The United Nations and the International Astronomical Union have joined forces to highlight 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. In fact, this year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical observation through a telescope.
To mark this milestone, more than one hundred nations across the globe are collaborating to make the international community more aware of the universe we live in.
A highlight of the International Year Of Astronomy, is the "100 Hours of Astronomy" project planned for early April. The project will feature live web casts, and observing events during its 100-hour long program.
One of the key goals of "100 Hours of Astronomy" is to have as many people as possible look through a telescope as Galileo did for the first time 400 years ago. The program will take place from April 2, 2009 through April 5, 2009, when the Moon goes from first quarter to gibbous and provides excellent early evening viewing. Saturn will also be a highlight of early evening observing events during this period.
Indeed, there are many exciting events to observe in Astronomy throughout 2009. People in China and India can witness the longest solar eclipse of this century in July. An early evening sighting of Jupiter in October in the Northern Hemisphere should give some spectacular views. Also, the Leonid Meteor Shower in November 2009 is predicted to be one of most vivid ever.
2009 will also feature the final mission to repair and upgrade the aging Hubble Telescope. The shuttle mission that will take astronauts to the Hubble is currently scheduled for launch on May 12th. NASA intends to upgrade the Hubble Telescope, so that it will have more capability than ever before. It is a servicing mission with considerable danger to the astronauts, but one that has the potential to provide science and astronomy with dramatic rewards for at least the next five years.
A lack of sunspot activity will continue to be of scientific interest during 2009. There were 266 days without a sunspot during 2008. It was a year that featured the second highest number of days with a blank sun since 1900. A lack of sunspot activity was also the trend during 2007.
Its the International Year Of Astronomy. So, set up the telescope, adjust the focus and let the observations begin. For those of us that are less hands-on, there is even a blog of professional astronomers to keep us properly informed.
For More on the Hubble Telescope Read: The Last Mission To The Hubble Telescope on eWorldvu.