About International Astronomical Union
International Astronomical Union
Membership 73 national members
10871 individual members
President Robert Williams
General Secretary Ian F. Corbett
The International Astronomical Union or IAU (Union astronomique internationale or UAI, in French) is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. It acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.
The IAU is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. The IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Working groups include the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies. The IAU is also responsible for the system of astronomical telegrams which are produced and distributed on its behalf by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams. The Minor Planet Center (MPC), a clearinghouse for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the solar system, also operates under
The IAU was founded in 1919, as a merger of various international projects including the Carte du Ciel, the Solar Union and the International Time Bureau (Bureau International de l'Heure). The first appointed President was Benjamin Baillaud. Pieter Johannes van Rhijn served as president from 1932 to 1958. In the IAU Information Bulletin No. 100, twelve of the fourteen past General Secretaries since 1964, each one in office for the three years between General Assemblies, recall the IAU history with its difficulties, e.g. with Soviet bloc officials, with the Greek military junta, and the reasons behind the unpopular decision to hold an additional Extraordinary General Assembly in Poland on the occasion of Nicolaus Copernicus' 500th birthday in February 1973, shortly after the regular GA in Australia.[a]
IAU member states
The IAU has 10,871 individual members, all of whom are professional astronomers and most of whom hold PhDs. There are also 73 national members who represent countries affiliated with the IAU. 86% of individual members are male, while 14% are female, among them the union's former president, astronomer Catherine J. Cesarsky. The sovereign body of the IAU is its General Assembly, which comprises all members. The Assembly determines IAU policy, approves the Statutes and By-Laws of the Union (and amendments proposed thereto) and elects various committees. The right to vote on matters brought before the Assembly varies according to the type of business under discussion. The Statutes consider such business to be divided into two categories:
• issues of a "primarily scientific nature" (as determined by the Executive Committee), upon which voting is restricted to individual members, and
• all other matters (such as Statute revision and procedural questions), upon which voting is restricted to the representatives of national members.
On budget matters (which fall into the second category), votes are weighted according to the relative subscription levels of the national members. A second category vote requires a turnout of at least two-thirds of national members in order to be valid. An absolute majority is sufficient for approval in any vote, except for Statute revision which requires a two-thirds majority. An equality of votes is resolved by the vote of the President of the Union.