Kamper Memorial Lecture

Karl Kamper Memorial Lecture

Karl W. Kamper was the optical engineer for the University of Toronto observatories and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Astronomy. After his untimely death, his family established the Karl W. Kamper Memorial Lectures in his memory.


Karl Kamper Memorial Lecture – December 11, 2015

Professor Nitya Kallivayalil

University of Virginia

Probing the Dark Halo of the Milky Way


The Local Group, the regime in which detailed star-by-star studies can be done, is becoming a major testbed for the concordance Lambda (Dark

Energy) + Cold Dark Matter model of our Universe. The dwarf galaxies of the Local Group, in particular, pose a variety of challenges to the nature of dark matter. For e.g., the “Missing Satellites Problem” refers to the fact that there are orders of magnitude too few dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way than is predicted by structure formation in a cold dark matter universe. But the big galaxies have a role to play as well: a better estimate of the total Milky Way halo mass is important for many of these questions. The most reliable means by which to constrain the properties of the Milky Way dark halo is through assessing the 6-D phase space distributions of tracers of its gravitational potential. This requires accurate proper motions (tangential velocities) in addition to generally known radial velocities for field stars and satellites widely distributed throughout the halo. I will discuss some novel approaches we have been developing to obtain proper motions for a variety of tracers in the Milky Way halo, as well as our efforts to push further out into the Local Group, and to definitively constrain the Milky Way’s dark halo mass, shape and distribution.


Karl Kamper Memorial Lecture – December 5th, 2014
Professor Matthew Bailes
Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) & Professor, Center for Astronomy and Supercomputing

Swinburne University of Technology

Discovery of the Fast Radio Bursts: Fact or Fiction


Seven years ago Lorimer et al. (2007) reported the discovery of what appeared to be the first bona fide case of an extragalactic dispersed radio burst, with an estimated peak flux of 30 Jy. Known as the Lorimer burst, it failed to repeat but had an estimated distance of 100s of Mpc. Many years passed before the next reported burst “sighting”, as well as the discovery of the “Perytons”, dispersed pulses that appeared to share the dispersion measure of the Lorimer burst leading to considerable skepticism about the celestial nature of the Lorimer burst.

Meanwhile a large-scale survey of the southern sky was being undertaken with new digital hardware designed to find Lorimer bursts and millisecond pulsars by the HITRUN collaboration (Keith et al. 2010). Originally concentrating on the galactic plane, and later migrating to the off-plane regions, the survey team announced the discovery of another 4 Lorimer bursts (now Fast Radio Bursts) in Thornton et al. (2013) and since then many more have been discovered, including one at Arecibo. I will provide a summary of the latest bursts statistics, their locations, the first to have a large multi-wavelength campaign commence within minutes of its discovery and how we are re-engineering the giant Molonglo radio telescope to find them routinely.



Previous Karl Kamper Memorial Lectures


Karl Kamper Memorial Lecture – December 6th, 2013
Professor Claire E. Max
Director, Center for Adaptive Optics / Professor, University of California Observatories

Nearby Galaxy Mergers Seen with Adaptive Optics: A Sharper Image

Adaptive Optics is a technology that detects and corrects changing distortions in optical systems.  It has been applied to great effect during the past decade for correcting astronomical telescopes for blurring due to turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere. This talk will describe how Adaptive Optics works, and how it is helping us to learn about black holes and outflows from mergers of nearby gas-rich galaxies. The talk will conclude with a view of another application of Adaptive Optics: imaging the living human retina.


Karl Kamper Memorial Lecture – October 5th, 2012
Professor Nick Kasier
University of Hawaii

Early Science Results from The Pan-STARRS Wide Field Imaging Survey

Pan-STARRS is a distributed aperture wide-field optical/NIR imaging system featuring 1.8m diameter telescopes with 1.4 billion pixel detectors. The first telescope PS1 has been fully operational and relentlessly surveying the sky for almost 3 years and is delivering median image quality of 1.1″ FWHM. By the end of next year PS1 will have surveyed the entire sky North of -30 declination with 12 ~50sec visits in each of g, r, i, z and y pass-bandbands and the stacked images over 30,000 square degrees will go approximately 1 magnitude deeper than the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. PS1 also surveys a number of selected fields with much longer exposures. The Pan-STARRS system will shortly be augmented by the arrival of the second telescope PS2, which will at least double the power of the system. I shall describe the design and demonstrate the performance of the system; present some early science results, and describe the synergies between Pan-STARRS and other all-sky surveys that will be coming on line in the coming decade.

