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International Astronomical Union

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The International Astronomical Union (French: Union astronomique internationale) unites national astronomical societies from around the world. It is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). It is internationally recognized as the authority responsible for naming stars, planets, asteroids, and other celestial bodies and phenomena in the scientific community.

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.

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 president was Benjamin Baillaud. Pieter Johannes van Rhijn served as president from 1932 to 1958.

The IAU currently has 9040 individual members (i.e., professional astronomers), mainly at the PhD level; and 63 national members (i.e., countries that are affiliated with the IAU). Eighty-seven percent of all members are male; 13 percent are female. The current president is Ronald D. Ekers.

The XXVIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (August 2006) will be held in Prague, Czech Republic.

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