This January (2009) is the beginning of the International Year of Astronomy (from here on out referred to as IYA because I am lazy). It is amazing to me how few people have heard about IYA. Within the Astrophysics community it is slowly getting talked about. However, I have heard no giant reference in the greater world. It is a disappointment really. Astronomy is part of the soul of humanity. I can think of no ancient or modern culture that has not spent considerable time looking at the sky.
The IYA is a joint project, with at least 129 different countries participating in an effort to increase knowledge about astronomy. It includes a 356 day astronomy pod cast, along with other more sporadic pod casts for various levels of science comprehension. I've heard a sample of the standard layman pod cast... it was hilarious. There are eleven corner stone projects at the heart of the year long event, and even a Second Life island has been dedicated to IYA. Furthermore, a big push is being made to increase knowledge affordably around the world, along with a global movement towards dark skies around the planet.
It seems like such a big deal to me, yet it is mostly being ignored. The Greeks, the Mayans, and many Native American tribes named the constellations and attached stories to them. This tradition oral story telling based on the stars spanned both cultures and time. In addition, the Incas Aztecs and Mayans are known for there insanely accurate calendars based on the movements of stars and planets, the Mayans even predicted many of the comets it took modern astronomers years to "discover." Werewolves are dependent on the moon's phases, and though vampires have problems with starlight from the sun they revel under the dim dots in the night sky. Science fiction writers have a field day with new science. And the movie "Event Horizon" placed hell on the other side of a black hole. Children look up at the night sky with wonder, and long lovers spin poetry of eyes shining like stars. Imagine if the next love poem compared you to the cosmic microwave background: "beautiful in the nearly hidden complexity, giving birth to the stars that shine in your lovers eyes." Or imagine cursing someone, "You're as volatile as a Red Super Giant Star, I'm just waiting for you to supernova."
Astronomy is poetry, so I urge you all look up information on IYA.
J.R West the Raccoon