International Year of Astronomy 2009

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Dr. Sara Seager: "Origins and Aliens: The Search for Other Earths"

When Mar 26, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Sara Seager

Dr. Sara Seager
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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For thousands of years people have wondered, “Are we Alone?” With over 300 planets discovered to orbit nearby stars, the existence of "exoplanets" is firmly established. Astronomers are now able to routinely measure planetary sizes, masses, and atmospheres for a subset of hot, big exoplanets. The race to find "habitable" exoplanets is on with the realization that big Earths orbiting small stars can be both discovered and characterized with existing technology. Professor Seager will present highlights of recent exoplanet discoveries and discuss when we might find another Earth and what kinds of signs of life we are looking for. 

Dr. Christine Wilson: "Galaxy Collisions, Star Formation and Galactic Evolution"

When May 05, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/07
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Christine Wilson

Dr. Christine Wilson
McMaster University
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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The astronomical research of the next decade will focus on understanding the origins of planets, stars, galaxies, and even the universe itself. Millimeter-wave radio astronomy is a novel and crucial tool in this quest for origins, because it allows us to probe into the cold, dark regions of space where many of these formation processes occur. This talk will illustrate the promise and potential of these techniques by examining spectacular galaxy collisions that have triggered intense bursts of star formation, as well as new results which shed light on the more quiescent star formation which is the norm in galaxies like our own Milky Way. In addition, the talk will describe how new facilities currently under construction, such as the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), promise a revolution in our understanding of the origin of structure in the universe.

Speaker backgroundDr. Christine Wilson is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University and the Canadian Project Scientist for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. The discoverer of Comet Wilson while still a graduate student, she is best known internationally for her work on star formation in nearby galaxies. She received her Ph.D. from Caltech in 1990, a Women's Faculty Award from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council in 1992, and a Premier's Research Excellence Award from the Ontario government in 1999. She recently spent a sabbatical year based in Hilo, Hawaii, at the Smithsonian Observatory, where she led a major research project on the fuel for star formation in galaxies undergoing intense bursts of star formation.

Dr. Brian P. Schmidt: "The Universe From Beginning to End"

When Jun 04, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where MDCL-1305/1307
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Brian P. Schmidt

Dr. Brian P. Schmidt
The Australian National University, Mt. Stromlo Observatory
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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Astronomers believe our Universe began in a Big Bang, and is expanding around us. Brian Schmidt will describe the life of the Universe that we live in, and how astronomers have used observations to trace our Universe's history back more than 13 Billion years. With these data a puzzling picture has been pieced together where 96% of the Cosmos is made up of two mysterious substances, Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These two mysterious forms of matter are in a battle for domination of the Universe, and Schmidt will describe new experiments that are monitoring the struggle between Dark Energy and Dark Matter, trying better understand these elusive pieces of our Universe, and predict the ultimate fate of the Cosmos.

Dr. Doug Welch: "Light Echo: Personal Reflections by Astronomer Doug Welch on Supernova Light Echoes"

When Oct 15, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Chester New Hall (CNH) Room 104
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Doug Welch

Dr. Doug Welch
McMaster University
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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Doug Welch completed his Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Toronto in 1985. He was an NSERC Visiting Fellow and a Research Associate at the National Research Council's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, British Columbia from 1985 to 1988. In September 1988, he arrived at McMaster as an Assistant Professor and NSERC University Research Fellow. At present, he is a Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. To date, he has supervised five Ph.D. and four M.Sc. students. During 2006 and 2007 he served as the Chair of the Board of the Gemini Observatory. The current research interests of Dr. Welch include supernovae, the extragalactic distance scale, dark matter studies using microlensing, and variable stars. His work with the MACHO Project has involved the analysis and characterization of pulsating variable stars. He has been a Co-Investigator on several successful Hubble Space Telescope proposals and is a frequent user of offshore national facilities.

Dr. William Harris: "Galileo, Shakespeare and van Gogh: Creative Reactions to the End of the World"

When Oct 21, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Chester New Hall (CNH) Room 104
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William Harris

Dr. William Harris
McMaster University
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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Four hundred years ago, Galileo made startling discoveries with the new telescope that dramatically changed the course of science and western culture. Modern-day astrophysics has see a flood of equally amazing findings including the discoveries of hundreds of planets around nearby stars; the expanding universe; and giant black holes at the centers of galaxies. This talk will explain how we got here from Galileo's work, and how writers, artists, and thinkers have reacted to these universe-changing events in different ways over the course of history -- a story of exhilaration, fear, depression, awe, and most of all, beauty.

Speaker backgroundBill Harris has been a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster since 1976 and one of the originators of our astrophysics program. He did his PhD studies at the University of Toronto, was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004, and currently holds a Killam Foundation Research Fellowship. Dr. Harris has a long record of teaching and speaking to student and pubic audiences, and this talk especially intended for IYA 2009 draws on both his scientific training and a lifelong interest in history and the connections among science, culture and the humanities.

Dr. Roberto Abraham: "From Cosmic Dawn to the First Planets: The Rise of Complexity"

When Nov 17, 2009
from 08:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Where Chester New Hall (CNH) Room 104
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Roberto Abraham

Dr. Roberto Abraham
University of Toronto
OI International Year of Astronomy Lecturer

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The universe soon after the Big Bang was a dark, bleak place, devoid of galaxies, stars, planets and even the basic elements of life. This cosmic dark age ended with "First Light" - the illumination produced by the first generation of stars and galaxies. We know almost nothing about these early objects except that they somehow began a cycle of cosmic birth, death and rebirth, in a chain reaction that ultimately resulted in the complex Universe seen around us today. In this lecture I will show how, after decades of searching, astronomers are now on the verge of finally observing the sources of First Light, using the latest generation of monster telescopes, both on Earth and in space. I will also highlight some recent work suggesting that we may now be detecting light from the formation of solar systems in distant galaxies, thus witnessing the formation of planets billions of years before our own Earth came into existence.

Speaker backgroundDr. Roberto Abraham is a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and the Principal Investigator of the Gemini Deep Deep Survey, an international project designed to study galaxies formed when the universe was only a few billion years old. His many awards include the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation Career Award, and the University of Toronto's Outstanding Teaching Award.