Volume 29, Number 2
May 8, 1998
Welcome to the interactive version of THE DOINGS, the
departmental newsletter of Astronomy at the University of Toronto. Published
for many years as a bi-monthly bulletin of events, news and information,
THE DOINGS was reborn as an electronic newsletter in January, 1997.
THE DOINGS serves a large community of students, staff, faculty and alumni,
all of whom are encouraged to read and enjoy the publication.
Printed with permission of Mike Gladders & Tracy Clarke
The DDO IVC Project, run by a bunch of grad students favorably known as the 'HI Group', is preparing to submit its first paper to ApJ Letters. The paper, titled "The DDO IVC Distance Project : The Distance to the Draco Nebula", is the first of an expected series of papers on the distances to Intermediate Velocity Clouds (IVCs) at northern galactic latitudes. The authors of the paper are Mike Gladders, Tracy Clarke, Chris Burns, Allen Attard, Mike Casey, Devon Hamilton, Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas, Jennifer Karr, Sara Poirier, Marcin Sawicki, Felipe Barrientos, and Stefan Mochnacki. This paper is primarily based on observations acquired at the DDO last summer. Marcin, Garbiela and Felipe have since toned down their participation in the project, to better concentrate their efforts on thesis writing. However, we are happy to welcome Wayne, Jason, Mark and Rosemary into the group!
The paper describes our measurement of the distance to the Draco Nebula (See Figure on cover), the best studied of the high galactic latitude intermediate velocity HI clouds. Five previous papers have attempted this, and have been unsuccessful at reliably determining both the upper and lower distance limits. The HI group has done so for the first time! We base our distance estimate on the presence of sodium doublet absorption (at Draco's systemic velocity) in one star, and the lack of such absorption in several other stars. We interpret the star with absorption as a background star, and those without as foreground stars, and hence bracket the distance to Draco. Notably, we have also detected high-velocity sodium absorption in the background spectrum, indicating that Draco may be interacting with high velocity cloud C, which is along the same line of sight (See Figure 1 below).
The HI group's major scientific goal is to establish distances to the
entire northern IVC sample in Heiles, Reach and Koo (1988). This sample,
selected on the basis of IRAS dust emission, delineates all the major
northern IVCs, including Draco. The total number of clouds accessible
from DDO is 16, for which we have, over the past year, established
distances to 5. As of Monday, April 27th, we have observed stars
in the line of sight to all 16 clouds.
Notably, only 1 of these clouds has a published distance!
Once we have established the distances to these clouds, we will
be able to make significant progress on the outstanding problem of the
origins of these anomalous gas clouds.
The response to our call for contributions to the DOINGS this time has been very encouraging. The May 1998 issue is thus one of the largest we've ever produced. In large part, this is due to the efforts of our newly appointed Associate Editor, Tracy Clarke, who seems to have a special knack for getting people to contribute, as well as creative ideas about what should be included.
The editorial staff now has representatives from all three departmental estates: faculty, staff, and students. It now covers the department downtown as well as the observatory. For the October issue (September deadline), we hope to include more contributions from the silent majority, especially the staff. Expect a visit from one of us.
In the meantime, if you have suggestions for improving the
readability or coverage, please let one of us know.
|Jeremy Bailin||Simon Lilly|
|Jason Broersma||John Lester|
|Joe Lobianco||Charles Dyer|
|Branko Miskov||John Percy|
|Michael Parkes||John Percy|
|Bartosz Pindor||Simon Lilly|
|Neil Scanlon||Huan Lin|
|Allen Attard||Charles Dyer|
|Mike Gladders||Howard Yee|
|Cren Diaconu||Simon Lilly|
|Jennifer Karr||Dick Bond|
|Haryadi Christianto||Ernie Seaquist|
|James Brown||August 1997|
|Teresa Kroeker||October 1997|
|Pierre Gravel||December 1997|
|James Wadsley||February 1998|
|Peter Papadopoulos||May 1998 (pending)|
[The tea messages, originated in the department by Dan Hudon several years ago, are often humorous or informative (rarely both). We have reproduced a few samples in the past and continue with this issue.]
With the recent discovery that yet another disease can be cured in rats, I realized that, one day, human beings will be able to cure anything that could possibly ail a rat. One day we'll have the healthiest, most invulnerable rats in the whole universe. Alien beings will land on Earth and say, "These humans are nothing, weaklings! But, these rats ARE impressive! They're practically immortal!"
Imagine us sending off a big cargo-laden spaceship to our nearest stellar neighbours, say, the planet "Glaxx". Somewhere on that ship will be a pregnant rat. The poor Glaxxons will be overrun - they'll curse us when hearing the scurrying Earth creatures in their attics. They'll hire whole platoons of Glaxxon exterminators, who'll patrol the spaceports with laser pistols.
