Happy IYA Eve!

2009 is the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the sky.   The IYA 2009 is a global initiative by the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day- and night-time sky.

A series of global events is planned, some in real life, some on the web.   2009 is the year to get out and discover the universe!

I’ll be participating in the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast (February 13).  If you’re an amateur astronomer, this is just one of they ways you can get involved.   Other ways include Project Astro, or volunteering to provide astronomy related resources to local schools.   Here in California astronomy is taught in the 5th grade, so start calling the schools in your area and asking the teachers if they’d like you to get involved.

I’ve been doing classroom talks for almost three years now (Since January 2007) and I’ve found them to be fun, and the kids to be attentive and involved, and found the teachers to be gateful. Be prepared to be asked questions like “What would happen if you fell into a black hole?”  (the single most common question I’ve ever gotten either in classrooms or at Fremont Peak).

One of the changes here will be the addition of a ‘resources’ page where some of the material I’ve used in classrooms will be posted, as well as a link to my 365 Days of Astronomy podcast episode (my first ever podcast…woot!) and transcript.

So remember, the Universe is yours to discover in 2009!

Sunrise, sunset

No, not the song from Fiddler on the Roof…

Have you ever wanted to know the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset and twilight times for a given day?  Try http://www.sunrisesunset.com/ You can plug in one of the major cities on the main page, or drill down to your exact location by either using one of the U.S. cities, or by entering your latitude and longitude.  Once the calculator has your location, you can generate a calendar for a given month.  I print mine out and stick it in my astronomy binder.

You can select what you want to see: just sunrise and sunset, or also moonrise and moonset, and the various different ‘twilights’ (which are useful when planning observing sessions).  There’s also a nifty system tray tool that you can download.