The solar cycle or solar magnetic activity cycle is the nearly periodic 11-year change in the Sun's activity and appearance. They have been observed for centuries; the changes on the Sun cause effects in space, in the atmosphere, on Earth's surface. While it is the dominant variable in solar activity, aperiodic fluctuations occur. Solar cycles have an average duration of about 11 years. Solar maximum and solar minimum refer to periods of maximum and minimum sunspot counts. Cycles span from one minimum to the next; the solar cycle was discovered in 1843 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe, who after 17 years of observations noticed a periodic variation in the average number of sunspots. Rudolf Wolf compiled and studied these and other observations, reconstructing the cycle back to 1745 pushing these reconstructions to the earliest observations of sunspots by Galileo and contemporaries in the early seventeenth century. Following Wolf's numbering scheme, the 1755–1766 cycle is traditionally numbered "1". Wolf created the Wolf index, which continues to be used today.
The period between 1645 and 1715, a time of few sunspots, is known as the Maunder minimum, after Edward Walter Maunder, who extensively researched this peculiar event, first noted by Gustav Spörer. In the second half of the nineteenth century Richard Carrington and Spörer independently noted the phenomena of sunspots appearing at different latitudes at different parts of the cycle; the cycle's physical basis was elucidated by George Ellery Hale and collaborators, who in 1908 showed that sunspots were magnetized. In 1919 they showed. Hale's observations revealed that the complete magnetic cycle spans two solar cycles, or 22 years, before returning to its original state. However, because nearly all manifestations are insensitive to polarity, the "11-year solar cycle" remains the focus of research. Furthermore, the two halves of the 22-year cycle are not identical. In 1961 the father-and-son team of Harold and Horace Babcock established that the solar cycle is a spatiotemporal magnetic process unfolding over the Sun as a whole.
They observed that the solar surface is magnetized outside of sunspots, that this magnetic field is to first order a dipole, that this dipole undergoes polarity reversals with the same period as the sunspot cycle. Horace's Babcock Model described the Sun's oscillatory magnetic field as having a quasi-steady periodicity of 22 years, it covered the oscillatory exchange of energy between toroidal and poloidal solar magnetic field ingredients. Sunspot numbers over the past 11,400 years have been reconstructed using Carbon-14-based dendroclimatology; the level of solar activity beginning in the 1940s is exceptional – the last period of similar magnitude occurred around 9,000 years ago. The Sun was at a high level of magnetic activity for only ~10% of the past 11,400 years. All earlier high-activity periods were shorter than the present episode. Fossil records suggest. For example, the cycle length during the early Permian is estimated to be 10.62 years and in the Neoproterozoic. Until 2009 it was thought that 28 cycles had spanned the 309 years between 1699 and 2008, giving an average length of 11.04 years, but research showed that the longest of these seems to have been two cycles, so that the average length is only around 10.7 years.
Since observations began cycles as short as 9 years and as long as 14 years have been observed, in the double cycle of 1784–1799 one of the two component cycles had to be less than 8 years in length. Significant amplitude variations occur. A list of historical "grand minima" of solar activity exists. There are many mutually contradictory predictions, based on different methods, for the forthcoming solar cycle 25, ranging from weak to moderate magnitude. At present, no definite prediction can be made; the current solar cycle began on 4 January 2008, with minimal activity until early 2010. It is on track to have the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750; the cycle featured a "double-peaked" solar maximum. The first peak reached 99 in 2011 and the second in early 2014 at 101, it appears that Cycle 24 will end sometime between mid-2019 and late 2020. This cycle lasted 11.6 years, beginning in May 1996 and ending in January 2008. The maximum smoothed sunspot number observed during the solar cycle was 120.8, the minimum was 1.7.