Every now and then one will toast a rat by zapping it with hundreds of GigaWatts, leaving behind only a smoking ruin. And, somewhere close by, there will be a human doctor who will pick up this piece of charcoal and say, "You know, I think I could cure this."
Tea, cookies in the lounge, 1422, at 3 o'clock
Note - this message was written well before recent conversations involving rats took place in the lounge.
The Doings began publication with the issue of January 1968, and has continued ever since, albeit sporadically in recent years. I have begun a longterm project of indexing the more memorable items in each issue, so that in future it will be possible to search the Doings electronically to find items of historical interest. Here are some snippets from early issues which might amuse or tweak the memories of some of you. I have chosen items mainly relating to people who are still on the astronomical scene, and things that may still have some relevance, if only in contrast to the present.
From January, 1968:
The Province of Ontario graduate student summer supplement grant has been raised to $750. It is understood that there will be a corresponding increase in the "total take" (now $6000).
Tom Clarke has accepted an appointment to the staff of the McLaughlin Planetarium.
Bob McClure was scheduled to start using our seven-colour [DDO photometric] system at Kitt Peak in January.
From February, 1968:
Ted Bednarek took some very creditable photographs of the Orion Nebula with the [DA] 16-inch reflector, the first that have been taken with this telescope; and John Percy's thesis includes the first serious photometric project completed with this instrument.
Dr Pierre Demarque, a former graduate student (PhD 1959) and faculty member (1962-66), is visiting for John Percy's Senate Oral Examination on his thesis - "The Nature of the beta Cephei Stars". Dr J.B. Oke, who will visit us in March, is also a former student (BA 1949, MA 1950) and faculty member (1953-57).
The GASA Gassers unite in one team some of the hottest hockey prospects of our era. Leading the forward charge is the feared front line of Fort, Dodd, and Captain Dubas, while leading the retreat is the indestructible defense of Hardenbergh, Hickok, and Ross. Two new novae have appeared in the lovely yet lethal form of Raymonde Verreault and in the powerful personage of Chris Aikman. In League competition so far the Gassers have scored two impressive victories without a setback, and since the opposition consists of whoever's on the ice when they get there, the Gassers should go all the way this season.
From March, 1968:
Dr van den Bergh has located the faint blue star which Ryle and Bailey identify with the "pulsar" on a 48-inch Schmidt plate which he took on July 5-6, 1967. Comparing his red plate with the glass copy of the Palomar Sky Survey plate he finds that the brightness of the blue star has not changed by more than 0.5 mag during the last 17 years, and that its proper motion is smaller than or equal to 0.1 seconds of arc per year, indicating that it is probably quite far away.
Serge Demers (PhD 1966) is now at Cerro Tololo where he has been appointed resident astronomer. Dave Hartwick (PhD 1966) has been appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria.
Dr Robert Garrison will spend next week-end in Toronto and area house-hunting.
From April, 1968:
John Schmitt [DDO pdf] has been able to identify a known radio source (VRO 42.22.01) with a known faint variable star (BL Lac). Details have been sent in a letter to Nature. John has left for Kitt Peak where he has arranged to use an hour or so of David DuPuy's assigned telescope time to investigate spectrographically the nature of the star.
A University of Toronto 60-foot paraboloidal telescope is under construction at the Algonquin Radio Observatory....
Doug Hube has been awarded a post-doctorate fellowship by NRC and hopes to hold it at Kitt Peak commencing in the fall. NRC studentships have been awarded to Bob Chambers and Peter Martin. [NSERC later replaced NRC in these matters.]
From May, 1968:
John Percy will receive his PhD here on June 6. He has been appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy and in Erindale College.
BSc's were granted to David Lindop, Rob MacDonald, and Peter Martin in the Astronomy Division of the M&P course. All these students received First Class Honours.
An anonymous young PhD has submitted the following:
The nova which Alcock first saw
(The new one, in Vulpecula)
Was observed on the night
Before maximum light
By our DDO colleagues. Hurrah!
There once was a fellow named Heard
"Poor English" said he, "is absurd.
The next culprit I hear
Will go out on his ear."
Now no one around here says a word.
An equally anonymous old PhD submits this:
When Percy's prosey
All is rosy.
When Percy's versey
Lord have mercy!
[The editor of the Doings at this time was former Director/Chair Jack
Heard. He was rather given in these early editions to writing
lecturing everyone on English grammar.]
The University was this week graced by the presence of Stephen Hawking. On Sunday 26th April, Hawking gave a technical lecture at the Medical Sciences Auditorium. The title was "Inflation: An Open and Shut Case", and Hawking soon showed us his droll wit and economy with words. His inability to move anything but some fingers, and reliance on a computer for his voice, did not suppress his powerful intellect and sense of humour. Although the subject matter was far removed from this writer's area of competence, we all got a sense of the exciting progress being made in the mathematical representation of the beginning of the Universe (and even before, a breathtaking leap into an area where nobody before had dared to venture).
