Starfest 2017 Speakers

Keynote Speaker:

Fred Espenak

Fred Espenak (Scientist Emeritus, NASA's GSFC)

The Great American Total Eclipse of 2017

On August 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible from the contiguous United States for the first time since 1979.  The track of the Moon’s shadow cuts diagonally across the nation from Oregon to South Carolina.  Inside the 68-mile-wide path of totality, the Moon will completely cover the Sun as the landscape is plunged into an eerie twilight, and the Sun’s glorious corona is revealed for over 2 minutes.

Espenak will present a detailed preview of this exciting event with maps, photos and weather prospects along the eclipse path based on his recent book on the same subject.  He will also share some some of his eclipse experiences with us through photos and video.  Find out what it’s like to stand in the Moon’s shadow and get ready for 2017.

How to Photograph the 2017 Eclipse

With August’s total eclipse of the Sun fast approaching, do you want to capture images of it with your camera?  Learn tips from an eclipse photography expert who has shot over 20 eclipses.  Here are some of the topics that will be covered.

  • How to use any camera (even cell phones) to shoot wide-angle photos of totality
  • Tips on the best telephoto lenses and telescopes for telephotography of eclipses
  • What solar filters to use, and when to use them
  • How to capture partial phases, the diamond-ring effect, and Baily’s beads
  • How to shoot bracketed exposures to capture the inner, middle, and outer corona

Bring your camera and lens and be prepared to ask questions.

Biography:

Fred Espenak is a retired NASA astrophysicist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where he worked with infrared spectrometers to probe the atmospheres of the planets.  He is also known as “Mr. Eclipse” because of his work on predicting and observing solar eclipses.  He has written over a dozen books on eclipses including his most recent “Eclipse Bulletin: Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 August 21”. Espenak also runs 3 web sites on eclipse prediction (www.EclipseWise.com), eclipse photography (www.MrEclipse.com) and astrophotography (www.AstroPixels.com).  Over the past 45 years he has witnessed 27 total eclipses of the Sun.  In 2003, the International Astronomical Union honored Espenak by naming asteroid 14120 after him.  Espenak now lives in Portal, Arizona where he operates Bifrost Astronomical Observatory.

Guest Speakers (alphabetically):

Gary Bennett and Dave Yates present:

Lighten Your Load Using Micro Computers (and other cool gizmos)

This talk will appeal to astrophotographers or serious visual observers who rely on a computer to enjoy the night sky.  Getting all that gear hooked-up and behaving is a real frustration for all of us.  The good news is that electronics have shrunk to the point where an inexpensive (approx.. $ 180), full-fledged Windows Computer, is the size of a pack of gum, consumes almost zero power, and can be powered with 12V using far fewer wires, and zero AC Adapters.

We will demonstrate the equipment used, what to buy (or make yourself), and show you how to get it all set-up.  Whether you have a permanent observatory, or use a grab-n-go portable rig, you will learn about a much better way to lighten your load and tame the spider web of wires.  We’ll also show you how easy it is to set-up a simple “Remote Desktop” wireless network so you can monitor your equipment, without freezing in the dark, using tablets/smart-phones or a second PC.

No handy-man skills required!  It’s quite easy!

Biographies:

Gary & Dave were friends even before their Astronomy Obsession began.  This is their 3rd time as Guest Speakers at Starfest and this year’s topic is a continuation of the evangelistic approach of “The MacGyver Philosophy” and how it applies to mastering the complex equipment we use as amateur astronomers.

Gary Bennett

Gary Bennett

Gary began his astronomy obsession in 2001 and immediately became fascinated with photographing the night sky.  He quickly learned that there were few commercially available solutions to simplify managing the gear needed for astrophotography and set out to fabricate better alternatives that simplify set-up and power management.  Many of his inventions went on to become commercially available products manufactured by Kendrick Astro Instruments.  In 2014, Gary took over the reins at Kendrick Astro Instruments where he is now managing day-to-day operations as well developing a new line of Observatory Class products that will hit the market this summer, including the System Automation Controls for the new Skyshed POD MAX 12.5′ Robotic Domed Observatory.  Gary is also current President, RASC Hamilton Centre.

