The International Year of Astronomy 2009. What does it mean to you?
The San Antonio Astronomical Association of Texas, held a star party at Hillcrest Elementary School. This enthusiastic crowd targeted the Moon for their object of attention that evening.
(Credit: Matt Rotman)

The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) is a global celebration of astronomy and its contributions to society and culture, highlighted by the 400th anniversary of the first use of an astronomical telescope by Galileo Galilei.

Galileo, some 400 years ago discovered the four largest satellite moons of Jupiter. On January 7th he observed Io, Europa, and Callisto. On the 13th of January, Galileo discovered the fourth moon Ganymede. At the Night Sky Network we're getting excited about the upcoming International Year of Astronomy. Here's what a few amateur astronomers and the public had to say.

This from 5th grade teacher Sherrill Truax of Crestwood Elementary in California: "Dear Joe and friends, I would like to add my sincere thanks and appreciation to that of my students and families. Our star party was a huge success, due to you and the South Bay Astronomical Society. The children and their parents were fascinated by the beauty and mystery of the night sky, and have a new appreciation for what may be observed through a telescope.

John Lane of the North Houston Astronomy Club "discussed the ecliptic and the path that the planets take through the sky. I pointed to the location of Cygnus X-1, a black hole, and was bombarded with questions. We looked at various nebula and clusters and a double star. Our group viewed Venus, Jupiter and its moons. With a club member's 13 inch Dobsonian telescope we were able to view the Hubble Space Telescope for a few lucky people."

Neta Apple from the StarGarden Foundation amateur astronomy club stated: "The teachers were as excited as the students while we explained to them what they were going to see. One science teacher summed up the day when she said, "These kids are so lucky to get to see this! I am 54 years old and until just now I had never seen the Sun except in pictures! I certainly never saw anything like this before! The kids will remember this forever."

Are you getting excited about IYA2009? Are you ready to make a discovery of your own? If you're up to the challenge, click here to contact your local astronomy club and relive and see for yourself what Galileo discovered.