Volume 30, Number 2
May 7, 1999
What a Summer this will be! Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman has agreed to declare Toronto "The Centre of the Universe" for the week of 1-7 July. (Thanks to alumnus and now city politician Blake Kinahan.)
The occasion? A gathering of the three great amateur/professional organizations: The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, The Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and The American Association of Variable Star Observers. According to John Percy (Chair of the Organizing Committee), the combined annual meetings, with the general theme of "Partners in Astronomy," include many components for professional and amateur astronomers, historians of astronomy, and students (graduate, undergraduate and school), as well as the general public.
The occasion is hosted by the Toronto Centre of the RASC and the Department
of Astronomy, so John and the committee will be asking for volunteers to help
out (in return for free registration). The exposure in the media and among the
participants will be good for the hosts, so let's give it a good shot.
It is with great pleasure that we, the academic staff of the David Dunlap Observatory, nominate Mrs Florence Unwin, our secretary, for the Dean's Outstanding Administrative Service Award.
Florence, who will retire this year, has been with us since early 1988, and for the last six years has been the sole administrative (as distinct from technical) staff member at the Observatory, located some 25 km north of the St George campus. As such her role has been perhaps unique in the University, requiring as it does extraordinary self-reliance and ability to deal with situations well beyond the requirements of her job responsibilities.
The primary work done by Florence has included the Director's correspondence, managing his appointments diary, answering four telephone lines, and handling all financial matters of the Observatory. Regarding the telephone lines, only in the past month or two has a new system been installed that has relieved Florence from being on the telephone more often than not. One of the lines is a public line that took up much of Florence's time in taking reservations for public nights and school visits at the Observatory (there are some 4000 visitors a year here). Moreover, astronomy having such an enormous public appeal means that the public line also brings many enquiries of the kind "What's the bright light I see in the south-western sky after dark?", "When, precisely to the minute, will the next New Moon occur?", "I hear a comet will soon hit Jupiter. Won't the Earth be devastated?" And not infrequently persons of doubtful mental stability arrive at the Observatory to extol their own pet theories of the universe or to demand access to our facilities. Florence handles all but the most technical or extreme queries. Her tact in dealing with extraordinarily rude or difficult people is legendary.
On the financial front, Florence not only handles all our routine NSERC grants and purchases made therefrom, but is also responsible for managing our endowment funds, both longstanding ones and others newly setup, and associated expenditures. She is also accountable for the money taken in on visitors' nights, and must arrange supplies of postcards and other items sold on those nights. Also, during the many years that we ran an observatory in Chile, Florence was responsible for managing expenditures there, the shipping and customs problems in sending equipment to and fro, collecting fees from astronomers around the world for our having provided service observing in Chile for them, etc, etc.
The Observatory's library is a branch of the Astronomy Department's library, but is nevertheless quite substantial, with new journals and materials arriving daily. It is impossible for Astronomy's sole librarian to maintain daily control over two libraries 25 km apart, so Florence deals with all incoming journals and minor library tasks on a voluntary basis, with the librarian visiting every few weeks to deal with more substantial issues.
Recent years have seen the institution of a Fall public astronomy course at the Observatory. This series of lectures runs over six weeks, each weekly lecture ending with coffee and cakes and informal mingling of the students with the instructor. The provision of refreshments requires that someone besides the instructor be present to make the coffee and clean up afterwards. Florence was entirely willing to take this on, and although she was paid additionally for the work, it did mean that she worked a full day, then went out to buy the refreshments, returned to the Observatory to set up everything (including the outdoors portable lighting system), waited through the lecture, mingled with the visitors, cleaned up, and around 11 pm set off on the 1½-hour drive to her home near Barrie.
Years ago there was always an Observatory caretaker who would see to the cleaning of the buildings, in part to the upkeep of the extensive grounds, and meet with electricians, painters, carpenters, etc working on facilities here, including the Director's residence on the property. Now that the University can no longer afford a caretaker, all these tasks are outsourced, and inevitably it is Florence who must forever be calling cleaners, gardeners, snow removal people, and many others about work that should have been done. When night observers leave dirty dishes in the kitchen (which they should not), it will be Florence who next day will do the cleaning up, and from time to time it will be Florence who takes home the Observatory's dish cloths, table cloths, and the like for laundering.