Dave Yates

Dave Yates

Dave started with mechanical and electro-mechanical tinkering at a very early age.  Later in High school he specialized in machine shop and precision repair and fabrication.  Trained in the Aerospace industry, Dave used this experience in various positions from designing mechanical process equipment in the auto industry, repair of IMAX cameras, Water feature design and engineering, and finally in the service and repair of medical testing equipment.  Dave got involved in astronomy when good friend Gary Bennett got his first scope in 2001 and introduced him to the hobby.  This introduction has quickly grown into a bit of an obsession.  Dave now runs Telescope Performance Improvements (TPIastro.com) and manufactures upgrade and stability products for various telescope mounts.  Present projects are varied and as always Dave is busy redesigning and figuring out new and innovative ways to “make things Better” in Astronomy.

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Dr. Ron Brecher

Dr. Ron Brecher

What are the Odds?

The Drake equation was developed as a way to think about the odds of other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.  But this type of equation can also be used to help answer other existential questions, like “How productive am I likely to be, given the many challenges I face as an amateur astronomer?”  In this presentation, Ron will discuss the Drake equation and provide current estimates for its parameters and predictions.  Then, a modified form of the equation will be used for a lighthearted look at some of the many factors — both within and beyond our control — that influence the productivity of amateur astronomers.

Telescopes, Time Machines and Treasures of the Night Sky

Telescopes don’t only give us access to space, but also allow us to travel in time.  Light from faraway objects takes time to traverse space and reach our eye or camera, so we see objects as they were in the distant past.  In this presentation Ron will use some of his images to explore the relationships between space and time as he takes us on a tour of the universe from our nearest neighbor, the Moon, to galaxy clusters more than a billion light years away.

Biography:

Dr. Ron Brecher ( http://astrodoc.ca/ ) has been an avid visual astronomer for about 20 years, and began photographing the night sky in 2006.  His images are regularly featured in print and online astronomy magazines and scientific journals, on CD covers, on websites and in calendars.  His imaging workflow is published in the August 2016 issue of Sky & Telescope.  Ron shares his passion as a speaker at star parties, conferences and and club meetings in Canada and the U.S.

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Dr. Jan Cami

Dr. Jan Cami

Pursuing a passion for astronomy

Ever since my dad took me outside to show me some constellations when I was about 5 years old, I was hooked on astronomy, and I would tell everyone I would become an astronomer.  My path in life was then simply following that passion.  That path has taken me all over the world, and has been much more interesting and rewarding than I could have ever imagined — not in the least due to my background as an amateur astronomer.  I will share some stories of the most fun and interesting experiences, places and people that I encountered in my life as an astronomer.

The Search for Life in the Universe

Few scientific endeavors manage to capture people’s imagination as much as the search for extraterrestrial life.  In this talk, I will address what is perhaps one of the most important unanswered scientific questions: “Are We Alone?”.  Is life a rarity, or is the universe teeming with an abundance and variety of life forms, separated from each other by the vast space between their home planets?  How can we find out?  What is necessary for life, and where in the Universe do we find all necessary ingredients for life in the right environment?  We will have a look at some of the most promising places in our Solar System, and then look further out.  How many planets are there that could harbor life, with possibly intelligent civilizations as a result?  And if intelligent civilizations exist, why haven’t we found them yet?  I will include a brief overview of the different flavors of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and offer some prospects for the future.

Biography:

Jan Cami is Associate Professor at Western University (Ontario, Canada) where he also serves as Director of the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory and as Associate Director (Acting) of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX).  In addition to his Western appointments, he is also a Research Associate at the SETI Institute (Mountain View, California).

Jan developed a passion for astronomy as a kid, stimulated by his dad who was a physics teacher.  He joined the local amateur astronomy club at the age of 12 and started discovering the Universe with a used 50mm refractor and lots of books.  After two MSc degrees and a PhD that involved moving to Portugal and the Netherlands, he became a Fellow of the National Research Council at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, where he later would also join the SETI Institute as a Research Associate.  In December 2006, he moved to London, Ontario to become an Assistant Professor at Western.

In 2010, he discovered the fullerenes C60 (buckminsterfullerene, better known as “buckyballs”) and C70 in a peculiar planetary nebula.  To date, these are the largest molecular species ever identified in space.  He also devotes much attention to the problem of the Diffuse Interstellar Bands (DIBs).  For his research, he uses ground-based telescopes as well as space telescopes and airborne observatories (e.g. SOFIA).

In addition to research and teaching at the University, Jan is also actively involved in science outreach.  He loves sharing his passion and enthusiasm for astronomy and science in general — with visitors at the Hume Cronyn Observatory, during (public) lectures or while chatting on local radio stations.  He is also on the Education and Public Outreach Committee of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) and organizes outreach events such Science Rendezvous.

