I  A  O

The International Astronomy Olympiad


What is the I A O ?

information in Russian language
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This site offers information about the International Astronomy Olympiad one of the six First International Science Olympiads (like International Olympiads on Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Informatics and Biology). It contains the Organization Rules of the IAO which are officially accepted by all participating states and ratified by the leading body of the IAO - the Euro-Asian Astronomical Society. The Rules have to be strictly followed by all participants.
It also includes a brief history of the IAO and necessary information for new participating countries and future host countries.

1. Introduction

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.

2. Aims of the IAO

In recognition that:

  • astronomy plays a fundamental role in the human progress and will acquire more global importance in the 21 century;
  • astronomical knowledge is an important part of the culture of our civilization and an essential factor in forming the view of life and the way of thinking of the young people in the modern world;

The Olympiad sets itself the aims of:

1) Attracting the most talented young people to professional careers in the field of astronomy:

  • giving an opportunity for showing their capabilities and encouraging the best students;
  • helping the young people in choosing a profession;
  • acquainting the participants with the real working conditions and the nature of the research work in the hosting observatory (institute), exchange of ideas and knowledge between astronomers, teachers and students.

2) Spreading astronomical knowledge among as many students as possible and improving the astronomical education:

  • provoking an interest in astronomy, physics and astronautics in a greater number of children and young people;
  • popularization of natural science and the scientific approach in astronomy and related sciences;
  • encouraging teachers to work for improving, enriching and enlarging school astronomy education and including more children in it;
  • activating the astronomy education in the junior classes of the high school;
  • promoting extracurricular activities in amateur clubs, scientific societies, circles etc.;
  • stimulating organization of national astronomical Olympiads in different countries;
  • enhancing international contacts in the field of astronomy and physics education in schools.

3) Stimulating the imagination and creativity of children:

  • the character of the astronomical tasks enables putting the students in non-standard situations, very close to those of a real scientific research; they can require creating hypotheses, assuming approximations, choosing between a multitude of factors that could be taken into account or neglected, and independent decision about the form of the needed answers;
  • the astronomical tasks can set unusual problems for which solving a free way of thinking, fantasy and inventiveness are necessary;
  • astronomical tasks allow a variety of completely different, although correct solutions applying different original approaches.

4) Cultivating a spirit of correctness and friendship:

  • the International Astronomy Olympiad is a meeting of young people from different countries - future colleagues in the scientific exploration who will have to work in cooperation;
  • in the time of the Olympiad favourable conditions are created for active contacts between students, teachers and specialists from the hosting observatory (institute) aimed at an intense exchange of knowledge, education and upbringing of the children during all stages of the event.

3. History

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.

Juridical founding of the International Astronomy Olympiad has been done by Euro-Asian Astronomical Society on June, 7, 1996, as an annual astronomy competition for high-school students.

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.

International Astronomy Olympiads
IAO Nr. Year Dates Country Observatory or Institute Town Number of states Lo-
1990 October
Moscow Land * ISSP RAS Chernogolovka 3 1 +
1991 December
Moscow Land * ISSP RAS Chernogolovka 4 1 +
I 1996 November
Russia SAO RAS Nizhnij Arkhyz 4 1 -
II 1997 October
Russia SAO RAS Nizhnij Arkhyz 4 - -
III 1998 October
Russia SAO RAS Nizhnij Arkhyz 5 1 -
IV 1999 September 25
- October 2
Crimea * CrLab SAI,
Nauchnyj 7 2 -
V 2000 October
Russia SAO RAS Nizhnij Arkhyz 8 - -
VI 2001 September 26
- October 3
Crimea * CrLab SAI,
Nauchnyj 7 1 -
VII 2002 October
Russia SAO RAS Nizhnij Arkhyz 11 - +
VIII 2003 October
Sweden Stockholm Observatory Stockholm 13 2 +
IX 2004 October
Crimea * CrLab SAI,
Simeiz 18 - -
X 2005 October 25 -
November 2
China Beijing Planetaruim Beijing 15 2 +
XI 2006 November
India Tata Institute for Fundamental Research Bombay
( Mumbai )
16 3 n





