Press Release

Educational Astronomy Project Awarded 1.9M Euros

By SpaceRef Editor
February 9, 2011
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The European Union (EU) has granted 1.9 million euros to support the 6-country educational program EUNAWE, based on Universe Awareness (UNAWE). UNAWE is an IAU-endorsed program that uses the beauty and grandeur of the Universe to encourage young children, particularly those from an underprivileged background, to have an interest in science and technology and foster their sense of global citizenship from the earliest age. Although UNAWE was only founded five years ago, it is already active in 40 countries and comprises a global network of almost 500 astronomers, teachers and other educators.

The grant has been allocated to European Universe Awareness (EUNAWE), a European branch of the global Universe Awareness (UNAWE) program, and is aimed at the implementation of Universe Awareness programs in six countries over three years: Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Spain. The project will include organizing teacher-training courses and developing hands-on material for children. In the long term, EUNAWE aims to help produce the next generation of European engineers and scientists and to make children from underprivileged areas realize that they are part of a much larger European community.

Leiden University Professor George Miley, Vice President of the IAU and founder and Chairman of UNAWE, is delighted by the news: “With its combination of social, educational and scientific goals, UNAWE can play a unique role in furthering education and development. The allocation of this grant is a recognition by the EU of the importance of UNAWE and is an important step towards realizing our ambition to have an active UNAWE program in every country in the world by 2020.”

UNAWE was founded in 2006 at Leiden University in the Netherlands with support from the Royal Netherlands Academy and the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It became a Cornerstone project of the successful UN-ratified IAU/UNESCO International Year of Astronomy in 2009 (IYA2009). During IYA2009, thousands of UNAWE activities were organized in more than 45 countries. For example, in Venezuela, 43 teacher training sessions reached more than 1,500 teachers and well over 60,000 children. The grant will empower UNAWE to continue to inspire a passion for astronomy as part of the legacy of IYA2009.

UNAWE is also an integral part of the IAU Strategic Plan 2010-2020, which is called Astronomy for the Developing World. This is an ambitious blueprint that aims to use astronomy to foster education and provide skills and competences in science and technology throughout the world, particularly in developing countries. The Plan is being implemented by the IAU Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD) at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town. UNAWE is the first activity of the IAU Strategic Plan to receive external funding and it is a good indicator that additional funding for other activities may be available.

Kevin Govender, who was recently appointed Director of the OAD, adds: “Introducing very young children to the beauty and scale of the Universe stimulates a sense of awe and wonder which plays a significant role in their development. We are delighted that the EU has decided to support the implementation of this unique program.”

EUNAWE will be officially presented during a public event held at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on the 24 of May 2011.


EUNAWE invites journalists, bloggers, educators, astronomers, amateur astronomer and astronomy enthusiasts to attend the event on 24 May 2011, at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. If you plan to attend please send an email with your name, institution and email address to

Contacts: Professor George Miley Co-Chair UNAWE International Steering Committee and IAU Vice President +31 71 5275 849

Lars Lindberg Christensen IAU Press Officer Garching, Germany +49 89 3200 6761; cell: +49-173-3872-621

Ian Corbett IAU General Secretary Paris, France +33 143 258 358; cell: +44 7919 888 942

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The IAU is an international astronomical organization of about 10,000 professional astronomers from 90 countries. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and surface features on them. In 2009, the IAU coordinated the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the largest science education and public outreach event in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people in 148 countries.

IAU Strategic Plan 2010-2020, Astronomy for the Developing World:

European Universe Awareness is coordinated by Leiden University (the Netherlands) in collaboration with partners in Heidelberg University (Germany), Universitat Politecnica De Catalunya (Spain), INAF – Arcetri Observatory (Italy), the South African Astronomical Observatory SAAO (South Africa) and the Armagh Observatory (United Kingdom). The new grant for EUNAWE was awarded under the auspices of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program.

Universe Awareness website:

SpaceRef staff editor.