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  • "The Universe In Motion" is the theme for this years conference. Using this theme we will explore how motion, "the universal constant", and our understanding of it, has shaped our view of the universe.


    Starfest 2007 features over twenty presentations and workshops, given by leading professional and amateur astronomers. This years stellar line up includes: Bob Berman, Peter Brown, Terence Dickinson, John Dubinski, Ray Jayawardhana, Brian Lula, Scott Ireland, Doug Welch and many more.


    Keynote Speakers

    Bob Berman, "Dark Matter and Other Great Mysteries of 21st Century Astronomy", Main Tent, Friday 1:30 p.m., "The Moon's Wildest Year", Main Tent, Saturday 10:00 a.m, is the most widely read astronomer in the world. His celebrated Strange Universe feature appears monthly in Astronomy magazine, the largest circulation periodical on the subject. Berman is also astronomy editor, and astronomy writer, of the Old Farmers Almanac. He has authored more than a thousand published articles that have appeared in magazines and newspapers ranging from the New York Times syndicate to Hudson Valley Magazine, and was Discover Magazine's monthly columnist from 1989 until its sale in 2006.


    Bob has authored several books on astronomy, "Secrets of the Night Sky", "Cosmic Adventure" and "Shooting for the Moon". Listeners in seven states hear his radio program "Skywindow" and he has made guest appearances on national television in numerous shows, including CBS This Morning, the Today show, and Late Night with David Letterman.


    Berman founded the Catskill Astronomical Society in 1976, and is director of Overlook Observatory, near Woodstock, New York, and the Storm King Observatory at Cornwall, New York.


    Bob has been "Eclipse Astronomer" lecturing for groups for six total eclipses, and the aurora expert leading tour groups to central Alaska from 2001 - 2003. His travels have taken him from the Arctic to the Antarctic


    "Dark Matter and Other Great Mysteries of 21st Century Astronomy", is an illustrated look at the mind-twisters of our time. These are the great questions which historically have been at least as fascinating as the subsequent answers. Among the mind-twisting topics: Dark energy, String Theory, Solar Oddities, Gravity, and the Truth Behind Black Holes.


    "The Moon's Wildest Year" Think the moon is out of fashion? Consider: Its orbit constantly changes its orientation, and this year concludes its most extreme angles, when the moon will be higher and lower in our sky than anytime until 2024. Here is everything you never knew about the moon's motion through the sky, the moon's appearance (e.g. when full, the moon is just bright enough to stimulate our retina's color mechanism, the photopic vision of cone cells, but primarily in the green part of the spectrum: This explains why the world looks green-blue by moonlight). Also little-known tips onobserving lunar features.


    Terrence Dickinson, "McNaught: The Tail of a Great Comet Panel Discussion", Main Tent, Saturday 1:30 p.m., is the author of 15 astronomy books and is currently editor of the Canadian magazine, SkyNews. Among his numerous awards are: the Order of Canada, an honorary doctorate degree from Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Klumpke-Roberts award for outstanding contributions to public understanding of astronomy.


    From his vantage point as editor of SkyNews Terrence was a focal point for observations made by Canadians of the passage of Comet McNaught, the comet that will go down in history as the "great comet of this century". What did he and other northern hemisphere observers see and experience? In this panel discussion we engage astronomers from both sides of the globe (and equator) to re-live the excitement of this comet and the legacy it has left behind.


    John Dubinski, "Living in a Dynamic Universe", Main Tent, Saturday 8:00 p.m., has been a student of astronomy for almost one Saturnian year beginning as an enthusiastic amateur observer as a teenager to his current position in theoretical astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He is an expert in the application of N-body methods to the study of galaxy formation and dynamics and is a pioneer in the development of N-body algorithms on parallel supercomputers that have in recent times permitted simulations of galaxies and the large-scale structure using models containing billions of particles. During the past decade, he has developed new skills in computer graphics that have permitted the creation of animations of galaxies at extreme levels of numerical resolution. Recent collaboration with John Kameel Farah in the GRAVITAS project has led to new interests in the artistic exploration of gravitational phenomena.


