Our representation of the Universe has evolved throughout the ages. From the first men to Ptolemy, we have always tried to understand the skies. Modern astronomers have access to tools that their ancestors did not even dream of. This lead to multiple big and small revolutions in our understanding of the Universe in the last centuries. We retrace some of these moments that shaped our knowledge of the Universe.
Bio: Sebastien Lavoie is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria. Prior to that he obtained his MSc in Quebec City. He studies the evolution of massive galaxies in clusters.
“What dwarfs teach us about the galaxy formation” – Azadeh Fattahi, PhD Department of Physics and Astronomy at UVic
The standard model of cosmology has been very successful in explaining the galaxy formation and structures in large scales, but observations on smaller scales raised potential questions about the validity of the model.
Bio: Azadeh was born and raised in Iran. She studied Physics for her BSc in Tehran-Iran at the Sharif University of Technology. In 2011 she moved to UVic for her MSc in Astronomy, transferring into a PhD program in 2013.
“When did Modern Astronomy Begin?” – Dr. Alan Batten, DAO astronomer (1959-91); RASC President (1976-78); JRASC Editor (1980-88)
We usually think of the seventeenth century as the time when modern astronomy, and indeed modern science, began, but if we look at what was known by astronomers at the beginning of the nineteenth century and compare it with what they knew by the end of that century, a case can be made that that was the period in which astronomy became truly “modern”.
Bio: Alan was at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory for over 50 years. He has been President of the Victoria Centre of the RASC, National President, and Honorary President, as well as Editor of the Journal. Alan has been a Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. His field of research is close binary stars. In retirement, Alan spent about a decade visiting astronomers in developing countries, on behalf of the International Astronomical Union and now publishes on the history of astronomy. http://www.rasc.ca/alan-batten
“Exploring the ghostly side of galaxies with Dragonfly” – Dr. Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto professor, Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Abstract: Bigger telescopes are usually better telescopes…. but not always. In this talk I will explore the ghostly world of large low surface brightness structures, such as galactic stellar halos, low-surface brightness dwarf galaxies, and other exotica such as supernova light echoes. These objects are nearly undetectable with conventional telescopes, but their properties may hold the key to understanding how galaxies assemble. I will describe why finding these objects is important, and why it is so devilishly difficult.
I will also describe a bizarre new telescope (the Toronto/Yale Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a.k.a. Dragonfly) which is now being used to explore the low surface brightness universe and is testing some of the most fundamental predictions of galaxy formation models. Dragonfly is comprised of multiple commercial 400 mm f/2.8 telephoto lenses which utilize novel nanostructure-based optical coatings that minimize scattered light and ghosting. I’ll showcase some our early results, mainly focusing on the properties of ultra-faint stellar halos. I’ll also report the discovery of gigantic stellar disks underlying nearby galaxies, and will describe the discovery of a new class of ghostlike galaxies that are as big as the Milky Way but have about 1/1000 of its mass.
Bio: Roberto Abraham is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He obtained his BSc from UBC and his doctorate from Oxford. His work is focused on observations of galaxy formation and evolution and the development of innovative instruments. He has been awarded the Canadian Astronomical Society’s P. G. Martin Award, the Canada Foundation for Innovation Career Award, the NSERC Steacie Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, the University of Toronto Outstanding Teaching Award, and a bunch of other things, including recently becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, thus making him officially over the hill.
His proudest moment is winning second prize in the Vancouver All-City Elementary School Grade 6 spelling bee, where he lost out for not knowing how to spell the word “satellite”, leading eventually to learning how to spell the word “ironic”. He’s presently Vice-President of the Canadian Astronomical Society. Being keen on outreach, he has served as Honourary President of the Toronto Centre of the RASC for many years. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Gemini Observatory, on the Science Advisory Committee for the Thirty Meter Telescope, has advised NASA by serving as panel chair on the Hubble Space Telescope time allocation committee three times, and is currently by serving as Canada’s representative on the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee.
Payment at the door – by cheque (preferred) or cash
Meals will be pre-ordered and must be paid for, whether you show up or not
Menu: fixed sit-down meal. Choices:
First Course – choice of soup or salad
Potato bacon soup
Main Course – choice of one entrée
Roast beef dinner with seasonal vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.
Grilled salmon fillet with dill sauce, seasonal vegetables and rice.
Vegetarian stuffed mushroom cap with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Dessert: stand-up dessert buffet.
Coffee and Tea included.
7:30pm – Speaker – Where Baby Stars Come From, and Why it’s Important to Know! – Steve Mairs
In this talk, I will examine the birth of a sun-like star and introduce some of the research being performed here in Victoria to further our knowledge on this subject. My main focus will be on the Orion Molecular Cloud, a giant star-forming region in the Milky Way which encompasses the famous Orion Nebula. I will present images of what the Orion Nebula looks like at submillimetre wavelengths and show how these often overlooked observations can provide vital information into the young lives of stars. By studying “where baby stars come from”, we can make links to present day observations of star clusters, supernova explosion rates, the formation of planets, and, in effect our very own origin story.
