This year is the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of a telescope to observe the night sky. To celebrate this turning point in astronomical history, an international collaboration of astronomers is organising events in 140 countries. For those in the UK on 26 July 2009, there is a major event being organised at Syon Park, West London.
On July 26th 1609, an English scientist called Thomas Harriot carried out the first observations and drawings of the Moon, using a telescope at his residence in the grounds of Syon House, West London. Harriot achieved this probably four months before the more famous Galileo.
There is very little public recognition of Thomas Harriot in the UK and no lasting memorial to his very considerable achievements in maths, physics, engineering as well as astronomy.
The day at Syon House will attempt to rectify this and open up the last four hundred years of astronomy to everyone. It will also be the place to learn about the very latest discoveries in astronomy. For more details, visit the website here. With great regret, I will be arriving back in the UK on that day from the China eclipse tour (see here for details of that). But you never know, I may be able to pop in my jet-lagged head and say hello. If not, enjoy the day for me.
The main International Year of Astronomy website can be found here.