At the fine reception afterwards at Hart House, all had a chance to meet with the great man, including our own students. But it was on Monday night that we were treated to the sort of event we have occur only once every decade or so. Only for Ian Shelton's supernova discovery in 1987 can I recall a similar gathering at Convocation Hall, with the Lieutenant Governor and the federal Minister responsible for science in attendance. After an introduction by John Polanyi, Hawking gave us "The Theory of Everything", reviewing the whole of modern fundamental field and particle theory. Many of us learned new things, mostly conceived of after we all graduated. It was notable that the most fundamental of astronomical observations were driving the subject: the expansion of the Universe and the structure of the cosmic microwave background radiation. We were also treated to a closer look at how Hawking communicates with both his closest associates and huge audiences.
This memorable visit was especially notable for being organized initially
by a new
undergraduate student society, and for the large amount of money raised for
student scholarships. For the first time, tickets to a lecture on astronomy
or physics competed in demand and price with rock concerts. It was fitting
that the Rolling Stones were in Toronto at the same time. We shall remember
Hawking's visit for a long time.
After the opening remarks by Jay Ingram and Prof. John Polanyi, a packed Convocation Hall thundered with applause as Prof. Stephen Hawking wheeled his way to center stage. After the ovation died down, there was absolute silence, which lasted until Prof. Hawking began his talk with the words "Can you hear me?" Fifteen Hundred people then listened to one of the most prominent physicists of our time explain the "Theory of Everything" in just under one hour. No small feat.
This historic talk was actually one of two. The day before, Prof. Hawking
had given a more specialized talk to the graduate students, faculty and staff
of the University of Toronto. Despite the fact that the topic was geared
towards theoretical cosmologists, over five hundered people came to
hear about the theory of Inflation. Some came from as far as Thunder Bay
just to be in the same room as Stephen Hawking. Though many admitted they
did not understand the talk, they nevertheless would not have missed it,
even if it meant missing the Rolling Stones concert.
NEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL CURRICULUM
The Ontario Ministry of Education has now released the new grade 1-8 school science curriculum, and astronomy is well represented at the grade 1 and 6 level. John Percy and his collaborators have been busy preparing resources to provide support. Jatinder Chohan, working in an Employment Canada program, has prepared the first of a series of teachers' newsletters on astronomy, and she is now rebuilding a "teachers' page" on the Erindale astronomy web site. Mindy Kalchman, a PhD student at OISE/UT, has been working with John Percy for two years, first preparing a rationale paper on the new grade 6 unit and, this year, preparing an activity on "teaching astronomy through storytelling" for the ASP's international teachers' newsletter "The Universe in the Classroom". Mindy, John, and storyteller Lorne Brown presented a workshop on this topic at a conference of 250 elementary school science teachers on April 25, and Mindy will be presenting the workshop at the ASP annual meeting in Albuquerque NM in June.
MINICOURSE IN EDUCATION
John Percy was very happy to find that the new mini-course format for the astronomy PhD course requirements allowed him (at long last) to offer a graduate-level course in astronomy education. The course included three guest speakers: Tom Clarke on the rise and fall of the McLaughlin Planetarium, Mindy Kalchman on research on science learning and teaching, and Doug Hayhoe on the process of curriculum renewal and implementation. There was a "working" field trip to the Ontario Science Centre, with a seminar with the director Sid Katz. The core of the mini-course was the development of three projects by the students - designing an intro astronomy course from "first principles", designing a new astronomy exhibit for a science centre, and developing a possible astronomy unit for the new grade 12 science curriculum. Our graduate students, this year, are extremely education-active. In addition to organizing our U. of T. Day, and Astronomy Day programs, and maintaining the display cabinet on the main floor of the building, they have organized Open House in the department every two weeks during the winter.
ASTRONOMY IN THE CARIBBEAN
The Ontario Work-Study program enables university students to work on career-related projects, and to receive financial support at the same time. Fourth-year International Relations student Keachea Dixon worked with John Percy, to track down and support astronomy activity in the Caribbean, as part of the IAU's interest in astronomical development. The Caribbean has been a rather blank area, as far as astronomy is concerned, but Keachea was able to make some contacts - especially in her home country of Jamaica. Her findings are reported in the newsletter of IAU Commission 46 (The Teaching of Astronomy), which can be found on the Commission's web site: http://phys.open.ac.uk/IAU46/ By the way, this is the time of year when you can sign up for the Work-Study program. It provides experience and financial support for the student, and quality help for you!
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
The UTMP enables outstanding senior high school students to work on research and education projects with university faculty. On Wed. May 13, from 4 to 6 pm, in West Hall, University College, this year's students will present posters on their projects. Three students worked with John Percy. Jonathan Hale is determining improved rates of period change for about a dozen RV Tauri stars. Susan Lehman is using power spectrum analysis to investigate the possible periodicity of new variable stars discovered in the AAVSO photoelectric photometry program. Yvonne Tang is developing a web page for that program; she also analyzed the AAVSO data on RU Cam - the population II Cepheid which Serge Demers and Don Fernie observed to "stop pulsating" in the 1960's. All are welcome at the poster session. And all are urged to consider taking on a student in 1998-99!