Trying to fulfill other childhood dreams, he made it to the last round in the astronaut selection process of the European Space Agency in 2008, and attended the last launch of the space shuttle Endeavour at the Kennedy Space Center in 2011.  He holds a private pilot license, loves exploring the underwater world while scuba diving, and is known to turn up the volume when playing guitar or piano.  And he loves a good beer!

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George Conidis

George Conidis

Galaxies Unfrozen in Time by Flames of Romance

As we peer into the heavens we observe an endless abundance of galaxies mingling and playfully chatting amongst one another.  In this talk, galaxy culture and behavior as predicted by gravity will be explored.  By a wonderful stroke of luck our cosmic neighborhood is nearly the perfect laboratory to decipher galaxy behavior, except for one small problem; our neighboring galaxies don’t agree with current predictions for galaxy behavior.  But the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy do.  What created a revolt in our neighbors?  Or might our interpretation of gravity be in need of revision?  Exploring this mystery has unveiled a deeper appreciation for the eternal romance between the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy and the infectious effect it has on onlookers as it ripples throughout the cosmos.

Biography:

George J. Conidis is a PhD student at York University.  He began his astronomy career as an amateur astronomer from the comfort of his backyard in North York at the age of 15.  By the age of 16, George had purchased his 8 inch Dobsonian telescope and never stopped looking towards the heavens.  His interest in astronomy stems from a deep passion of philosophy and applied mathematics.  The two subjects merge in the study of physics and astronomy which quickly became George’s obsession and has continued to be ever since!

George acquired his BSc from the University of Toronto and MSc from York University.  During his undergraduate years, George was actively involved in research, observing, and public speaking at the David Dunlap Observatory.  He has since traveled and lived at the National Astronomical Observatory of Mexico and the University of Athens Observatory, Greece to gather data and collaborate on research during his graduate studies.  He was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Innovation Award for a PhD and is listed in the Mitacs 150 program highlighting researchers who will shape Canada’s future.  He has received international recognition for his research which includes discovering 160 galactic neighbourhoods that mirror our own.  His public speaking and academic accomplishments have provided him the opportunity speak at conferences in Greece, Estonia, and France.  Recently, George Conidis was selected to participate in discussions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, regarding astronomy, international student exchange and opportunities.

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Marc Fitkin

Marc Fitkin

Beginners Guide to Telescopes

Marc was inspired by the motion picture 2001 A Space Odyssey.  His first views of a major planet were through a very simple, low quality telescope with a shaky tripod on a frigid evening in late December of 1989.  Marc will tell us why one should avoid such a telescope.

Biography:

Marc has been involved in amateur astronomy for over 25 years and in the Astronomy optics business since 2002.  He is currently with New Eyes Old Skies, Richmond Hill’s newest and premier astronomy and science optics retailer at the Leslie Centre.  Marc has owned over ten different telescopes of various designs including refractors, reflectors, and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes.  Marc’s main interests are double star, planetary and galaxy observing, pushing the limits of small, portable telescopes.  Marc also takes part in public observing and public outreach events through New Eyes Old Skies, The Stargazers Group of Mississauga, NYAA StarFest and the David Dunlap Observatory.

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Norm Folkers

Norm Folkers

ATM Forum

Ever wonder if you can make a your own Newtonian Telescope?  I’ll show you how to do it the modern way; without denouncing the older traditional ways.  You too can make a 6” Newtonian mirror using a machine that can be built in an afternoon so that you can make a mirror with it the following week.  Then it’s just a matter of making the rest of the telescope.

Biography:

Building and personally customizing your telescope provides personal enjoyment of a technical challenge, a method of personally customizing your telescope and can be an inexpensive way to obtain a useful telescope for many hours of viewing pleasure for you and your family.

Norm was introduced to amateur telescope making (ATMing) in 1965 after a presentation in the chemistry building of the University of Toronto and was hooked on telescope making ever since.  Over the years, he has made many scopes.  Some scopes are still unfinished, while some will never truly be finished as they can always be improved or modified.  Norm enjoys observing, but prefers to use his many talents making and testing telescopes.

Norm also enjoys bending or breaking those long standing guidelines and rules developed and shared over the decades among ATMers.  Why walk around a barrel?  Why not sit and use a lazy Susan to have the mirror and tool rotate?  Why must a tool be round?  In the early days, the tool had to be the same size and shape as the mirror blank.  Why?  Why not use grinding machines to do the work?  Thanks to John Dobson, aperture fever is curable or at least manageable and we are all better off for it.  So get out and make something that enhances your own experience.