    Every planet, every star and every galaxy is in a constant state of motion - oscillating, spinning or simply moving through space. The daily cycles of night and day and the motions of the planets through the fixed stars were like mathematical puzzles to the ancient astronomers. Deep thinking about their solution over thousands of years inspired the development of modern science. These specific problems were finally solved in recent centuries with the development of Newton's laws of motion and gravity. These same fundamental principles (with some modifications by Einstein) are believed to govern the motion of not only the planets in our solar system but everything we can observe on all scales from groups of stars, to galaxies, to clusters of galaxies to the entire universe. The timeframe for the evolution of these grand scales is so long that during our lifetimes that we can only perceive a frozen snapshot of the objects in the universe. As we enter the early 21st century, new supercomputer technology is allowing astronomers to simulate the galaxies and their complex dynamical histories with ever increasing realism. The slow evolution of galaxies over billions of years can be witnessed at last through the power of supercomputer simulation and animation. John will present some work from the GRAVITAS project - a synthesis of computer animation and music - that illustrates the beautiful and complex manifestations of gravity in the universe.


    Ray Jayawardhana, "New Worlds in the Making: Origins of Planets and Brown Dwarfs", Main Tent, Saturday 11:00 a.m., is an associate professor of astronomy & astrophysics at the University of Toronto and an internationally known science writer. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, he holds a bachelor's degree from Yale and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He uses some of the world's largest telescopes - including VLT, Subaru, Keck, Gemini and Magellan - to explore the origin and diversity of planetary systems as well as the formation of stars and brown dwarfs. He is the co-author of over 50 scientific papers. His research findings have been featured in a wide variety of print and broadcast media around the world. Ray has received the Early Researcher Award from the Government of Ontario and the Vainu Bappu Gold Medal from the Astronomical Society of India.

    Ray serves as a contributing editor to Astronomy magazine. His popular articles have also appeared in a variety of other publications including The Economist, Science, New Scientist, Scientific American, Muse, Sky & Telescope, and Times Higher Education Supplement. He is the recipient of the 2003 Science Writing Award for a Scientist from the American Institute of Physics, and author of "Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets".

    Astronomers have detected over 200 planets around Sun-like stars, as well as hundreds of "brown dwarfs" too puny to light up as stars. Intriguingly, some brown dwarfs may also harbor planetary companions. Remarkable new observations and sophisticated theoretical calculations are making it possible for us to decipher the birth and early evolution of planets and brown dwarfs.


    Brian Lula, "To Infinity and Beyond", Main Tent, Friday 7:30 p.m., has been involved in amateur telescope making and observatory building for over 35 years always striving to build better performing equipment and then over the last 10 years ever better CCD images.


    Aren't you taking this too far? Come and find out as Brian explores this question from his wife and many others with insight and humor in a way that will appeal to all levels of experience in this wonderful pastime.


    Brian's talk will interweave his experiences with telescope making and observatory design all the way up to sophisticated remote imaging in New Mexico peppered with slides showing the evolution of his CCD imagery. Many hard lessons were learned along the way and Brian will share his mistakes as well as the unexpected victories. Brian will also comment on current and future aesthetic imaging trends.


    Brian is an expert astro-imager whose images have been featured in Sky and Telescope, Astronomy, CBS News, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and numbers of international astronomy and technical magazines. His deep sky images have also been selected a number of times as NASA's Astrophoto of the Day(APOD).


    Brian's love of amateur telescope making has really accelerated his professional career. For the last 12 years he has been the president of Physik Instrument a company heavily involved in the nanopositioning requirements of professional astronomical and life science instrumentation and is a Board Member and Secretary/Treasurer of the International Society of Optical Engineers (SPIE). Brian says his job is like working at the Home Depot for telescope makers!


