Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2009: International Year of Astronomy

It has been 400 years since Galileo. The United Nations has declared 2009 to be an international year of astronomy. The Pope's observatory will play a key role in the year's events. Here is an excerpt from Pope Benedict's official speech on this event:
The fact that the winter solstice occurs exactly today, 21 December, and at this very time, offers me the opportunity to greet all those who will be taking part in various capacities in the initiatives for the World Year of Astronomy, 2009, established on the fourth centenary of Galileo Galilei's first observations by telescope. Among my Predecessors of venerable memory there were some who studied this science, such as Sylvester II who taught it, Gregory XIII to whom we owe our calendar, and St Pius X who knew how to build sundials. If the heavens, according to the Psalmist's beautiful words, "are telling the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1), the laws of nature which over the course of centuries many men and women of science have enabled us to understand better are a great incentive to contemplate the works of the Lord with gratitude.
In light of this event, it might make an interesting essay to have students explore the Galileo controversy, the mistakes the church made, and how they can be avoided in our time. One good DVD on the topic: Galileo's Battle for the Heavens.

1 comment:

Virginia Peterson said...

"Astronomers have launched a commercial venture aimed at putting low-cost telescopes in the hands of a million people around the world. The Galileoscope Web site, one of the cornerstone projects for the International Year of Astronomy, began taking orders for the simple yet powerful scopes Thursday night."