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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 Membership Applications Now Being Accepted
Applications for Individual and Junior Membership in the IAU are now being accepted. The IAU is one of the few international scientific unions with both national members and individual members.

The application deadline is December 15, 2019. No late applications will be accepted.

Individual Members: This category is open to scientists with a PhD or equivalent in a branch of astrophysics.

Junior Members: This category is open to individuals who have completed their PhD studies and are in the initial phase of the professional researcher career in some branch of astronomy. Junior membership is limited to six years, and reapplication as an Individual Member is necessary at that time.

Each applicant for an IAU membership nomination must complete a membership application form on the IAU website. The application forms include the full name, date and place of birth, and nationality of the candidate; postal and electronic addresses; the university, year, and subject of the PhD or equivalent degree; the current affiliation and occupation, and the IAU Division(s) that the candidate wishes to join, reference letters, and past publications. Applicants should apply through their country of employment. IAU Individual Members and Junior Members do not pay dues to the Union.

The U.S. application link for Individual Members

The U.S. application link for Junior Members is

The timetable for 2019-2020 is as follows:
  • October 1, 2019: The IAU application window opens.
  • December 15, 2019: Application deadline for Individual and Junior Members. Late applications will not be considered.
  • February 15, 2020: Deadline for national adhering organizations, such as the USNC-IAU at the NAS, to review applications and make recommendations to the IAU.
  • March 31, 2020: Deadline for the IAU Membership Committee to review the list of proposed members.
  • May 2020: IAU Executive Committee to review recommendations of the IAU Membership Committee.
  • June 7, 2020: Accepted Individual and Junior Members announced.
General information of IAU membership can be found at  

Apply to Win the IAU PhD Prize
Applications are being accepted for the IAU PhD Prize in astrophysics. Eligible PhD theses for the 2019 Prize are those that have been/will be defended between December 16, 2018 and December 15, 2019. Details and the application form can be found at

IAU Celebrates 100 Years
The IAU is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019 with activities throughout the world. IAU 100 ( is being supported by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO), the University of Leiden, and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. The USNC/IAU is organizing a special IAU 100 session at the AAS meeting in January 2020.

NASEM to Host IAU Executive Committee
The NASEM will host a meeting of the IAU Executive Committee (EC) in May 2020. Debra Elmegreen (Vassar College) currently serves as IAU President-Elect.

2018 IAU General Assembly in Vienna
The 30th General Assembly (GA) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) was held in Vienna, Austria from August 20 to 31, 2018. The scientific program included Focus Meetings, Symposia, as well as Division and Commission meetings. Approximately 3000 individuals, including nearly 100 members of the press, representing 89 countries participated in a least some of the scientific, education, or administrative sessions.  

The United States was represented by Ken Kellermann (USNC-IAU Chair), Roger Blandford (USNC-IAU Vice Chair), and David Soderblom (USNC-IAU Membership Committee Chair).

The U.S. supports IAU programs in three broad areas: 

1) astronomical community actions (involving union scientific organization, procedures, voting, conferences, member communications, and archiving
2) global actions (education in underdeveloped countries, outreach to next generation scientists, interactions with UNESCO on heritage sites)
3) public actions (e.g. worldwide process for naming certain astronomical objects, coordination with UNESCO on the International Year of Light)

Specific results are as follows: 

U.S. Leadership in the IAU, 2019-2021: Debra M. Elmegreen (Vassar College) is President-Elect of the IAU. Three of the nine Divisions have presidents from the United States. They are:Susan Deustua (STScl): Division C (Education, Outreach, and Heritage)
Sarah Gibson (High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, CO): Division E (Sun and Heliosphere)
David Soderblom (STScl): Division G (Stars and Stellar Physics)

