Exoplanets are everywhere! In the last 25 years, thousands of exoplanets have been found throughout the Milky Way. But if they are so common, why is it that we still don’t know how they are formed? With the ALMA telescope we can now finally zoom into the birth cradles of planets: dusty disks around young stars. The spectacular images have given us new insights, but also raised many more questions regarding the process of planet formation.
Dr.Nienke van der Marel is an NRC postdoctoral research fellow at the Herzberg institute. She received her PhD in 2015 at Leiden University in the Netherlands, her country of birth. After that, she spent two years at the University of Hawaii as Parrent research fellow, before joining the Herzberg institute in November last year.
On Friday July 27th 2018 Mars will make it’s closet approach to Earth in 15 years.
This occurs when Mars, Earth and the Sun are aligned with Mars located on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. Mars will slowly rise on the eastern horizon late that evening … not the best viewing situation. A major dust storm developed on May 31st and has obscured details of the Martian surface. (see image below) Surface details will gradually re-emerge later this Summer as the dust storm subsides.
The viewing characteristics of Mars as seen from the Victoria area are tabulated below for the remaining DAO Saturday Night Summer Star Parties of the season.
Notice that the appearance of Mars (angular diameter) will decrease very slowly after the opposition. One week following opposition the angular diameter will only be 0.5% smaller but Mars will rise earlier and surface features may start to re-emerge.
Evening viewing conditions of Mars therefore will be more favourable and convenient in August. Consider attending a DAO Saturday Night Star Party this August.
Volunteers of RASC will be there to share the night sky with their telescopes. Click here to obtain free Star Party tickets. Note: No Star Party on July 28th.
In the Victoria area the best evening views of Mars are obtained with an unobstructed view of the southeast such as: Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park, Clover Point, Island View Beach, and Mount Tolmie. In the late evening Mars will appear fairly low in the southeast as an exceptionally bright red dot. It is hard to miss. Check it out.
Click hereto learn more about the Mars 2018 Opposition and observing hints. Click hereto see images of the 2018 Martian Dust Storm.
The Surface of Mars Before and After the Martian Dust Storm (from NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter)
On a mild July 4th evening about 10 RASCals assembled at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park for the Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival. Attendees were rewarded with spectacular views of two July Forth Fireworks shows. Between 10 PM and 10:15 PMFriday Harbour on San Juan Island took the stage. Terrain blocked some of the low level displays but the airborne clusters filled the field of view of most scopes. The main event occurred between 10:30 PM and 10:50 PM when Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island launched their salvo. Although slightly farther away we enjoyed an unobstructed view of the Lopez conflagration.
A variety of scopes were deployed including refractors, newtonian reflectors, spotting scopes, binoculars as well as an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain. In order to squeeze in the view RASCals resorted to lower magnifications. This confirmed that you do not need a big scope to enjoy the show.
It took about one minute 20 seconds for the muffled booms to arrive on the scene. This soundscape combined by the spontaneous whoops and ah’s from the RASCals added to the party atmosphere. It would have been nice if we were able to transition from the fireworks to star gazing … but clouds intervened.
Should we try again next year? Randy Atwood’s attached photo captured Chris Aesoph giving it two thumbs up! So I reckon that is a yes. It was a RASCal Worthy event.
The attention the photons received was well deserved.
In Room 124 Engineering and Computer Science Building, UVic
Please note the Room Change
Galaxies are vast collections of stars that evolve over billions of years. From surveys of a hundreds of thousands of galaxies, we can see that they fall into roughly two categories: those that are alive and forming new stars, and those that are dead, or no longer forming new stars. Gas is the fuel for star formation, and there is plenty of it in the universe constantly falling into galaxies, so why have some galaxies simply stopped turning gas into stars? This cessation of star formation, called “quenching”, is one of the biggest puzzles of galaxy evolution. Drawing upon my own research, I will give an overview of the different theories explaining the death of galaxies and what the observational evidence tells us.
Dr. Joanna Woo writes: I am an astrophysicist with a focus on galaxy evolution using a variety of cutting-edge observational and theoretical tools. While studying for a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy from UBC, I established and became the president of the UBC Astronomy Club which is still active to this day. I also held a part time job at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. Being the adventurous type, I decided to pursue graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving my Ph.D. in 2014. Along with a rigorous physics education, I picked up two languages (Hebrew and Arabic). I then spent four years at the Institute for Astronomy of ETH Zurich, where, along with exciting research, I learned the basics of Swiss German. I am thrilled to be back in Canada where I am a postdoctoral researcher at UVic. (I am now trying to improve my French.)
