International Astronomical Union

"IAU" redirects here. For other uses, see IAU (disambiguation).
International Astronomical Union
Union astronomique internationale

National members from 74 countries
Formation 28 July 1919
Headquarters Paris, France
12,450 individual members[1]
74 national members
Silvia Torres-Peimbert
General Secretary
Piero Benvenuti

The International Astronomical Union (IAU; French: Union astronomique internationale, UAI) is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy.[2] Among other activities, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.[3]

The IAU is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.[4] Working groups include the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies, and the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), which catalogs and standardizes proper names for stars. The IAU is also responsible for the system of astronomical telegrams which are produced and distributed on its behalf by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. The Minor Planet Center also operates under the IAU, and is a "clearinghouse" for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the Solar System.[5] The Working Group for Meteor Shower Nomenclature and the Meteor Data Center coordinate the nomenclature of meteor showers.


The IAU was founded on July 28, 1919, at the Constitutive Assembly of the International Research Council (now International Council for Science) held in Brussels, Belgium.[6][7] Two subsidiaries of the IAU were also created at this assembly: the International Time Commission seated at the International Time Bureau in Paris, France, and the International Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams initially seated in Copenhagen, Denmark.[6] The 7 initial member states were Belgium, Canada, France, Great Britain, Greece, Japan, and the United States, soon to be followed by Italy and Mexico.[6] The first executive committee consisted of Benjamin Baillaud (President, France), Alfred Fowler (General Secretary, UK), and four vice presidents: William Campbell (USA), Frank Dyson (UK), Georges Lecointe (Belgium), and Annibale Riccò (Italy).[6] Thirty-two Commissions (referred to initially as Standing Committees) were appointed at the Brussels meeting and focused on topics ranging from relativity to minor planets. The reports of these 32 Commissions formed the main substance of the first General Assembly, which took place in Rome, Italy, May 2–10, 1922. By the end of the first General Assembly, ten additional nations (Australia, Brazil, Czecho-Slovakia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, and Spain) had joined the Union, bringing the total membership to 19 countries. Although the Union was officially formed eight months after the end of World War I, international collaboration in astronomy had been strong in the pre-war era (e.g., the Astronomische Gesellschaft Katalog projects since 1868, the Astrographic Catalogue since 1887, and the International Union for Solar research since 1904).[6]

The first 50 years of the Union's history are well documented.[6][7] Subsequent history is recorded in the form of reminiscences of past IAU Presidents and General Secretaries. Twelve of the fourteen past General Secretaries in the period 1964-2006 contributed their recollections of the Union's history in IAU Information Bulletin No. 100.[8] Six past IAU Presidents in the period 1976–2003 also contributed their recollections in IAU Information Bulletin No. 104.[9]


The IAU counts a total of 12,376 members, professional astronomers from 96 countries worldwide.[10] 83% of all individual members are male, while 17% are female, among them the union's current president, astronomer Silvia Torres-Peimbert.

Membership also includes 74 national members, professional astronomical communities representing their country's affiliation with the IAU. National members include the Australian Academy of Science, the Chinese Astronomical Society, the French Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academies (United States), the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (Argentina), KACST (Saudi Arabia), the Council of German Observatories, the Royal Astronomical Society (United Kingdom), the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Science Council of Japan, among many others.[11]

The sovereign body of the IAU is its General Assembly, which comprises all members. The Assembly determines IAU policy, approves the Statutes and By-Laws of the Union (and amendments proposed thereto) and elects various committees.

The right to vote on matters brought before the Assembly varies according to the type of business under discussion. The Statutes consider such business to be divided into two categories:

On budget matters (which fall into the second category), votes are weighted according to the relative subscription levels of the national members. A second category vote requires a turnout of at least two-thirds of national members in order to be valid. An absolute majority is sufficient for approval in any vote, except for Statute revision which requires a two-thirds majority. An equality of votes is resolved by the vote of the President of the Union.

The IAU includes member organizations from 74 countries (designated as National Members)[11]

General Assemblies

Since 1922, the IAU General Assembly meets every three years, with the exception of the period between 1938 and 1948, due to World War II. After a Polish request in 1967, and by a controversial decision of the then President of the IAU, an Extraordinary IAU General Assembly was held in February 1973 in Warsaw, Poland, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, soon after the regular 1973 GA had been held in Australia.

