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Big Ideas in Astronomy: A Proposed Definition of Astronomy Literacy

The Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (IA), an R&D unit funded by the FCT, is leading, together with the Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, in the Netherlands, an initiative that aims to promote global understanding about astronomy. The project is called Big Ideas in Astronomy and consists of a small book that summarizes what everyone should know about the universe and our place in it, which also gave rise to a website, which is now in multiple languages and accessible anytime, anywhere.

"Big Ideas in Astronomy: A Proposed Definition of Astronomy Literacy" is the culmination of years of debate and discussion about the essential topics that an astronomy literate person anywhere in the world should know. It is structured like other international science literacy projects, with eleven key ideas that fill just over 70 pages of a small book, and also a website.

Each big idea serves as the entry point to fascinating concepts, known since ancient times or just a few decades ago, covering historical, theoretical, and observational aspects of astronomy. It is now an online reference in languages such as Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Haitian French, or Japanese, and more languages are on the way.

After two years of input from the worldwide community of scientists, educators, and communicators, the Big Ideas in Astronomy document has been delivered to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Astronomy Education (OAE), whose mission is to support professional astronomers and astronomy educators worldwide in bringing the allure of astronomy into schools.

Under this mission, the OAE will continue the implementation and ensure the next steps of the Big Ideas in Astronomy, which are to: conduct empirical studies on the Big Ideas, foster the development of school curricula aligned with them, promote the production of educational resources and materials for teacher training, and prepare strategic reports for curriculum development.

Photo credits: Aneta Margraf-Druc/Big Ideas in Astronomy