As the first speaker at this Colloquium, it is my pleasure to welcome the participants (and the readers of these Proceedings), on behalf of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and its Commission 46 (Teaching of Astronomy). It is also my pleasure to thank our hosts University College London, and The Open University; the Scientific Organizing Committee, chaired by Lucienne Gouguenheim, and especially the Local Organizing Committee, chaired by Barrie Jones and Derek McNally. They have made this meeting most enjoyable and successful.
Eight years ago, many of us were in Williamstown, USA, for the first IAU Colloquium on astronomy education. Since then, there have been enormous changes – political, economic, and technological – which have affected our work. There have also been about 100 IAU conferences on research topics, but this is only the second on education. We all agree that we must work to correct that imbalance!
We are here to catch up on what has happened in astronomy education in the last eight years. We are here to teach and learn, through lectures, posters, and discussions – both formal and informal. We are here to renew old friendships, and make new ones. These human dimensions of this Colloquium are only hinted at in these Proceedings, but I assure you that they occurred.
Why is Astronomy Education Important?
Education is important to astronomers because it affects the recruitment and training of future astronomers, and because it affects the awareness, understanding and appreciation of astronomy by taxpayers and politicians who support us. We have an obligation to share the excitement and the significance of our work with students and the public.