Wednesday May 9th, 2018 at 7:30 PM Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic
Gravitational lensing, the “bending” of light in a gravitational field is one of the many awe inspiring phenomena predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, and which have since been unambiguously borne out by observations. Since the first confirmation of a gravitational lens in 1979 -nearly 45 years after it was hypothesized- the catalog of confirmed lenses now runs to a few hundreds. Aided by the rapid advances in telescope and instrumentation technologies, the magnification boost provided by gravitational lensing – Nature’s telescope – is now being harnessed to probe astrophysical processes in extremely distant, faint objects even in the very early universe with a level of detail that would otherwise be exceedingly challenging. My presentation aims to explain the principles of gravitational lensing using basic physics, trace its development as a powerful observational tool, and present two applications and related results drawn from my own research.
Bio: Karun Thanjavur: As an observational cosmologist, discovering new gravitational lenses and developing innovative techniques to harness them as observational tools are amongst my diverse research interests. As part of my doctoral thesis at UVic in 2009, I developed an automated technique to search for lenses in wide field, pan-chromatic imaging. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. After my PhD from UVic, I worked as a Resident Astronomer at CFHT in Hawaii for three years, before returning to UVic to accept a position as a senior lab instructor in astronomy. Even though undergraduate teaching is the focus of my current position, I continue to pursue various research projects. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through several outreach initiatives through the UVic observatory.
Wednesday April 11th 2018 at 7:30 PM Room 167, Elliot Building
No, the lions and tigers and bears have not rebranded! These are categories of exoplanets (planets around other stars). At first, we only knew about a small handful of exoplanets, but they were nothing like the planets from our solar system. As our methods improved, the discoveries kept piling on and now there are several thousand known exoplanets from many different detection techniques. Tonight, I’ll give a summary of exoplanet search techniques and what we know so far about these planets. I’ll also talk a little bit about my own research and share some experiences from studying some of the largest exoplanets using telescopes on Maunakea and Palomar.
Bio: Dr Henry Ngo is currently a Plaskett Postdoctoral Fellow working for the National Research Council of Canada at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario but grew up in Richmond, BC. He studied at UBC for his bachelors, Queen’s University in Kingston, ON for his Masters and just finished his PhD in Planetary Science at Caltech last summer. Henry and his family are happy to be back in BC and they are loving life on beautiful Vancouver Island!
Globular clusters have long been used to test theories of stellar evolution, stellar dynamics, and galaxy formation. In recent years, these old clusters have emerged as fertile grounds to search for black holes and understand their formation. “Intermediate-mass” black holes have been proposed to lurk in their centres and could represent seeds from which super-massive black holes grow in the early universe. Dynamical formation of stellar-mass black hole binaries in the dense cores of globular clusters has also been suggested as a main formation channel for the sources of gravitational waves recently detected by the LIGO experiment. I will give an overview of the recent successes (and failures) of astronomers’ exciting hunt for black holes in globular clusters.
Bio: Vincent Hénault-Brunet recently joined NRC Herzberg as a Plaskett Fellow. He was born in Montreal, where he completed his BSc in physics from McGill and MSc in astrophysics from Université de Montréal. He then obtained his PhD from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh (UK), and was a research fellow at the University of Surrey (UK) and Radboud University (Netherlands) before moving to Victoria. His research focuses on stellar populations and globular clusters, in particular on the dynamics of stars in these systems.
Wednesday February 14th 2017 at 7:30 PM Room A104, Bob Wright Centre.
During the past two decades, the standard model of the cosmology ΛCDM has commonly been accepted by the astrophysical community and successfully reproduced and even predicted many observational effects. I will discuss about one of the principal components of this model: dark matter and I will describe why we need it and what are the current hypotheses of its nature.
Bio: Guillaume Thomas is a new postdoctoral NRC fellow who joined Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics in October. He was born in Epinal France and obtained his Master and PhD at the Strasbourg Observatory. Thomas is interested in the formation and the dynamical evolution of spiral galaxies. He is also interested in exploring alternative theories to the model ΛCDM. You can follow him on Twitter at @Thomas_gft.
Quasars are the brightest objects in our Universe. A quasar is a rotating disk as big as our solar system and hotter than the Sun, formed when matter spirals into a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy. I will discuss these fascinating objects and how they tap the strong gravity of black holes.
Bio: Patrick Hall is an astronomer and Professor at York University. Born in California to Canadian parents, he was an undergraduate at U. C. Berkeley, a graduate student at U. Arizona, and a postdoc at U. Toronto, Princeton, and the Universidad Catolica de Chile. He divides his work time between research on quasars (and any object with a sufficiently odd spectrum), teaching astrophysics, and outreach. You can follow him on Twitter at @patrickbhall