Thursday, April 23, 2009

The International Year of Astronomy
By David Hagan, Staff Scientist, Physical Sciences

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) is a celebration of the 400th anniversary of astronomy as a modern science. In 1609, while Virginia’s tiny colony at Jamestown was struggling to survive, Galileo began looking through his telescope to the heavens for the first time and opening a vast world of wonders. His discoveries and his courageous publications confirmed Copernicus’ model of a sun-centered solar system. Galileo gave us new details of Jupiter’s moons, the phases of Venus, sunspots, and craters and mountains on the moon. That same year Johannes Kepler published "Astronomia Nova," a masterful and rigorous mathematical explanation of the motion of the planets in a sun-centered solar system. Together that year Kepler and Galileo launched not only a new astronomy, but — in some ways — the beginnings of modern science.  

The International Year of Astronomy 2009's mission statement lays out a “global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day- and night-time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.”

It is a sad fact that, because of the glare of city lights, most of the people in the modern world will never see the wonder of the natural night sky or the Milky Way. Project Globe, a partner in IYA2009, reports that 2 out of 5 Americans, 1 out of 6 Europeans and 1 out of 10 people worldwide have never seen 90 percent of the visible stars in the night sky. With half the world’s population now living in cities, this problem is only getting worse. It is the vision of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 that all people on earth should “realize the impact of astronomy and other fundamental sciences on our daily lives, and understand how scientific knowledge can contribute to a more equitable and peaceful society.”   

Hundreds of IYA2009 programs are under way around the world on a national, regional and local level, with coordinators each country. Throughout the year in the United States coordinating links are being set up among professional and amateur astronomers, science centers and science communicators. Worldwide, 136 countries are involved and well over 140 are expected to participate eventually. The IAU has set up an IYA2009 Web site,, as the principal IYA2009 resource. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is endorsed by the United Nations, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the International Council of Science (ICSU).  

One of the great projects of IYA2009 is the Galileoscope. IYA2009 has set a goal to have 100,000 people — each with a hand-held telescope — show the night sky to 100 others, so as to reach 10 million new observers. The Galileoscope is an inexpensive ($15) working hand-held telescope modeled on Galileo’s first telescope. For more information see the Web site 

In the United States the IYA2009 programs are coordinated through the Web site NASA is a key supporter of IYA2009 programs. Their Web site is

Volunteer Profile: Frank Keegan
By Sarah Farrow, Volunteer Coordinator

Walking into the Science Museum of Virginia is always exciting. Guests are immediately drawn in by the beautiful dome and pendulum. It’s an instant and powerful way to get people of all ages thinking about science. 

If you come to the Science Museum on a Thursday morning chances are you'll be greeted at the pendulum by Gallery Education volunteer Frank Keegan. He’s there to tell guests everything about the pendulum — and they have lots of questions. Many of our Thursday guests are school groups. When they arrive, Frank is immediately surrounded by kids who want information. One of the most frequent questions asked is "What is that white building in the middle?" Frank Keegan tells them, "This is a very important building. It’s where you are right now; it’s the Science Museum!" The kids love this. And they love watching the pegs fall. There’s always a big whoop when one goes down. What a wonderful way for our guests to enter the museum. 

Frank Keegan grew up in Ozone Park in New York City. He has always enjoyed science and has a degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. After graduating, he worked as a salesman for Allied Chemical in Baltimore. His territory included Richmond and he always loved coming here. In 1955 Frank decided to go to law school. He worked during the day and attended Georgetown University at night. 

For 43 years Frank worked as a patent attorney in Washington D.C., forming his own firm in 1979. After retiring, Frank and his wife moved from Northern Virginia to Richmond to be closer to their children. He liked to bring his two grandchildren to the Science Museum and was always fascinated and impressed by the cow-eye dissection and by David Olli, director of Gallery Education, who performed the dissection. One day, after visiting the Science Museum to see the "Titanic" exhibit, Frank’s family encouraged him to become a volunteer. He thought, "why not?" The rest is history. Frank immediately became part of the museum. 

Not only does Frank greet guests and help them understand the pendulum, he also likes to do the Air Pressure and the Static Electricity demonstrations. He is also very willing to help out wherever needed; sometimes preparing materials for Wonderplace projects or hauling coolers to help set up for big events. Frank is also on the Science Museum Volunteer Association board.  

Frank's greatest and most memorable volunteering experience at the Science Museum is a simple one. Two little girls grabbed him around the legs and gave him a big "thank you" on their way out of the building. He asked their teacher if they had been told to say this, and was told that the girls were being completely spontaneous. It made Frank feel that he’s really helping to make a difference in the lives of children. And Frank is right. A few weeks later he received a wonderful thank-you package from the entire class, with letters and drawings all made for him. This is what makes volunteering worthwhile for Frank Keegan. 

Do you want to join our dedicated and wonderful volunteer force? Call (804) 864-1514, click, and go to "Support Us," or e-mail

Friday, April 17, 2009

Inspiration From Exploration: Notes From the Field
Thursday, June 25, 2009, 7 p.m.

Céline Cousteau tells captivating stories and shares personal photographs from her many incredible voyages into the world's oceans.

Advance tickets required: $20; $10 for museum members. Available online now or by calling (804) 864-1400 or 800-659-1727. Museum members, please call so that we can include your discount.

About Céline Cousteau

Whether she’s free-diving, horseback riding, leading an expedition to the peaks of the Andes, or swimming amid a school of sharks in the South Pacific, Céline Cousteau seeks to educate through adventure and exploration.Daughter of ocean explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, Céline Cousteau is featured in PBS’ most successful new television series, "Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures."

Fluent in three languages, Cousteau has collaborated with her father's Ocean Futures Society promoting the educational program, "Ambassadors of the Environment," throughout her travels. She has worked on the preparation of expeditions, field production and as an on-camera presenter. Recently, Cousteau has worked on an upcoming documentary for Discovery Channel, aiding scientists conducting research on the many shark species of the Great Barrier Reef. She is also an international spokeswoman for La Prairie cosmetic company, representing their new line of Advanced Marine Biology creams and is ambassador to the Clean Up the World Campaign.

Passionate about intercultural relations, Cousteau received her master's degree in international and intercultural management from the School for International Training. She has worked for a number of prestigious organizations, from the University for Peace of United Nations to the Earth Council’s Earth Charter Project. Her most recent project is trying to bring medical attention to the indigenous people of the Vale do Javari reserve in Brazil.