The International Year of Astronomy was commemorated at the Royal Australian Mint by the release of the twenty cent, Year of Astronomy in 2009. The initiative also commemorates the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first telescope observations of the night sky (Space.com, 2009).
The Meteorite was chosen for the International Year of Astronomy and the segments depicted in the coin were part of the Campo del Cielo (field of heaven) meteorite shower. This meteorite shower fell to Earth around 4,000 years ago in the area of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The shower composition was of mainly iron with traces of nickel, cobalt and phosperous. There are many meteor showers falling to Earth, one of which is The Geminids. This meteor shower is debris from an extinct comet, and is considered the most spectacular of the annual meteor showers, though they are often overshadowed by the Perseids shower, which occurs during August. At its peak The Geminids can reach up to 100 meteors an hour, and are sometimes colourful. Geminids are also known for their fireball meteors. A universal effort to enable citizens worldwide to explore the universe was initiated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and UNESCO. The aforementioned organisations enabled The International Year of Astronomy 2009 to encourage citizens to examine their place in the Universe utilising both the day and night-time sky, and enlist astronomy with an intimacy of fascination and realisation to attain further knowledge.
The vision of The International Year of Astronomy 2009 was to enable every person to become aware of the impact of astronomy and all sciences on our daily activities. Through this scientific knowledge it was hoped all could see how it contributed and furthered an unbiased and harmonious civilization. It was further hoped that unions between licensed and qualified as well as the amateur astronomer would be brought forth. In Long Beach, California, at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society, The U.S. International Year of Astronomy 2009 commenced on January 6, 2009.
Through utilisation of the world's oldest telescope at the Cincinnati Observatory, viewing of The Pleiades Star Cluster was sent over the web. Also known as the "Seven Sisters", light from The Pleiades star cluster takes approximately 400 years to reach Earth. Therefore, the photons of light that were viewed were almost identical to that viewed by Galileo with his first telescope. Pompea and members of the International Year of Astronomy team also worked with present day astronomers and optics experts to construct an economical telescope that could be built by kids with ease. The optics needed to be easy to assemble but still allowing kids to see the rings of Saturn. The scope also had allowed city-dwellers to view bright objects regardless of their lack of dark skies due to electric city lighting during the night. The result was the Galileoscope. The colourful plastic pieces allowed the children to conduct optics observations while putting assembling their scopes. The telescopes were available for a nominal fee per scope. "Our particular goal is to get millions of people to look through a telescope for the first time," Pompea said. It was a momentous proposal to produce thousands of inexpensive high-performance telescopes that would allow amateur citizens, especially children, to embrace their initial inspiring glance at the heavens.
The initiative also celebrates the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first telescope observation of the night sky. Galileo did not invent the telescope. He designed and built telescopes with exceedingly powerful resolution and grandeur for his personal use and some of his clients. Galileo's telescopes gained notoriety for their superb and magnificent characteristics. The idea that the Earth and the planets revolved around the Sun was given credence after examinations with Galileo's telescope. Numerous stars in the Milky Way and other areas were also noted. A world of stars reaching out to possibly infinity or to some place of massive radius was not viewed.