METRO TORONTO SCIENCE FAIR
The MTSF was again hosted this year - on April 16 - by University of Toronto. Mike Allen Allen Attard, Pierre Gravel, Doug Johnstone, and Jennifer Karr were judges (an outstanding representation from Astronomy), and John Percy gave the keynote talk and handed out the prizes. Over 30 schools were represented, and the awards ceremony was packed to overflowing.
ASTRONOMY FOR SENIORS
Several members of the department participated in a series of ten 2-hour lectures on Frontiers of Astronomy for Etobicoke's "Learning Unlimited" program. This is a remarkable program which attracts a capacity enrolment of 175 people in each of three courses each term. The demand is so great that the lineups for enrolment begin at 7 am on a Saturday morning; the enrolment starts at 9 am, and the courses are filled within a few minutes! The "students" are dedicated; the course began on the Thursday morning of the winter's heaviest snowstorm, and only a handful of the audience were late. Speakers were: Ralph Chou, Don Fernie, Doug Johnstone, Bill Clarke, Simon Lilly, Charles Dyer, and John Percy, who also coordinated the course.
The month of February was an exceptionally warm and sunny month in Germany, at least they tell me that it was exceptional and I have to believe them since it was my first February trip there. The warm and sunny part is something that I verified by myself though. Everywhere one went the trees were in bud, grass was growing long and flowers were sprouting. El Nińo was favoring the country.
My trip to Germany started out from a fairly mild spell here in Toronto so I only brought my medium jacket and boots -- assuming that Germany's climate would be similar. I was heading to the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn for a week visit with Phil who was in the middle of his stay there under the von Humbolt award. The trip was short but extremely productive. The radio group there is very active in my field (magnetic fields in clusters of galaxies) so we took the opportunity to get everyone together in a sort of mini-workshop. We talked about what we were doing and discussed the areas that were still very fuzzy. We let this sink in for a day then a few of us got together to see what we could do about the fuzziness and thus was born a nice collaboration between Toronto and Bonn. Now all we have to do is get the telescope time.
Continuing on to the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik near Munich (actually a building in a small field which is near a small town on the outskirts of Munich) I got into my real reason for the trip. I was there to work for three weeks with my collaborator on ROSAT data for my thesis. I won't talk about the tedious details of extracting results for a few photons but there was one quite exciting event while I was there, well other than the festival. The PSPC cameras on board ROSAT had been turned off for a couple of years, one had been destroyed and the other was pretty much out of gas, but there was still a small hole left in the all sky survey that they had not been able to fill. This hole is around Sco-X1, the brightest X-ray object in the sky. It turned out that my visit coincided with a lunar occultation of this source and would provide a perfect opportunity to complete the sky survey. It was really amazing to see the preparations and work that goes into turning the detector on, not to mention the worry and sweating over that fact that they might destroy the still active satellite! Anyway in the end it was a stunning success and the resulting animation of the occultation was awesome!
In addition to lots of data crunching I did manage to sneak part of a day in Munich and one day in the Alps. That trip was spent with Götz Golla whom many will remember as a postdoc who worked at the department with Phil a few years ago. We traveled to the top of Zugspite, the tallest mountain in the Germany Alps, and, since it was a beautiful sunny day, I felt like I could see forever. I left Germany with many more pounds of paper and some really nice memories.
[Tracy travelled to Germany partly with the aid of Reinhardt
money. We hope this type of contribution will become a tradition
for those traveling on departmental funds. --Eds.]
In April, after 27 productive years of imaging, photometry and spectroscopy, the University of Toronto Southern Observatory at Las Campanas in Chile ceased to exist. The Helen Sawyer Hogg 60-cm Telescope (affectionately referred to as "Helen") and the metal dome were dismantled, packed into 40 crates and moved to Argentina, leaving only a concrete cylinder. The "service building," formerly Casa Canadiense, has been renovated and is now occupied by the Polish astronomers, whose new 1.3m telescope is nearby. We presume that it is now called Casa Polaco.
Two engineers and two technicians from the Observatorio El Leoncito in Argentina spent more than a week dismantling and packing the telescope and accessories. All of the myriad customs problems had been ironed out ahead of time with the very capable assistance of Sr. Antonio Urrutia-Aninat, who has been UTSO's lawyer for 27 years. On 19 April, 1998, at 4:30pm, the telescope arrived safely at its new home in Argentina. The name Helen Sawyer Hogg will be retained at the new location. In principle, the telescope is only on loan, but of course we won't ever try to move it again!
