SPEAKER: Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies – Maan Hani

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May 11, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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“Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies” – Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy


Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy
Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy

Since the earliest civilizations, we have been trying to understand the night sky. In the past century, following the Great Debate over the nature of “spiral nebulae” (known today as spiral galaxies), we witnessed the rise of extra galactic astronomy. Today, our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution is on the rise owing to revolutionary progress in observations and theory. In this talk, I will share our current understanding of galaxies and their exciting lives.


Maan H. Hani is a Astronomy PhD student working with Prof. Sara Ellison at the University of Victoria. After completing a Bachelor of Science with honours in Astrophysics at Saint Mary’s university in 2013, Maan continued working under the supervision of Prof. Rob Thacker and completed a Masters in Science in Astronomy in 2015. Maan is particularly interested in understanding the big picture of how galaxies form, evolve, and interact with each other and their environment. His past research has focused on modelling star formation and BH activity in galaxy simulations. Both, star formation and black hole activity, are thought to be closely tied to galaxy evolution making proper models of such processes essential to our understanding of how galaxies evolve.

APRIL’S MONTHLY MEETING GUEST SPEAKER: Dr. Helen Kirk: Watching the birth of stars with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory.

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Have you ever wondered how stars are born? In this presentation, we’ll dive
deep into the hearts of molecular clouds, vast reservoirs of gas and dust which
are the birthplace for stars. Our tour will include stunning recent results from the
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, facilities
where Canadian astronomers have been making major strides in revealing clues
as to how and why stars form.
Dr Helen Kirk is a Research Associate with the Herzberg Astrophysics program
at the National Research Council of Canada. She has previously worked as a
researcher at McMaster University and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and prior to that, obtained her MSc and PhD from the University of
Victoria. Helen is thrilled to have been honoured with two awards associated
with the RASC: in 2010, she received the Plaskett medal, a joint CASCA-RASC
award for the best Canadian astronomy thesis in the past two years, and in 2003,
she received the RASC Gold Award from the Toronto Centre of the RASC for
high achievement as an undergraduate in astronomy at the University of Toronto.

NOTE ROOM CHANGE TO ELL167 IN THE ELLIOTT LECTURE THEATRE (small building behind the Elliott Building where we meet after monthly meetings)

March Monthly Meeting Guest Speaker: Dr. James DiFrancesco- The Secret Sits.

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“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”

“I will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sgr A*.  This curious object is our closest Galactic Nucleus, and will soon  be observed at extraordinarily high resolution (~15 micro-arcseconds) using a world-wide network of high-frequency radio telescopes in a very coordinated effort to detect accretion disk close to its event horizon.”
James Di Francesco is an RASC member who works at the NRC Herzberg Programs in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  He was born in Ontario and received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto in 1990, and his PhD in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.  After completing postdoctoral appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley, James joined NRC in 2002.

February Monthly Meeting speaker: Sebastien Lavoie-How to Build a Universe.

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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.

Monthly Meeting Speaker: Azadeh Fattahi, PhD Astronomy at UVic

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January 13, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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Azadeh Fattahi
Azadeh Fattahi

“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.

Monthly meeting speaker: Dr. Alan Batten

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December 9, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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“When did Modern Astronomy Begin?” – Dr. Alan Batten, DAO astronomer (1959-91); RASC President (1976-78); JRASC Editor (1980-88)

Dr. Alan Batten. RASC President 1976-78. Edmonton GA, May 1978.
Dr. Alan Batten. RASC President 1976-78. Edmonton GA, May 1978.

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

Monthly meeting speaker: Dr. Roberto Abraham, UofT professor

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October 14, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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“Exploring the ghostly side of galaxies with Dragonfly” – Dr. Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto professor, Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Dragonfly multi-lens array
Dragonfly multi-lens array

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.

Prof. Roberto Abraham
Prof. Roberto Abraham

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.

Victoria Centre AGM & Dinner – Nov 22, 2015

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Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Victoria Centre

Annual General Meeting and Dinner

Sunday, November 22 2015

at the Moon Under Water Brewpub, 350 Bay St, Victoria, BC

Call for Nominations

6:00pm – Drinks, conversation

  • No host bar

6:30 – Dinner

Payment -Cost of the fixed, sit-down dinner is $35.00 per person, inclusive of all taxes and gratuities. Alcoholic beverages not included.

  • Payment is only required for the meal.
  • Attendance at both the speaker presentation and the business meeting is free of charge.
  • The total number of dinners must be confirmed by Friday, November 13th. Please look over the menu and send your choice of First Course and Main Course to:
    • Nelson Walker: 250-477-4820 or by email to pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca
    • 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
  • House salad

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.

Steve Mairs
Steve Mairs

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.

8:30-9:30 pm Annual General Meeting

The agenda.

Monthly meeting speaker: The Search for Alien Life in the Universe – Dr. Jon Willis

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September 9, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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“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.

Streaming broadcast and later recording of meeting, including presentation (on Youtube)

Dr. Jon Willis
Dr. Jon Willis

Bio: Jon Willis is an Associate Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria.

  • BSc. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Glasgow (1995).
  • PhD in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge (2000).
  • Post-doc at the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile. (2000-2002).
  • Science Fellow at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (2002-2003).
  • Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, UVic (2003-present).