Bio: Steve Mairs is a 4th year PhD student in astronomy at UVIC. In 2012, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree with honours, majoring in Physics, from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.
Throughout his undergraduate career, he was involved in a variety of astronomy projects including researching remnants of supernova explosions at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, studying pulsars in an effort to make a detection of gravitational waves at UBC Vancouver, and investigating the evolution of the physical properties of giant star-forming regions in the Triangulum Galaxy.
Steve’s PhD thesis is centred on the formation of stars in the Orion molecular cloud. Specifically, he is using sub-millimetre data collected using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Combined Array for Research in Millimetre Astronomy to examine how large scale gas and dust structures in our own galaxy relate to the small scale structure which gives rise to the formation of young stars and stellar clusters.
“The Search for Alien Life in the Universe” – Dr. Jon Willis, UVic professor
Abstract: Do aliens exist and how are scientists proposing to find them? No, not a journey into the X-files of science fiction but a presentation of the science of astrobiology: the scientific search for life beyond Earth. However, within a 45 minute talk we have to get our priorities straight. This talk will not offer a reduced Shakespeare company-style overview of astrobiology. Instead I will focus on my top two picks for future success and discuss these in detail.
June 10, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting – Event Info
Slicing & Dicing Galaxies to Understand What Built Them Up – Dr. Joel Roediger (NRC/Herzberg)
As best we can define them, galaxies are immense accumulations of gas, dust, stars, planetary systems, and dark matter, and as such, hold a revered place in the story of where we come from. That, coupled with the intriguing breadth of galactic entities and phenomena, makes it little surprising why many astronomers devote their careers towards filling the gaps in our understanding of the detailed physics that governs galaxy formation.
Observers and modellers (like myself) working in the field of extragalactic astrophysics are constantly finding new ways to challenge our current understanding through innovative measurements of galaxy parameters. One of the latest innovations takes advantage of technological improvements to study galaxies on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This new approach will enable a fuller appreciation of the complexity of galaxy structures, the growth histories of their components, and the amount and structure of dark matter within their visible extents.
Here in Victoria, we have the opportunity to capitalize on such important topics for a complete sample of local galaxies through a state-of-the-art imaging survey targeting the Virgo Cluster. In this talk, I will describe the survey itself and efforts presently underway to map, pixel-by-pixel, the mass in stars within the galaxies of this all-important cluster. This ambitious program promises to enable fundamental insights into the build up of stellar mass, a pillar of the galaxy formation process, within the present-day galaxy population.
May 13, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting
“ALMA, low mass star formation, and the SOLA project” – Dr. Lewis Knee, Radio Astronomy Program Programme, Millimetre Technology Group, NRC Herzberg
Abstract: ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array, has begun science operations after more than a decade of development and construction. Although the observatory has not yet reached its full capability, it is already making important new discoveries. In the area of low mass star formation, ALMA offers very high angular resolution and high sensitivity observations of nearby molecular clouds, the most well-studied of which are in the northern hemisphere. However, it is for studies of the less well-known clouds of the southern sky that ALMA will excel.
One of these molecular cloud complexes lies in the Lupus constellation, and an international consortium of ALMA scientists have begun an effort, the SOLA program, to probe the star formation activity in this region. It turns out that the clouds in Lupus and its star formation has some unique characteristics that make of of great interest for studies of star formation in different environments, particularly for the formation of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs.
Bio: Lewis Knee is a radio astronomer at NRC Herzberg in Victoria. He received his PhD in Radio and Space Science at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 1991. Since then he has worked in radio astronomy observatories in Europe, Canada, and Chile, most recently six years at ALMA in the Atacama Desert. His main scientific interests are in spectroscopy, star formation, molecular clouds, and the interstellar medium of our Galaxy.
Frontiers in Adaptive Optics and Stellar Spectroscopy: Searching for the First Stars Ever Formed – Masen Lamb, PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation
To compete with space telescopes such as Hubble, current (and future) optical ground based telescopes employ a technology called Adaptive Optics. This technology uses mirrors to cancel out the affects of the atmosphere and provide near diffraction-limited images. One application of Adaptive Optics in astronomy is to resolve dense regions of stars in the centre of our Galaxy. When this application is combined with infrared spectroscopy we can start to hunt for the oldest stars in our Galaxy. I will talk about the latest technologies in both Adaptive Optics and stellar spectroscopy and discuss some of their astronomical implications.
Masen Lamb is a PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation. His astronomy work is done at the university while his instrumentation work is at NRC – Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA). Masen Lamb’s website
Despite the emptiness of space, mergers between galaxies are surprisingly common. Around 1% of galaxies in the nearby Universe are currently experiencing an interaction of some kind. I will describe research that uses both observations and computer simulations to trace the dramatic effect of these interactions on a galaxy’s history: how the interaction can lead to massive bursts of star formation, alter the interstellar chemistry and even provide fuel for the central supermassive black hole.