Malta Independent 03.02.09

Malta Independent
3rd February 2009

International Year of Astronomy activities launched
There is no doubt that in antiquity people would have been amazed by the stars and planets in the heavens. In those days there were no artificial lights and the skies were pitch black except for a bright milky way and millions of stars. Even in Malta, prehistoric man was aware of the movements of celestial bodies and some of our temples are oriented to the sun.

Modern astronomy begun when Galileo Galilei turned a telescope up to the skies and he was amazed at what he could see. This year we are commemorating the 400-year anniversary of Galileo’s discoveries. Since then the moon, the planets and the stars have never looked the same. Large telescopes have been launched into space and all the planets have been visited and studied by robotic probes. Forty years ago man actually landed on the moon.

In recent years astronomy and science in general have advanced in leaps and bounds.

We are living in a technological age and we need to encourage our schoolchildren to take up careers in science. Our manufacturing industry is now science based with large companies that manufacture electronics, pharmaceuticals, and those involved in IT and fish farming. These are all science based.

2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) by the United Nations. The IYA 2009 Malta committee has planned a year of activities to introduce the wonders of astronomy to the public, and to children. They hope that students will become enthused by astronomy and science and hopefully follow careers in science.

The IYA 2009 was launched in Malta on 26 January by Education Minister Dolores Cristina at the Robert Samut Hall, Floriana. The event was introduced by Dr Gordon Caruana Dingli (Chaiman IYA 2009 Malta committee), Mr Tony Tanti (President Astronomical Society of Malta), Mr Christopher Schembri (Subject co-ordinator Physics in Church Schools), Mr Gaetano Bugeja (education Officer, Physics). There was also a presentation on the moon, prepared by Mr Leonard Ellul Mercer. Mr Sergey Medvedev introduced an astronomical drawing competition by Russian School children. There were various astronomical exhibits by the Astronomical |Society of Malta.

The next activity will be the launch of an exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute on 3 February and the screening of a film on 11 February.

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