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International Initiative in Defence of the Quality of the Night Sky as Mankind’s Scientific, Cultural and Environmental Heritage

Astronomical Heritage - Hawaii 2015

Astronomical Heritage: Progressing the UNESCO–IAU Initiative


A Focus Meeting to be held at the 29th IAU General Assembly

Honolulu, Hawaii, August 11–13, 2015

Since 2008 the International Astronomical Union has worked with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to implement its Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative. Through deliverables such as the ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on the Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy (2010) and thePortal to the Heritage of Astronomy (2012), it has been influential in developing broad criteria for assessing the heritage values, and ultimately the potential Outstanding Universal Value (needed for inclusion on the World Heritage List), of cultural sites of all ages relating to astronomy. Since 2012, representatives of the IAU have begun to work directly with State Parties in the context of the Initiative to help develop particular potential nominations to the World Heritage List.
This meeting will review achievements to date, discuss some of the most challenging current issues in the general assessment of different types and categories of astronomical heritage, and evaluate progress with three projects focusing on particular potential nominations. The existence of both ancient and modern sites of outstanding importance relating to astronomy make the Hawaiian Islands a very appropriate setting for this meeting, and the time and place are particularly apposite given both the “Windows to the Universe” project and the expected publication, by the time of the General Assembly, of a second Thematic Study on astronomical heritage and at least two major new works relating to Hawaiian cultural astronomy.

More information:

The Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy



The Memorandum of Understanding between UNESCO and the IAU, whereby the two bodies undertake to work together to implement UNESCO’s Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, was first signed in 2008 and was renewed in 2013. Since 2008 the IAU has played a vital role in a wide range of activities, coordinated up to 2012 through its Working Group on Astronomy and World Heritage and during the 2012–15 triennium directly under the auspices of Division C. The SOC co-chairs have been responsible throughout for coordinating the Initiative from the IAU and UNESCO sides.
The main deliverables to date have been the ICOMOS–IAU Thematic Study on the Heritage Sites of Astronomy and Archaeoastronomy (2010) and this Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy (2012). The Thematic Study, developed by the IAU in collaboration with UNESCO’s independent advisory body for cultural sites, ICOMOS, presents an overall vision of astronomical heritage through a wide range of case studies and helps to establish criteria by which World Heritage List nominations relating to astronomical heritage sites can be judged. The “Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy” is a dynamic, publicly accessible database, discussion forum, and document-repository on astronomical heritage sites throughout the world, directly linked to UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre website. By the time of this meeting a second Thematic Study will have been published, addressing, through a number of extended case studies, key issues such as the protection of dark skies.



Given that the Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative is a collaboration between the IAU and UNESCO, this meeting will have a substantial input from non-IAU members who represent UNESCO and its Advisory Bodies (ICOMOS for cultural sites and the IUCN for natural sites) as well as other international organisations involved in its implementation such as the Starlight Initiative and COSPAR (for space technology heritage).

More information:

The IAU XXIX General Assebly wep page


More information




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Starlight Finder

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Covenant of Mayors Related Initiative


Colaborating with IAU Working Group


IUCN Dark Sky Advisory Group


Dark Skies Awareness Project


Partnership Unesco-MaB


Member of the Knowledge Network


Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

The Starlight Initiative is designed as an international action in defence of the values associated with the night sky and the general right to observe the stars. It is open to the participation of all scientific, cultural, environmental, and citizens' organizations...

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