2013 Talk Archive

December – Icy Visitors

December 5th, 2013 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Kelly Lepo
Location: MP102

Comets are rocky, icy visitors from the outer Solar System that develop spectacular tails when they near the Sun. Kelly will discuss how comets went from bad omens in the night sky to tools to learn about how planets orbit the Sun, to objects that teach us about how the Solar System formed.

Video Coming Soon!

About the Speaker

Kelly Lepo is a PhD candidate in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. She studies the progenitors of white dwarf supernovae — little stars that will one day make very big explosions. She also enjoys teaching people about Astronomy and their place in the Universe. As a child she watched Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slam into Jupiter and has been fascinated with comets ever since.

November – Distant Earths

November 7th, 2013 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Ari Silburt
Location: MP103

In recent years with the launch of the Kepler Space Telescope there has been an rapid explosion in the number of planets discovered outside our solar system. For the first time ever we are able to explore questions such as “how many habitable planets are out there?”, and “where should we look for life?”. This talk will outline what the next steps are for finding life elsewhere in the universe as well as highlight a few of the noteworthy habitable exoplanets discovered to date.

About the Speaker

Since entering the Astrophysics program at the University of Toronto, Ari has been passionate about exoplanet research. Having already conducted research on KIC1255, a disintegrating exoplanet, as well as investigating selection biases within the Kepler data, Ari plans to work on 3D simulations of habitable planets for his PhD thesis. Ari graduated with an Honours Physics degree from Mount Allison University, where he also spent time conducting nuclear physics research at the Mainzer Microtron particle accelerator in Mainz, Germany. In his spare time, Ari plays sports such as basketball and hockey, enjoys swing dancing, and also records, mixes and produces solo and collaborative music projects.

September – The Mysteries of Dark Energy

September 5th, 2013 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Liam Connor
Location: MP102

In the late 1920s Edwin Hubble discovered that distant galaxies were receding away from us, implying that the universe itself was expanding. Seventy years later it was found that the universe is not only getting bigger, but increasing in its rate of expansion. The mysterious substance behind this accelerated expansion has been given the name ‘dark energy’, and its discovery earned three cosmologists the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011. Come hear about one of the most difficult problems in modern physics and how a group of Canadian astronomers plan to try and tackle it.Video Coming Soon!

About the Speaker

Liam is a Ph.D. student at UofT studying cosmology. He works on a dark energy machine called CHIME in Penticton, British Columbia that seeks to make the largest ever three-dimensional map of the universe. When he’s not contemplating the universe’s mysteries (fixing broken code) he enjoys big-mountain skiing, devil sticks, and bodyboarding bareback.

August – The Longest Journey

August 1st, 2013 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Dan Taranu
Location: MP102

The longest journey ever undertaken by humans beyond our own planet has been to our nearest neighbour – the moon, just 400,000 kilometres away. Even mankind’s most distant space probes are now ‘merely’ 18 billion kilometres from Earth. But far beyond even these enormous distances lies an immense, unexplored galaxy with billions of stars. Earth-like planets capable of hosting life could be orbiting some of these stars. Will mankind ever be able to traverse the vast reaches of space and explore distant worlds? How long would such a voyage last, and why would anyone volunteer to take the trip? Will the human race ever spread beyond our own solar system? Is there a restaurant at the end of the universe, or more of a cantina? The answers might shock you!

About the Speaker

Dan Taranu is in the final year of PhD studies at the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. For his thesis research, Dan collides groups of spiral galaxies, smashing together billions of stars in computer simulations to see what comes out (the answer is massive elliptical galaxies). In his spare time, he ponders the mysteries of life on Earth and in the stars beyond, conquering entire galaxies in mostly fictional scenarios in equally sophisticated computer games.

July – Bombs in Space!

July 4, 2013 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Charles Zhu
Location: MP102

For centuries bright new stars have appeared in the night sky, only to fade away a few weeks later. Today we know many of these new stars to be tremendous explosions of white dwarf stars. Graduate student Charles Zhu talks about how these explosions relate to nuclear explosions on Earth, why the Sun doesn’t explode, and the hunt for the white dwarf explosion trigger.

About the Speaker

Charles Zhu obtained his undergrad degree in physics and astronomy from the University of British Columbia in sunny Vancouver, B.C., and currently resides in the University of Toronto. He works with computer simulations on trying to get white dwarf stars to explode after they’ve been ripped apart by another white dwarf. In his free time he heads Public Tours and does digital painting.