Observatorio El Leoncito is located about halfway between Mendoza and San Juan, but closer to the Andes. The offices are located in San Juan, about 220km from the observatory. It will probably be easier to fly to Santiago and take the paved highway through the Los Andes pass than to travel through Buenos Aires.
Argentina maintains a relatively new 2.1m telescope at El Leoncito, which is greatly oversubscribed. Many of the projects can be done with a smaller telescope, which will take some of the load off the 2.1m. Since the Argentine astronomers don't have the dollars for a new telescope, but do have a talented staff, they welcome the opportunity presented by the closing of UTSO.
The site is reportedly even drier than Las Campanas and may have slightly more clear nights, though the distribution through the year is different, being more like KPNO offset by 6 months. The seeing is not as good, averaging about 1.5arcsec outside the domes, as opposed to about 0.6arcsec at Las Campanas. However, the site chosen is about 2km from the 2.1m site and is at higher elevation, about 3000m (which is also higher than the 2300m site at Las Campanas.)
It will be at least 6 months before the telescope is fully
functional again. Scheduling will be done by Argentina, with 25%
of the time reserved for the University of Toronto staff and
students. Others will have to either collaborate with a UofT
astronomer or apply for time to the Argentine community. This is
a great opportunity for UofT students to get some experience with
clear, dark, Southern-Hemisphere skies, as well as the beauty of the Andes.
I am beginning a large project to do stellar spectral radiometry. This is a field that has been largely inactive since the major efforts by Oke, Hayes, Latham and others in the 1960s and 1970s. The major goals of this project are: 1) to improve the S/N by reducing systematic sources of noise, 2) to improve the spectral resolution, and 3) to increase the spectral coverage to span from 0.3 to 2 microns. After studying sources that contribute noise to the measurement of spectral irradiance, it was decided that the goals of the project could be achieved by using a low resolution Fourier transform spectrometer (FTS) instead of the traditional dispersive spectrometers that have always been used before.
The FTS is being purchased from the Bomem company of Quebec City, a major maker of these instruments. A field version of one of the Bomem FTSs, normally used to measure atmospheric pollution, is being adapted for this project. The Bomem company is also making the collimating optics needed to bring the telescope beam to the FTS.
The FTS and collimating optics are being purchased with funds supplied by the Research Corporation and from NSERC. The Research Corporation, a private foundation headquartered in Tucson, Arizona that supports basic research in the sciences, has provided $60,000 (US) under their general research program. Because of the low value of the Canadian dollar, this converted to $87,000. The remaining funding, $85,000, has come from an NSERC equipment grant.
When the FTS is built, it will be used at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff,
Arizona. The Lowell Observatory, a dark, photometric site, was the location
of the last major work in the field of stellar spectral radiometry, in 1977,
and it is also the location of the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer,
a facility that is a major reason for making new observations of stellar
Minor Planet #5953, previously known as 1987 HS, has just been named after Ian Shelton. It was discovered at Palomar by Carolyn and Gene Shoemaker on 25 April, 1987, during their very productive survey work. Gene Shoemaker was killed in an automobile accident in Australia on 18 July, 1997, just a few weeks after giving the Ruth Northcott lecture at the Kingston General Assembly of the RASC. At the Kingston meeting, the Shoemakers were approached by Dale MacCormack, a Toronto High School teacher and RASC member. They were enthusiastic about the possible naming, which was followed up by Dale with information supplied by me.
It is a special honour for Ian to have an asteroid named Shelton; it is not something one can buy, but is a sort of celestial Who's Who. Included here are a letter from Carolyn Shoemaker, the citation, and a brief description of the asteroid's characteristics.
[letter dated 23 March, 1998]
Both Gene and I were delighted when Dale MacCormack and Bob Garrison proposed your name for one of our asteroid discoveries. We both became fans of yours the year you discovered the bright supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud. In the summer of 1987 when it shown so beautifully, we made our annual trip to Australia to study impact craters. When we first arrived there, I remember that we took the overnight train from Melbourne to Adelaide and had our first look at the supernova as we peered out the train window; we were so excited when we saw it! From then on, throughout the summer (winter there), we always looked for it during our travels. Mostly, we were camping out in the outback under Australia's superb black skies, where your supernova was an object of great beauty. As we travelled, we introduced the subject and pointed it out to all and sundry on remote cattle stations, little towns, where ever we might be.
Gene knew of this citation written and proposed by two of
your good friends and admirers. We would like to have made your
acquaintance, and I still hope to have the opportunity one day.
In the meantime,
Named in honour of Ian Shelton, Canadian astronomer, best known
for his discovery of the supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud
on 1987 Feb.24. During his four years as resident observer at
the University of Toronto Southern Observatory, he participated
in programs with astronomers worldwide, and more recently he has
generously contributed to the astronomical education of school
children, parents and teachers. Name suggested and citation
prepared by D MacCormack and R. Garrison.
