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Australian Coin Celebrates Star-Gazing
By Kerry Rodgers

UNESCO, in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union, has decreed 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy. It marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope and recognizes his controversial but revolutionary discoveries that began modern star-gazing.

Australia has long been a major player in both optical- and radio-astronomy, and the Royal Australian Mint has marked this international occasion with the issue of a special proof and uncirculated IYA dollar and a special proof and uncirculated IYA 20-cent coin. Both are available as part of six- and two-coin proof and uncirculated sets.

The IYA $1 coin features an image of the Parkes' radio telescope, located 20 kilometers north of Parkes, NSW. Forty years ago this scope was one vital link in receiving images of that historic "one giant leap for mankind" when Apollo 11 moon landed in July 1969.

The reverse design of the 20 cents takes as its theme that of the IYA itself: "The Universe, Yours to Discover." It shows silhouettes of star-gazers set against a star-chart backdrop.

Both coins were designed by Caitlin Goodall, who has been with the mint since January 2007. Caitlin took her starry backdrop for the 20 cents from an old star chart that blended astronomical constellations with zodiacal astrology. Readers with an interest in the heavens may wish to take a close look at her design. The choice of chart may explain why Caitlin's stylized constellations appear to more closely resemble those of the northern sky rather than those seen Down Under.

The coins were launched by the mint at a prestigious Star Party at the nation's capital on Nov. 7. It provided a great precursor to the upcoming International Year of Astronomy. Senior Aussie astronomers were in attendance, and a fabulous light show took place, during which locally-taken astrophotographs were projected across the walls of the mint building.

Collectors need to note that to get both proof and BU examples of both IYA coins it is necessary to buy all four sets. The proof IYA dollar comes in the six-coin proof set. Its BU counterpart comes in the two-coin unc. set where it is twinned with a standard 2009 platypus 20-cent coin.

The unc. IYA 20 cents is contained in the six-coin IYA unc. set with the proof version in a twin set paired with a proof 2009 mob-of-roos dollar.


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