It would be achievement enough if this were all that Florence had to
recommend her. The fact is, however, that she is a warm and cheerful
person who not only does what she does willingly, but who is a friend to
around her. Without her, the atmosphere and morale of the Observatory
would be immeasurably less. We most strongly recommend her to your
consideration for the Dean's Outstanding Administrative Service Award.
His research is in observational cosmology, using balloon-born instrumentation, which he designs and builds. He has spent time ballooning in Antarctica at the McMurdo station and we're sure there are some tales to be told about his experiences there. His work is related to and coordinated with the results of the COBE mission. Perhaps he can be persuaded to write something on one or both of these topics for a future issue of the DOINGS.
Barth and his wife, Susan, have two children and are expecting a third in June. We welcome Barth, Susan, and family to Toronto and especially to the Department of Astronomy, University of Toronto.
Hugh has settled in well and has already begun to have an impact on our operations. He will be responsible for academic, research and administrative computing in the department, including DDO and Erindale, with the exception of some dedicated computers at the Observatory.
This marks a new approach for the department - we are now able to offer support to researchers - and consolidates some services that were previously split. While Hugh will have very heavy responsibilities, he will benefit from support and advice from a variety of sources including Brian Beattie. We wish Hugh every success.
There will be a ceremony held in the Spring, either in April or May, depending upon when we can schedule it with the attendance of the Fieldus family.
This award is an example of some of the good things our Dean is doing to recognize outstanding service by our staff in the Faculty of Arts and Science. It also signifies our appreciation for the dedication of our staff in service to the department and the DDO.
To Florence go hearty congratulations from all of us in the Department and the DDO.
See the nomination for this award in the Cover Story of this issue
The recommendation of the candidate for this position was made by a committee of the Department, and I am pleased to report my complete agreement that the selection was an excellent choice.
Please join me in congratulating Doug in this accomplishment.
Matthew Robert Kerton was born at 00:45 on Wednesday April 14 at St. Mike's Hospital after putting his mom Joanne through a very long labour (I'll spare everyone the details). He's a healthy 7 lbs. 7 oz. with a fully working set of lungs that were quickly put to good use. Matthew quickly gave his new parents an introduction to the worries that go with parenting by suddenly turning orange on day 3. Many return visits to both St. Mike's and Sick Kids were required over the next week to get extended treatments for jaundice and numerous blood tests. Fortunately nothing serious was found, just a particularly stubborn case of newborn jaundice that didn't respond well to regular treatment.
Joanne and Matthew are both home now and are doing well.
Nine of the province's best and brightest faculty will be honoured this spring at the annual OCUFA Teaching and Academic Librarianship Awards ceremony. Established in 1973, the teaching awards have been presented annually by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) to acknowledge the contributions made to teaching by outstanding professors and, since 1990, to librarianship by academic librarians.
The recipients of the teaching awards are chosen based on their demonstrated skills at teaching, course development, instruction, and outreach. The academic librarianship award is presented to the librarian who has made a significant contribution to scholarly achievement in the academic community.
"Each year OCUFA is presented with the daunting task of choosing the best among those who inspire and inform in their teaching and demonstrate exceptional dedication in their work as academic librarians," said Deborah Flynn, President of OCUFA. "We are very pleased to honour the nine who have been selected for the 1998 awards."
The 1998 OCUFA Academic Librarianship Award goes
University of Toronto
The awards will be presented on Friday May 14, 1999 at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto at 12 noon in the Scott Room.
The Roberta Bondar Planetarium, Seneca College, in North York, recently
reopened with planetarium shows for the general public, as well as for
school and youth groups.
