UN proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy

The United Nations 62nd General Assembly proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. UNESCO was designated as the lead agency and focal point for the Year.
The UNESCO Thematic Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage” launched in support of this International Year aims to establish a link between science and culture with a view to highlighting the scientific value of cultural sites connected with astronomy.

The World Heritage Centre appeals to State Parties to the World Heritage Convention to contribute to the activities within the framework of the Initiative “Astronomy and World Heritage” to promote the recognition of astronomical knowledge including through the nomination of sites that celebrate achievements in science.

The cosmos have captivated the imagination of civilizations throughout the ages. The efforts of those cultures to understand or interpret what they see in the sky are often reflected in their architecture, petroglyphs, and other cultural representations.

The objective of the Astronomy and World Heritage thematic initiative is to establish a link between science and culture on the basis of research aimed at acknowledging the cultural and scientific values of properties connected with astronomy. The identification, safeguarding and promotion of these properties are the three lines of actions for the implementation of this programme. Its goals are:
·    to offer a methodological framework for associated actions
·    to open the pathway for cooperation between States Parties and academic communities and
·    to share knowledge.

The sky, our common and universal heritage, forms an integral part of the total environment that is perceived by mankind. Including the interpretation of the sky as a theme in World Heritage is a logical step towards taking into consideration the relationship between mankind and its environment. This step is necessary for the recognition and safeguarding of cultural properties and of cultural or natural landscapes that transcribe the relationship between mankind and the sky.
Properties relating to astronomy stand as a tribute to the complexity and diversity of ways in which people rationalised the cosmos and framed their actions in accordance with that understanding. This includes, but is by no means restricted to, the development of modern scientific astronomy. This close and perpetual interaction between astronomical knowledge and its role within human culture is a vital element of the outstanding universal value of these properties. These material testimonies of astronomy, found in all geographical regions, span all periods from prehistory to today.

Why "Astronomy" and "World Heritage"
As there are few properties related to science on the World Heritage List, and the scientific value of cultural properties related to astronomy is not always recognized, the World Heritage Centre, in close collaboration with the State Parties and ICOMOS, have developed the thematic initiative "Astronomy and World Heritage" in response to the ever-growing concept of World Heritage, and the Global Strategy for a Balanced, Representative and Credible World Heritage List adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 1994.
This Initiative provides us with an opportunity to identify properties related to astronomy located around the world, to preserve their memory and save them from progressive deterioration.
Support from the international community is needed to develop this activity which will allow us to help preserve this sometimes very fragile heritage.

(Source: UNESCO)


(D.H., 05.02.2009)