Friday 12 October

Pamela Gay: The Improbable Universe (Lecture)
Science has made great strides in understanding our universe in the 20th century. From the DNA of life to the cosmological expansion of the universe, the scientific community has written rules to describe our place in the cosmos. She explains that science struggles with the improbability of our existence in the 21st century. Physics does not dictate that our universe should be just as it as is, rather, many other possibilities are probable. But what is possible isn’t always testable. In this talk we will discuss what it means to say our universe is improbably and what we can scientifically do with that information.

Adrian Brown: MRO at the Alien Poles of Mars (Lecture)
The Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft has carried out coordinated observations of the northern and southern polar regions of Mars since the commencement of the primary science phase in November 2006. Two high resolution instruments – the Compact Reconnaissance Infrared Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) have been used to observe the surface in tandem. They have revealed details hitherto only dreamed of. We will present images from the CRISM and HiRISE instruments focusing on the most active regions of Mars – the poles. At temperatures of between 140-200K, shrouded by dry ice in winter and only getting glimpses of the sun in the summer, these regions are a fascinating but alien world. Future homesteaders looking for a cheap source of water should beware!

Jen Heldmann: Gullies on Mars: Theories, Observations, and Numerical Modeling Results (Lecture)
Young gully landforms on Mars, discovered in high-resolution images from the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera, are generally believed to have formed by erosion from flowing liquid water. Such evidence for recent liquid water outflows on Mars suggests that these events occurred under present climatic conditions with mean surface temperatures of 60oC and extensive permafrost. Recent spring activity on Mars is effectively studied by examining perennial cold water saline springs in the Canadian High Arctic since this polar desert provides an accessible Earth analog to the martian environment. The martian gully systems are also examined through an analysis of Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) imagery, Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data, and Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) thermal inertia data from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. Such observations are used to constrain a theoretical model of surficial liquid flow in both the Arctic and on Mars to explain the occurrence of liquid water outflows in these polar desert environments. A synthesis of the Arctic studies, spacecraft data analysis, and numerical modeling efforts suggests that the martian gullies formed from the release of relatively pure liquid water from a subsurface aquifer under current martian environmental conditions. The simultaneous freezing and boiling of pure liquid water on the martian surface has created the gully systems observed today, and hence these water-rich sites should be considered as prime astrobiological targets in the search for past or present life on Mars.

Saturday 13 October

Pamela Gay: Standard Stars, Standard Colors, and the Art of Not Being Unique (Lecture & Demo)
Every set of optics has its own unique set of issues. Some are a little insensitive in the blue, some have something against red. Some filters let through a little more square of a band pass of light, and others let through more sloped a spectral energy distribution. These system to system irregularities mean that a particular star’s instrumental B-V on one scope is not the same as its instrumental B-V on a different telescope. Complicating this are atmospheric differences that cause different amounts of different wavelengths to be transmitted in different locations. For astronomical results between different scopes to be compared, astronomers must be able to transform instrumental magnitudes to a standard system. This is possible using all sky photometry on a photometric night. In this session we will discuss how to obtain the observations necessary to transform observations to a standard system, as well as how to calculate the the needed transformation coefficients. The session will be divided into two parts, a lecture component and a practical session that will work through provided data.

Jodi McCullough: Setting Up a Home Observatory (Lecture)
The chore of setting up and tearing down our telescope was starting to keep us from observing so we decided to build a permanent observatory. We began with an inexpensive metal shed but quickly graduated to a roll-off roof structure. This presentation will discuss the planning phase of the project, show pictures of the various stages and share stories of how we finished despite the 2004 hurricane season. With our set-up time now reduced to five minutes, not only do we observe more often but find we able to spend more time imaging. We will show examples of this increased productivity.

