The INSAP Conferences

The INSAP Conferences are a series of international meetings, held every three years or so, that explore the effect on humanity and human culture of the glorious spectacles we see in the sky by night and by day. To measure the power that our ever-changing sky has on us, try to imagine the poverty of our lives were we to live on a perpetually cloudy planet. But since we often take the sky and its effects for granted, bringing these effects out explicitly has been particularly productive.

The meetings generally do not exceed a hundred attendees, and have been structured to allow opportunities for both formal and informal exchanges of ideas. They have included a variety of invited and contributed talks and poster presentations. Some attendees are welcome to participate fully in the meetings as observers but not give formal presentations.

The idea for the INSAP meetings came out of a conversation between the late Ray White (University of Arizona), George Coyne, S. J. (then Director of the Specola Vaticana), and Rolf Sinclair (then at the US National Science Foundation), over coffee one morning in Tucson. As they discussed Isaac Asimov’s story "Nightfall" (whose theme is, “What would happen if the stars came out only one night in a thousand years?”), they realized that there were few if any concerted treatments of the effect of the many and variegated cultural impacts of the perceptions of the day- and night-time sky. Certainly there had never been a conference that would provide a mechanism for a broad sampling of artists, historians, philosophers, and scientists interested in just these cultural impacts to get together, compare notes, and to have the chance to ask those questions about each other's work which may have been stewing away for decades. This lack cried for redress. The idea for the first INSAP was the result, and George Coyne arranged for it to be held at the Specola. Word got around, and the popularity of each meeting then led to the next one. They have been largely self-supporting, with significant subsidies from the host institutions and others.

Local Organizing Committee for INSAP VIII

Administrator:  Elizabeth Stachow (Hayden Planetarium, AMNH, New York) 

International Executive Committee of INSAP

  • Francesco Bertola (ISVLA, Venezia, Italy)
  • Marvin Bolt (Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL, USA)
  • Nicholas Campion (University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, UK)
  • Enrico Corsini, (Universita di Padova, Italy)
  • George Coyne, S.J. (Specola Vaticana, Vatican City)
  • Chris Impey (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA)
  • Ron Olowin, Chair, (St. Mary's College, Moraga, CA, USA)
  • David Pankenier (Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA)
  • Richard Poss (University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA)
  • Valerie Shrimplin (Independent Art Historian, London, UK)
  • Rolf M. Sinclair, (Centro de Estudios Cientificos, Valdivia, Chile)
  • Gary Wells, Vice-Chair (Ithaca College, NY, USA)