In addition, a number of the new Commission Presidents are from the United States. USNC member David Soderblom was selected to Chair the IAU Membership Committee, while Lee Anne Wilson (Iowa State Univ.) was appointed for a second term on the Finance Committee. Harvey Liszt (US-NRAO) continues as Chair of the Inter-Union Commission on the Allocation of Frequencies, which is a joint body of the IAU, URSI, and COSPAR. 
Honorary Membership: A new category of honorary membership was adopted by the IAU at its 2018 General Aseembly.  The individuals chosen have been extraordinarily helpful to the field of astronomy but are not astronomers themselves. Wayne Rosing of the United States was nominated by the USNC/IAU and subsequently selected by the 2018 GA as one of eight Honorary IAU Members. Rosing was honored for his long-term and sustained efforts to establish, build, and operate the Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) as a unique resource for astrophysics.
Regular and Junior Membership: The 1,314 new IAU members approved included 211 astronomers from the United States. The new Junior Member category was approved, and out of the 352 new junior members approved, 28 were from the United States. The total IAU membership now stands at more than 13,500. The new U.S.-based members work in 104 different institutions located in 34 different states. Approximately 40% of the new U.S.-based members are female; worldwide it is 31%.

IAU Strategic Plan
: An IAU Strategic Plan, 2020-2030, was adopted at the IAU GA. The plan includes visions for the each of the IAU Divisions, as well as plans for each of IAU’s three main offices: Astronomy for Development (OAD), Astronomy Outreach (OAO) and Young Astronomers (OYA). The plan can be found at  

: Two scientific resolutions concerning the Geocentric and International Terrestrial Reference Systems and Frames, and a resolution on the preservation, digitization and scientific exploration of historical astronomical data were passed by the GA without discussion.A more controversial resolution to rename the Hubble Law as the “Hubble-Lemaître Law” was endorsed by a strong majority vote, but only after intense discussion. Bruce Elmegreen (IBM), Chair of the Resolutions Committee skillfully managed the debate and answered questions. Due to the controversial nature of the resolution, the vote of Members present at the IAU was taken as advisory, and the resolution was later sent to the full membership for electronic voting.    

Young Astronomer (YA) and Women in Astronomy (WiA) Events
: The National Academy of Sciences once again co-sponsored, along with the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (NASL), the Young Astronomers (YA) and the Women in Astronomy (WiA) events at the GA. Over 700 Young Astronomers signed up, so two YA lunches were organized, one each week of the General Assembly. A number of current and past USNC/IAU members served as advisors and mentors.  

U.S. Reception
: The USNC also sponsored a U.S. reception at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The event included current IAU Executive Committee members; past IAU presidents and General Secretaries; current Division presidents and vice presidents; Commission presidents; AAS officers; IAU National Committee representatives; and major facility directors and astronomy society presidents. The event serves as an important networking event and an example of science diplomacy.

Locations of Future IAU General Assemblies
: The next IAU GA will be held in Busan, Republic of Korea during July or August 2021. The 2024 GA will be held in Cape Town, South Africa. This will be first IAU GA to be held on the continent of Africa.

Delegation Report
: The U.S. delegation's full report can be read here (PDF).

U.S. National Committee Meetings
The next USNC/IAU meeting will be held in January 2020 in conjunction with the AAS winter meeting in Hawaii. Watch this space for further information.

The 2019 Meeting was held virtually on January 24. Discussion items included reports and follow-up items from the IAU General Assembly, particularly the Young Astronomer (YA) and Women in Astronomy (WiA) events, the new IAU strategic plan, and IAU individual, junior, and honorary membership; the 100th anniversary of IAU; proposed changes to the USNC/IAU constitution; an invitation to host the IAU Executive Committee meeting in 2020; and committee membership and officer elections. Chryssa Kouveliotu and Martha Haynes were elected Chair and Vice-Chair respectively, for three-year terms beginning October 1, 2019. 

The 2018 meeting was held on January 9 in National Harbor, Maryland. Topics discussed were the reviews of U.S. applicants for IAU membership, the IAU's efforts to create a searchable database of members, the IAU's new PhD Prize, and the USNC's sponsorship of specific events at the 2018 General Assembly. Debra Elmegreen briefed the USNC about the IAU's draft strategic plan, and the committee offered comments. The USNC also formed an eight-person subcommittee to undertake the initial review of U.S.-based applicants, and agreed to a detailed timetable. The application review subcommittee held a conference call on February 23, 2018, and the USNC/IAU then reconvened by conference call on March 2 to review and confirm the subcommittee's recommendations. The U.S. decisions subsequently were conveyed to the IAU, and new members were approved at the General Assembly. 





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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 1708170. 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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