Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The International Astronomical Union (the people who say Pluto isn't a planet)

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Its individual members are professional astronomers all over the world, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, and active in professional research and education in astronomy. Besides, the IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. As of September 2006, the IAU has 9,783 Individual Members in 87 countries worldwide. Of those 64 are National Members. The scientific and educational activities of the IAU are organized by its 12 Scientific Divisions and, through them, its 40 specialized Commissions covering the full spectrum of astronomy, along with its 76 Working and Program Groups. The long-term policy of the IAU is defined by the General Assembly and implemented by the Executive Committee, while day-to-day operations are directed by the IAU Officers. The focal point of its activities is the IAU Secretariat, hosted by the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France.
The key activity of the IAU is the organization of scientific meetings. Every year the IAU sponsors nine international IAU Symposia. The IAU Symposium Proceedings series is the flagship of the IAU publications. Every three years the IAU has its General Assembly, which offers six IAU Symposia and some 25 Joint Discussions and Special Sessions. The proceedings of the last two are published in the Highlights of Astronomy series. The reports of the GA business meetings are published in the Transactions of the IAU - B series. Among the other tasks of the IAU are the definition of fundamental astronomical and physical constants; unambiguous astronomical nomenclature; promotion of educational activities in astronomy; and early informal discussions on the possibilities for future international large-scale facilities. Furthermore, the IAU serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them. The IAU works to promote astronomical education and research in developing countries through its Program Groups on International Schools for Young Astronomers (ISYA), on Teaching for Astronomy Development (TAD), and on World Wide Development of Astronomy (WWDA), as well as through joint educational activities with COSPAR and UNESCO. This web site provides on-line information on the Union's activities and links to the web sites of the IAU Divisions, Commissions, Working Groups, and Program Groups. Further contact with the IAU membership is maintained through the IAU Information Bulletin, published twice per year, and downloadable from this web site.