“Dark matter: Small scales, big problems” – Kyle Oman, PhD candidate, UVic
There are several lines of evidence pointing to the existence of an as yet elusive dark matter which is more abundant in the Universe on average than the ordinary stuff of gas, stars and planets. Despite the lack of a plausible particle candidate, the LCDM cosmological theory has been remarkably successful in describing the large scale structure of the Universe. The biggest current challenges to this theory are manifest on the scale of dwarf galaxies. How can we measure a substance we cannot see? What can a handful of puny nearby galaxies tell us about the Universe as a whole? These are the questions I’m tackling with the help of the cutting-edge APOSTLE cosmological simulation suite and observations taken on the Very Large Array in New Mexico.
Bio: Kyle Oman is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. He has worked on topics in theoretical extragalactic astronomy ranging from the smallest dwarf galaxies to the largest galaxy clusters. He completed his BSc and MSc at the University of Waterloo.
Bugs in Space!? A Microbiologist’s View of Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght
As astronomers discover myriad planets in distant solar systems and find evidence of water on planets and moons in our own solar system, astrobiologists seek to answer the question “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?” But nested within these few words are many other questions: If life exists or previously existed beyond Earth, would we even recognize it? How can we detect life at astronomical distances without collecting physical samples?
What ‘biosignatures’ could we use, remotely or in place, to locate, confirm and/or examine such life, especially if it was microscopic? Where are the best places to look for life nearby in our solar system? Can sites on Earth serve as analogues to refine our questions and future exploration? Can the search for extraterrestrial life illuminate theories about the origins of life on Earth?
Dr. Foght will present some of the factors that potentially influence the distribution of life in the universe and the colonization of exoplanets, based on our current understanding of earthly analogues and ‘extreme’ microbes, but be prepared to leave with more questions than answers.
Biography: Dr. Julia Foght, Professor Emerita in the Biological Sciences Department, University of Alberta, is an environmental microbiologist and a past member of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astrobiology Discipline Working Group. Her interest in the field of Astrobiology arose from her fieldwork in Antarctica and research into microbes that live beneath glaciers from Nunavut and Alaska to New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Transantarctic Mountains.
Radio and Microwave Astronomy – History, Canadian Involvement, and Interesting Tidbits – Dr. Lisa Locke, NRC Herzberg
Radio astronomy started in the early 1930s as an electrical engineering project and it took many years for the optical astronomy community to include it under the gilded Astronomy umbrella. Early experimentalists had a field day with surplus World War II equipment and the increased world-wide collaboration between researchers. I will explain and guide through this history up to the present, contrasting the new radio astronomy with the classic well-understood optical ideas, highlighting Canada’s significant role in the growing field. Details on current instrumentation projects and observatories will also be presented.
Dr. Lisa Shannon Locke was born north of the 60th parallel in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada and received the B.Sc (Alberta, 1997), M.Sc. (Cape Town, 2001) and PhD (Victoria, 2014) degrees all in electrical engineering specializing in low-noise microwave astronomy instrumentation.
As a student, she worked at the Canadian Space Agency, CalTech’s Owens Valley Observatory and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV. After graduating, she spent five years as a receiver engineer at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Then in 2005 she joined the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, NM building cryogenic receivers for the expanded very large array (EVLA).
Her PhD degree was advised by Prof. Dr. Jens Bornemann and the late Dr. Stéphane Claude of NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria, BC. Her thesis investigated the design and construction of a K-band (18 – 26 GHz) coherent 5×5 phased array feed for use on large radio astronomy reflectors. She is currently employed with NRC Herzberg and leads a multi-disciplinary project to build a S/C-band (2.8 – 5.18 GHz) cryogenic phased array feed receiver system.
Christ Church Cathedral, 930 Burdett Ave, Victoria, BC V8V 3G8
William Herschel wasn’t just the first President of the Royal Astronomical Society. And he didn’t just discover that the celestial body in the sky that others thought was just a star which was actually a planet, Uranus… Or the discoverer of infra-red radiation… He was a multi-instrumentalist and composer of great stature!
Michael Jarvis and Paul Luchkow are joined by Nathan Whittaker (cello) and some of Victoria’s (and the world’s) finest astronomers and astrophotographers in a programme of music and readings from William’s and his equally musical sister and astronomical collaborator Caroline’s diaries.
Acclaimed as some of the finest astrophotographers in Canada, the concert will take place in the splendour of projections of astrophotographs of deep space taken by members of the Victoria Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
The infinity of space in the intimate space of the Chapel of the New Jerusalem at Christ Church Cathedral. Truly a night to remember!
Tickets: General: $25; Students/Seniors: $20
Munro’s Books; Ivy’s Bookshop; Long & McQuade; Christ Church Cathedral Office (903 Burdett); or at the door
(Note by Jim Hesser: Acoustics in this intimate space are very good. Herschel’s beautiful music is played by three outstanding musicians. Dress comfortably and enjoy a unique event featuring Centre members prominently. As seating is limited to 175, I suggest securing tickets in advance; I’ll have some available at the 11 Jan Centre meeting: general $25, seniors (65 and older)/youth $20 all costs included; cash or cheques made out to Christ Church Cathedral.)
