The International Astronomy Olympiad is a scientific-educating event for students of the junior high school classes - 14-18 years old, which includes an intellectual competition between these students. The style of the problems is aimed at developing the imagination, creativity and independent thinking.
The Olympiad is carried out in the spirit of friendship, tolerance, where the competition is a stimulus for showing the participants' capabilities but contacts, exchange of ideas and collaboration between students, teachers and scientists from various countries have a primary importance. It should be emphasized that the competition at the International Astronomy Olympiad is the central but not the most important part of the programme, in other words the competition with its points, places and Diploma is only a tool but not the purpose of the Olympiad, and the Olympiad is not "selection of the best students" and not "examinations".
IAO takes place each year in the first two months of the astronomical autumn (i.e. September 22 - November 22) in either an observatory, a scientific research centre (town) or at an institute of the participating countries. IAO is organized by the Authorized National Representative (Astronomical) Organization (ANRAO) of the organizing country.
ANRAO of every participating country may send five students, who are the winners of the respective national olympiads or easy competitions: three students for the group Alpha (14-15 years old) and two students to the group Beta (16-18 years old). They are to be accompanied by two team leaders as representatives of each country.
Countries which did not registered their ANRAO may send up to three students: two students for the group Alpha (14-15 years old) and one student to the group Beta (16-18 years old). They are also to be accompanied by two team leaders.
Observers may be at the Olympiad as well.
The Olympiad is intended for students of the adolescent age when the interest to astronomy is being formed most actively. Then preparation for participation is still a useful and purposeful education not yet having turned training into an end in itself. This is a principal idea of the Olympiad.
A considerable part of the knowledge which is necessary for participation in the Olympiad goes beyond the frames of the school curriculum in most of the countries in the world. Preparation for the Olympiad needs extra-curricular activities of various types, whose promoting is one of the Olympiad's aims.
The total amount of knowledge is comparatively not too large and acquiring it is completely within the reach of the students of the above-mentioned age. It is also the age for which the spirit of the Olympiad as an entertaining competition is most appropriate. Involving students of the senior classes would lead to enlarging and complicating the necessary material, which would be senseless. For such students it already turns into a kind of sport and is significantly less useful from an educational point of view. For students 17-20 years old more serious events are preferable like conferences and competitions of research projects.
The International Olympiad is also a meeting of teachers and scientists, where exchange of ideas takes place, methods for refining the astronomical education are discussed and international collaboration in this field is established.
In recognition that:
The Olympiad sets itself the aims of:
1) Attracting the most talented young people to professional careers in the field of astronomy:
2) Spreading astronomical knowledge among as many students as possible and improving the astronomical education:
3) Stimulating the imagination and creativity of children:
4) Cultivating a spirit of correctness and friendship:
Competitions for young amateur astronomers, called "Olympiads", are carried out in former USSR for many years. The first attempts to organize a competition in an international (i.e. multilanguage) scale have been done in scientific town of Soviet Academy of Sciences "Chernogolovka" in 1990-1991 as a part of the so called Olympiad of Naukograds and Scientific Centres (NSC Olympiad). Teams of Russia, Moscow, Latvia and Estonia participated. These events provided ground for the future IAO proper.
Positive experience during international olympiads in other natural sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology), Mathematics and Informatics led to the idea of starting an International Astronomy Olympiad.
Immediately after the founding the Olympic Coordinating Council was established.
The first official IAO was held in the Special Astrophysical Observatory of Russian Academy of Sciences in November 1996 as a part of programme of the Autumn Astronomy School for Young Astrophysists. Notwithstanding some initial difficulties, this olympiad was a great success and it was decided to continue with the IAO. In subsequent olympiads the number of participating states increased.
So the Olympiad of Naukograds and Scientific Centres and Autumn Astronomy School of Young Astrophysists in the Special Astrophysical Observatory may be considered as father and mother of the International Astronomy Olympiad.
(*) Moscow Land and Peninsula of Crimea, as organizers of the oldest open astronomical olympiads/competitions (more than 50 years), and due to their historical service in the formation and development of IAO, are considered as independent states with all rights and duties.
(**) The host team may participate at the IAO as an additional team in the case of fulfilling some special requirements. So there were participated team of NSC at the preliminary Olympiads, team of SAO RAS at the VII IAO, team of Stockholm city at the VIII IAO and team of Beijing city/province at the X IAO.
States, presented on the past IAO's (incl. preliminary ones):
Note: participating states - states which have sent teams with contestants to at least one IAO; individual participation - states which sent only individual participants to at least one IAO but haven't sent full team yet; observing states - states, which have sent observers to at least one IAO but haven't sent contestants yet.
The following ways for a country, desired to join IAO movement are possible:
1. To send an official ANRAO observer to the coming IAO.
In the case of sending such an observer to the XIX IAO (to be organized in Bishkek - Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, October 2014), the country will have permission to start participation in IAO in 2015, 2016 or 2017.
2. To send a team to the next licenced IAO-type event.
The next IAO-type events are:
The country participated at this event will have permission to start participation in IAO in 2015 or 2016.
3. To send a small team to the IAO organized at the "historical territory" or IAO with the same rules.
The next such IAO is:
I.e. as an exception any country may start participation in IAO in 2014.
The following steps should be done by a country, which has permission to take part in IAO and urgently desired to participate in the coming Olympiad:
1. To register ANRAO
In this case a country has a chance to send a full team (five students and two team leaders) to IAO. Otherwise country may send a delegation only of three contestants and two team leaders. But it is possible to sent a small team without ANRAO registration.
2. To organize National Astronomy Olympiad or other competition to select students to the team
It is also obligatory for a country which wants to send full team to IAO.
3. To select students to the team
It is very important to read the Rules in advance, not to forget about age limits of the IAO-participants.
4. To send a report about national olympiad or competition to the Olympic Coordinating CouncilExplanations about the report.
5. To wait a resolution
In five weeks after receiving the report the Chairman of the Olympic Coordinating Council will issue resolution about possibility for the country to send full (or not full) team to the IAO.
6. To prepare all data for the application
After receiving the resolution about possible number of participants the country have to send application. The personal data questionnaire and the order of their presenting (necessary with the application for all proposed participants and leaders) is here.
7. To translate "Rules and Regulations for a Participant"
Translation to the national language of participants of the "Rules and Regulations for a Participant" of the Olympiad should be included to the application as well.
8. To send the application
The first important note: according to the Statutes the host of the IAO is an observatory, scientific research center (town), institute, but not a country.
One should ask the Coordinating Council for necessary documents.