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U.S. National Committee for IAU

The National Academy of Sciences is the U.S. adhering body of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and it maintains its relationship with the union through the U.S. National Committee (USNC)/IAU. The IAU’s mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation.


IAU Individual Membership 
All those who applied for IAU membership in the past year should have been contacted directly by the IAU recently regarding their membership status.  If you have not received an email from the IAU, please contact them at   

The next application period for U.S. applicants will open in Fall 2017. More information on individual membership in the IAU, can be found on the 
IAU Membership webpage

U.S. Hosts a Successful 2015 XXIX IAU General Assembly
Hawaii LOGO IAU 2015
The United States hosted the XXIX IAU General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawaii from August 3-14, 2015. The USNC/IAU would like to thank the American Astronomical Society for its outstanding work on the logistical arrangements associated with this meeting.
The IAU homepage ( summarized well the highlights of the General Assembly:
“The IAU XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA, ends today, Friday, 14 August 2015, after two busy weeks packed with symposia, meetings and events. The General Assembly was an enormous success, with more than 3000 attendees from 74 countries across the world, including almost 100 members of the press. These numbers made it one of the largest IAU General Assemblies ever organised. The participants enjoyed a vast collection of scientific presentations in six symposia and 22 focus meetings on research, development, advancement and collaboration within astronomy.
One new country joined the organisation on this occasion: Colombia. The General Assembly also approved around 1200 new individual IAU members at its closing ceremony, bringing the total to almost 12 500 members.
Four resolutions were approved by vote at the General Assembly. These included the confirmation and extension of the IAU strategic plan for astronomy in the developing world and the protection of radio astronomy observations in the 76–81 GHz frequency band.
It was decided that the XXXI IAU General Assembly in 2021 will be held in Busan, the Republic of Korea.
The newly elected IAU officers are:
  • Silvia Torres-Peimbert, Mexico, President
  • Piero Benvenuti, Italy, General Secretary
  • Ewine van Dishoeck, the Netherlands, President-elect
  • Maria Teresa Lago, Portugal, General Secretary-elect
Seven press briefings took place on a wide range of topics, from the slow death of the Universe to the first science conducted using night-time photographs taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, and received worldwide media coverage (see iau1508iau1509iau1510 and iau1511).
Agreements were signed for five new coordinating offices in Armenia, Colombia, Jordan, Nigeria and Portugal. This agreement seeks to realise the social benefits of astronomy as part of the IAU's decadal strategic plan.
During the assembly, the NameExoWorlds contest also opened its public vote to decide the names of 15 stars and 32 exoplanets.
Several public outreach events took place over the course of the General Assembly, including a stargazing party, school visits to the exhibition hall and astronomers visiting more than a dozen schools, reaching about 2000 students.

On Monday, August 3, National Science Foundation Director France Cordova welcomed attendees to the IAU General Assembly:
Opening Ceremony IAU 2015 GA

Kai'aleleiaka: The Official Newspaper of the IAU XXIX General Assembly 
Newspaper issues were released every day from August 3 to August 14 and include reviews of symposia, focus groups, and workshops, upcoming event announcements, messages from sponsors, and much more. Download the PDFs here.

The Young Astronomers Lunch at the XXIX IAU GA
The Young Astronomers Luncheon (YAL) was first introduced at the 2006 IAU General Assembly (GA), with the aim of stimulating networking opportunities between senior astronomers and those young astronomers (YAs) at the start of their careers. The popular and consistently over-subscribed event has been offered at each General Assembly since then. This year's Young Astronomers Lunch event was sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters (NASL), and the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), and was held on August 12.

Around 180 young astronomers had the opportunity to meet with astronomers from prestigious institutions from around the world, members of the IAU Executive Committee, and Council members of the American Astronomical Society. The YAL featured roundtable discussions involving one to two senior astronomers and eight to nine young astronomers. Discussions focused on topics of interest to young astronomers such as career paths, research funding, successful job strategies, fellowships opportunities, the future of astronomy, and job prospects. This venue permitted informal discussions with networking. The invited senior astronomers have a wide range of expertise and areas of interest. This was a great opportunity for young astronomers to meet with experts and to network with other young astronomers with similar interests.

Women in Astronomy

The USNC/IAU and the National Academy of Sciences with the IAU again cosponsored the Women in Astronomy lunch at the IAU General Assembly. Held on August 4, the sold-out event was attended by about 200 people (about 90% women). Presentations were made by Meg Urry (Yale University, current President of AAS); Bob Williams (Space Telescope Science Institute, past President, IAU); and Silvia Torres-Peimbert (incoming President, IAU).

The IAU GA daily newspaper reported, "With very different styles, [Williams and Torres-Peimbert] both addressed the lack of women in our field and the complexity of finding solutions. As Williams pointed out, some suggested solutions, like quotas, may increase participation of women, while increasing the cultural issues that drive women out of astronomy. Torres-Peimbert noted the percentage of women in the IAU, which represents the senior members of our field, has not substantially changed for six years, and we need to purposely work to change this." (See
The lunch also included time for lively table discussions. Problems and solutions were discussed by participants at each table.

In addition, the Women in Astronomy Working Group has been reapproved by the new IAU Executive Committee (EC). The Working Group reports directly to the IAU EC. See for more information.

Congratulations to Astronomers in New IAU Leadership Roles
The USNC for IAU would like to extend its congratulations to the following U.S. scientists who will be serving in IAU leadership roles during the next triennium:

Debra Elmegreen, Vice President, IAU
Chryssa Kouveliotou, President, Division D (High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics)
Nader Haghighipour, President, Division F (Planetary Systems and Bioastronomy)
Bruce Elmegreen, President (Interstellar Matter and Local Universe)
Lee Anne Wilson, Member, IAU Finance Committee
David Soderblom, Member, IAU Membership Committee

Celebrating the International Year of Light
IYL logo with UNESCOThe IAU and the U.S. National Committee for the IAU are celebrating the International Year of Light (IYL) in 2015. IYL has been endorsed by the United Nations and UNESCO, as was the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009.

IAU and the worldwide astronomical community are participating in IYL through the Cosmic Light cornerstone project. The Cosmic Light project has 3 component parts:

  • Cosmic Light Awareness: A Cosmic Light Educational Kit will be made available with simple tools to teach about the nature of light, the impact of light in our understanding of the universe, and the importance of light for our existence.
  • Galileoscope: First made available during IYA in 2009, Galileoscopes have returned. These are optically excellent but inexpensive telescopes, and the goal is to manufacture and distribute at least 100,000 Galileoscopes to teachers and students throughout the world.
  • Light – Beyond the Bulb: This project seeks to bring the science of light to lay audiences. An online repository of high-quality, easy-to-reproduce images and caption will allow individuals worldwide to build exhibits and host outreach events. This project builds on the success of the “From Earth to the Universe” project during IYA in 2009.
Further information about each of these projects can be found on the IAU webpage at
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Kathie Bailey, Director, BISO
Pam Gamble, Administrative Assistant

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number PHY-1441995. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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