November 4, 2011, Cody Hall, 2pm to 3pm
Professor Paul Hickson
University of British Columbia

Seeing Clearly: How the New Technology of Adaptive Optics is Transforming Ground-Based Optical Astronomy

Technological advances in electro-optics, lasers and computing now make it possible for ground-based telescopes to reduce, and in some cases practically eliminate, the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere. This allows many ground-based telescopes to match or even surpass the resolution achieved by space facilities. Current 8 metre class telescopes achieve a 50-fold improvement, enabling new scientific breakthroughs ranging from direct imaging of extra-solar planets to probing the strong gravitational fields of supermassive black holes in galaxies.

The next generation of 20 – 40 meter telescopes will incorporate adaptive optics as an integral part of the facility. In fact, the technology is essential to achieve full scientific potential. The
milli-arcsecond resolution that adaptive optics provides will also increase the sensitivity of the telescopes by as much as four orders of magnitude. These gains will open up entirely new scientific frontiers that are now beginning to be charted. Canadian scientists and engineers are playing leading roles in this enterprise, both in designing and building adaptive optics systems, and in exploiting them scientifically.

My talk will explore the different types of astronomical adaptive optics systems and explain how they produce such dramatic improvements in telescope performance. I will illustrate this with some recent scientific results, and examples of work underway in Canada in connection with the Thirty Meter Telescope project.


November 19, 2010
Prof. John D. Monnier
University of Michigan

Imaging the Surfaces of Stars

Under the best conditions, telescope diffraction limits the angular resolution for astronomical imaging. Using interferometry, we can coherently combine light from widely-separated telescopes to overcome the single-telescope diffraction limit to boost our imaging resolution by orders of magnitude. I will review recent technical and scientific breakthroughs made possible by the Michigan Infrared Combiner of the CHARA Array on Mt. Wilson, CA, with baselines of 330 meters allowing near-infrared imaging with sub-milli-arcsecond resolution. I will highlight the first resolved images of main sequence stars besides the Sun, focusing on the oblate and gravity-darkened photospheres of rapidly rotating stars. We can now also resolve the interacting components of close binary stars for the first time and I will give an update on the remarkable on-going eclipse of epsilon Aurigae.


November 6, 2009

Dr.Paul T. P. Ho
Dstinguished Research Fellow and Director of Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics

 Preparing for ALMA First Science

The Submillimeter Array has been in operations on Mauna Kea since 2004. Many interesting and important results have been obtained in that time including planetary studies, dusty circumstellar disks, extremely collimated molecular outflows, circumnuclear disks in nearby galaxies, magnetic fields via dust polarization studies, and dark submillimeter galaxies at high red shifts. These studies are paving the say for the first science projects to be attempted on ALMA, currently under construction in the Atacama Desert. I will show some of our latest results.


November 21, 2008

Prof. Adam Burrows
Princeton University 

 Theory for the Atmospheres and Radii of Extrasolar Giant Planets

Approximately 300 exoplanets, mostly giant planets in the Jovian mass range, but also more than 40 “Neptune-mass” planets, have been detected orbiting stars in the solar neighborhood. More than 50 of them are transiting their primaries and a large subset of these have collectively yielded a wealth of structural and physical information which theorists are attempting to interpret. A number of these giant planets have been detected directly by the Spitzer infrared space telescope. These constitute the first remote-sensing data of extrasolar worlds. I will summarize the embryonic theory of such irradiated giant planets and discuss what we have learned about their atmospheres and origin. We are witnessing the birth of a new astronomical discipline and I will describe some of its first notable findings.

Host: Dae-Sik Moon, Ray Jayawardhana & Marten van Kerkwijk


November 16, 2007

 Prof. Andy Gould
Ohio State University 

Inaugural Karl W. Kamper Memorial Lecture
Recent Developments in Gravitational Microlensing

Over the past 15 years, gravitational microlensing has radically diversified from a method narrowly focused on finding dark matter to a very general astronomical technique. Microlensing has now detected 7 planets, including several that are inaccessible by other search methods. It has resolved the surfaces of distant stars, served as a magnifying glass to take spectra of extremely faint objects, and revealed a number of surprising phenomena. I give a sweeping look at this remarkable technique, including its successes and future challenges.

Host: Peter Martin