Media invitation for the 26th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union

The science of astronomy has never been more interesting than in these years as cascades of astronomical discoveries are pouring in from an armada of observatories on the ground and in space. For two busy weeks, August 14-25, astronomers from 84 different nations will gather at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly in Prague to discuss and evaluate the most recent discoveries and observations, to make decisions on fundamental issues and also to organise international cooperation.

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together distinguished astronomers from all nations of the world. IAU's mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers. The IAU General Assembly is held every three years and is one of the largest and most diverse meetings in the astronomical community's calendar.

This year Prague will become the third city to have hosted the General Assembly for a second time (after Rome, and Sydney). Prague was proud to host the 13th IAU General Assembly in 1967. Now, after 39 years, the IAU General Assembly returns to Prague. This decision reflects the excellent reputation of Czech astronomy.

The science presentations have been organised into 6 Symposia, 17 Joint Discussions and 7 Special Sessions.

Where? Prague Congress Centre, Street 5. Kvetna 65, 140 21 Prague 4, Czech Republic

When? August 14-25 2006

What? IAU General Assembly 2006

Why? This is one of the largest and most diverse meetings in astronomy with science topics ranging from our next door neighbours in space to the most distant Universe. This is a unique opportunity to gather first hand information on new developments in the many areas of astronomy and to meet the main players.

Who? 2500+ astronomers from 84 nations will participate.

How? Media may sign up for free (see below).

Roughly 15 press briefings are expected on a range of topics, including a possible Definition of a Planet (see below), Near Earth Objects: Risk or Opportunity?, the latest results from the largest telescopes in ground and in space, extrasolar planets, the state of the future large telescopes on the ground and in space, Black Holes anno 2006 and much more. A new and untested concept will be the Hot Topics Special Session 4 on Friday 18 August and Tuesday 22 August where fresh results from various fields will be presented. Special Session 2 is dedicated to education, and Special Session 5 to astronomy for the developing world -- two areas of great importance to the IAU.

A rough plan for some of the press briefings that have already received a slot is outlined below. All times are CEST (Central European Standard Time). Note: Several briefings are still in the planning and are not listed here.

More information as it becomes available at:

10:00 Press briefing: General information about the IAU General Assembly 2006.

10:30 Press briefing: General information about the Opening Ceremony.

12:00 Press briefing: The Gruber Award to a distinguished cosmologist.

14:00 The Opening Ceremony, including the official announcement of the Gruber Award.

18:00-20:00 Informal briefing about the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne. This includes a tasting of Australian red wines.

12:00 Press briefing: AAAS/SCIENCE discovery. To be disclosed at the conference. Note: Story under embargo until 17 August 20:00 CEST. Finger food and drinks available.

11:00 Executive committee invites to a discussion of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy

10:00 Press briefing: General update on the General Assembly.

19:30 No-host IAU press dinner.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 22 11:30 Press briefing: Kick-off of the Universe Awareness project.

14:00-17:30 Closing Ceremony. Voting on Resolutions.

18:00 Press briefing: Concluding the General Assembly

PARTICULAR EVENTS SURROUNDING THE DEFINITION OF A PLANET The ongoing work on an IAU Resolution to scientifically define the meaning of the concept "planet" is of particular interest to the public. The IAU is the arbiter of planetary and satellite nomenclature since its inception in 1919. The boundary between planets and other solar system objects has never been defined and the recent discoveries of new objects in the solar system has made it necessary for the IAU to address this issue.

The IAU Executive Committee has decided that the Definition of a Planet discussions should be transparent. The only condition is that the Executive Committee asks that the actual scientific process taking place during discussions at the General Assembly not be disturbed by interventions from the press. In other words, members of the media are welcome during the meetings (except for Business Meetings), but please keep questions outside the meetings, ie, to press briefings or to individual interviews.

The timetable for the press events concerning the Definition of a Planet Resolution is as follows:

8:00 The decision process and a draft Resolution for the Definition of a Planet will be published in the conference newspaper. A press release on the process will be issued.

13:00 Press briefing: Definition of a Planet process

12:45-13:45 Plenary Discussion: The Definition of a Planet issue, invited by the Executive Committee. The press is invited to attend.

14:00-17:30 General Assembly Closing Ceremony: Vote on Resolutions.
Resolution on the Definition of a Planet may be passed. The press is invited to attend.

10:30 Press briefing: Status of the Definition of a Planet decision after the General Assembly

The four Invited Discourses are overview talks by most eminent scientists in their fields.

Wednesday 16 August, 18:15
Invited Discourse 1:
Jill Tarter: The Evolution of Life in the Universe

Thursday 17 August, 18:15
Invited Discourse 2:
Alan Title: The Magnetic Field and its Effects on the Solar Atmosphere as Observed at High Resolution

Monday 21 August, 18:15
Invited Discourse 3:
Shuang Nan Zhang: Similar phenomena at different scales: Black Holes, Sun, Supernovae, Galaxies and Galaxy Clusters

Tuesday 22 August, 18:15
Invited Discourse 4:
Reinhard Genzel: The power of new experimental techniques in astronomy: Zooming in on the black hole at the Centre of the Milky Way

Invited Discourse 1 and 4 will also be the topics of public talks in Prague.

NEWSPAPER The official newspaper Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo III will be issued every day during the 26th General Assembly. It is planned to print the draft Definition of a planet Resolution in the Wednesday August 16 issue.

PRESS FACILITIES The IAU will operate a Press Room (3.2), a Press Conference Room (3.3) and a Press Interview Room (3.1) on third floor of the Prague Congress Centre. It will have hard-wired and wireless internet hubs for the convenience of reporters who are filing to a deadline. The Interview Room is available to the media for one-on-one interviews, and is reserved and scheduled as requests are received. The Press Room will also have a fixed-net telephone, printer, access to copying machine etc. We encourage Public Information Officers and scientists to provide hard copies of press releases, background brochures, visuals etc. The IAU Press Office will update a wall with newspaper clippings.


EMBARGO NOTICE: All science findings mentioned here are embargoed until presented at the IAU General Assembly.

The Press Office will be closed during the weekend Saturday 19 Sunday August 20.



General Assembly:




1. Fill in the Media Accreditation form at:
and email, fax or post it to:

Conference Management
Nm. Dr. Holho 8
180 00 Praha 8, Czech Republic
Fax: +420 - 266 312 113

2. Fill in the form below and email it to:

Lars Lindberg Christensen
Press Officer
International Astronomical Union

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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