A total of 805 days had no sunspots during this cycle. Because the solar cycle reflects magnetic activity, various magnetically driven solar phenomena follow the solar cycle, including sunspots and coronal mass ejections; the Sun's apparent surface, the photosphere, radiates more when there are more sunspots. Satellite monitoring of solar luminosity revealed a direct relationship between the Schwabe cycle and luminosity with a peak-to-peak amplitude of about 0.1%. Luminosity decreases by as much as 0.3% on a 10-day timescale when large groups of sunspots rotate across the Earth's view
In physics, power is the rate of doing work or of transferring heat, i.e. the amount of energy transferred or converted per unit time. Having no direction, it is a scalar quantity. In the International System of Units, the unit of power is the joule per second, known as the watt in honour of James Watt, the eighteenth-century developer of the condenser steam engine. Another common and traditional measure is horsepower. Being the rate of work, the equation for power can be written: power = work time As a physical concept, power requires both a change in the physical system and a specified time in which the change occurs; this is distinct from the concept of work, only measured in terms of a net change in the state of the physical system. The same amount of work is done when carrying a load up a flight of stairs whether the person carrying it walks or runs, but more power is needed for running because the work is done in a shorter amount of time; the output power of an electric motor is the product of the torque that the motor generates and the angular velocity of its output shaft.
The power involved in moving a vehicle is the product of the traction force of the wheels and the velocity of the vehicle. The rate at which a light bulb converts electrical energy into light and heat is measured in watts—the higher the wattage, the more power, or equivalently the more electrical energy is used per unit time; the dimension of power is energy divided by time. The SI unit of power is the watt, equal to one joule per second. Other units of power include ergs per second, metric horsepower, foot-pounds per minute. One horsepower is equivalent to 33,000 foot-pounds per minute, or the power required to lift 550 pounds by one foot in one second, is equivalent to about 746 watts. Other units include a logarithmic measure relative to a reference of 1 milliwatt. Power, as a function of time, is the rate at which work is done, so can be expressed by this equation: P = d W d t where P is power, W is work, t is time; because work is a force F applied over a distance x, W = F ⋅ x for a constant force, power can be rewritten as: P = d W d t = d d t = F ⋅ d x d t = F ⋅ v In fact, this is valid for any force, as a consequence of applying the fundamental theorem of calculus.
As a simple example, burning one kilogram of coal releases much more energy than does detonating a kilogram of TNT, but because the TNT reaction releases energy much more it delivers far more power than the coal. If ΔW is the amount of work performed during a period of time of duration Δt, the average power Pavg over that period is given by the formula P a v g = Δ W Δ t, it is the average amount of energy converted per unit of time. The average power is simply called "power" when the context makes it clear; the instantaneous power is the limiting value of the average power as the time interval Δt approaches zero. P = lim Δ t → 0 P a v g = lim Δ t → 0 Δ W Δ t = d W d t. In the case of constant power P, the amount of work performed during a period of duration t is given by: W = P t. In the context of energy conversion, it is more customary to use the symbol E rather than W. Power in mechanical systems is the combination of forces and movement. In particular, power is the product of a force on an object and the object's velocity, or the product of a torque on a shaft and the shaft's angular velocity.
Mechanical power is described as the time derivative of work. In mechanics, the work done by a force F on an object that travels along a curve C is given by the line integral: W C = ∫ C F ⋅ v d t = ∫ C F ⋅ d x, where x defines the path C and v is the velocity along this path. If the force F is derivable from a potential applying the gradi
An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, moons and galaxies – in either observational or theoretical astronomy. Examples of topics or fields astronomers study include planetary science, solar astronomy, the origin or evolution of stars, or the formation of galaxies. Related but distinct subjects like physical cosmology. Astronomers fall under either of two main types: observational and theoretical. Observational astronomers analyze the data. In contrast, theoretical astronomers create and investigate models of things that cannot be observed; because it takes millions to billions of years for a system of stars or a galaxy to complete a life cycle, astronomers must observe snapshots of different systems at unique points in their evolution to determine how they form and die. They use these data to create models or simulations to theorize how different celestial objects work.
Further subcategories under these two main branches of astronomy include planetary astronomy, galactic astronomy, or physical cosmology. Astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using physical laws. Today, that distinction has disappeared and the terms "astronomer" and "astrophysicist" are interchangeable. Professional astronomers are educated individuals who have a Ph. D. in physics or astronomy and are employed by research institutions or universities. They spend the majority of their time working on research, although they quite have other duties such as teaching, building instruments, or aiding in the operation of an observatory; the number of professional astronomers in the United States is quite small. The American Astronomical Society, the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, has 7,000 members; this number includes scientists from other fields such as physics and engineering, whose research interests are related to astronomy.