June – Are Space Missions Beneficial to Humanity?

June 6, 2013 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Yevgeni Kissin
Location: MP102

The ability to travel into space is fascinating and awe inspiring, but what are the practical advantages? Grad student Yevgeni Kissin argues why space exploration isn’t just fun and games, it can also improve our lives, line our pockets and one day save the world.

About the Speaker

Yevgeni Kissin completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in the Astronomy and Physics specialist program. He is currently in the third year of his PhD program, and is working on the outcomes of interactions between planets and the stars they are orbiting around. In his spare time he enjoys staying informed on current events happening around the world.

 May – Extreme Planets: The Big, the Hot and the Ugly

May 2, 2013 – 9:10PM
Speaker: Lisa Esteves
Location: MP102

Graduate student and exoplanet hunter Lisa Esteves gives a tour of the strangest, wildest and most wonderous extrasolar planets discovered to date, and reveals how astronomers are finding objects that are trillions of kilometres from Earth.

About the Speaker

Lisa Esteves is a first-year PhD graduate student currently working on understanding and characterizing exoplanets using the Kepler Space Telescope. Raised in Toronto, she did her undergraduate studies in Physics at the University of Guelph and spent a year travelling before returning to Toronto for grad school.

April – Nostalgia for the Dark: Looking for Stars in the Land Where the Sun Is Always Up

April 4th, 2013 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Juan Diego Soler
Location: MP202

Juan Diego Soler, graduate student at the balloon-borne astrophysics group at the University of Toronto talks about his adventures in Antarctica and how he explained to his mother why astronomers want to fly a telescope over the surface of the coldest, driest and most desolate continent on Earth.

About the Speaker

J.D. Soler is a PhD student at the Dept. of Astronomy and Astrophysics at University of Toronto. Juan has worked in physics laboratories in Colombia, Spain, Cuba, the United States and Canada. His pictures and stories of Antarctic astronomical adventures have graced the cover pages of newspapers in South America. This will be his last Public Tour talk as a grad student at UofT before moving to France to continue his academic career.

March – Astronomy in the Era of Mega Telescopes

March 7th, 2013 – 8:10PM
Speaker: Professor Shelley Wright
Location: MP202

We are standing at the brink of a new era in astronomy – the era of extremely large telescopes. By the next decade, construction will be completed on the colossal Thirty Meter Telescope, which will revolutionize our knowledge of the Universe. I will discuss the numerous challenges that come with building such a large telescope. In particular, the cameras and spectrographs designed to take advantage of the massive size of an extremely large telescope are themselves large, revolutionary, and challenging to construct. Once the telescope and instruments are built, the discoveries will span the range of the cosmos, from the Solar System, to extrasolar systems, to black holes, to distant galaxies, to the very first stars in the Universe. I will describe each of these science areas and highlight the most exciting regimes in which mega telescopes will profoundly impact astronomy.

About the Speaker

Shelley Wright is an assistant professor at the Dunlap Institute and Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Prof. Wright did her graduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, working in a near infrared instrumentation laboratory on cameras and spectrographs for the W.M. Keck 10 m telescope. She then did postdoctoral work at the University of California, Irvine, and the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the faculty at the University of Toronto in 2012. She specializes in using innovative astronomical instruments on large ground based telescopes to study galaxies in the distant universe. She is the project scientist for IRIS, the first light camera and spectrograph for the Thirty Meter Telescope.

February – Sizing Up the Universe: Past, Present, and Future

February 7th, 2013 – 8:10PM
Speaker: JD Emberson
Location: MP202

In this talk we will take a journey through both space and time to explore our place in the cosmos. We will begin in the present, zooming outward from the Earth all the way to the edge of the observable universe. In doing so we will describe the structure of the cosmos on the largest scales and see the deepest-probing images of the Hubble Space Telescope. We will then move backward in time to investigate the expansion history of the universe from the time of the Big Bang. Finally, we will jump forward in time to describe the eventual fate of our universe. What will the night sky look like for astronomers in the distant future? The answer is a lonely one.

About the Speaker

JD Emberson is a University of Toronto graduate student from the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. His work involves studying the structure of the universe on large scales and at early times in its history. He never ceases to be amazed by the vastness of the universe and our delicate position within it. He hopes to convey this picture with the rest of the audience.