A big goal of the IYA 2009 campaign is to get as many people as possible to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the universe. A great way to do that is to actually look through a telescope. To make that goal easier, legions of amatuer astronomers will be running star parties all year long. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with the Night Sky Network will be providing training materials on selected observing themes for each month of the year.
Even cooler than going to a star party is having your own telescope, and the knowledge of how to use it to see the Moon or Saturn. One of the things being worked on to bring a great many telescopes to the people is the Galileoscope. The Galileoscope is a small inexpensive telescope that is actually better than the one Galileo used. With it people should be able to reproduce Galileo's observations of the night sky.
Of course Galileo had an advantage over most of today's astronomers - dark skies. Connie Walker of the Globe at Night program moderated a session on dark skies. Lots of great information in the session, but the beauty of the night can speak for it self. Check out the gallery of amazing photos over at The World At Night to see why dark skies matter.
One of my favorite things from the session is this fantistic, yet simple, demonstration (follow the link & scroll down to "Paper Plate Education") on the advantages to shielding streetlights. It is so elegant.
Often overlooked is light pollution in a different, non-visible, region of the EM spectrum - radio. The folks at the Green Bank Radio Telescope have a website, Quiet Skies, on protecting radio wavelengths for radio astronomy. Teachers take note, there's materials available for middle & high school students.
Oh yeah, I also got to meet Johannes Kepler. How cool is that?