XII 2007 September 29
- October 7
Crimea * CrLab SAI,
Simeiz 23 1
XIII 2008 October
Italy Trieste Astronomical Observatory Trieste 19 -
XIV 2009 November
China Beijing Planetaruim Hangzhou 17 1
XV 2010 October
Crimea * CrLab SAI,
Sudak 19 -
XVI 2011 September
Kazakhstan AFI Alma-Ata 19 2
XVII 2012 October
Korea SNU Gwangju 20 2
XVIII 2013 September
Lithuania   Vilnius 20 -
XIX 2014 October
Kyrgyzstan AFI Bishkek -
17 -
XX 2015 October
Russia Kazan University Observatory Kazan 13 -
XXI 2016 October
Bulgaria Rozhen Observatory Pamporovo -

(*) 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.

Asian-Pacific Astronomy Olympiads
APAO Nr. Year Dates Country Town Number of states Local
I 2005 December
Russia Irkutsk 5 - +
II 2006 December
Russia Vladivostok 6 - -
III 2007 November
China Xiamen 4 - +
IV 2008 November
Kirgizia Bishkek 6 - -
V 2009 October
Korea Damyang 9 - +
VI 2010 November 24
- December 5
Indonesia Tolikara 8 1 +
VII 2011 November
Kazakhstan Aktyubinsk 6 - +
VIII 2012 November 26
- December 4
Bangladesh Cox's Bazar 6 - -
IX 2013 November 23
- December 2
Indonesia Tomohon 6 - +
X 2014 November 24
- December 2
Russia Irkutsk 5 - +
XI 2015 November
Bangladesh Dhaka 4 - -
XII 2016 November
Korea Goheung     +

4. Participating and observing states

States, presented on the past IAO's (incl. preliminary ones):

Participating States

Armenia (ANRAO registered)
Brazil (ANRAO registered)
Bulgaria (ANRAO registered)
China (ANRAO registered 30.07.2003.)
Crimea (ANRAO registered in 2004.)
Croatia (ANRAO registered)
Czechia (ANRAO registered)
Estonia (ANRAO registered 14.09.2004.)
India (ANRAO registered 25.07.2003.)
Indonesia (ANRAO registered 05.07.2004.)
Iran (ANRAO registered 01.10.2004.)
Italy (ANRAO registered 20.12.2002.)

Kazakhstan (ANRAO registered 29.06.2007.)
Korea (ANRAO registered)
Lithuania (ANRAO registered in 2004.)
Moscow (ANRAO registered 01.10.1998.)
Romania (ANRAO registered 01.10.2004.)
Russia (ANRAO registered 07.06.1996.)
Serbia (ANRAO registered 22.10.2002.)
Sri Lanka
Sweden (ANRAO registered 01.10.2003.
Thailand (ANRAO registered 14.08.2005.)
Ukraine (ANRAO registered 16.08.2007.)

Individual Participation from

Belorussia (2000, 2007)
Canada (2010)

Finland (1996)

Observing States

Denmark (1998)
Ireland (2003)
Japan (2005)

Bangladesh (2006)
Cambodia (2012)
Ghana (2012)

Observing International Organizations

The International Mathematical Olympiad (2007)

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.

5. Frequently asked questions about the IAO

6. Guidelines for a new country desire to join IAO movement

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:

  • X Asian-Pacific Astronomy Olympiad (Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia), November-December 2014.
  • 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:

  • XIX International Astronomy Olympiad, Bishkek - Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan, October 2014.

  • I.e. as an exception any country may start participation in IAO in 2014.

    7. Guidelines for an urgent send a team to IAO

    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 Council

    Explanations 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

    8. Guidelines for the host observatory

    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.

    Update 29.07.2016.