Jim Peterson: The History of the Apache Point Observatory (Lecture)
This history of the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) and the Apache Point Observatory (APO) describes why and how the ARC was formed, the vision for the APO, and the technology used to implement that vision. In particular, it examines the building of a low cost, lightweight, f/1.75, 3.5 meter telescope with an experimental mirror cast at the Stewart Observatory Mirror Lab, and key features of remote observing, rapid instrument change and flexible scheduling. The organizational challenge of unifying distinct institutions and their astronomy programs, and the difficulty of gathering funds for this venture, are also explored. Key scientific results and achievements using the APO are noted. This paper is based on interviews with key personnel, documents in the ARC business files, and published papers and reports (including astronomy department annual reports).

Jayanne English: Canvas versus Cosmos (Lecture)
Bold colour images from telescopes act as extraordinary ambassadors for astronomers because they pique the public’s curiosity. Unfortunately attempts by scientists to represent their discoveries can tend to all but drown out the conventions of visual literacy. This can dilute the impact of an image. This lecture outlines how artistic techniques – such as colour contrast and composition – can be used to produce a more engaging image with greater clarity for the non-expert public. It is followed by a workshop in which participants can put this information into practise.

Jayanne English: Canvas versus Cosmos Workshop (Demo)
This hands-on image-making exercise builds on Canvas versus Cosmos lecture. It will teach you how to make outstanding, striking electronic images to support your astronomy activities in accurate, compelling ways. While an emphasis will be placed on composition and the use of colour, the participant will learn how to “drive” a standard image-manipulation package (GIMP or PhotoShop). They will be introduced to the methods used by professional astronomical image-makers who create, for example, Hubble Space Telescope outreach images which appear in magazines, newspapers and professional journals.

Sunday 14 October

Sarah Maddison: Planetary Dynamics (Lecture)
This lecture will cover the gravitational theory behind planetary dynamics. We will discuss planetary motions, orbial elements, Kepler’s laws and Newton’s laws, resonances, tides and N-body problems which must be solved numerically to study planetary dynamics.

Tim Hunter: Light Pollution & How To Avoid It (Lecture)
Light pollution is present worldwide with a pall of orange sky glow hanging over most urban and suburban areas in the developed world. This dims our view of the nighttime sky and significantly affects the work of professional astronomers. To address the problem of light pollution requires understanding it and bringing it to the attention of the public. Nighttime lighting is necessary for public safety, security, and recreation. However, lighting has to be done in a proper fashion. The International Dark-Sky Association was founded in 1987 to combat light pollution. Its members consist of amateur and professional astronomers, professional lighting engineers, public officials, and persons simply interested in enjoying and preserving the beauty of the night sky. Lighting manufactures are now aware of the problem, support the installation of quality lighting fixtures, and support the removal or retrofitting of unnecessary or harmful lighting. This lecture will discuss light pollution, what it is and how to avoid it. Good lighting ordinances have helped protect major observatories around the world and all amateur and professional astronomers should be active participants in the ongoing effort to protect dark skies and to restore formerly dark skies.

Sarah Maddison: Swift Simulations of Planetary Dynamics (Demo)
This lab will allow students to work through a series of numerical experiments covering N-body Solar System problems involving planets and their accompanying test particles. System models will includes the asteroid belt, planetary rings, Kuiper Belt Objects and even extrasolar planets.

Glen Mackie: Mining the 2dFGRS (Lecture)
In this lecture we will discuss the dynamical status of nearby rich clusters of galaxies – in particular the velocities of Brightest Cluster Galaxies. The 2dFGRS (2 degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey) provides a detailed analysis of peculiar velocities (difference from the mean cluster velocity) of BCGs. Comparison with the current favoured galaxy formation and evolution model can be done.

Glen Mackie: Fun with a 1m Telescope (Demo)
At the end of 2007 the Siding Spring Observatory 1m telescope will be shutdown after 45 years of service. I shall describe some analysis of imaging data taken with the telescope – this will include the discovery of a Gamma Ray Burst of R=22 mag, detections of dwarf galaxies in nearby superclusters and examples of low light level photometry.