iau2102 — Press Release

Mosaic of all the IAU National Outreach Coordinator logos
14 April 2021
New Agreement Signed for the Office for Astronomy Outreach
The International Astronomical Union and National Astronomical Observatory of Japan expand OAO’s activities

The IAU is delighted to announce that it has signed a new agreement with the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) for the continued operation and expansion of the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO). This new agreement not only renews the previous one, but also significantly increases the OAO’s funding and capacity.

Established in 2012, the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach (OAO) is dedicated to engaging the public in astronomy, which it achieves through its global network of IAU National Outreach Coordinators (NOCs) with representation in over 130 countries, and through its numerous initiatives to communicate astronomy to a wide audience. 

The new agreement signed by the IAU and NAOJ not only ensures the continued operation of the OAO, but recognises its achievements and strengthens the commitment of both organisations to this fruitful collaboration, thereby enabling the OAO to grow its activities further.

Key changes brought in by this agreement include the introduction of a Director and Deputy Director of the OAO, additional staff for the OAO, and a Steering Committee to oversee the OAO’s activities. These changes bring the structure of the OAO into line with that of other IAU Offices, which has proven to be an effective framework for organising projects. The new agreement also includes a significant increase in the level of financial support, empowering OAO to bring astronomy to even more people. 

Over almost a decade the OAO has led many international outreach and public engagement projects, including NameExoWorlds (2015), the first competition to establish official names of exoplanets and their stars with over half a million votes from 182 countries and territories, publishing the free peer-reviewed journal Communicating Astronomy with the Public, and co-organising the centennial celebrations of the IAU in 2019. 

With the IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030 in place, which puts emphasis on access to astronomical information and communication of the science of astronomy, the OAO has focused its programme. The support provided to the outreach community has been strengthened with programmes such as the NOCs Funding Scheme (2020), dedicated funding for the OAO’s central network of national representatives, Telescopes for All (2020), which distributes telescopes to underserved communities around the world and connecting IAU-members with the public through online meetups with the Meet the IAU Astronomers! (2020) programme. 

I am thrilled that the IAU and NAOJ are reaffirming their support for the OAO through this agreement,” says Teresa Lago, General Secretary of the IAU. “This is an important collaboration based on shared values between our two organisations.”

The OAO is a joint project of the IAU and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), under the auspices of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS), Japan, and is based in Tokyo at the NAOJ Mitaka campus. The IAU’s and NAOJ’s shared goals in the promotion of astronomy are advanced by the OAO’s activities. This strong collaboration between OAO and it’s host institution led, in 2018, to the first Communicating Astronomy with the Public Conference in Japan, the largest and most diverse to date with 446 participants from 53 different countries and the IAU Symposium on Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2019. Through these initiatives the OAO has gained both national and institution-wide recognition, winning the 2018 International Conference Attraction/Hosting Contribution Awards from the International Conference Hosting Division of the Japan National Tourism Organization (for CAP2018). Lina Canas received the 2019 NAOJ Director General Prize on Management, on behalf of the IAU Symposium 358 Core Team, for their role in leading the IAU358 central organisation.

"We have always envisioned the OAO as bridge-builders, facilitating access to astronomical information across our diverse communities, with critical thinking, tolerance and cooperation at its heart," says Saku Tsuneta, NAOJ Director General. "This newly strengthened agreement between the IAU and NAOJ, and the IAU Strategic Plan, will allow us to more effectively continue our ambitious pursuit of bringing astronomy to all” adds Hidehiko Agata, OAO Supervising Director. 

Almost 10 years ago, the passion for astronomy outreach and vision of Norio Kaifu (1943–2019), IAU President from 2012 to 2015, led to the creation of the OAO. His memory and his legacy live on into the next decade, with this strengthened commitment to astronomy outreach aligned with the IAU Strategic Plan 2020–2030, which the expansion of the OAO will help to fulfill.

The IAU looks forward to continuing a fruitful collaboration with NAOJ and to supporting the OAO’s future activities, which will bring the wonder of astronomy to an even wider audience.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together almost 12 000 active 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.


Hidehiko Agata
Supervising Director of OAO IAU, NAOJ
Tel: +81 422 34 3929
Email: h.agata@nao.ac.jp

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +49 173 38 72 621
Email: lars@eso.org


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Group photo at IAU Symposium 358