Meeting Year Venue
Ist IAU General Assembly (1st) 1922 Rome, Italy
IInd IAU General Assembly (2nd) 1925 Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
IIIrd IAU General Assembly (3rd) 1928 Leiden, Netherlands
IVth IAU General Assembly (4th) 1932 Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Vth IAU General Assembly (5th) 1935 Paris, France
VIth IAU General Assembly (6th) 1938 Stockholm, Sweden
VIIth IAU General Assembly (7th) 1948 Zürich, Switzerland
VIIIth IAU General Assembly (8th) 1952 Rome, Italy
IXth IAU General Assembly (9th) 1955 Dublin, Ireland
Xth IAU General Assembly (10th) 1958 Moscow, Soviet Union
XIth IAU General Assembly (11th) 1961 Berkeley, California, United States
XIIth IAU General Assembly (12th) 1964 Hamburg, West Germany
XIIIth IAU General Assembly (13th) 1967 Prague, Czechoslovakia
XIVth IAU General Assembly (14th) 1970 Brighton, England, United Kingdom
XVth IAU General Assembly (15th) 1973 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
XVIth IAU General Assembly (16th) 1976 Grenoble, France
XVIIth IAU General Assembly (17th) 1979 Montreal, Quebec, Canada
XVIIIth IAU General Assembly (18th) 1982 Patras, Greece
XIXth IAU General Assembly (19th) 1985 New Delhi, India
XXth IAU General Assembly (20th) 1988 Baltimore, Maryland, United States
XXIst IAU General Assembly (21st) 1991 Buenos Aires, Argentina
XXIInd IAU General Assembly (22nd) 1994 The Hague, Netherlands
XXIIIrd IAU General Assembly (23rd) 1997 Kyoto, Kansai, Japan
XXIVth IAU General Assembly (24th) 2000 Manchester, England, United Kingdom
XXVth IAU General Assembly (25th) 2003 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
XXVIth IAU General Assembly (26th) 2006 Prague, Czech Republic
XXVIIth IAU General Assembly (27th) 2009 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
XXVIIIth IAU General Assembly (28th) 2012 Beijing, China
XXIXth IAU General Assembly (29th) 2015 Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
XXXth IAU General Assembly (30th) 2018 Vienna, Austria
XXXIst IAU General Assembly (31st) 2021 Busan, Republic of Korea

The Commission 46: Education in astronomy

Commission 46 is a Committee of the Executive Committee of the IAU, playing a special role in the discussion of astronomy development with governments and scientific academies. The IAU is affiliated with the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), a non-governmental organization representing a global membership that includes both national scientific bodies and international scientific unions. They often encourage countries to become members of the IAU. The Commission further seeks to development, information or improvement of astronomical education. Part of Commission 46, is Teaching Astronomy for Development (TAD) program in countries where there is currently very little astronomical education. Another program is named the Galileo Teacher Training Program (GTTP), being a project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, among which Hands-On Universe that will concentrate more resources on education activities for children and schools designed to advance sustainable global development. GTTP is also concerned with the effective use and transfer of astronomy education tools and resources into classroom science curricula. A strategic plan for the period 2010-2020 has been published.[12]


Cover picture of CAP Journal issue 19[13]

In 2004 the IAU contracted with the Cambridge University Press to publish the Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union.[14]

In 2007, the Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal Working Group prepared a study assessing the feasibility of the Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal (CAPjournal).

See also


  1. Fienberg, Rick (14 August 2015). "A New Tally of Individual IAU Members" (PDF). Kai'aleleiaka. p. 3. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  2. "About the IAU". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  3. Overbye, Dennis (4 August 2014). "You Won't Meet the Beatles in Space - Plan to Liven Official Naming of Stars and Planets Hits Clunky Notes". New York Times. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  4. "IAU Secretariat." International Astronomical Union. Retrieved on 26 May 2011. "Address: IAU - UAI Secretariat 98-bis Blvd Arago F–75014 PARIS FRANCE" and "The IAU Secretariat is located in the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, 2nd floor, offices n°270, 271 and 283."
  5. "Centres – Minor Planet Center". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Blaauw, Adriaan (1994). History of the IAU : the birth and first half-century of the International Astronomical Union. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 0-7923-2979-1.
  7. 1 2 Adams, Walter S. (February 1949). "The History of the International Astronomical Union" (PDF). Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 61 (358): 5. Bibcode:1949PASP...61....5A. doi:10.1086/126108. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  8. IAU Information Bulletin No. 100, July 2007
  9. IAU Information Bulletin No. 104, June 2009
  10. As of August 2015,
  11. 1 2 "National Members". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  12. Astronomy for the Developing World, Building from the IYA 2009, Strategic Plan 2010-20
  13. "CAPjournal Rosetta Special Out Now". Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  14. "Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union". Cambridge Journals Online. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  • Statutes of the IAU, VII General Assembly (1948), pp. 13–15
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