The MASSIVE Galaxy Survey is a project to study the structure, internal dynamics, and evolutionary histories of the approximately 100 most massive galaxies visible in the Northern hemisphere out to a distance of about 100 Mpc, or roughly 330 million light years. In this project, we combine 2-D “integral-field spectroscopy” on small (sub-arcsecond) and large (arcminute) scales in order to perform simultaneous dynamical modelling of the central supermassive black hole, stars, and dark matter. We also have an ongoing Hubble program to image a high-priority subsample of the MASSIVE galaxies. The ultimate goals of the survey include understanding variations in dark matter fraction and stellar mass function, the connection between black hole accretion and galaxy growth, and the assembly of galaxy outskirts over cosmic time. I will describe the survey design and observational strategy, as well as present first results on black hole mass measurements, stellar populations, and molecular gas detections in MASSIVE Survey galaxies.
John Blakeslee is an Astronomer with the NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Programs at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich. He studies galaxies and the large-scale structure of the universe using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based observatories. Dr. Blakeslee received his PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and did postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Durham University in the UK. He then spent five years as a Research Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He has worked at the DAO for the past nine years.
Certificate of Appreciation, For Public Outreach at the DAO summer star parties
For their outstanding support and engagement in the role of ” Person in Charge ” and Volunteer Coordinator. Presented to: Nelson Walker, Chris Purse, Sherry Buttnor, and Lauri Roche (absent).
Special Certificate of Appreciation
For His Continued Efforts and Successes in Supporting RASC Members in the access of on-line Live-Broadcasting of Monthly General Meetings. Presented to : Matt Watson.
Award of Excellence, Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award for Amateur Telescope Making
For His Outstanding Achievement in Designing and the Building of a Custom Telescope Tracking Platform c/w innovative features. Presented to : Jim Stillburn.
Award of Excellence in Astrophotography
For His Excellent ongoing work in Solar Imaging and the Mercury Transit on 6 May 2016, 6:14 AM, Canon T3i, f/4 300 mm. Presented to : Mr. John McDonald (absent).
Special Award of Excellence
For His Dedicated Support of Public Outreach at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, 2016. Presented to : Mr. David Lee
The Newton / Ball Service Award
For his Outstanding Dedication to Serving RASC Members in 2016, including : the Messier Marathon, Astronomy Day at the RBCM, the RASC Star Party and DAO Public Outreach. Presented to : Mr. Nelson Walker.
“Searching for Habitable Planets around our Closest Neighbors, the Alpha Centauri Triple Star System.” – Dr. Christian Marois, NRC Herzberg
The Alpha Centauri star system is ideal to search for habitable planets by various observing techniques due to its proximity and wide range of stellar masses. Following the recent discovery of an Earth-size planet candidate located inside the Proxima Centauri habitable zone, I will discuss this remarkable discovery and the planet’s potential to find life. I will also present our current project to discover similar planets around the two Sun-like pair located 15,000 AU from Proxima Centauri. The Alpha Centauri system is the prime target of the Breakthrough Starshot program, a project to send small quarter-size probes to take resolve images of these new worlds, and to prepare for Humanity’s first step into a new star system.
Bio: Dr Marois completed his Ph.D. at the Université de Montréal in 2004. The main topic of his thesis work was to understand the limits in exoplanet imaging and to design innovating observing strategies. After his thesis, he did postdoctoral researches at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Univ. of California Berkeley and NRC. In 2008, while at NRC, he led the team that took the first image of another planetary system (HR 8799) using the Keck and Gemini telescopes. He is currently pursuing his research at the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics where he is part of the Gemini Planet Imager campaign and developing instruments for imaging Earth-like planets at Gemini South and the TMT.
“Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life ” – Prof. Sun Kwok, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong
How did life originate on Earth? For over 50 years, scientists believed that life was the result of chemistry involving simple molecules such as methane and ammonia cooking in a primordial soup. Recent space observations have revealed that old stars are capable of making very complex organic compounds. The stars then ejected the organics and spread them all over the Milky Way Galaxy. There is evidence that these organic dust particles actually reached the early Solar System. Through bombardments by comets and asteroids, the early Earth inherited significant amounts of star dust. Was the development of life assisted by the arrival of these extraterrestrial materials? In this talk, we describe discoveries in astronomy and solar system science over the last 10 years that resulted in a new perspective on the origin of life.
Kwok, S. The Synthesis of Organic and Inorganic Compounds in Evolved Stars, Nature, 430, 985 (2004)
Kwok, S. and Zhang, Y. Mixed aromatic/aliphatic organic nanoparticles as carriers of unidentified infrared emission features, Nature, 479, 80 (2011)
Kwok, S. Complex organics in space: from Solar System to distant galaxies, A&A Rev., 24, 1-27 (2016)
About the speaker
Prof. Sun Kwok’s research areas are astrochemistry and stellar evolution. He is best known for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae and the death of Sun-like stars. His recent research has been on the topic of the synthesis of complex organic compounds in the late stages of stellar evolution. He is the author of many books, including The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae (Cambridge, 2000), Cosmic Butterflies (Cambridge, 2001), Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007), Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley, 2012), and Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life (Springer, 2013).
He has been a guest observer on many space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Infrared Space Observatory. He currently serves as President of IAU International Astronomical Union (IAU), Commission on Astrobiology. Previously, he has served as the President of IAU Commission on Interstellar Matter (2012-2015) and chairman of IAU Planetary Nebulae Working Group (1994-2001).