2018 Talk Archive

February – Magnetars: Nature at its Extremes

February 2nd, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: Dr. Robert Archibald
MP 202 (60 St. George Street)

Magnetars are some of the most extreme objects in the known universe. Though small in size, they possess the strongest magnetic fields in the universe and are the densest objects known. In this talk, we’ll go over the incredible behaviour seen in these rare objects – from tiny explosions to outshining the rest of the X-ray sky combined.

March – Cold out there, eh? The Climates of Alien Worlds

March 1st, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: Adiv Paradise
MP 202 (60 St. George Street)

A central question for humanity has long been “are we alone, and what is our place in the universe?” This fundamentally human question has motivated much of astronomy. The recent discovery of a plethora of exoplanets has raised the tantalizing possibility that we might start to answer that question. Searching for alien communications and chemical signatures of life represent two approaches to answering that question-but a third option also exists. Studying the climates of exoplanets and looking for surface conditions similar to those on Earth is a promising way of assessing habitability. In this talk, we will explore both the possibilities and complexities of studying alien climates, and in the process perhaps learn something about ourselves.

May – Simulating the Universe

May 3rd, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: George Stein
MP 103 (60 St. George Street)

The life of a single galaxy is an extremely complicated affair, and understanding the origin and evolution of the roughly 100 billion galaxies in our universe is even more so. But, through heroic telescope surveys and state-of-the art computer simulations cosmologists have been progressing on this problem at an ever increasing rate. In this talk I will discuss current efforts to create realistic galaxies using some of the largest super computers on the planet, and will show what these simulations mean for future observations. Along the way I will discuss the key telescopes that have allowed us to observe 500 million of these galaxies already and the ambitious future projects that will observe billions more, all to unravel the mysteries of our cosmos.

June – The Energetic Lives of Supermassive Black Holes

June 7th, 2018 – 9:00PM
Speaker: Dr. Rachael Alexandroff
MP 202 (60 St. George Street)

Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) are some of the brightest objects in our universe- the result of supermassive black holes swallowing large amounts of gas and dust. We see them in every corner of our universe from the local neighbourhood near our galaxy to some of the farthest reaches of the cosmos.

Yet there is much we still don’t know about these sources. For example, how did they grow to be so big so early in the universe’s lifetime and what effect do they have on their host galaxies? I will provide a guided tour of the current state of our knowledge of AGN as well as discuss how future observatories will help us address some of the open questions we are still struggling to answer.

August – Discovering New Galaxies through the Eyes of a Dragonfly

August 2nd, 2018 – 9:00PM
Speaker: Deborah Lokhorst
MP 202 (60 St. George Street)

When we observe the universe we see light from stars, gas and galaxies, but this makes up merely 4% of the universe. We think that a much larger fraction of the universe is made up of “dark matter”, which is invisible and only interacts through gravity. Dark matter is critical to how all the galaxies we see evolve, but the nature of dark matter is still a mystery. This talk tells the story of how the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a compound-lens telescope with a revolutionary design that enables it to image faint, diffuse structures, is attempting to understand dark matter. So far, Dragonfly has discovered a whole new type of galaxy, named “ultra-diffuse galaxies”, that are extremely faint but extremely large. Even just looking more closely at two of these ultra-diffuse galaxies has turned galactic theory on its head: one of them has too much dark matter and another has too little – and not just by a small amount, there is 100 times difference in the ratio of dark matter to normal stars than what we’d expect.

September – Mission to Pluto: From Napkins to New Horizons

September 6th, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: Max King
MP 102 (60 St. George Street)

In July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, photographing the last unexplored major body in our solar system. Taking over 25 years from its original conception to its phenomenal photographic fly-by, New Horizons upended the space industry. We will explore the story behind the most unlikely expedition into our solar system, the development of the mission from scrap paper to the spacecraft itself. We will examine the unique challenges of spacecraft engineering, the lasting impact this mission has made on our understanding of the solar system, and how its unparalleled success marks the beginning of a new era in space exploration. #NinePlanets!

October – 90 degrees South: Astronomy at the End of the World

October 4th, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: Matt Young
MP 102 (60 St. George Street)

The South Pole, one of Earth’s most isolated outposts, is alive with Science. Here you can find the 10-metre South Pole Telescope (SPT), tasked with observing some of the oldest light in our universe; light emitted just after the Big Bang. In 2016, a next-generation microwave camera, SPT-3G, was installed onto the telescope. This camera allows astronomers to map out the Cosmic Microwave Background in more detail than ever before, providing new information on clusters of galaxies, cosmic inflation, and particle physics. Join me as I go through the science and design behind the brand new SPT-3G camera, and take you along on my 2-month expedition down to the South Pole in 2017 to perform vital upgrades.

November – Cosmic Rays: Astrophysics at Maximum Energies

November 1st, 2018 – 8:00PM
Speaker: Tova Yoast-Hull
MP 102 (60 St. George Street)

Cosmic rays are the most energetic particles in the universe. Travelling at speeds mere fractions off from the speed of light, they accelerated in the remnants of dying stars and supermassive blackholes. In this talk, we’ll talk about how cosmic rays interact with and influence their surroundings as the move throughout galaxies and intergalactic space along magnetic field lines.