International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics

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International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA)
Location Periodic
IOAA 2012 at Rio Planetarium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) is an annual astronomy competition for high school students. It is one of the international science olympiads.

The Olympiad was founded from a dissidence inside the International Astronomy Olympiad, in order to increase the scope of the organization. The first IOAA website[1] states that:

"IOAA is designed to be a truly international organization on Astronomy and Astrophysics competitions. The organization is run by an international committee, whose members are elected from international members of the organization."

The first IOAA was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in November/December 2007. The subsequent annual meetings were held during August/September or October in Indonesia (2008), Iran (2009), China (2010), Poland (2011), Brazil (2012), Greece (2013), Romania (2014), Indonesia (2015), and in India (2016).


The first IOAA was held in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, from November 30 to December 9 of 2007, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the 84th anniversary of the Princess Galyani Vadhana. The countries that attended to the first edition were: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Laos, Lithuania, Myanmar, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine. The International Board, composed by the leaders of every attending country, became the solely decision body of the olympiad. At that time, there was already at work, for a five-year term, a President (Dr. Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, Thailand) and a General Secretary (Dr. Chatief Kunjaya, Indonesia).[2]

The second IOAA was held in 2008, August 19 to 28, in the city of Bandung, Indonesia, having the participation of 22 countries –- including a team from Cambodja and an observer from Malaysia.

The third IOAA was held in 2009, October 17 to 27, in the capital Tehran, Iran. The observational exam was held in the desert, in the Caravanserai of Deh Namak. 20 countries participated –- the first time for Kazakhstan and Serbia.

The fourth IOAA was held in 2010, September 12 to 21, in the capital Beijing, China. One-hundred fourteen competitors attended, coming from 23 countries –- the first time for Czech Republic, Philippines and Russia.

The fifth IOAA was held in 2011, August 25 to September 4, around the cities of Katowice, Chorzów and Kraków, Poland. This was the first IOAA to be held in Europe. The participants came from 26 countries, including the first time coming Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Hungary and Portugal. In Poland, the International Board elected, from 2012 on, a new President (Dr. Chatief Kunjaya, Indonesia) and a General Secretary (Dr. Greg Stachowski, Poland). They also indicated two Regional Coordinators (Dr. Thaís Mothé Diniz, Brazil, for Americas and Dr. Aniket Sule, India, for Asia and Pacific).

The sixth IOAA was held in 2012, August 4 to 13, at Rio de Janeiro and Vassouras, Brazil—the first time in America. The participants came from 28 countries.

The seventh IOAA was held from 27 July to 4 August 2013 in Volos, Greece. Total 39 teams from 35 countries participated in the event. These included first time teams from United States, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia, Armenia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Cyprus.

The eighth IOAA was held from 1 to 11 August 2014 in Suceava and Gura Humorului, Romania. Total 42 teams from 37 countries participated in the event. These included first time teams from Mexico, Pakistan, Nepal, Moldova and Montenegro.

The ninth IOAA was held in Semarang and Magelang, Indonesia from 26 July to 4 August 2015.

The tenth IOAA was held in Bhubaneswar, India from 9 to 19 December 2016.

The eleventh IOAA is scheduled to be held in Phuket, Thailand from 12 to 21 November 2017.


Number Year Host country Host city Absolute winner Countries Represented
1 2007  Thailand Chiang Mai  THA Suwun Suwunnarat 21
2 2008  Indonesia Bandung  IND Nitin Jain 22
3 2009  Iran Tehran  IND Nitin Jain 20
4 2010  China Beijing  POL Przemysław Mróz 23
5 2011  Poland Chorzów / Katowice / Krakow  CZE Stanislav Fort 26
6 2012  Brazil Rio de Janeiro / Vassouras  LTU Motiejus Valiūnas 28
7 2013  Greece Volos  ROM Denis Turcu 35
8 2014  Romania Suceava / Gura Humorului  ROM Denis Turcu 42
9 2015  Indonesia Magelang / Semarang  INA Joandy Leonata Pratama 41
10 2016  India Bhubaneswar  IND Ameya Patwardhan 42
11 2017  Thailand Phuket TBD
12 2018  Sri Lanka TBD TBD
13 2019  Hungary TBD TBD
14 2020  Colombia TBD TBD
15 2021  Serbia TBD TBD
16 2022  Russia TBD TBD

Note: Hosts from 2015 onwards were decided on tentative basis (subject to availability of funding) during the seventh IOAA.


