ann20004 — Announcement

The formation of the North American Regional Office of Astronomy for Development
29 January 2020
North American Regional Office of Astronomy for Development Launched

The North American Regional Office of Astronomy for Development was officially established on 29 January 2020 at a signing ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa. The event was attended by the President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and marked the formation of the eleventh Regional Office of Astronomy for Development.

The Regional Offices work closely with the global Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) to execute the vision of “Astronomy for a better world,” each with a focus on a particular geographic or cultural region. The North American Regional Office will be 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).

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.”

The ceremony was attended by representatives from all the other Regional Offices, which 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. It will focus 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’s Mission, to preserve and sustain former education outreach programmes from Yerkes Observatory, has always 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.”

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 to 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.”

More information

International Astronomical Union

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 13 500 professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.

Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), through a joint partnership with the South African National Research Foundation (NRF), and with strong support from the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), established in 2011 the global Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), hosted at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Cape Town, South Africa. The OAD’s vision is simply “Astronomy for a better world!” and its mission is: “To help further the use of astronomy as a tool for development by mobilising the human and financial resources necessary in order to realise the field’s scientific, technological and cultural benefits to society.”

Adler Planetarium

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium connects people, communities, and institutions to one another through the wonder of space science so we can explore our Universe together and use our collective knowledge and skills to create a better world for everyone. The Adler is a leader in space visualisation, immersive planetarium experiences, and citizen science. The Adler’s citizen science efforts include engaging Chicago’s teens in engineering design and research through high altitude balloon experiments and underwater meteorite hunting, as well as the public worldwide through, a collaboration between the Adler, the University of Oxford, the University of Minnesota, hundreds of researchers, and 2 million people around the world leading people-powered research and discovery.


AUI is a non-profit research management organisation dedicated to planning, building, and operating large national and international scientific facilities, cultivating scientific and operational excellence, and developing a diverse and inclusive STEM workforce. Currently AUI manages the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (EVLA) in New Mexico, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, in collaboration with its international partners, ESO and NAOJ. AUI’s STEM education programmes include Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy (IDATA) making astronomy accessible to the blind and visually impaired, the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP) building awareness of astronomy-related activities in Chile, and the Chile-US Astronomy Education & Outreach Summit bringing together more than 100 stakeholders to assess the current state of astronomy education and outreach in Chile, and create a series of recommendations moving forward.


The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a consortium of 47 US institutions and 3 international affiliates that operates world-class astronomical observatories for the National Science Foundation and NASA. AURA’s role is to establish, nurture, and promote public observatories and facilities that advance innovative astronomical research. In addition, AURA is deeply committed to public and educational outreach, and to diversity throughout the astronomical and scientific workforce. AURA carries out its role through its astronomical facilities. AURA is responsible for the successful management and operation of its three centres: NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory; the National Solar Observatory (NSO); and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).


GLAS Education represents the staff and programmes of the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay Wisconsin during its period of closure. YEO/GLAS has been growing steadily in its capacity to effectively partner with traditionally underrepresented communities and educators who serve them. Through consistent community support, GLAS has made significant progress in the ability to deliver accessible astronomy STEAM content and experiences to those communities nationally. GLAS strives to reduce the barriers to science through accessible tools, expanding awareness, and reaching out through our nested mentoring system. Through a model of nested mentorship, participants in GLAS programmes are empowered with knowledge, experience and leadership opportunities large and small that impact their schools and communities. GLAS will leverage its experience and community networks to serve the ROAD and support related initiatives nationally and internationally.



Kevin Govender
Director, IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD)
Tel: +27 21 460 9350
Cell: +27 82 487 8466

Tim Spuck
AUI Director of Education and Public Engagement
Contact lead for NA ROAD
Shari Lifson

AURA Corporate Communications Coordinator 
Phone: +1 202 769 5232

Jennifer Howell 
Adler Planetarium Senior Manager of Public Relations
Phone: +1 312 542 2424

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



The formation of the North American Regional Office of Astronomy for Development