Volume 30, Number 5
February 12, 1999
The Toronto West Chapter of the Engineering Society held a "Night Under the Stars" at the University of Toronto. The host, Wayne Barkhouse, gave a presentation about the Hubble Space Telescope. He explained the workings of the instrument, problems encountered and how they were resolved. He then showed spectacular photographs [sic] taken from the telescope.
Later the group moved up to the rooftop observatory and
examined Jupiter, Saturn, and several stars. Comments such as
"cool," "neat," and especially "awesome" were frequently heard as
each person stepped up to the eyepiece. Thank you Wayne for a
wonderful evening under the stars.
DDO's newly appointed Observatory Support Scientist is Dr. Slavek Rucinski, who has been associated from time to time with the DDO and the University of Toronto since about 1984. In his new position, he will be spending one-third of his time doing research. The Dean has approved his appointment as Associate Professor (Status Only). Having another stellar astronomer to help run the DDO will be a welcome relief, freeing some of the rest of us to concentrate more on research than has been possible lately.
Born in Czestochowa Poland (halfway between Warsaw and Cracow) in 1943 just after the great battle for Stalingrad, Slavek grew up during the hardest of times, with tremendous food shortages and harsh occupation by the Soviet Army.
Slavek studied in Warsaw, obtaining an M.Sc. under the supervision of Andrzej Kruszewski for the solution of the light curve of DI Peg, a short-period eclipsing system. For his Ph.D., Slavek switched to computing illuminated stellar atmospheres models (a la Mihalas) under the supervision of Professor Stefan Piotrowski, "the Big Father of Warsaw Astronomy." The degree was awarded in 1970.
After a PDF in Gainsville Florida, he returned to Poland until 1975, when he became a Research Associate at DAO in Victoria. Back in Poland, and after a year at the Max Planck Institute, Slavek was promoted to full Professor with tenure at Warsaw University in 1982.
From 1982-1984, the Rucinskis were in Cambridge, UK, where Slavek acquainted himself with space astronomy through working with the British astronomical satellites. Gordon Walker offered him a job on the STARLAB team, but that project was cancelled. At that point, Tom Bolton and Stefan Mochnacki offered a cushion, so Slavek came to Toronto in 1984 and managed to survive in various soft positions until 1989. It was then that the Institute for Space and Terrestrial Studies (ISTS, at York University) was formed and Slavek moved on. Unfortunately the space astrophysics group at ISTS was disbanded in 1996, but Slavek continued to work on some projects for the Canadian Space Agency - namely CUVIT (also involving Tom Bolton and John Hutchings) and MOST (now being managed by Jamie Matthews at UBC).
Slavek's publication record covers many research areas, but with emphasis on close binaries. Recently, he has concentrated on utilization of the micro-lensing results as by-products for the study of variable stars.
The immediate future will be taken up with learning the responsibilities of the new position. Eventually (sooner than later), he hopes to exploit the unique niche provided by the available equipment and conditions at DDO: massive surveys of fundamental data on stars. For example, many of the Bright Stars have no radial velocities for use with HIPPARCOS/TYCHO data.
We wish Slavek great success in his new staff position. His
appointment is a welcome infusion of new, stimulating ideas at the DDO.
During the Christmas Countdown lunch last week Bill Clarke asked me a question about the origins of the department, and in checking my answer I realized that 1998 marks the 80th anniversary of the department. I quote from a history of the Physics Department written in 1981 by Elizabeth Allin:
C.A. Chant graduated in mathematics and physics at Toronto in 1890, was awarded a teaching fellowship in physics in 1891, and in 1892 was appointed a lecturer in physics. In 1900 he obtained his PhD in physics from Harvard University, having been given leave of absence from Toronto to do so. He became increasingly interested in astronomy and, when in 1904 a fourth year option of astronomy and physics was instituted in M[ath] and P[hysics], he headed the new sub-department of Astrophysics. He remained a member of the staff in physics.... When in 1918 Astronomy became a department separate from Physics he became its first Head.
While we're on the history kick, I expect more than one person has wondered why the Christmas Countdown is called that, i.e. what has 'countdown' got to do with it? Old hands will recall that back in the sixties and seventies, when colloquia were held at DDO, they were all customarily referred to as countdowns, as in "Who's giving the countdown this week?" When we moved them to DA that habit quickly died out, and now only the Christmas event retains the name. As to why they were called countdowns, I quote from the April 1969 issue of the Doings, when the question was already being asked:
Many years ago [in the late-1950s] when we first started the practice of
having a mixed bag of items on our Wednesday afternoon effort (sometimes as
many as ten) the Sputniks and the Vanguards were a novelty and there were many
jokes about the countdown. (Example: the little son of a frustrated Vanguard
technician who was asked if he could count to ten. "Sure! 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,
4, 3, 2, 1 --Hell!) So Dr MacRae suggested that we should count down from the
number of items and when we reached 1 the show was over. Hence "Countdown".
Tuesday, 12 January 1999, was a cold, wintry day. It was also the inauspicious beginning of a whirlwind trip to Istanbul, Turkey. For starters, we sat on the runway in Toronto for six hours on a completely full British Airways 747, waiting in line for de-icing. That was followed by the six-hour flight to London, so I spent twelve hours sitting in a crowded 747. Of course I missed my flight to Istanbul and had to wait five hours at Heathrow for the next one, which landed in Istanbul about 11pm Wednesday evening. Tuba and her brother Toga were there to meet me and take me to very comfortable accommodations at the university's Faculty Club.
