South African astronomy office expands to North America
31-01-2020 13:07:50 | by: Pie Kamau | hits: 3476 | Tags:

South Africa has expanded its Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) to North America. 

The OAD, a joint initiative of the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU), aims to further the use of astronomy for sustainable development.

The latest Regional Office of this IAU-South African initiative will be setup in North America, operated by a consortium comprising the Adler Planetarium, Associated Universities Inc. (AUI), Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), and Geneva Lake Astrophysics and STEAM (GLAS).

The new Regional Office was officially launched at a ceremony on 29 January in Cape Town, attended by the President of the IAU, Prof Ewine van Dishoeck, and representatives from all the other Regional Offices.

Prof Ewine van Dishoeck, President of the IAU, was present to sign the agreement on behalf of the IAU. “I am delighted that the North American Regional Office, with its wealth of expertise, is joining the IAU family. The IAU vision has always been for developing and developed countries to work jointly towards realising the goals of Astronomy for Development worldwide.”

The global OAD was represented by its Director, Kevin Govender, who said, “The vision of global development cannot be realised without key partners in different regions of the world. The North American region is particularly important given the influence it has on the rest of the world, and we are proud to be launching this new regional office today.”

Regional Offices work closely with the OAD to execute the vision of “Astronomy for a better world,” with a focus on a geographic or cultural region. The other Regional Offices are located in: Armenia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Portugal, Thailand, and   Zambia. The newest Regional Office will carry  out and coordinate relevant astronomy-for-development activities in the North American Region, focusing on accomplishing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including equitable economic and workforce development and addressing the climate crisis.

These tasks will be carried out in cooperation with existing activities of pan-North American and national astronomical organisations. In its first year, priority will be given to carrying out a needs assessment of the North American region, building relationships with the extended network of partners and key stakeholders  throughout the North   American  region and  through the Regional  Offices worldwide,  and  establishing  a  comprehensive  strategic plan for how the North  American Regional Office can best support the OAD goals in North America and globally.

“AURA has a long tradition of engaging with the public through the excitement of astronomy and is pleased to join our partners in coordinating the new North American Regional Office,” said Matt Mountain, AURA President. “This new office has great potential and will expand the reach of the IAU’s OAD. We look forward to assisting in its creation.”

“GLAS’ Mission, to preserve and sustain former education outreach programs from Yerkes Observatory, has alway been about using astronomy to engage the underrepresented and the underserved. We are excited to take the tools that have been created and combine them with the new resources that this partnership can open up.”

Dr. Laura Trouille, Vice President of Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium added, “This new office is directly aligned with the Adler Planetarium’s vision to connect people, communities, and institutions to one another through the wonder of space science... and use our collective knowledge and skills to create a better world for everyone. We are thrilled to be a leader in this new effort.”

Adam Cohen, the President of AUI, remarked: “AUI is excited to work with the IAU and our partners to engage with the international community to address the needs of underserved communities around the world. AUI is pursuing activities broadly in R&D, embracing and integrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and helping to increase diversity and support additional opportunities to pursue astronomy activities as a key element of AUI’s mission.”

www.dst.gov.za