International Astronomical Union
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The International Astronomical Union (IAU) unites national astronomical societies from around the world. It also 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. Headquartered in Paris, France, its individual members are professional astronomers from all over the world, at the Ph.D. level or beyond, and active in professional research and education in astronomy. The IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. National Members are usually those with a significant level of professional astronomy.
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.
The IAU has 9,785 individual members, all of whom are professional astronomers and most of whom hold PhDs. There are also 63 national members who represent countries affiliated with the IAU. 87% of individual members are male; 13% are female. The union's current president is 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.