(5953) Shelton is a highly inclined, interesting asteroid known as a Phocaea. It is the kind which is fun to see on our films. Our films are only 6 inches across and cover 8 3/4 degrees of sky, so it is necessary to search them under a stereomicroscope.
At opposition this asteroid appears bright with an absolute magnitude of 13.4. It was last in opposition in 1996, and with a period of 3.53 years Shelton should return to opposition in 1999. If it is a stony asteroid, as is likely, it is about 7 km in diameter - a fair piece of real estate for you to claim.
Notice of the discovery of 1987 HS, now known as (5953) Shelton, was printed with positions in the Minor Planet Circulars, followed by further positions and orbits as observations were made. Eventually, when the orbit was well established, it was given a number and now a name.
[Congratulations to Ian, now enjoying a postdoc in Hawaii at the
The news of Karl's death last February was quite a shock to out-of-touch alumni who had known him during their graduate student career at U. of T. I was part of the grad student crew in the late seventies and early eighties and came to regard Karl as my "guru". At that time, we still used photographic emulsions for spectroscopy both at DDO and Las Campanas (duh!) and Karl, at that time, was the master of the dark room. He worked with me characterising a new infra-red sensitive emulsion that Kodak had just started manufacturing (circa 1980) and that I wanted to use in part of my thesis work on cepheid spectroscopy with the 74 inch. I would dutifully carry out exposure test after exposure test at the telescope with the redoubtable Jim Thomson at the helm and Karl would develop them the next day and make colourful "pronouncements" as to my success or failure on small notes which he would include with the developed strips placed on my desk at DDO.
On one particularly long winter night, after about four two-hour exposures, I made an oops in the dome dark room and turned the light on before sealing the light box in which the exposed film strips were placed (if only we had those gosh-darned CCD arrays back then...). Needless to say, my heart started racing as I tried to figure out what in the world I was going to tell Karl that wouldn't make me look like a total loser. I did not mention my gaffe to Mr. Thomson for fear of a pre-Karl humiliation diatribe. Karl's note the next day read: "Okay Bob, wadja do to the strips??". I knew I was cooked and that the myriad explanations I had been dreaming up all that morning would never wash. Sure enough, when I finally had the courage to face him, before I could speak he said: "Don't worry, I won't blab this to anyone, but I may need a new copy of Wagner's "Parsifal" for Easter". My first thought was: "Decent"! He then proceeded to laugh uproariously as I think I was quite red in the face for the first time in a very long time (although not the last, to be sure...). He also spent many hours showing me how to develop print mosaics of my classification spectra to obtain the flattest contrast possible (a task imposed by my perfectionist supervisor at the time...).
interests in many aspects of music (that of Richard Wagner being
foremost) and politics. I always loved Karl's fabulous astronomical
"anecdotes" of his days as a graduate student and other colourful
stories which often included names like Otto Struve, Allan Sandage and
the world of astrometry big shots. Although I had not been in touch with
Karl since I left more than fourteen years ago, I would often think of
him whenever life contexts arose in which he and I had shared strong
views and of course whenever listening to the marvellous music of
Wagner. I have missed him and somehow I think that listening to Parsifal
will nevermore be the same....
As of April 16, the first phase of the newly implemented public outreach program at the Department of Astronomy has ended. This naturally provides an opportunity to reflect on the past several months and evaluate the success (or failure) of conducting public tour nights at the St. George campus.
The public tours were established to fill a void that existed in terms of providing a link to the general public. The vast majority of the universities and colleges across North America with observing facilities, have some type of public viewing program available. Thus, it was surprising to find that such an activity was lacking at the St. George campus. The value of such a program is undeniably high as the transfer of the joy and excitement that one feels towards understanding astronomical objects and concepts can be shared by others. Today more than ever, with the growing popularity of misconceptions and falsehoods (recently expressed in the public's fascination with the X-files and "The Face On Mars"), the need to communicate the facts to the general public is very important.
The idea of setting up the public tours grew out of a discussion among fellow graduate students. The basic plan was to invite members of the public to attend a talk (given by graduate students and postdocs) followed by the opportunity to observe several objects with the 8 inch refractor. Public tours were to be held on the first and third Thursday of each month in order not to exhaust the supply of volunteers. On nights that were unfortunately cloudy, members of the public would be invited to tour the observing facilities and examine the 8 and 16 inch telescopes.
The first tour took place on January 15 with 18 people attending. The average number attending the tours from January 15 to April 16 was 21. All of the tours suffered from the lack of clear skies except for February 5. This tour, not surprisingly, recorded the highest turnout with a total of 40 people participating. The tour attendees enjoyed views of Saturn, the Orion nebula and the Pleiades with lots of questions for the tour guides.
The response to the tours from the university community and the general public has been very positive. This encouragement has helped to sustain the motivation to organize public tours on a yearly basis including extending the tours throughout the summer months. Tour information, including a list of past and future talks, can be found on the Department of Astronomy web page http://www.astro.utoronto.ca .