The International Astronomical Union comprises 10,145 members from 70 different countries who are involved in astronomical research at the Ph. D. beyond. Contrary to the classical image of an old astronomer peering through a telescope through the dark hours of the night, it is far more common to use a charge-coupled device camera to record a long, deep exposure, allowing a more sensitive image to be created because the light is added over time. Before CCDs, photographic plates were a common method of observation. Modern astronomers spend little time at telescopes just a few weeks per year. Analysis of observed phenomena, along with making predictions as to the causes of what they observe, takes the majority of observational astronomers' time. Astronomers who serve as faculty spend much of their time teaching undergraduate and graduate classes. Most universities have outreach programs including public telescope time and sometimes planetariums as a public service to encourage interest in the field.
Those who become astronomers have a broad background in maths and computing in high school. Taking courses that teach how to research and present papers are invaluable. In college/university most astronomers get a Ph. D. in astronomy or physics. While there is a low number of professional astronomers, the field is popular among amateurs. Most cities have amateur astronomy clubs that meet on a regular basis and host star parties; the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is the largest general astronomical society in the world, comprising both professional and amateur astronomers as well as educators from 70 different nations. Like any hobby, most people who think of themselves as amateur astronomers may devote a few hours a month to stargazing and reading the latest developments in research. However, amateurs span the range from so-called "armchair astronomers" to the ambitious, who own science-grade telescopes and instruments with which they are able to make their own discoveries and assist professional astronomers in research.
List of astronomers List of women astronomers List of Muslim astronomers List of French astronomers List of Hungarian astronomers List of Russian astronomers and astrophysicists List of Slovenian astronomers Dallal, Ahmad. "Science and Technology". In Esposito, John; the Oxford History of Islam. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-300-15911-0. Kennedy, E. S.. "A Survey of Islamic Astronomical Tables. 46. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. Toomer, Gerald. "Al-Khwārizmī, Abu Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Mūsā". In Gillispie, Charles Coulston. Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 7. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-16962-2. American Astronomical Society European Astronomical Society International Astronomical Union Astronomical Society of the Pacific Space's astronomy news
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process, it is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen; the Sun is a G-type main-sequence star based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally and not accurately referred to as a yellow dwarf, it formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System; the central mass became so hot and dense that it initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that all stars form by this process.
The Sun is middle-aged. It fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result; this energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape from its core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. In about 5 billion years, when hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to become a red giant, it is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, render Earth uninhabitable. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a white dwarf, no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion; the enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity.
The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of, the predominant calendar in use today. The English proper name Sun may be related to south. Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages, including Old Frisian sunne, Old Saxon sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, modern Dutch zon, Old High German sunna, modern German Sonne, Old Norse sunna, Gothic sunnō. All Germanic terms for the Sun stem from Proto-Germanic *sunnōn; the Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not used in everyday English. Sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on another planet, such as Mars; the related word solar is the usual adjectival term used for the Sun, in terms such as solar day, solar eclipse, Solar System. A mean Earth solar day is 24 hours, whereas a mean Martian'sol' is 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds. The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English and is a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of the Greek ἡμέρα ἡλίου.
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star. The Sun has an absolute magnitude of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way, most of which are red dwarfs. The Sun is heavy-element-rich, star; the formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from more nearby supernovae. This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the Solar System, such as gold and uranium, relative to the abundances of these elements in so-called Population II, heavy-element-poor, stars; the heavy elements could most plausibly have been produced by endothermic nuclear reactions during a supernova, or by transmutation through neutron absorption within a massive second-generation star. The Sun is by far the brightest object in the Earth's sky, with an apparent magnitude of −26.74. This is about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star, which has an apparent magnitude of −1.46. The mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center is 1 astronomical unit, though the distance varies as Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July.