I just returned from a conference held at Carnegie in Pasadena on photometric redshift techniques and applications. The local organizing committee was made up of Caltech and Carnegie faculty, including recent Toronto graduate Marcin Sawicki (now a postdoc at Caltech). Ray Carlberg, Howard Yee, Pat Hall and Huan Lin also attended. While there I stayed at the elegant Caltech faculty club, the Athenaeum. This trip was paid for, in part, by the Reinhardt travel fund.
The conference illuminated the virtues and flaws of various
techniques, from purely empirical fits using spectroscopic catalogues,
through the use of population synthesis models, to the application of
priors in Bayesian analyses. The overall impression was that, if
applied thoughtfully and with significant attention to both systematic
and random errors, the photometric determination of redshift is an
extremely powerful technique with important applications in many
science areas. In my own thesis I plan to use photometric redshifts
to derive the galaxy-galaxy correlation function at redshifts of about
1, as well as to study the evolution of the luminosity function to
This year, the Department of Astronomy held its annual Astronomy Night events on the evening of Saturday May 1st. It turned out to be a great night for the occasion as the sky was clear and the temperature remained quite pleasant.
Despite the fact that at least one of the advertisements we placed in a local newspaper wasn't published, we had a very good turnout and even had people lining up outside the door to the building fifteen minutes before we opened for the evening at 8:00 pm. Once inside, visitors had the opportunity to learn how gravitational lenses worked, have their picture taken in the dark with a CCD, take a slide-show tour of the universe, and learn about image processing and the impact that the internet has had on astronomy.
With the weather cooperating, the rooftop 16" and 8" telescopes were both popular stops, as were the Questars and binoculars that we had set up on the balcony of the 15th floor. Visitors were treated to views of Mars, Venus, the moon, and M3 among other things, and many were impressed with the view of Toronto at night that the balcony offers.
Throughout the evening, visitors were able to talk to an enthusiastic group of volunteers and many of these visitors expressed their gratitude at the opportunity to learn about astronomy and have their questions answered by experts who were willing to take the time to explain things to them in a way that they could understand. A couple of people even asked when the next Astronomy Night would be held and were eager to come again.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the following people for
volunteering their time to help with the evening and make it the success
that it was: Mike Allen, Tom and Susan Bolton, Chris Burns, Christine
Clement, Arno Dirks, Paula Ehlers, Torsten Ensslin, Devon Hamilton, Doug
Johnstone, Jennifer Karr, Charles Kerton, Lillian Lanca, Rosemary
McNaughton, Stefan Mochnacki, John Percy, and Tracy Webb.
As many of you know, we went through the job search routine this year, and we though we should share some of our experiences while we still remember them. We hope this will be of use for other people applying for postdocs in the next few years. And if that seems like it's a long way away, in the end we list some things we wish we had done early on in our PhD's!
For this last type of independent position (which has become very common in recent years), you will have to come up with a research proposal to be done while you are a postdoc. It takes a while to come up with a project, and even longer to turn it into a good well thought-out proposal, so start thinking about it well in advance of your first deadline. If you are an observer, you may also have to tailor your proposal to the facilities in the institution you are applying to; Gabriela found it very useful to have a small-telescope template proposal and a large-telescope template proposal. Oh, and be sure that in the rush to send out proposals, you change XXX in your template to the name of the institution you are applying to in that instance!
Here are some things that you can do early in your PhD, which will most likely be very helpful when you're looking for a postdoc:
... and good job hunting! [eds.]
A new web page that serves the research and public education interests of the observatory went on-line in February. It includes links to the 1.9m telescope schedule, a time application form, technical and general information for research users of DDO as well as information about the observatory's public education program. The DDO home page uses a menu system that can be easily expanded as additional information is added. The preparation and maintenance of the web page is the result of a collaboration between Slavek Rucinski and Brian Beattie.
Although available for only a few short months, the number of "hits" is approaching 40,000. It is already a featured site on web pages hosted by the Town of Richmond Hill and others.
