awards” from the International Conference Hosting Division of the Japan National Tourism Organization. Lina Canas, the current director of the OAO, received the “2019 NAOJ Director General’s Award,” on behalf of the IAU Symposium 358 Core Team, for their role in leading the IAU358 central organization.

Through the new agreement, NAOJ will continue to collaborate with the IAU and spread astronomy information to as many people as possible around the world through the IAU OAO.

(note 1) IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach Back

(note 2) IAU OAO invites applications for “International Outreach Officer.” If you are interested, please apply here: Back

(note 3) The CAPjournal is an IAU publication published twice a year. It handles astronomy outreach and communication. The CAPjournal and the CAP Conference are independent entities. Back

(note 4) Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2018: Fukuoka hosts the largest gathering of Astronomy communicators ever (April 23, 2018) Back

(note 5) Millions of People Celebrated IAU’s Centenary Under One Sky (IAU) Back

(note 6) First IAU Symposium on Inclusion and Diversity held in Mitaka Campus (December 25, 2019) Back

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