At this average distance, light travels from the Sun's horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this sunlight supports all life on Earth by photosynthesis, drives Earth's climate and weather; the Sun does not have a definite boundary, but its density decreases exponentially with increasing height above the photosphere. For the purpose of measurement, the Sun's radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the photosphere, the apparent visible surface of the Sun. By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only 10 kilometres; the tidal effect of the planets is weak and does not affect the shape of the Sun. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles; this differential rotation is caused by convective motion
Milankovitch cycles describe the collective effects of changes in the Earth's movements on its climate over thousands of years. The term is named for Serbian geophysicist and astronomer Milutin Milanković. In the 1920s, he hypothesized that variations in eccentricity, axial tilt, precession of the Earth's orbit resulted in cyclical variation in the solar radiation reaching the Earth, that this orbital forcing influenced climatic patterns on Earth. Similar astronomical hypotheses had been advanced in the 19th century by Joseph Adhemar, James Croll and others, but verification was difficult because there was no reliably dated evidence, because it was unclear which periods were important. Now, materials on Earth that have been unchanged for millennia are being studied to indicate the history of Earth's climate. Though they are consistent with the Milankovitch hypothesis, there are still several observations that the hypothesis does not explain; the Earth's rotation around its axis, revolution around the Sun, evolve over time due to gravitational interactions with other bodies in the solar system.
The variations are complex. The Earth's orbit varies between mildly elliptical; when the orbit is more elongated, there is more variation in the distance between the Earth and the Sun, in the amount of solar radiation, at different times in the year. In addition, the rotational tilt of the Earth changes slightly. A greater tilt makes the seasons more extreme; the direction in the fixed stars pointed to by the Earth's axis changes, while the Earth's elliptical orbit around the Sun rotates. The combined effect is. Milankovitch studied changes in these movements of the Earth, which alter the amount and location of solar radiation reaching the Earth; this is known as solar forcing. Milankovitch emphasized the changes experienced at 65° north due to the great amount of land at that latitude. Land masses change temperature more than oceans, because of the mixing of surface and deep water and the fact that soil has a lower volumetric heat capacity than water; the Earth's orbit approximates an ellipse. Eccentricity measures the departure of this ellipse from circularity.
The shape of the Earth's orbit varies between nearly circular and mildly elliptical Its geometric or logarithmic mean is 0.0019. The major component of these variations occurs with a period of 413,000 years. Other components have 125,000-year cycles, they loosely combine into a 100,000-year cycle. The present eccentricity is decreasing. Eccentricity varies due to the gravitational pull of Jupiter and Saturn. However, the semi-major axis of the orbital ellipse remains unchanged; the orbital period is invariant, because according to Kepler's third law, it is determined by the semi-major axis. The semi-major axis is a constant. Therefore, when Earth's orbit becomes more eccentric, the semi-minor axis shortens; this increases the magnitude of seasonal changes. The relative increase in solar irradiation at closest approach to the Sun compared to the irradiation at the furthest distance is larger than four times the eccentricity. For Earth's current orbital eccentricity, incoming solar radiation varies by about 6.8%, while the distance from the Sun varies by only 3.4%.
Perihelion presently occurs around January 3, while aphelion is around July 4. When the orbit is at its most eccentric, the amount of solar radiation at perihelion will be about 23% more than at aphelion. However, the Earth's eccentricity is always so small that the variation in solar irradiation is a minor factor in seasonal climate variation, compared to axial tilt and compared to the relative ease of heating the larger land masses of the northern hemisphere; the seasons are quadrants of the Earth's orbit, marked by the two equinoxes. Kepler's second law states; the Earth spends more time near aphelion. This means. Perihelion occurs around January 3, so the Earth's greater velocity shortens winter and autumn in the northern hemisphere. Summer in the northern hemisphere is 4.66 days longer than winter, spring is 2.9 days longer than autumn. Greater eccentricity increases the variation in the Earth's orbital velocity; however the Earth's orbit is becoming less eccentric. This will make the seasons more similar in length.