In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the large
number of people who have volunteered to help make the public tours a
great success. I would like especially to thank Tracy Clarke, Chris Burns,
and Marcin Sawicki for helping to initiate, implement and sustain
public tour nights at the Department of Astronomy.
Professor Helen Hogg (1905-1993) was a member of the staff of the David Dunlap
Observatory at the University of Toronto from 1936 until the time of her death.
Because of her lifelong commitment to public education in Astronomy,
she was probably Canada's best known Astronomer.
However, perhaps even more important was
the role that she played in encouraging
young women to pursue a career in Astronomy. It was to recognize that role
that the Helen Sawyer Hogg Distinguished Visitorship was established.
Its purpose is to allow a distinguished female scientist
to visit the University of Toronto
and interact with faculty and graduate students in the astrophysical
and related sciences.
In March this year, we received our first "Hogg visitor", Professor Martha
Haynes of Cornell University.
Professor Haynes is a distinguished scientist who is working on a number of
interesting and important problems in astronomy. In addition, she is
a warm and generous person. These are all
qualities that were exhibited by Helen Hogg. Thus, Martha was an ideal
choice and her visit was a great success.
In March, the Astronomy Department hosted Professor Martha Haynes of Cornell University for a week as the first Helen Sawyer Hogg distinguished visitor. The visitorship was created to honour the memory of the late Helen Sawyer Hogg (1905 - 1993). The history of the visitorship and information on Helen Sawyer Hogg can be found on the web page maintained by Marlene Cummins : http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/hsh.html
Martha's solid reputation as a scientist and her enthusiasm for interacting with students made her the ideal first Helen Sawyer Hogg distinguished visitor. During her visit to Toronto, Martha gave a public lecture at the Ontario Science Center, as well as three specialized lectures, and interacted with graduate students on a daily basis.
On the first day of her visit, Martha asked to meet with the graduate students so that we would all feel comfortable approaching her at any time during the week. That evening she happily attended an informal gathering hosted by the graduate students and provided an evening of entertaining stories and anecdotes. By the second day, many of us felt like we could easily approach her with our questions or seeking advice -- and so we did!
Martha had a hectic schedule from then on. In the mornings she was generally kept busy meeting with the various members of the astronomy department and CITA. Lunches were all occupied by outings with student subsets, DA faculty and CITAzens. Martha's afternoons, when she wasn't giving one of her specialized lectures, were mainly devoted to meeting with graduate students from both the Astronomy and Physics Departments. Her evenings were almost as busy with her public lecture and formal events.
Outside of her department-related activities, Martha was interviewed by television reporters. Despite her busy schedule here, Martha still found the time to stay in regular contact with her own set of graduate students at Cornell, ensuring that they didn't feel that she had abandoned them for Toronto's medley.
Martha's visit is memorable not only for her scientific advice, her encouragement and useful insights about how the academic world REALLY works, but also for her enthusiastic and outgoing personality. This is best summed up by saying that Martha is a generally fun person to have around.
We'd like to thank the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Department of
Astronomy for establishing the visitorship program, the Department for
inviting Martha Haynes to be the first Helen Sawyer Hogg distinguished
visitor, and particularly Martha for a wonderful week of science and fun!
It is not everyday that we are given the chance of meeting someone who could be instrumental in changing not only our personal view of the world but also our civilization's perception of itself. This is no overstatement, considering that Dr. Jill Tarter, who came to Toronto in March, is the director of the Phoenix project, formerly known as SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). The ultimate goal of this project is to find out if there are other civilizations inhabiting the Galaxy.
In her first talk, given at CITA, Dr. Tarter concentrated on the technology involved in the project (radio-telescopes, detectors, million-channel spectrum analyzer), on the adopted searching procedures (Target Search and Full Sky Search), and also on the hierarchy of signal processing methods required to discriminate between human and extra-terrestrial signals. Interestingly, the last issue of Scientific American is concerned with telecommunications and the problem of privacy; the development of new data encryption and random frequency modulation techniques will surely render the task of the Phoenix team more and more daunting.
During the following weekend, I had the chance with other graduate students and postdocs to have lunch with Dr. Tarter. I was impressed by her professionalism as a radio astronomer, manager, and PR person, which explains why she got her job; she obviously knows her stuff. During the lunch, I noticed that she was continuously on her toes, never completely relaxing, always expecting the next tricky question. Considering that Dr. Tarter is the "Director of SETI" in the public eye and the media attention revolved around her after the box office success of "Contact" (with Jodie Foster playing her highly clever character), her job must be quite unnerving at moments.
In her last talk, a public one given at Convocation Hall this time, Dr. Tarter described, among other things, our current views on the apparition of life on Earth and then made the bridge with several new astronomical discoveries related to the formation of extra-solar systems and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Not surprisingly, her more philosophical talk was a real success with such a well-wishing and enthusiastic audience. Overall, the impact of Dr. Tarter's visit in Toronto was very positive given that it received considerable attention from the media; this exposure is necessary in order to obtain public support, as the project has been denied government funds.