    Other Speakers

    Peter Brown, "Southern Ontario Meteor Network", Main Tent, Friday 3:30 p.m., is an Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair, and Director Western Planetary Science Program at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. He specializes in the study of small solar system bodies, including all aspects of meteors and meteoroids, radar measurements of meteors, the physical properties of asteroids (spectra, rotation rates), meteorites and large bodies interacting with Earths atmosphere and infrasonic and seismic detection of bolide airbursts.


    Although space is considered a vacuum there are still zillions of small bodies hurtling though it. Sometimes these bodies collide with the earths atmosphere producing meteors, and if they are large enough to survive their journey through the atmosphere they will impact the earth, producing a meteorite.


    Peter has played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Southern Ontario Meteor Network. This network is designed to detect and record the path of bright meteors as they enter the earths atmosphere. Using this information the trajectory and location of impact can be determined. Peter will describe this network, how it works and results to date.


    At the far end of the spectrum Peter has been using radar to detect meteors and will describe how it works, and the new meteor shower catalogue that is being produced.


    Peter will conclude his presentation by reviewing the predictions for the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks during Starfest.


    John Caldwell, "Kepler: A NASA Mission To Find Earth-like Planets Orbiting Other Stars", Main Tent, Friday 4:30 p.m., is a professor at York University and a member of the Kepler Science Working Group, which oversees the scientific program of the Kepler mission. He has determined the number density of faint background stars, which could cause confusion with the search for planets orbiting nearby stars. Previously he worked in the same capacity for the development of the Hubble Space Telescope using HST observations to determine the stellar background situation.


    The total number of extra-solar planets now known to be orbiting other planets is around 200, with more being discovered on a regular basis. Essentially, all of the discoveries have been giant planets similar to Jupiter, many of them much bigger. There are many important differences between our System and the extra-solar ones found so far. Kepler will perform a census of the terrestrial planets in a nearby region of the Galaxy known as the Orion Arm. Part of Keplers mission is to determine whether or not the terrestrial planets are properly placed in their orbits to have a climate favourable to the existence of life.


    John Drummond, "McNaught: The Tail of a Great Comet Panel Discussion", Main Tent, Saturday 1:30 p.m., has been obsessed with the stars ever since his mother pointed the 'Pot' in Orion out to him when he was 12. He also began to develop an interest in photography about the same time and later combined the two to become an amateur astrophotographer. His other astronomical passions are comet and meteor observing. John is currently the director of two Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand sections: the Comet and Meteor section, and the Astrophotography section. He is also a councillor of the RASNZ. John is a Contributing Photographer for the Australian Sky & Telescope magazine. He is the president of the local astronomical society (the Gisborne Astronomical Society) and is fairly frequently asked to speak throughout New Zealand. He lives on a small farm with a dark sky 10 miles to the west of Gisborne, New Zealand and is imaging and observing on most clear nights.


    From this vantage point John had a ring side seat for the passage of Comet McNaught, the comet that will go down in history as the "great comet of this century". What did he and other southern hemisphere observers see and experience? John will be joining us via teleconference in this panel discussion as we engage astronomers from both sides of the globe (and equator) to re-live the excitement of this comet and the legacy it has left behind.


    John Hicks, "Understanding White Light and Narrowband Monochromatic Solar Filters, - Applications, Instrumentation and Observational Techniques for Solar Astronomers", Main Tent, Friday 11:00 a.m., is a senior landscape architect specializing in site planning for Provincial Parks. John has studied and photographed the solar disk for 25 years, building his high-wall domed observatory for strictly solar use.


