“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.
7:30pm – Speaker – The secret of Adaptive Optics – Paolo Turri, UVic Astronomy
Since the dawn of optical telescopes, astronomers have been struggling against a serious problem: Earth’s atmosphere. The turbulence in the atmosphere degrades the quality of astronomical images by reducing the spatial resolution that they could achieve theoretically. For centuries astronomers had to live with this limitation, until space flight allowed them to put telescopes in orbit, avoiding the issue entirely. But for the larger telescopes here on the ground, the problem persisted. This was until a technical solution was finally found during the Cold War (but kept secret until few decades ago…).
Adaptive optics is a relatively new technology that allows a telescope to “manipulate” the light distorted by the atmosphere and to restore a clear vision of the skies. I will discuss the tricks that adaptive optics uses to achieve the result, as well as some of its scientific accomplishments. I will also tell the story of how we ended up acquiring this technology in astronomy. It’s a plot made of secrets, spies and mutually assured destruction.
Paolo is from Italy and he graduated in Padua and Trieste for his degree in Astronomy. He is currently a PhD student in Astronomy at the University of Victoria and his field of research is in adaptive optics. He has observed at the Gemini South telescope to study the stellar populations of Galactic globular clusters. At NRC Herzberg he is also studying the performance of the adaptive optics system that will be built in Victoria for the future Thirty Meter Telescope.
8:30-9:30 pm Annual General Meeting & Presentations
Call to order: 8:30pm
Minutes of 2015 Annual Meeting: Les.
Secretary’s Annual Report: Les.
Treasurer’s Financial Report: Bruce.
National Representative’s Report: Lauri.
Award of Excellence in Astrophotography –
Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making –
Newton – Ball Service Award 2016-
Certificate of Excellence – Election of Victoria Centre Council Members: Nelson-
List of RASC Council positions for Victoria Centre 2016-2017:
President – Chris Purse (nominee)
First Vice President – Reg Dunkley (nominee)
Second Vice President – Deb Crawford (nominee)
Secretary – Leslie Welsh (incumbent)
Treasurer – Bruce Lane (incumbent)
At large and others:
Past President – Sherry Buttnor
National Representative – Nelson Walker (nominee)
Librarian – Michel Michaud (incumbent) Diane Bell (assistant, nominee)
Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
Public Outreach – Ken Mallory (nominee)
Skynews Editor – Reg Dunkley (incumbent)
Light Abatement Chair – Dave Robinson (incumbent)
Membership Chair – Chris Purse (incumbent)
Webmaster – Joe Carr (incumbent)
Observing Chair – Michel Michaud, Jim Stilburn (incumbent co-chairs)
Systems Administrator /Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson (incumbent)
Member(s) at Large:
Jim Hesser (National RASC Anniversary Working Group)
Lauri Roche (National RASC Anniversary Working Group )
James DiFrancesco (DAO Liaison)
Alex Schmidt (UVic Liaison)
David Lee (Observing)
Li-Ann Skibo (RBCM Liaison)
Bill Almond (Historian)
Chris Gainor (National Officer)
“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).
“Exploring exoplanetary systems with the Gemini Planet Imager” – Zach Draper, UVic Astronomy
The Gemini Planet Imager is an instrument designed to directly image exoplanets and circumstellar disks around nearby stars. Partially built here in Victoria, it is now conducting a 600 hour survey at the Gemini-South observatory in Chile. I will discuss how the instrument works and highlight some of its recent discoveries.
Bio: Zack Draper is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria, where he also received his Masters in 2012. His focus of study are debris disks (collisionally active, asteroid belts) around other stars. He is also member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey.
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies” – 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.
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)
“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.
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.