What happens during an AstroTour?
The regular tour begins with an hour-long lecture starting at 8pm in winter and 9pm in summer. This is followed by a brief question period, and then the volunteers will lead you over to the post-talk activities in the McLennan Physical Labs building (MP). Telescope operators will be stationed at the 15th and 16th floors of the MP building. On clear evenings, it is possible to view many different celestial objects such as planets and nebulae through our telescopes. In case of cloudy weather, we will still show you the telescopes and describe their setup and operation. Additional stations that we typically run are the World Wide Telescope, Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, and 3D printed model telescopes. Special Tours (e.g. Earth Hour and our Keynote talk) are run differently than the regular monthly AstroTour, and will be described on the main page when they are upcoming.
Where are the AstroTours located, and how do I get there?
We are now hosting AstroTours virtually on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/UofTAstroTours. The address of the lecture location for the in-person AstroTour, as well as a map, can be found on the “Location” section of this webpage. This address varies so please be sure to check! The post-lecture activities are always held at McLennan Physical Labs, 60 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3H4. If you are attending the talk, the volunteers will walk groups over to McLennan after the talk concludes. If you are only attending the later activities, you will see signs for AstroTours from any entrance of McLennan.
What time should I show up?
The lecture begins at 8pm in winter and 9pm in summer. We open the doors approximately 15 minutes prior to the show.
Is there a fee for AstroTours?
No! All parts of AstroTours are free, since they are run by volunteer graduate students from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UofT.
Do I need to register for the AstroTours?
No! There is no registration for any portion of AstroTours. You can just show up the night of the event.
What kind of science background do I need to attend the talk?
The lectures for the most part are delivered at an Ontario science grade 9/10 level, with some additional details being aimed at a more advanced audience. Our speakers try to avoid jargon and present more advanced concepts with helpful visuals to go along.
Are the AstroTours appropriate for children?
We leave it up to parents and guardians to determine if children in their group will enjoy attending the talk. Depending on the science background of the child, the lectures may be suitable for children at a middle school level and should be suitable to most people above grade 9. The observing sessions are fun and interesting for children of all ages. However, if your child is unable to sit still for an hour or gets tired early, it might be best not to bring them to the Tour.
Can I bring a large group to the AstroTours?
School classes, cub scouts and other large groups often attend our lectures. If you are bringing more than five people to the tour, then it might be a good idea to arrive 15 to 20 minutes early to ensure that everyone can sit together. If you are worried that your group is too large, please contact us.
At this time we are not hosting planetarium shows. Please contact us for any further details regarding the upcoming AstroTour.
Can I have a private tour?
We do not offer free private tours. If you are interested in a private tour of telescopes, please go to Universe.
Where can I find information and video of past talks?
Videos of past talks can be found on the talks’ respective web page in the Archive. You can also find the vast majority of the past talks we recorded on our YouTube Channel.
I can’t attend the talks on Thursdays. Are there other events I can attend?
Yes! There are many astronomy events in Toronto other than our regular AstroTour events, often for free. AstroTours occasionally host special events, such as the Keynote Lecture, which happen on other days of the week. We recommend signing up for the Event Horizon newsletter to find out about astronomy events in Toronto. Please note that we do not administer this newsletter, so we can’t answer any related questions.
The David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics run many outreach events across the city of Toronto and around the year. Their collective outreach website, Universe, offers a number of services, such as Ask-an-Astronomer. Members of the department give lectures at various branches of the Toronto Public Library. Please check the Toronto Public Library Science & Technology event calendar for more details. The three institutes will also hold special events to celebrate major astronomical events; check out their respective websites for details.
For even more astronomy-related activities, please check out our partners’ websites. The RASC and ASX in particular host regular public lectures and telescope viewing nights.
Are the facilities for the AstroTours wheelchair accessible?
The accessibility of the talk venue will depend on the lecture hall. Detailed information regarding accessibility can be found on the University of Toronto’s Learning Space Management website, under “Room Info”.
If the lecture is held in Room 1060 of Bahen Centre, we will note that none of the lecture hall entrances have push/power plates for opening the doors. There is seating available at the same level as the entrances, however. Please ask one of our volunteers about propping open the doors.
The activities after the lecture are held in McLennan Physical Laboratories, which unfortunately has limited wheelchair accessibility. Some of our activities are held on the main level, but the telescope observing is held on the 15th and 16th floors and requires taking stairs from the 14th floor.
Please contact us at email@example.com if you have further questions regarding accessibility.
Do you have a newsletter?
No, we do not have a newsletter. We recommend signing up for the Event Horizon newsletter to find out about astronomy events in Toronto. Please note that we do not administer this newsletter, so we can’t answer any related questions.
How do I find out about your events?
We advertise all of our events on our social media accounts. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! We also post our upcoming event on our website, and send our event details to the Event Horizon newsletter. Please note that we do not administer this newsletter, so we can’t answer any related questions.
Will I be able to look through the telescopes?
Unfortunately, telescope observing is weather-dependent. As a general rule-of-thumb, if you can’t see any stars by eye (e.g. if it’s cloudy), we will not be able to do any observing. Cloudy skies are the most common reason we are unable to observe, but we may also have difficulty observing if it is very cold or very windy. If we are unable to look through the telescopes, we still offer a tour of our observatory to show people the telescopes and how they work.
What will I be able to see through the telescopes?
The telescope targets are different every month and depend on what is visible in the sky that night. Some examples of telescope targets in the past are the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, stellar nurseries, double stars, and star clusters. Please ask one of our volunteers if you would like to know what is being observed.
Will I be able to attend a planetarium show?
Due to limited seating, we offer free tickets to our planetarium shows on a “first-come, first-served” basis. These tickets are available outside of the lecture hall before the talk. If you are a family with young children, please ask one of our volunteers about obtaining tickets to the first planetarium show.
What happened to the planetarium?
The planetarium located in the basement of the astronomy building is now out of commission. We hope to have access to a planetarium again in the future but have no expected date.
We usually offer the World Wide Telescope, which allows you to explore the Solar System using an Xbox Kinect Motion Sensor. We also have an Oculus Rift, which allows you to explore the Solar System, the universe, and other cosmic scenes through virtual reality. Additionally, we have 3D-printed models of spacecraft exploring our Solar System and astronomical telescopes.