The angle of the Earth's axial tilt with respect to the orbital plane varies between 22.1° and 24.5°, over a cycle of about 41,000 years. The current tilt is 23.44° halfway between its extreme values. The tilt last reached its maximum in 8,700 BCE, it is now in the decreasing phase of its cycle, will reach its minimum around the year 11,800 CE. Increased tilt increases the amplitude of the seasonal cycle in insolation, providing more solar radiation in each hemisphere's summer and less in winter. However, these effects are not uniform everywhere on the Earth's surface. Increased tilt increases the total annu
In astronomy, luminosity is the total amount of energy emitted per unit of time by a star, galaxy, or other astronomical object. As a term for energy emitted per unit time, luminosity is synonymous with power. In SI units luminosity is measured in joules per second or watts. Values for luminosity are given in the terms of the luminosity of the Sun, L⊙. Luminosity can be given in terms of the astronomical magnitude system: the absolute bolometric magnitude of an object is a logarithmic measure of its total energy emission rate, while absolute magnitude is a logarithmic measure of the luminosity within some specific wavelength range or filter band. In contrast, the term brightness in astronomy is used to refer to an object's apparent brightness: that is, how bright an object appears to an observer. Apparent brightness depends on both the luminosity of the object and the distance between the object and observer, on any absorption of light along the path from object to observer. Apparent magnitude is a logarithmic measure of apparent brightness.
The distance determined by luminosity measures can be somewhat ambiguous, is thus sometimes called the luminosity distance. In astronomy, luminosity is the amount of electromagnetic energy; when not qualified, the term "luminosity" means bolometric luminosity, measured either in the SI units, watts, or in terms of solar luminosities. A bolometer is the instrument used to measure radiant energy over a wide band by absorption and measurement of heating. A star radiates neutrinos, which carry off some energy, contributing to the star's total luminosity; the IAU has defined a nominal solar luminosity of 3.828×1026 W to promote publication of consistent and comparable values in units of the solar luminosity. While bolometers do exist, they cannot be used to measure the apparent brightness of a star because they are insufficiently sensitive across the electromagnetic spectrum and because most wavelengths do not reach the surface of the Earth. In practice bolometric magnitudes are measured by taking measurements at certain wavelengths and constructing a model of the total spectrum, most to match those measurements.
In some cases, the process of estimation is extreme, with luminosities being calculated when less than 1% of the energy output is observed, for example with a hot Wolf-Rayet star observed only in the infra-red. Bolometric luminosities can be calculated using a bolometric correction to a luminosity in a particular passband; the term luminosity is used in relation to particular passbands such as a visual luminosity of K-band luminosity. These are not luminosities in the strict sense of an absolute measure of radiated power, but absolute magnitudes defined for a given filter in a photometric system. Several different photometric systems exist; some such as the UBV or Johnson system are defined against photometric standard stars, while others such as the AB system are defined in terms of a spectral flux density. A star's luminosity can be determined from two stellar characteristics: size and effective temperature; the former is represented in terms of solar radii, R⊙, while the latter is represented in kelvins, but in most cases neither can be measured directly.
To determine a star's radius, two other metrics are needed: the star's angular diameter and its distance from Earth. Both can be measured with great accuracy in certain cases, with cool supergiants having large angular diameters, some cool evolved stars having masers in their atmospheres that can be used to measure the parallax using VLBI. However, for most stars the angular diameter or parallax, or both, are far below our ability to measure with any certainty. Since the effective temperature is a number that represents the temperature of a black body that would reproduce the luminosity, it cannot be measured directly, but it can be estimated from the spectrum. An alternative way to measure stellar luminosity is to measure the star's apparent brightness and distance. A third component needed to derive the luminosity is the degree of interstellar extinction, present, a condition that arises because of gas and dust present in the interstellar medium, the Earth's atmosphere, circumstellar matter.
