Star Talk: Hands-On Astronomy: Building Instruments to Measure Our Cosmos

You may be familiar with some of the fantastic technology and instruments to do astronomy and the pictures we get with them of our cosmos, but how do these telescopes and cameras actually get built? What do experimental astrophysics do all day? I will discuss astronomical instrumentation and what technology we use to measure the sky across the electromagnetic spectrum from UV telescopes to superconducting transition edge sensors. I will describe how these instruments are created and what the careers of astronomy “builders” are like. I will also show some images of the sky taken with different instruments and describe the discoveries they have allowed astronomers to make.

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Star Talk: Statistics Meets Astronomy


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Big data permeates every facet of modern society, and astronomy is no exception! What do astrophysicists do with the massive amounts of information being constantly recorded by telescopes? To find out, join ASX for our first-ever, socially-distant online Star Talk on Wednesday, July 8. From analysing the behavior of single stars to calculating the mass of the Milky Way, Professor Gwendolyn Eadie will be elucidating the ways in which statistics meets astronomy! As always, everyone is welcome!

Lecture Abstract:
Statistics meets Astronomy: Challenges in Time and Space

Astronomy, like so many other disciplines, has entered an era of big data — large telescopes and all-sky surveys are bringing in petabytes amount of data on a daily basis. The hope is that these large data sets will help us not only untangle mysteries of the universe but also help us discover new phenomena. At the same time, these data sets often come with challenges that require sophisticated statistical analysis. In this talk, I will summarize some of the exciting science being done by my Astrostatistics Research Team at the University of Toronto, from studies of individual stars, to open star clusters and the entire Milky Way Galaxy.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Gwendolyn Eadie is an Assistant Professor jointly-appointed between U of T’s David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Department of Statistical Sciences. Prof. Eadie is an expert in astrostatistics, and is currently applying modern statistical methods to the study of the Milky Way.

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January Star Talk: Black Holes in 2020

It’s time for our first event of 2020! Black hole are everywhere in popular science and science fiction, but what do we really know about these ultra-dense objects? If you would like to know more, join ASX for our Star Talk on Wednesday, January 29, in Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories (LM), Room 161. Professor Chris Matzner will be illuminating the darkness surrounding black holes, by elaborating on the state of our understanding in 2020! The free, public lecture itself is from 7PM-8PM followed, weather permitting, by a free, public telescope viewing atop MP. Everyone is welcome!

Lecture Abstract:
Once just a speculation, the existence of black holes is now an established fact. But what are they? Where do they come from? How were they found? What consequences do they have in our Universe? What mysteries remain? I will cover our knowledge of black holes as of 2020, and what we might learn next.

About the Speaker:
Dr. Christopher Matzner is a Professor and Graduate Associate Chair of U of T’s David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. Prof. Matzner is currently conducting research on aspects of star formation (protostellar disks, molecular clouds, energy feedback) and stellar explosions (supernovae, gamma ray bursts).

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Star Talk: Stellar Fossils of the Early Universe

Date: October 30th, 7PM Р9PM
Location: Lash Miller Chemical Laboratories Rm 161

This star talk features Dr. Jeremy J. Webb, an Assistant Professor in U of T’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. An NSERC postdoctoral fellow, Professor Webb is currently conducting research on Dynamical Evolution of Star Clusters, Dark Remnants, Dark Matter Substructure, Stellar Streams, Multiple Populations in Globular Clusters, and N-body Numerical Techniques.

Title: Fossils of the Early Universe
Abstract: Star clusters lie at the cross-roads of star formation, galaxy formation, and galaxy evolution. Stars do not form alone in isolation, but in clustered environments surround by between several tens to several millions of stars. The current star cluster population of a galaxy is made up of newly formed clusters of young stars and old star clusters that formed at the same time as the galaxy itself. These old clusters, often called globular clusters, provide clues as to what a galaxy was like when it first formed and how it has evolved over time. I will discuss what we know about cluster formation and evolution, as well as how we can use clusters as tools to study the galaxy within which they orbit. To help gain an understanding of the present day properties of Galactic clusters, we will also explore what life would be like if our Sun was actually inside a cluster with the help of a virtual reality environment. Not only will the night sky look very different, but the type of science available to astronomers would also change.

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Star Talk: Warp Drives & Aliens

star_talk_nov2018 “Warp Drives & Aliens” with Professor Bryan Gaensler

Date & Location: 7:00 PM-8:00 PM Nov. 21, McLennan Physical Laboratories (MP), Room 102, 60 St. George St., Toronto, ON M5S 1A7

Telescope observing: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM on 14th floor of McLennan Physical Laboratories (MP) (weather permitting) — you will be guided to the telescopes.

Abstract: Science fiction and science are both wondrous and inspiring, albeit in very different ways. At its best, science fiction asks profound questions about the human condition. In contrast, science asks — and often answers — even more profound questions about the very nature of matter, space and time. I am both a professional astrophysicist and a science-fiction fan, and sometimes my two great passions converge. Specifically, two of the ever-present themes explored in both fact and fiction are the prospect of journeying to other stars, and the possibility of life on other worlds. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the latest thinking on interstellar travel and on the search for alien life. The remarkable frontiers of current research provide a rich canvas to tell stories of our place in the cosmos.

About the Speaker: This star talk features Dr. Patrick Hall, a Ph.D. graduate in astronomy and astrophysics. Dr. Hall is currently a professor at York University and a contributor to the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System. He specializes in quasars and blackholes, particularly in the outflows of gas and light from these active bodies.

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