Theoretical Exam during the 3rd IOAA, 2009, Tehran, Iran
Observational Exam during the 6th IOAA, 2012, Vassouras, Brazil

The IOAA is organized annually in a different host country, which shall cover all costs with every team during the event (including lodging, food, excursions, awards, etc.). Having no registration fee, the participating countries shall only cover the expenses for its own team to arrive at the host place.[3]

Each participating country sends one regular team with up to five (5) high school students (or students who finished their high school within the year of the competition), accompanied by two team leaders, normally scientists or teachers.[4] In addition, the host country has the right to send one additional guest team.


One differential in astronomy tests is the great importance of knowing the skies and of carrying systematic observations, something as important as the formulation of hypotheses and theories. Therefore, an astronomy competitor should be tested both in his theoretical and practical skills. Furthermore, it is also very important to know how to work collaborativelly, in a team.

Typically then, an IOAA participant faces four exams:[5]

  1. Theoretical Exam: consisting of 15 short questions and 2 or 3 long questions, with 5 hours to solve. It counts as 50% of the mark.
  2. Data Analysis Exam: a paper- or computer-based task for analysing actual data obtained from professional astronomers, with usually 4 hours to solve. It counts as 25% of the mark.
  3. Observational Exam: questions concerning direct observation of the sky (in the real sky or in a planetarium), recognizing stars, constellations, nebulae, great circles, etc. It counts as 25% of the mark.
  4. Team Competition: A separated competition, in which national teams are set to do a huge task, involving both individual and group efforts, with theoretical and /or practical reasoning.

Although the official working language of IOAA is English, each exam is translated beforehand, by the team leaders of each country, for the students' native languages.

The host country should have an academical jury which should prepare, apply and give marks to the exams. But the team leaders have an important role on it, in the following steps:

  • The jury presents its version of each exam and the leaders discuss the adequacy of each question, propose changes and, in some cases, replace questions;
  • Then the leaders translate the exams into their national language, so that each student can read the exams in its own language;
  • The leaders receive copies of their students' tests and the marking made by the jury. If a leader disagrees with some marking, he /she can complain in the moderation session.

Prize nomination[edit]

Moderation Session during the 3rd IOAA, 2009, at the Parsian Azadi Hotel, Tehran, Iran.

The criteria for prize nominations at IOAA is as follows:[6] the average of the three biggest marks makes 100%.

  • gold medals are between 100 and 90%
  • silver medals are between 90 and 78%
  • bronze medals are between 78 and 65%
  • honor mentions are between 65 and 50%

In addition to that, the first mark overall receives a special prize as absolute winner. The best marks in each of the exams (theoretical, data analysis and observational) also receive special prizes. Furthermore, each host country can offer other special prizes as well (in 2009, Iran offered the prizes of most creative solution, most concise answer, most organized answer, most skillful observer and most calm observer[7]).


High-scoring participants[edit]

The following table lists multiple (triple and more) gold medal winners of IOAA with their ranks and corresponding years.

Name Team(s) Years
Stanislav Fort Czech Republic 2010 (8th) 2011 (1st) 2012 (2nd)
Peter Kosec Slovakia 2010 (5th) 2011 (4th) 2012 (5th)

Note: Several countries (e.g. India, Indonesia, Iran) do not allow their students to contest in IOAA more than two times, even if they are eligible. Thus, statistics from those countries is not included in the table above.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ First IOAA site.
  2. ^ "The 1st IOAA Official Page". 
  3. ^ IOAA Statutes, #7
  4. ^ IOAA Statutes, #4
  5. ^ 6th IOAA Booklet
  6. ^ IOAA Statutes, #11
  7. ^ Proceedings of the 3rd IOAA.

External links[edit]