Star Talk – The Gaia Satellite: Mapping the Milky Way in 3D

September 17, 2017
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gaia_satelliteAbstract: For hundreds of years, astronomers have been working to map the structure of the Universe and of the Milky Way, but this endeavor is hampered by the difficulty of measuring distances to celestial objects. Prof. Bovy will tell the story of how we have determined our place in the cosmos, from measuring the size of the solar system and the distance to nearby stars, to figuring out how far other galaxies are. He will then take us to the present day, giving an overview of the new Gaia satellite mission which is making us see the Milky Way with new eyes by measuring the distances to a billion stars in the Milky Way.


About the speaker: Professor Jo Bovy is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto. He graduated with a PhD in physics from New York University and went on to become a Bahcall fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He currently holds the Canada Research Char in Galactic Astrophysics at UofT, and is a member of the APOGEE-2 survey, which maps the dynamical and chemical patterns of Milky Way stars using near-infrared spectroscopy.


Date and Location: 7:00 PM Sept. 27th, Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories (LM) Room 159
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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Searching for New Executive Team Members!

September 10, 2017
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seethestarsHello everyone! The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society (ASX) is currently looking to fill a few vacancies in our executive team. If astronomy and space tickle your fancy and you would wish to tickle other people’s fancy in astronomy and space, we have openings in the Secretary, Outreach Director, and Symposium Coordinator positions.

Open to ALL UofT undergrads! NO astronomy/science background required!

If you’re interested in one or more of the positions please email us at with a 200 words or less statement of interest and an attached résumé/CV. Please also feel free to email us any questions.


More information on the vacant positions:

SECRETARY: The Secretary must take minutes during all executive meetings, and must promptly distribute them to the executives once the meeting is done. The Secretary is also responsible for establishing and maintaining the electronic mailing list, and managing the ASX email address. The Secretary is also responsible for managing and sending emails to ASX members, including a monthly newsletter which describes all the relevant space-related events scheduled during the next month. The Secretary is ASX’s primary contact person.

OUTREACH DIRECTOR: The Outreach Director is primarily responsible for advertising ASX, managing ASX’s social media profiles, cultivating relationships with external organizations, and recruiting members. For large events which require substantial advertisement, the Outreach Director may delegate responsibility for advertising to a number of executives, and should cooperate with the Secretary in creating an effective and consistent online message.

SYMPOSIUM COORDINATOR: The role of the Symposium Coordinator is to help the Symposium Director oversee and
manage all activities and tasks related to the Annual Symposium, including contacting and confirming speakers, booking their travel and accommodations, booking the Symposium venue and audio-visual equipment, choosing catering, and any other logistics related to the Symposium.

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What ifs Scientific Poster Competition

April 1, 2017
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What ifs Scientific Poster Competition is a competition organized by the Astronomy and Space
Exploration Society (ASX). ASX is a non-profit organization run by the University of Toronto
space community in Ontario, Canada. ASX’s purpose is to educate, excite, and inspire students,
professionals, and the general public about astronomy and space.

The aim of the competition is to provide students in grades 9-12 with an opportunity to explore
the field of astronomy and space science. Students will investigate a topic from an active research
area and share their work with other space enthusiasts.

Students can choose to work individually or form a team with a maximum of three members.
(Note: only one person in the team needs to fill out the registration form, but they will need to
provide names and email addresses of the other team members.) Students may work with students
in different grades (9-12) and from different schools, if they would like.

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ASX Annual General Meeting for 2017-2018 Elections

March 31, 2017
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ASX will be holding its Annual General Meeting to elect the 2017-2018 executive team, and celebrate the end of a great year with FREE food!

Date: Monday, April 3, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
Location: Astronomy Building (50 St.George Street), Room 114

If you are a student at the University of Toronto and you are an ASX member (i.e., you are on our mailing list), then you are eligible to vote and to run for an executive position. To run, email before 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 2. You can state up to three executive positions that you intend on running for in order of preference, and come prepared with a short speech of no more than 3 minutes for each position. If you wish to run for more than one position, please tailor your speech to each of the positions you intend on running for. At the AGM, voting will follow the procedure outlined in the ASX Constitution, section 6.
*Note that if a candidate wishes to run for President, Vice President, Treasurer, or Secretary, then they require a nomination from two other ASX members.

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Star Talk: The Algonquin Pulsar Project

March 11, 2017
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star_talk_feb “The Algonquin Pulsar Project”, with Professor Ue-Li Pen

Abstract: The Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO), built in 1965, along with the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) are the first to achieve long baseline interferometry (VLBI), whereby two single-dish telescopes are combined to provide the same resolution as a telescope the size of Canada.

CITA, the Dunlap Institute, and the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics collectively have continued the Canadian VLBI tradition with a new program to conduct transnational interferometric observations of pulsars and fast radio bursts (FRBs). The former has been named “scintillometry,” whose purpose is to utilize VLBI on earth in combination with scattering in the interstellar medium (ISM) to create an effective telescope size of ~astronomical unit to study pulsars and the intervening matter between us and them. The latter could provide the first ever spatial localization of FRBs.

Pulsar VLBI is located at the Algonquin Radio Observatory, which is visited frequently for data collection. The Crab pulsar will be studied using scintillometry techniques and VLBI. To obtain better images, one would need a telescope with a larger diameter. An easy way to increase diameter was to combine the signals from multiple telescopes using them as an interferometer thus creating VLBI. The data collected at Algonquin are synced up to data collected with other telescopes across the world. The radio waves that is emitted from the pulses propagate to telescopes on earth directly and indirectly via deflections on a scattering screen in the interstellar medium in space. The different paths interfere thus causing scintillation. By observing the scintillation with multiple telescopes on Earth, it is possible to estimate the pulsar’s position with extremely high precision.

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