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University of Leicester undergraduate selected as only UK student representative at launch of International Year of Astronomy

Representing UK young astronomers at the official opening of the International Year of Astronomy in Paris, Ryan Laird is an undergraduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

University of Leicester undergraduate selected as only UK student representative at launch of International Year of Astronomy

Royal Astronomical Society selects Leicester student for historic occasion

Issued by 09 January 2008

A University of Leicester undergraduate has been invited as the only student representing the UK at the official opening of the International Year of Astronomy to be held in Paris on January 15.

Ryan Laird, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, has been selected by the Royal Astronomical Society, to attend the prestigious occasion which will see astronomers, scientists and media from around the world converge on the French capital.

2009 has been declared as International Year of Astronomy by the General Assembly of the UN (United Nations Organisation).

The Opening ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy will take place from January 15-16 under the aegis of the UN, the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), the IAU (International Astronomical Union). It is also supported by a number of sponsors including French and international organisations and institutions.

About 600 participants are expected, among them eminent scientists (including Nobel Prize winners), and also about 200 young students from over 100 countries, participating in the International Year IYA2009.

Ryan was selected by the Royal Astronomical Society to represent UK young astronomers because of his track record in public and educational outreach as well as his academic potential.

David Elliott, of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “The International Year of Astronomy is all about individuals involved in astronomy communicating and sharing their passion and enthusiasm with the general public, particularly young people. Ryan will come back from Paris ‘charged up’ to do this even more successfully.”

Ryan said: “This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity the Royal Astronomical Society has given me, thank you. I can’t wait! I very much look forward to meeting other students like myself from around the world; sharing our cultures, experiences, interests and ideas. I think it’s also a great chance to network with professional organisations in the subject from around the world and help raise awareness of this great subject. Personally I feel it is a great shame how the beauty of the night sky is increasingly being washed out by light pollution making it harder to see the wonders of the universe.”

Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester, Professor Martin Barstow, praised Ryan on his achievement: “It is a testament to a lot of hard work by Ryan, not just in his normal course work but also in his extensive outreach activities and summer placements that contribute to encouraging other young people to go on to study science.”

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) has been launched by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) under the theme "The Universe, yours to discover". IYA2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first astronomical observation through a telescope in 1609, an event that changed astronomy forever. IYA2009 will be a global celebration of astronomy and its contribution to society and culture, with strong emphasis on education, public participation, and the involvement of young people, and with events at national, regional, and global levels. Many thousands of individuals in over 130 countries around the world are already involved, forming the world's largest ever astronomy network. IYA2009 will portray astronomy as a peaceful global scientific endeavour that unites astronomers in an international, multicultural family of scientists, working together to find answers to some of the most fundamental questions that humankind has ever asked.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK

You can interview Ryan by emailing rjml1@le.ac.uk or ring University of Leicester press office on 0116 252 2415

Picture of Ryan Laird attached/available from University of Leicester press office

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