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Andreas Gada

Andreas Gada

Automating Solar Eclipse Imaging Workshop

After every solar eclipse the world is dazzled by astonishing images of this phenomenal event.  On one hand, photographing a total solar eclipse is easy because virtually any exposure will yield a unique image of the event.  On the other hand, it is extremely challenging because it requires a Vulcan disposition and careful attention to every aspect of the imaging process.  Good solar eclipse images don’t just happen; you have to make them happen.  And that requires planning.

Preparation for photographing a total solar eclipse begins by determining what you wish to image during the eclipse, especially during totality.  If you only want to capture a few images of the sun during totality, as a photographic memento of the eclipse, then your equipment requirements and support logistics are minimal.  However, if you want to create a high-resolution, multi-image composite, or a time-lapse movie of the eclipse from first contact to last, then your equipment requirements are considerably more complex, and you may need to consider some form of automated image capture.

In this workshop, we will explore various options for automating image capture, ranging from using an interval timer to sophisticated camera control software.  After a brief review of available camera control software, an in-depth demonstration of Eclipse Orchestrator will be given.  This will focus on imaging the eclipse through a telescope in order generate a time-lapse movie.  As part of this demonstration, we show how to quickly remove and replace the solar filter at the start and end of totality.

We conclude by identifying potential problems and how to deal with them should they occur, identifying any additional equipment requirements, and providing some hands-on tips.

Solar Filter Construction Workshop

Andreas will conduct a two-hour solar filter construction workshop.  This workshop will start with a short ‘how to make a solar filter demonstration’ followed by a hands-on session where you will be able to construct a solar filter for your telescope, binoculars, or camera lens.  Please refer to our activities page for more information.

Biography:

Andreas Gada is one of the founders, and a Past President of the North York Astronomical Association.  In 1982, he started Starfest, and was the head ‘honcho’ for twenty-six years.  He is an avid astrophotographer and telescope maker who enjoys puttering in his machine shop.  In 1979, he saw and imaged his first Total Solar Eclipse.  Since then he has traveled to many exotic places to photograph total solar eclipses.  Some of his images have won awards and have been published in various astronomy magazines (Sky and Telescope, Astronomy magazine, SkyNews), textbooks, and used in an award-winning documentary entitled “Hooked On The Shadow”.  Recently, his time-lapse videos of the 2012 eclipse were used in the Cosmic Vistas episode on Eclipses.

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Bryan Gaensler

Dr. Bryan Gaensler

Taking the Universe to the Limit

The glittering night sky that we see with our naked eye or through a small telescope is only a tiny window into the bizarre extremes of the cosmos.  Most of the Universe is utterly inhospitable and unimaginable, because it is far hotter, colder, brighter, or darker than we can possibly comprehend.  Bryan will take you on a tour through the heavens that’s a little different from what you might be used to hearing, where he will showcase the remarkable extremes of our Universe that astronomers have been able to unveil.

Biography:

Dr. Bryan Gaensler is the Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, is a Canada Researh Chair in radio astronomy, and is the Canadian Science Director for the billion-dollar Square Kilometre Array project.  He received his PhD from The University of Sydney in 1998, and subsequently held positions at MIT, the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard University and the University of Sydney, before taking up his current position in Canada in January 2015.  Bryan is the author of the book “Extreme Cosmos” and of over 320 scientific papers on cosmic magnetism, neutron stars, supernovae and the interstellar medium.  He was the 1999 Young Australian of the Year, was awarded Australia’s 2011 Pawsey Medal for outstanding research in physics, and in 2013 was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.  He tweets as “SciBry” on astronomy, politics, and science-fiction.

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Rebecca Ghent

Dr. Rebecca Ghent

Ice in the inner Solar System

We are all familiar with the idea that on Earth, life and water are deeply intertwined.  Life as we know it requires the presence of water, and in any droplet of water on Earth, no matter how deep in the crust or ocean, life can be found.  It comes as no surprise, then, that one of the most important components of the centuries-old search for life on other planets, or the record of former life, is the quest to understand the water cycle on those planets.  Except on Earth, liquid water is not stable at the surfaces of the terrestrial planets; and in fact, ice is not stable either, but readily sublimates upon exposure to space.  However, there is evidence of the presence of abundant water ice, and ices of other materials such as CO2, on Mercury, Mars, and perhaps, the Moon.  In this talk, we will explore what we know about ice on these bodies, and how it might be used to facilitate human exploration.

