International Astronomical Union

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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy.[1] Headquartered in Paris, France, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them, and is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). The main aim of the IAU 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.

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.

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History

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,[2] 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.[3]

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