The Faculty Club is beautifully located on the western shore of the Bosporus, quite a bit north of the university. A good Turkish breakfast was served not more than four meters from the water. Of course, it included the typical Turkish mud (er, I mean coffee) which served the purpose of waking me up - BOING. I couldn't help pausing on the shore to reflect on the incredible history of this place. How many millions of warriors, crusaders, and soldiers of all the various wars died here, defending or storming this immortal portal between east and west? It is a city which invites one to imagine all the conspiracies of the past, present and future. This is Russia's only access to the seas of the world during the long, hard winter. The amount of shipping today is a big worry. Huge tankers pass steadily, day and night, some (especially the Russians) without Turkish pilots - a disaster waiting to happen. The Straits are quite narrow and very crowded. Fascinated, I had to turn away to get to the university in time for the exam.
The drive to the University of Istanbul was an adventure. Traffic is terrifically BAD, so it took over an hour to get to the Department of Astronomy which is in the observatory on campus. It is a very old observatory, but is still being used for some long-term projects.
The exam went well; Tuba defended herself very well in both Turkish and English, switching back and forth with remarkable ease. She produced an interesting thesis and defended it well, so her Ph.D. degree is well deserved. In the evening, I was treated to a fine dinner at the home of Tuba's parents, who live on the eastern side of the Bosporus. We took a ferry across and after dinner Mr. Koktay and I drove over one of the new, long suspension bridges on the way back to my lodgings on the west side.
Friday morning, I presented a colloquium (in English, of course) on my work on peculiar stars. I'm not sure how much was understood, but students and faculty all seemed quite attentive. They must have understood something because they asked good questions after the talk.
Saturday was the time to play tourist, and Tuba had everything well planned for maximum efficiency. The mix of cultures is especially interesting, with the Medieval Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, San Sofia, Topkapi Palace, the Castle at the narrows, and more. I saw a lot of Istanbul in one day; it is fascinating and would take a few lifetimes to understand and appreciate it fully.
The flight home Sunday via Frankfurt, after three days in Istanbul,
arrived on time in Toronto, so I was able to meet my Monday class.
Sigh, it would have been nice to have had a bit more time at the crossroad
between the Western and Eastern cultures. Next time.
Starting in August, 1998, the FITS headers of all images obtained with the 1.88m telescope have been stored in an electronic database available on the web. There were two motives for this project: to enable remote users and service observing clients to access their image information quickly and easily, and to deal with the fact that all blank copies of the paper logbooks had been filled.
Shen Chew modified his CCD acquisition program (CCDNT5 - used with the Cassegrain-focus spectrograph) to expand the number of FITS keywords shown in the image headers so that all essential data is recorded electronically. Shen will soon put into production CCDNT6 which will add additional keywords, including data from ten new temperature sensors that will shortly be installed at various points on, in and around the telescope. Later will follow a version of his program for the echelle spectrograph.
The image headers are converted into a format suitable for importation into an Informix database (the format resembles that used for the Hipparcos catalogue). An automated script retrieves these files daily and adds them to the database. A user interface to the database can be accessed with either Netscape's Navigator (Version 4 or greater) or Microsoft's Internet Explorer (Version 4 or greater). The interface allows simple queries to be run and either displays the results or e-mails them to the user. I welcome comments and suggestions from users.
The electronic log can be viewed at
Feb 17 Peter Garnavich (CfA): The Death and Rebirth of SN1987A Feb 19 Arsen Hajian (USNO) - optical interferometry (Friday colloquium) Feb 24 faculty double-header: Ray Carlberg and TBA Mar 03 faculty double-header: Ue-Li Pen and John Percy Mar 10 G2000 double-header: Wayne Barkhouse and Charles Kerton) Mar 17 G2000 double-header: Jennifer Karr and Pengjie Zhang Mar 24 Chung-Pei Ma (Penn State) (tentative) Mar 31 Andrew Layden (Michigan) Apr 7 G2000 double-header: Haradyi Christianto and Ming Zhu Apr 14 Peter Martin (CITA) Apr 21 G2000: Rob Reid Apr 28 Rafael Guzman (Yale) May 5 G2000 double-header: Arno Dirks and Mark Brodwin May 12 Ramesh Narayan (CfA) May 19? John Kormendy, U Hawaii (tentative)See http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/colloquia.html for updates.
Birk, G. T.; Wiechen, H.; Otto, A. Magnetic field amplification in M82 winds caused by Kelvin-Helmholtz modes. 25-Jan-1999. Preprint No. 99-0072
Donati, J.-F.; Wade, G.A.; et al. A dedicated polarimeter for the MuSiCoS echelle spectrograph. 23-Oct-1998. Preprint No. 98-0821
Donati, J.-F.; Wade, G. A. On the magnetic field and circumstellar environment of the young O7 star theta 1 Orionis C. 23-Oct-1998. Preprint No. 98-0822
Gao, Yu; Solomon, P. M. Molecular gas depletion and starbursts in luminous infrared galaxy mergers. 25-Jan-1999. Preprint No. 99-0073
Kronberg, Philipp P.; Lesch, H.; Hopp, U. Magnetization of the
intergalactic medium by primeval galaxies. 4-Jan-1999. Preprint