Special Star Talk: So, You Want to Go to Mars?

March 18, 2018
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star_talk_mar2018“So You Want to Go to Mars?” with Dr. John B. Charles

Date & Location: 7:00 PM-9:00 PM Mar. 23, McLennan Physical Laboratories (MP), Room 102, 60 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 1A7

For everyone who was disappointed by our cancelled symposium, Dr. John B. Charles (one of the original symposium speakers) has agreed to come to Toronto to give a special Star Talk!

Light snacks and refreshments will be provided following the talk!

Abstract: So, you want to go to Mars? Long-range planning for exploration-class missions emphasizes the need for anticipating the medical and human factors aspects of such expeditions. Physiological stresses will come from environmental factors such as prolonged exposure to radiation, weightlessness while en route, and low gravity and a toxic atmosphere while on Mars. Psychological stressors will include remoteness from Earth, confinement, and potential interpersonal conflicts, all complicated by circadian alterations. Medical risks including trauma must be considered. The role of such risk-modifying influences as artificial gravity and improved propulsion technologies to shorten round-trip time will also be discussed. NASA’s on-going efforts to reduce the risks to humans on exploration-class missions, including the year-long ISS expedition and its Twins Study, will be presented.


About the speaker: Dr. John B. Charles is the former Chief Scientist at the NASA Human Research Program. Dr. Charles earned his bachelor of science in biophysics at The Ohio State University and his doctorate in physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky. He worked at NASA’s Johnson Space centre from 1983 – 2018, where he investigated the cardiovascular effects of space flight on Space Shuttle astronauts and on crew members of the Russian space station Mir. As the chief of the International Science Office of NASA’s Human Research Program, he led space life sciences planning for the joint U.S./Russian one-year mission on the ISS. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics, has published over 60 scientific articles, and has received several professional awards.

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March 2018: Picture of the Month

March 2, 2018
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Colourful star trails arc through the night in this wide-angle mountain and skyscape. From a rotating planet, the digitally added consecutive exposures were made with a camera fixed to a tripod and looking south, over northern Iran’s Alborz Mountain range. The stars trace concentric arcs around the planet’s south celestial pole, below the scene’s rugged horizon. Combined, the many short exposures also bring out the pretty star colours. Bluish trails are from stars hotter than our Sun, while yellowish trails are from cooler stars. Near the center, the remarkably pinkish trail was traced by the star-forming Orion Nebula.

For more information, check out APOD!

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Panel Discussion: Is Anybody Out There?

February 26, 2018
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panel_discussion“Is Anybody Out There?” – A panel discussion on the search for extraterrestrial life’

Date & Location: 7:00 PM-8:30 PM Mar. 7, Sidney Smith Hall (SS), Room 2102, 100 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 3G3

Abstract: Come ask our diverse panel of five PhD students any of your burning questions about the current (and future) search for extraterrestrial life! This event will be run as a guided discussion, with a host/moderator posing a variety of general questions to the panel, however you (the audience) are encouraged to bring your own questions! Some of the topics that will be covered are:
– Current search efforts and how they are performed (ie. SETI)
– The instruments that are used in the current search efforts
– Future space missions dedicated to searching for life
– The conditions required for life to arise on a given planet, and whether life can form under a different set of conditions
– Prime exoplanet candidates on which to search for life
– The possibility of life in our own solar neighbourhood (ie. on Mars or Enceladus)
– And more! (depending on the pacing of discussion)


About the host/moderator: Dan Falk is an award-winning science writer, author and broadcaster, and was a 2011/12 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He and has written articles for New Scientist, The Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail (among many others). He has written quite extensively on the search for extraterrestrial life in the past, and we are excited to have him as a host and moderator for this panel discussion!

About the panelists:
– Elliot Meyer is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who’s primary research interests include astronomical instrumentation and extragalactic stellar populations. Back in 2015, he worked alongside Prof. Shelley Wright at the Dunlap Institute on the construction of the instrument for the Near-Infrared Optical SETI (NIROSETI) and the development of their search strategy. Their instrument achieved first light on March 14th, 2015.

– Adiv Paradise is a PhD candidate in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at UofT working with Prof. Kristen Menou. Much of his research focuses on using general circulation climate models (GCM’s) to simulate and assess the habitability of exoplanets, and to determine how to best observe these exoplanet candidates.

– Yvette Cendes is a PhD candidate with the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto. She is primarily a radio-astronomer and her thesis focuses on transient radio sources (those which occur very briefly and rapidly). In addition to this, she has spent a summer interning at SETI, as well as she is an avid science writer and blogger, and has written articles for magazines such as Astronomy, Discover and Sky & Telescope.

– Ben Pearce is a PhD student at McMaster University working alongside Prof. Ralph Pudritz. His research is centered around the biochemistry of how the building blocks of life (more specifically RNA) were formed on the early Earth, prior to even the most primordial lifeforms. In addition to his research, he is involved with The Origins Institute at McMaster, a trans-disciplinary organization aimed at answering some of the biggest questions in science such as “how did the universe begin?” and “how did life arise on Earth?”

– Margot Smith is a PhD candidate at McMaster University, and her work primarily focuses on studying the microbiology of deep continental subsurface microbial communities using multiple membrane biomarkers. Her research has various implications in astrobiology, and she is also involved with The Origins Institute at McMaster.

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Star Talk: Exploring Space… from Earth

February 13, 2018
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exploringspacefromearth“Exploring Space… from Earth” with Dr. Marianne Mader

Abstract: Learn how planetary scientists explore other planets here on Earth, through comparative planetology and meteoritics, and how we are preparing for future space missions by conducting terrestrial analogue missions. Dr. Mader will share stories from the field, including her work in the Arctic and Antarctica. Step into the shoes of a geologist and try your hand at meteorite hunting in this interactive presentation.


About the speaker: Dr. Mader has dedicated her career to sharing her love for science and space exploration through innovative public engagement, participatory education, and planetary science research. Currently, the Managing Director of Earth & Space/Fossils & Evolution at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), she leads multidisciplinary initiatives to help people understand the Earth, our solar system and how life evolved over time. With over 13 years of research & field experience, Dr. Mader has studied some of the oldest rocks on Earth in Greenland, explored impact craters across the globe, and collected meteorites in Antarctica. She’s worked with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA, and numerous Canadian space companies. She’s a Visiting Lecturer at the International Space University, and her education includes a PhD in Planetary Science, MSc in Space Studies, and an MSc in Earth Sciences.


Date and Location: 7:00 PM Feb. 28, Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories (LM), Room 161

Telescope observing: 8:00 PM on 14th floor of McLennan Physical Laboratories (MP) (weather permitting) — you will be guided to the telescopes.

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February 2018: Picture of the Month

February 13, 2018
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Last week, a car orbited the Earth. The car, created by humans and robots on the Earth, was launched by the SpaceX Company to demonstrate the ability of its Falcon Heavy Rocket to place spacecraft out in the Solar System. Purposely fashioned to be whimsical, the iconic car was thought a better demonstration object than concrete blocks. A mannequin clad in a spacesuit — dubbed the Starman — sits in the driver’s seat. The featured image is a frame from a video taken by one of three cameras mounted on the car. These cameras, connected to the car’s battery, are now out of power. The car, attached to a second stage booster, soon left Earth orbit and will orbit the Sun between Earth and the asteroid belt indefinitely — perhaps until billions of years from now when our Sun expands into a Red Giant. If ever recovered, what’s left of the car may become a unique window into technologies developed on Earth in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

For more information, check out APOD!

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