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IAU General Assembly Comes to Honolulu

IAU GA logo

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly being held at the Honolulu Convention Center August 3-14 will be one of the largest meetings of professional astronomers ever held on planet Earth. Over 2,500 attendees from 75 countries are expected. The IAU holds a General Assembly every three years. The last meeting was held in Beijing in 2012, while Vienna will host the 2018 meeting.

Although most of the events related to the General Assembly will be for registered attendees only, there will be events for the general public as well. Stargazing parties will be held at Magic Island in Ala Moana Beach Park from sundown to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, August 3, and Thursday, August 13. Telescopes and astronomers will be present to assist the public in seeing and appreciating the night sky.

There will also be two free public talks at the Hawaii Convention Center. On Tuesday, August 4, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kālepa Babayan, astronomer in residence at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo and a master navigator with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, will give a public talk entitled “He Lani Ko Luna, A Sky Above: In Losing the Sight of Land, You Discover the Stars.” This presentation will explain how Pacific Islanders used their indigenous system of navigation, which included a detailed knowledge of the night sky, to settle throughout the vast Pacific Ocean, and the current efforts to use these experiences to reinvigorate a once-vibrant maritime culture. From 7:30 p.m. to 9: 00 p.m., on Tuesday, August 11, 2015, IfA Director Günther Hasinger, will give a talk entitled “The Development of Modern Astronomy in Hawai‘i,” followed by Andrea Ghez (UCLA) talking about the black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.

In addition, Jeffrey Bennett discusses Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity in a way that is accessible to nonscientists in “The Relativity Tour,” which stops at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Art Building Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on August 10. Bennett, who holds a PhD in astrophysics, has written numerous college textbooks, as well as science books for nonscientists, including children. His talk will be suitable for middle school age on up.

Teacher workshops will also be held in conjunction with the IAU. The Galileo Teacher Training Program’s International Teacher Training Workshop, held August 8–9 at the IfA, will teach astronomy-related skills to middle and high school teachers. The Network for Astronomy School Education will also hold a teacher workshop at Bishop Museum just before the IAU starts. In addition, the Global Hands-On Universe (GHOU) Conference 2015, on August 4–5,  will be an opportunity for professional astronomers and educators to meet and share “hands-on minds-on” learning in a way that bridges cultural and political divides.

Local students (middle school and above preferred) will have the opportunity to visit with leading astronomers around the world and take part in hands-on demonstrations at the IAU Exhibit Hall at the convention center on August 5 and 12. For more information and to sign up, go to http://astronomy2015.org/epo. Astronomers will also be visiting local classrooms to talk with students about astronomy.