2016 Talk Archive

December – On Pulsars: Ultra-Dense Material Spinning Dizzyingly Fast

December 1st, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Nikhil Mahajan
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Nikhil is a second year doctoral student, at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, interested in understanding pulsars and their structure, and sometimes works to understand the interstellar medium. He loves cooking and photography.

November – Exploring the Milky Way and its Missing Companions

November 3rd, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Natalie Price-Jones
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Natalie is a second year PhD student in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. She is intrigued by our galaxy and is currently uncovering the Milky Way’s history by searching for the remnants of dispersed stellar clusters. When not debugging her code or reading scientific papers, Natalie enjoys soccer, fountain pens, and science fiction in all its media incarnations.

October – The Butterfly Effect: Chaos theory and its influence on our lives

October 6th, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Ari Silburt
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Ari Silburt is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto studying chaos in planetary systems. In particular he works on planets embedded in planetesimal disks, using N-body simulations to aid his research. When he is not conducting research, Ari spends his time Lindy hopping, making space noises with his band, and praying to the chaos gods for Blue Jays victories.

September – World on Fire: glimpses of the birth of the universe

September 1st, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Prof. Renee Hlozek
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

By listening to the cold, dim hiss of the universe, we can learn about its fiery beginning. My talk will focus on how cosmologists use microwave instruments to measure this birth-light. I’ll describe the telescope I use, high up in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and what we learn about what the universe contains, how it started and ultimately how it is going to end.

August – Unlocking the Secrets of the Dark Parts of the Universe

August 4th, 2016 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Lauren Hetherington
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Lauren is a fifth year PhD candidate studying tidal streams – dwarf galaxies or globular clusters which have been torn apart by gravity. They can help us learn about where mass is in our galaxy, and detect clumps of dark matter. She was born in New Brunswick, and studied physics and math in Fredericton. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, role-playing games, and making loud noises in enclosed spaces to savour the echoes.

July – Planet 9 From Outer Space?!

July 7th, 2016 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Dr. Matt Russo
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

In January of 2016, astronomers presented evidence that a giant planet may be lurking far beyond Neptune, quietly waiting to be found. If it exists, ‘Planet 9’ would be the first solar system planet to be discovered in over 170 years, with all due respect to the fallen Pluto. In this talk, we’ll examine the case for Planet 9, learn about the latest efforts to detect it and figure out if it is going to kill us all. Hint: no.

June Keynote Lecture – Why planetary science needs space probes: New Horizons at Pluto & Juno at Jupiter

June 18th, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Dr. Fran Bagenal
MS 2158 (1 King’s College Circle)

Even in our wildest dreams none of us on the New Horizons team really expected the July 2015 flyby of Pluto to produce such riches: water ice mountains as big as the Rocky Mountains, glaciers of nitrogen ice, black hydrocarbons covering aging craters, fresh methane frost dusting tops of mountains, pitted landscapes shaped by sublimation, an ice volcano as big as Mauna Kea, and, most bizarre of all, a landscape that resembles the skin of a snake. I will describe how New Horizons came to be, how the spacecraft got to Pluto, and how the findings are challenging our understanding of ice worlds in the outer solar system. Turning to Jupiter, our primary example of a giant planet, the Juno mission will provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars. When the spacecraft goes into orbit around Jupiter on 4th July 2016, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, and measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere. Juno is also the first spacecraft to fly over Jupiter’s aurora and will measure both the energetic particles raining down on the planet and the bright “northern & southern lights” they excite. In this talk I will discuss why we needed a robot to explore planets – and how telescopes would never tell us the things we learned.

May – Doing the Impossible: The Case for Investing in Space Exploration

May 5th, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Dr. Daniel Tamayo
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Between 1969 and 1972, 12 men traveled over one million kilometers to walk on the surface of the Moon. Today, we couldn’t go back—over the last 40 years, astronauts have not ventured beyond a thin shell surrounding our planet. How is this possible? I will make a case for dreaming big and investing in space exploration, even in the face of our pressing problems closer to home.

April – Surfing Through Spacetime on top of the Gravitational Waves

April 7th, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Aleksandar Rachkov
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Foreseen by Einstein almost a century ago, gravitational waves were for a long time the last prediction of his theory of general relativity left to be confirmed. Last September, LIGO directly observed these waves being emitted from the merging of two black holes 1.3 billion light-years away. Thus, we opened a new window into the workings of our universe. In this talk, I will cover what these mysterious waves are, recount the long journey of their discovery and the significance they have for the future of astronomy.

March – Earth Hour Event – What If Earth Was No Longer Habitable?

March 19th, 2016 – 7:10PM
Speaker: Prof. John Moores
ES 1050 (5 Bancroft Avenue)

What if the Earth was no longer habitable? Where else in the solar system could we make our homes? By exploring our solar system and examining what it is that makes a planet habitable, we can answer these questions and begin to understand how our own planet works. This talk will discuss planetary habitability, from the necessary ingredients for life to arise and proliferate in a planetary context to how life shapes and regulates its own environment. We will explore where in the solar system the habitable places can be found: past, present and future. But are those habitable places inhabited? More than any organism in history, humanity has increased the range of conditions under which life can be maintained, but even the most clement extraterrestrial environment presents serious challenges to our survival and motivates the need for stewardship of our own fragile pale blue dot.

February – What if the Earth had Two Suns?

February 4th, 2016 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Stephan Ro
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

Half of all stars in the night sky are actually in pairs or “binaries”. That is, instead of a single star like our Sun, these systems have two stars orbiting each other. Planets in these systems could have twice as many sunrises and sunsets. There could be twice as many solar systems to explore, double the habitable zones and, therefore, more opportunities for life to form!
Is this really the case? Life here on Earth fundamentally relies upon the Sun’s (relatively) stable and quiet nature. Binaries, on the other hand, are sometimes found to exchange mass and more often explode! In this talk, we’ll explore ​a variety of binary systems and discuss whether the consequences of ​having two Suns ​are worthwhile.

About the Speaker:
Stephan Ro Stephen Ro wants to live 4 billion years into the future when the Andromeda galaxy begins merging with us. This would provide a close up view of its super-massive black hole, dozens of star forming regions, and billions of planets and stars. In the mean time, he is patiently completing his PhD at the University of Toronto. Stephen studies how stars generate winds and how they explode to produce supernovae. Most recently he has begun investigating whether ​sound can “shatter” a star, given the right frequency and volume.