When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to grow up in what was then
a distant suburb of Quebec City; we had a large field in the backyard
where the sky could become quite dark at night.
I remember those warm evenings spent with friends around a campfire while
listening to the hornets, watching the fireflies and gazing at the stars. Our
conversations would inevitably drift to the possibility of life
elsewhere in the universe. Our discussions were
so thrilling that I remember each one of us shaking,
having goosebumps, and speaking with tremors in our voices.
Most of the kids eventually grew up and left the campfire forever;
fortunately some of us are still there sitting together after becoming
scientists and Science-Fiction writers in the meantime. The work of
Dr. Tarter and others tells us many other
"forever" kids across the world share similar dreams of contact
and now take the significant step of making them come true.
How many of our equally inquisitive ancestors during the past
few thousand generations felt the same urge to know
but could only dream about it; for the first time in History
we now have the tools and the means to answer the perennial
question; is there life out there?
It is time to remind our fellow citizens that the fire still burns bright.
All the best from Korea,
[Following his visit to UofT a decade ago, Peter has continued as a friend to astronomy here. Members of our radio group have known Peter for many years. Peter's home institute is the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn. -- Eds.]
Well, things are keeping pretty exciting down here in Pennsylvania. I am in the home stretch of my thesis; the photometric data have been acquired and reduced and are soon to be published; the spectral data are hopefully to be acquired soon. The spectrograph I built has actually been finished for a year, but we are all waiting for the telescope (Hobby Eberly) to be ready. The outlook is for regular science observations by the end of the summer. If all goes well I should be graduating in May 1999. An interesting side project I have recently gotten involved in involves reducing and analyzing some HST/NICMOS data. My collaborator has some deep near IR images centered on neutron stars, and I am going to be searching the surrounding area for possible halo M dwarfs or brown dwarfs. This is similar to what has been done by John Bahcall and others with the WFPC2 in the optical, but with the new wavelengths available we may be able to see much cooler objects.
This November I'll be submitting an application for an NSERC Post-Doc fellowship. In an ideal world I would do a Post-Doc in Canada. The U.S. is nice, but I miss my home. [It would be great to have you back! -Eds.]
Jason Harlow (BSc 1993 and DDO Telescope Operator 1993-94)
John Percy forwards the following message from Matthew Lister (BSc 1991):
Just to update you on my doings over the last few years, In 1993 I
completed a master's thesis at the University of Victoria, working for John
Hutchings and Ann Gower, on the properties of low-redshift radio-loud
active galaxies. I am currently completing my Ph.D. dissertation at
Boston University, under Alan Marscher. My thesis is on the properties
of flux-limited samples of compact radio sources. Specifically, I'm
examining how relativistic effects and Malmquist bias can influence
the properties of radio galaxy and quasar surveys. I've also done
high-resolution polarization imaging of a small sample of radio-loud, active
galaxies with the VLBA, to investigate the magnetic fields near the
base of the jet. In September I will be starting a postdoc with the
VSOP group at JPL, to analyze and interpret data from the Japanese
HALCA radio astronomy satellite. Well, that's all for now, I ran into René
Plume last summer - he taught a summer course here at B.U.
I have been spending a fair bit of time lately working on the Friends of LISA III committee. (LISA III is the Library and Information in Astronomy III conference, held in Tenerife in April.) That committee consists of the USNO librarian, the NRAO librarian and me. We first of all raised quite a bit of money from various astronomy and publishing related organizations and individuals- soliciting them, sometimes following up and then thanking them of course. In the meantime we also solicited applications for aid.
Then we had the difficult but satisfying task of allocating the funds. I believe we received in the neighbourhood of 25 applications and were able to fully or partially fund 19 of them. The individuals came from nine different countries (Russia, Poland, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Finland, Inida, N. Ireland and Czechoslovakia).
It is gratifying to be able to help others attend the very useful LISA
conferences which I am fortunate enough to get funding for myself.
The LISA III conference held in Tenerife in April (see Comings and
Goings) was a busy few days of absorbing new information
about the astronomy literature and seeing old things from new perspectives.
Some of the highlights from your point of view:
See the LISA III abstracts in the library for more info. The proceedings
will be published later by ASP.
Bechtold, J.; Yee, Howard K. C; et. al. Star formation in high redshift galaxies. 20-Mar-1998. Preprint No. 98-0209
Christianto, H.; Seaquist, Ernest R. Angular expansion measurement of the young and compact planetary nebula Vy 2-2. 18-Mar-1998. Preprint No. 98-0201
Kamper, Karl W.; Fernie, J. D. Polaris revisted. 11-Feb-1998. Preprint No. 98-0122
Percy, John R. Real time evolution of evolved stars.
20-Feb-1998. Preprint No. 98-0148