2018 Spring Lecture Series


For fifty years, mankind has been sending sophisticated robotic explorers to places humans aren't yet able to travel to in person...

Join us as we examine some of the most remarkable discoveries being made by the latest of Humanity's Celestial Messengers that are exploring the outer planets of our Solar System.

Each week we look at a different planet. We begin with a review of what our ancestors knew and thought (earliest observations and applications, folklore, etc.) and provide practical information about where, when and how to observe the planet for yourself. (Note that planet viewing opportunities are being planned for the David Dunlap Observatory this Summer). We then quickly review our modern understanding about each planet and what makes it special, setting the stage for our main discussion about the intended purpose and remarkable discoveries being made by spacecraft recently or currently exploring each planet.

No prior knowledge of astronomy or space research is assumed; all terms and concepts will be explained.

The EWTA discussions are a continuation of the well-received "Evenings at the Observatory" lecture series program provided by the lecturers while they were working for the University of Toronto at the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) in Richmond Hill, home of the largest optical telescope in Canada...


Program Schedule

I. SATURN & Farwell to Cassini.
Last year, careening through the heavens at over 30 km every second, signals from the Cassini spacecraft came to an abrupt end at 7:55 am EDT on Friday, Sept. 15 as the stoic explorer began to burn up in Saturn's atmosphere. This demise was planned, to keep the nearly spent vehicle from accidentally crashing into any of Saturn's family of over five dozen strange and marvelous moons. We'll show some of the most beautiful images sent to us during the thirteen years Cassini was orbiting Saturn and discuss the science behind them, including the discovery that at least two of Saturn's moons may be teeming with Life that didn't originate on Earth.
II. JUPITER & the JUNO Mission.
The Juno spacecraft arrived at Jupiter in 2017 and has completed its first 11 orbits about the Solar System's largest planet. Juno's primary mission is to discover what really resides at the very heart of the planet, which weighs more than 300 Earths and is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. Jupiter's gravity pulls so strongly inwards that the hydrogen in Jupiter is predicted to be crushed into a superconducting metal. But is this really true? We'll discuss this and much more, including how amateur astronomers back on Earth are providing observations that are essential to the success of the Juno mission.
III. PLUTO & the New Horizons Missions.
In 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up view of Pluto, a world so far away that the Hubble Space Telescope only ever sees Pluto as a tiny spot just a few pixels across! The revelations from New Horizons shows that Pluto and its moon Charon are much more interesting than we ever imagined! And the spacecraft is not done yet: it’s travelling an additional billion km to intercept and study another of these “Kuiper Belt Objects” on New Year’s Day 2019.
IV. MARS & Curiosity.
The Curiosity rover has just completed its 2000th day roaming the surface of Mars exploring the rocks and soil of Gale crater and Mount Sharp while several spacecraft orbiting high above study the Martian atmosphere. They are all looking for signs of life. We'll examine the latest findings, as well as discuss the prospects for and worries about Humans going to Mars and living there in the near future.
May 2

The two-hour weekly discussions are initially being offered on Wednesdays* from 7:00 - 9:00 pm starting April 11 at the David Dunlap Observatory, 123 Hillsview Drive in Richmond Hill (west of Bayview & south of Weldrick Rd.).

(* We are considering requests to provide these lectures on an additional day of the week. Use the Registration Form to let us know that you would like to attend but can't come on Wednesdays.)


Registration FEE:   $125** + HST (i.e.- $141.25)
(** See Registration form for discounts; Fee includes light refreshments.)
Enrollment is limited.

About the Lecturers

picture of Ian Shelton Dr. Shelton has spent 30 years studying variations in the brightness and the spectra of stars to learn about their structure, composition and evolution.

Ian has taught Physics and Astronomy at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, studied the Aurora at Athabasca University in Alberta, and continues to teach Astronomy at the University of Toronto. Dr. Shelton is an honorary Lifetime Member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in recognition for his discovery of Supernova 1987A, the first supernova visible to the unaided eye since Kepler's supernova of 1604. He has been a staff member at some of the largest observatories in the world, including the 6.5-metre MMT in Arizona and Japan's 8.3-metre Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.

picture of Tuba Koktay Dr. Tuba Koktay is a graduate of the University of Istanbul where she studied the spectroscopic variations of hot, young stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

Tuba is continuing the research she started with University of Toronto Professor R. F. Garrison, one of the world's foremost experts in the classification of stars. She ran the Outreach programs at the David Dunlap Observatory before its sale by the University of Toronto in 2008.