One of astronomy's central challenges in determining a star's luminosity is to derive accurate measurements for each of these components, without which an accurate luminosity figure remains elusive. Extinction can only be measured directly if the actual and observed luminosities are both known, but it can be estimated from the observed colour of a star, using models of the expected level of reddening from the interstellar medium. In the current system of stellar classification, stars are grouped according to temperature, with the massive young and energetic Class O stars boasting temperatures in excess of 30,000 K while the less massive older Class M stars exhibit temperatures less than 3,500 K; because luminosity is proportional to temperature to the fourth power, the large variation in stellar temperatures produces an vaster variation in stellar luminosity. Because the luminosity depends on a high power of the stellar mass, high mass luminous stars have much shorter lifetimes; the most luminous stars are always young stars, no more than a few million years for the most extreme.
In the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, the x-axis represents temperature or spectral type while the y-axis represents luminosity or magnitude. The vast majority of stars are found along the main sequence with blue Class O stars found at the top left of the chart while red Class M stars fall to the bottom right. Certain stars like Deneb and Betelgeuse are
International Astronomical Union
The International Astronomical Union is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy. Among other activities, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies and any surface features on them; the IAU is a member of the International Council for Science. Its main objective is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation; the IAU maintains friendly relations with organizations that include amateur astronomers in their membership. The IAU has its head office on the second floor of the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Working groups include the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, which maintains the astronomical naming conventions and planetary nomenclature for planetary bodies, the Working Group on Star Names, which catalogs and standardizes proper names for stars.
The IAU is 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 operates under the IAU, is a "clearinghouse" for all non-planetary or non-moon bodies in the Solar System; the Working Group for Meteor Shower Nomenclature and the Meteor Data Center coordinate the nomenclature of meteor showers. The IAU was founded on 28 July 1919, at the Constitutive Assembly of the International Research Council held in Brussels, Belgium. Two subsidiaries of the IAU were created at this assembly: the International Time Commission seated at the International Time Bureau in Paris and the International Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams seated in Copenhagen, Denmark; the 7 initial member states were Belgium, France, Great Britain, Greece and the United States, soon to be followed by Italy and Mexico. The first executive committee consisted of Benjamin Baillaud, Alfred Fowler, four vice presidents: William Campbell, Frank Dyson, Georges Lecointe, Annibale Riccò.
Thirty-two Commissions were appointed at the Brussels meeting and focused on topics ranging from relativity to minor planets. The reports of these 32 Commissions formed the main substance of the first General Assembly, which took place in Rome, Italy, 2–10 May 1922. By the end of the first General Assembly, ten additional nations had joined the Union, bringing the total membership to 19 countries. Although the Union was formed eight months after the end of World War I, international collaboration in astronomy had been strong in the pre-war era; the first 50 years of the Union's history are well documented. Subsequent history is recorded in the form of reminiscences of past IAU Presidents and General Secretaries. Twelve of the fourteen past General Secretaries in the period 1964-2006 contributed their recollections of the Union's history in IAU Information Bulletin No. 100. Six past IAU Presidents in the period 1976–2003 contributed their recollections in IAU Information Bulletin No. 104. The IAU includes a total of 12,664 individual members who are professional astronomers from 96 countries worldwide.
83% of all individual members are male, while 17% are female, among them the union's former president, Mexican astronomer Silvia Torres-Peimbert. Membership includes 79 national members, professional astronomical communities representing their country's affiliation with the IAU. National members include the Australian Academy of Science, the Chinese Astronomical Society, the French Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the National Academies, the National Research Foundation of South Africa, the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, KACST, the Council of German Observatories, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Science Council of Japan, among many others; the sovereign body of the IAU is its General Assembly. The Assembly determines IAU policy, approves the Statutes and By-Laws of the Union and elects various committees; the right to vote on matters brought before the Assembly varies according to the type of business under discussion.
The Statutes consider such business to be divided into two categories: issues of a "primarily scientific nature", upon which voting is restricted to individual members, all other matters, upon which voting is restricted to the representatives of national members. On budget matters, votes are weighted according to the relative subscription levels of the national members. A second category vote requires a turnout of at least two-thirds of national members in order to be valid. An absolute majority is sufficient for approval in any vote, except for Statute revision which requires a two-thirds majority. An equality of votes is resolved by the vote of the President of the Union. Since 1922, the IAU General Assembly meets every three years, with the ex