    Surveys conducted by Sky & Telescope show that about 90% of amateur astronomers observe or photograph the Moon regularly, yet barely a third examine the Sun which can display as much detail as the lunar surface. Additionally, the solar surface changes daily, which at the very least spurs investigation. The Sun has many of the same atmospheric limitations along with a few more serious daytime physical affects, which inhibit good observing and photography. Both white light and narrowband monochromatic filters require optimum weather conditions to obtain crisp, high contrast images. A list of solar photographic tips will be discussed along with Illustrations of various optical arrangements in both white light and monochromatic light. The form and function of the components within the most popular filters available will be illustrated through cross-sectional diagrams. The performance of most filters varies directly with their price but good results are often obtained with a little experimentation, and the use of digital processing programs has achieved image refinement far beyond imagination. Today's solar astronomer can easily compete with professional images taken of the entire disk. Some digital processing procedures will be exhibited to capture good narrowband images.


    Paul Markov, "Is CCD Imaging for You?", Small Tent, Friday 3:30 p.m., is a senior program manager at ATI Technologies Inc., and in his spare time is the webmaster for Canada-wide Astronomy Buy & Sell (www.astrobuysell.com). This year Paul is celebrating 25 years of visual deep sky observing, however, he recently took the plunge into CCD imaging and has had no regrets. If you are very new to CCD imaging or are unsure whether to even get involved in CCD imaging, this presentation is for you. Imaging can be very intimidating, but it is possible to obtain nice images with a simple set up and without making a huge time and money commitment. In this presentation you will see simple images taken with a Meade DSI Pro and a 10-inch LX200 telescope from a light polluted backyard that should please most first-time imagers.


    Paul will discuss basic equipment requirements, how to set up and prepare for an imaging session, and difficulties you may experience.Then he will describe many of his imaging sessions and discuss common hurdles such as focusing, vignetting, dust on the optics, poor tracking, and dark frames. Because image processing is such an important part of the end result, some basic image processing steps will be suggested.


    Catherine McWatters, "Catch Some Rays", Main Tent, Thursday 7:30 p.m., has been a freelance astronomy educator for more than three decades. When not teaching in a planetarium she enjoys the challenges of a light polluted city sky with her 13.1" telescope.


    Cathy will present the historical detection of Cosmic Rays, along with current information about their origin. During this presentation participants will build Cosmic Ray detectors to "catch some rays". Please bring a small white light flashlight, all other materials will be provided.


    Ron Ravneberg, "The Music of the Night", Small Tent, Saturday 3:00 p.m., is an amateur astronomer, telescope maker and long-time member of the Columbus (Ohio) Astronomical Society. An amateur astronomer since the 1950s, he is a Past President of both the Seattle and Columbus astronomical societies. While he can't spell CCD, he does know into which end of the telescope you look, and spends his astro-time enjoying the quiet pleasures of the night sky.


    Ron's presentation will be a relaxed exploration of "The Music of the Night," in which he will describe the path his observing has taken since he located a small hand-held Newtonian reflector at a star party flea market. In the process of rebuilding and using the instrument he ended up rediscovering the quiet beauty of the night sky and the feelings that got him interested in amateur astronomy in the first place.


    Tom Trusock, "Good Times for Gearheads: the Current State of Equipment in Amateur Astronomy", Main Tent, Friday 10:00 a.m., Tom Trusock is the head gear hound and administrator of the CloudyNights.com forums. He's a long time amateur who observes from Michigan's dark skies.


    Doug Welch, "Giving Up the Ghost - Searching for Light Echoes from Historical Supernovae in the Milky Way", Main Tent, Friday 2:30 p.m., is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Gemini Observatory. Whenever possible, he spends time out under the night sky with like-minded friends.


    We recently discovered light echoes from centuries-old supernovae in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Since then, we have found many instances of these features which allow us to study the outburst light from such supernovae using modern instruments. Supernovae light echoes from historical events in the Milky Way move rapidly - roughly 30 arcsec/year - making the detection of the brightest (and therefore most interesting ones) suitable for amateur CCD difference imaging. Doug will describe what we know to date and the exciting opportunities in this new field.