The International Year of Astronomy 2009/Mani Bhaumik Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach has been awarded to From Earth to the Universe (FETTU). This award recognises FETTU’s important contribution in improving public awareness of astronomical achievements, and in stimulating the use of astronomy for the promotion of scientific education and culture in 2009.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) featured tens of thousands of events worldwide. These were organised and implemented by many professionals, amateurs and volunteers who built IYA2009 into the most successful science education and public outreach project ever undertaken. While it is impossible to acknowledge all the activities that have taken place in 2009 and all those who have made them possible, an IYA2009 Prize for Excellence in Astronomy Education and Public Outreach has been established to reward some of the most ambitious. Thirty submissions were accepted from 21 countries and nine transnational organisations. After a very careful evaluation of all submissions, and much difficult deliberation, From Earth to the Universe was selected as the winner.

We are really pleased to award the prize to From Earth to the Universe, a project which has really captured the spirit of the contest and of IYA2009 as a whole.” says Dr. Mani Bhaumik, the IYA2009 Patron.

Three additional projects from the very high quality field were selected as runners-up in the contest. The first is Around the World in 80 Telescopes, a 24-hour live webcast presenting observatories and astronomical research around the world, part of the global project, 100 Hours of Astronomy. The webcast featured eighty professional telescopes in seven continents and reached well over 110 000 viewers in 24 hours and many more are still watching online every day from all around the world.

The Galileoscope and Galileo Teacher Training Program shared the second runners-up prize, for their outstanding contributions to all aspects of education during IYA2009. The Galileo Teacher Training Program helped more than 5000 educators in more than 40 countries improve their methods of teaching astronomy and bringing it to the classroom, while the Galileoscope project created a low-cost telescope kit that enabled children and adults worldwide to relive Galileo’s sense of discovery. More than 180 000 of these have been produced and distributed to individuals, astronomy clubs, planetariums, science centres, museums, schools and other groups.

It was very difficult to select the winners as so many initiatives deserve acclaim for what they’ve done. All of the projects help contribute to the legacy of IYA2009 and its important mission of astronomy education and public outreach.” says Ian Corbett, IAU General Secretary and member of the prize jury. “Those on our final list showed ambition and scope far above and beyond conventional science communication ventures, and this was an important factor in our decision.

The winner receives 3500 Euros, the first runner-up receives 1500 Euros, and the two second runners-ups will each receive 750 Euros. The awards and certificates will be delivered in March during the Communicating Astronomy with the Public 2010 Conference, in Cape Town, South Africa. Kimberly Kowal Arcand, FETTU co-chair, will give a keynote talk at the conference.

You can read the full IYA2009 press release on the IYA2009 or IAU sites.