The DDO web page can be viewed at
May 5 G2000: Arno Dirks May 12 Ramesh Narayan (CfA) May 19 G2000: Rob Reid May 26 John Kormendy, U Hawaii (joint with CITA) June 2 G2000: Mark Brodwin June 9 Phil Gregory (UBC)See http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/colloquia.html for updates.
It was mid-afternoon of May 16, 1951. Gerry Longworth had been working on the 74-inch telescope, when Barry Gunn (Secretary-Librarian and night assistant) brought over a group of schoolchildren. Gerry went for a coffee and when the demonstration was finished he returned to his work. The generator had been going all the while, but Gerry was now aware of a crackling sound from below and started down the stairs to investigate. As soon as his head was below ceiling level he saw flames shooting from the gutters which carried the wires from the electrical panels to the conduits leading to the observing floor.
At that moment the dome-turning motor began to run and Gerry rushed back upstairs to switch off the generator before the bridge would hit the telescope. He flipped the toggle switch, but nothing happened - the generator still ran and the dome still turned. By this time the lights began going out as fuses began blowing with more and more of the wires, their insulation burned off, sagging and shorting.
Practically falling down the stairs, Gerry dashed behind the panels and groped through the smoke to the master switch in the circuit which brought the AC supply to the dome. Once this was pulled the generator stopped and the immediate danger to the telescope ceased to exist. But, fearing that the flames would work their way up through the conduits to do further damage on the observing floor, Gerry emptied the one fire extinguisher in the dome onto the flames and then raced to the administration building. There he shouted to Barbara Creeper, the Secretary, to phone the fire department, and he and Barry dashed back with another extinguisher each. These doused the flames, but the choking smoke of burned rubber was worse than ever. When the firemen came they entered the dome with smoke masks, made sure the fire was out and opened the windows.
When we could survey the damage it became clear what had happened. Overheating of a hold- down coil had ignited the relatively old rubber insulation. As the wires sagged and crossed the dome-turning motor was energized and the cut-off switch for the generator was shorted out.
The whole dome had to be rewired, of course. This turned out to be big job because, strangely, no wiring diagram existed. It took a team of University electricians a month to rewire - this time with "Flameseal"! The cost was $3000, and the insurance policy did not cover fire damage to electrical wiring and equipment. However, the Comstock Company, which had just previously converted the Observatory from 25 to 60 cycle, accepted one-third responsibility for the faulty hold-down coil, as did the Square D Company, which had rewound this coil under contract, and, for some reason, as did also Ontario Hydro.
It could have been worse. No one but Gerry at that time knew the location of the master switch. (Its extension onto the observing floor was a later precaution.) Had it not been he who was in the dome, the telescope might have been seriously damaged. Furthermore, had the fire started ten minutes earlier with the children in the dome, there might have been panic and injuries.
As it was we lost five weeks observing.
Clement. C. M. ; Shelton, I. The RR lyrae period-amplitude relation as a clue to the oosterhoff dichotomy. 19-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0127
Clement, C. M.; Goranskij, v. P. The mode change of the RR lyrae variable V79 in M3. 19-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0128
Felder, G.; Kofman, L.; Linde, A. Inflation and preheating in NO models. 28-Apr-1999. Preprint No. 99-0275
Kronberg, P. P. Tests for photon polarization rotation over the longest available propagation paths. 9-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0103
Lin, H.; et al. The CNOC2 field galaxy luminosity function I : a description of luminosity function evolution. 5-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0087
Lu, W.; Rucinski, S. M. Radial velocity studies of close binary stars . I. 31-Mar-1999. Preprint No. 99-0216
Percy, J. R. The universe in the Canadian classroom. 18-Mar-1999. Preprint No. 99-0207
Wade, G. A.; Mathys, G.; North, P. The Ap spectroscopic binary HD 59435 revisited. 14-Apr-1999. Preprint No. 99-0251
Yee, H.K.C.; Lopez-Cruz, O. A quantitative measure of the richness of galaxy clusters. 5-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0086
Yee, H. K. C. Photometric redshift techniques : reliability and
applications. 5-Feb-1999. Preprint No. 99-0088