Biography:

Dr. Rebecca Ghent came to Canada in 2006, when she became a professor at the University of Toronto in the department of Earth Sciences (formerly Geology).  She earned her PhD in planetary geology and geophysics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX in 2002, and was a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution until she came to Canada.  She is a co-investigator on the Diviner thermal radiometer instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the OSIRIS REx sample return mission, and for the RIMFAX ground penetrating radar on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover.  She focuses on geological processes on the terrestrial planets, including impact cratering, surface modification, and regolith evolution.

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Guylain Rochon

Guylain Rochon

How BackyardEOS changed DSLR astrophotography

BackyardEOS was born out of passion and was never meant for public use.  In this talk Guylain Rochon, the creator of BackyardEOS, will take you on the journey that led to the initial release of BackyardEOS and the driving forces that helped shape this highly acclaimed software product.  The presentation will include a high level overview of BackyardEOS primary functions and will demonstrate how to perform a few practical tasks; including the basic creation of an image capture plan and if time permits focusing and dithering; it’s easier than you might think.

Biography:

Guylain Rochon is a senior software engineer an avid amateur astrophotographer.  Guylain has always been passionate about photography since his early age; his first camera was a Pentax SRL back in 1984 at age 16.

Guylain is the author of the highly acclaimed astrophotography software BackyardEOS.  His passion for photography, astronomy, and strong background in software engineering collided one day and BackyardEOS was born; powerful yet simple to use astrophotography software purpose built for DSLR photography.  Guylain is also the owner of O’Telescope based out of Ottawa.

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Jesse Rogerson

Dr. Jesse Rogerson

A Eulogy for Cassini: the life and times of an intrepid spacecraft

The Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft launched towards Saturn from Cape Canaveral in the fall of 1997, embarking on one of the most successful space missions to date.  Over its 13 years orbiting the ringed planet, Cassini-Huygens have made multiple discoveries which has lead to a re-evaluation of the entire Saturnian system.  Methane lakes on Titan, salt and organics filled geysers on Enceladus, a walnut shaped moon, and the hexagonal-shaped wind pattern at Saturn’s north pole are just a few examples of the long list of contributions from the spacecraft.  Now that Cassini is running out of fuel for orbital adjustments, scientists have decided to end the mission on their own terms: a daring 22 orbits plunging between the rings and the planet itself, culminating with Cassini burning up in the atmosphere of Saturn.  In this talk, we will look back over the major milestones, the newest images, and contemplate what’s next for Cassini and the planet Saturn.

Biography:

Jesse Rogerson is an avid science communicator, particularly in the fields of astronomy, aviation, and space sciences.  He received his PhD in Astrophysics from York University in 2016.  His research studied active galactic nuclei, focusing on winds generated by super massive black holes at the centres of massive galaxies.  Jesse led the research that revealed the fastest winds ever seen at ultraviolet wavelengths (more than 200 million km/hr) near a supermassive black hole.  While at York University, he contributed heavily to the education and public outreach programming at the University’s Observatory, which included managing, co-producing and co-hosting the Observatory’s weekly radio program ‘York Universe’.

Jesse also spent five years at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, including working as the Centre’s Researcher/Programmer for Astronomy and Space Sciences  He is currently the Science Advisor at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

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Murray Romisher

Murray Romisher

Mallincam Observing and Presentation

A number of years ago while I was looking through the eyepiece of my telescope I noticed that no matter how hard I tried I could not focus the object I was looking at properly.  A visit to my optician confirmed I had an astigmatism in both eyes.  It was around that time I learned by accident about an inventor named Rock Mallin who created a ccd video camera, he created a Yahoo group called “Night Skies Network.ca”.

A common problem plaguing amateur astronomers is light pollution.  The need to have a dark sky to observe objects except the Moon or a couple of planets was making it more difficult to observe.  With the Mallincam observing through the eyepiece was no longer necessary.  You can observe objects live and within seconds many deep sky objects and in colour.  I just sit in my chair with my monitor or laptop or Hi-Def TV.  I go from object to object in seconds with great clarity.  I will be doing a live presentation on Friday and Saturday Evening once its dark.  I will be setup in the field out side the shower/ washrooms/ laundromat building by the main tent, there will be chairs set up, or bring a more comfortable chair if you chose.

I will also be doing a presentation in the new building to show you how the Mallincam works.

Biography:

Murray has been interested in astronomy since he was a teenager and is a member of several astronomy clubs.  He has been involved with Mallincam video astronomy for 6 years.