Astronomers and their tools - Canadian Astronomers

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  1. Jaymie Matthews – Professional Astronomer
  2. Paul Hickson – Professional Astronomer
  3. Jayanne English – Professional Astronomer
  4. Sun Kwok – Professional Astronomer
  5. David Levy – Amateur Astronomer
  6. Terence Dickinson – Amateur Astronomer
  7. Tyler Foster – Astronomy Student

1. Jaymie Matthews – Professional Astronomer

Jaymie Matthews obtained his B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, and his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1987. He is currently a full professor at the University of British Columbia. His research primarily deals with stellar seismology, the study of the interior of stars. Dr. Matthews is the Mission Scientist for the MOST microsatellite project, MOST being an acronym for Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars. The project's microsatellite is a small optical telescope which will measure the oscillations in a star's position, evidence for the presence of planets in orbit around a star. Along with other Canadian astronomers and several UBC graduate students, Dr. Matthews contributed to the construction of this small satellite. Once in orbit (it was launched on June 30, 2003 from Russia), this microsatellite became the most light-sensitive optical device of its generation.

2. Paul Hickson - Professional Astronmer

Paul Hickson

Paul Hickson obtained his B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1971 and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology, in 1976. He joined the Department of Geophysics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia in 1978 and is now a full professor there in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. His research interests include cosmology, extragalactic astronomy, galaxies, and astronomical techniques. He has also contributed to the development of both the Gemini Telescope and the Next Generation Space Telescope, renamed the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and is currently involved in the development and application of liquid-mirror telescopes.

Dr. Hickson's research involves both remote and nearby galaxies, studying the formation and evolution of these gravitationally bound systems. He has been a major contributor to the construction of the world's largest liquid mercury telescopes. A liquid mercury telescope has a primary mirror of liquid mercury, the base of the mirror spinning at a rate which generates a perfect parabolic surface. Dr. Hickson is heading an international team of scientists from the University of British Columbia, Laval University and the Institute d'Astrophysique de Paris in the construction of a 6-metre telescope 70 kilometres east of Vancouver. The telescope will be one of the largest in the world, at only a fraction of the cost. Because a liquid mercury telescope is limited to observing areas of the sky directly overhead, they will not replace conventional telescopes, but because of their low cost they are an important aid in astronomical research.

3. Jayanne English - Professional Astronomer

Jayanne English

Like many families in Toronto, Canada, Dr. Jayanne English's traveled on weekends up to cottage country, where they had a mesmerizing view of the sky. Perhaps this is why Jayanne cannot remember a time when she was not fascinated by astronomy. Before her graduation from the Ontario College of Art, she had already begun the B.Sc. program in astronomy at the University of Toronto, where, as befitting an artist, she is remembered as colourful. Her Ph.D. adventure was under the starry skies"down under" at Mount Stromlo & Siding Spring Observatories in Australia, under the supervision of Prof. Ken Freeman. After her Ph.D. was granted in 1994 from the Australian National University, she enjoyed the Canadian snows and two enriching post-doctoral fellowships, with Judith Irwin, at Queen's University. She then promoted the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey (CGPS/RCPG) to her astronomy colleagues in Baltimore at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) where she had an unusual post-doctoral fellowship coordinating the Hubble Heritage project and authoring the Hubble Heritage website. Jayanne also contributed to the creation of Hubble Heritage color pictures of astronomical objects, sometimes taking on the role of main imagemaker. She now is enjoying her position, which she started in 2002, as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba.

Jayanne's research interests include the behaviour of gas in interacting galaxies and the exchanges of mass and energy between a galaxy's disk and its halo. At the moment she is particularly obsessed with the CGPS Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory data showing a mushroom-shaped cloud bursting more than 1000 light-years out of the plane of the Milky Way. As well as leading a team of researchers studying this cloud, she's made images of it and other gas features in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy.

The team-work nature of astronomy research in Canada is particularly appealing to Jayanne. Rather than working alone on a project, she works with other astronomers studying the matter that exists between the stars in our Milky Way galaxy. For example, the team that"captured" the mushroom-shaped cloud consisted of 6 astronomers spread out from Calgary to Quebec. The CGPS survey was so successful that it grew into the International Galactic Plane Survey. As members of this new survey, Jayanne and her colleague at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Samar Safi-Harb, are trying to determine whether stars during their death throes can create these mushroom-shaped clouds. They meet with about 30 of their Survey colleagues each year, sharing their excitement about their discoveries and their plans. These meetings are more than a series of lectures. The astronomers use these meetings to contribute to each others projects, to organize how they will work together, and to plan together their next projects. Jayanne finds working with these colleagues not only inspiring but tremendously fun.

The opportunities for producing astronomical images from HST and CGPS datasets in the past few years have distracted Jayanne from curating art shows and exhibiting her other artworks. However her cooking is still artistically delicious and adventurous. Another interest is bicycling, which she uses to try to minimize the effects of her cooking.

4. Sun Kwok - Professional Astronomer

Sun Kwok

Dr. Sun Kwok, Professor of Astronomy, University of Calgary Killam Fellow, Canada Council for the Arts

Principal Investigator (Canadian Astronomy) of the Odin satellite Chairman, International Astronomical Union Working Group on Planetary Nebulae (1994-2001)

Author of two books ("The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae", Cambridge University Press 2000; "Cosmic Butterflies", Cambridge University Press, 2001) and over 200 papers in scientific journals.

Dr. Kwok has made extensive astronomical observations with many space telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Infrared Space Observatory, Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, and the Chandra X-ray Telescope.

Dr. Kwok is an expert in the study of the late stages of stellar evolution, and is best known for his theory on the formation of planetary nebulae. His current research interest is centred on the infrared spectroscopic study of organic compounds in the interstellar medium

Space Astronomy Laboratory Website

5. David Levy - Amateur Astronomer

David Levy

David Levy has discovered 21 comets, eight with a telescope in his backyard observatory, and 13 which he shared with Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker. One of these comets, Shoemaker-Levy 9, collided with Jupiter in the summer of 1994, resulting in the greatest explosion ever witnessed on another world.

David is science editor for Parade Magazine, and writes the column "Science on Parade". David recently was awarded an Emmy for writing the television documentary "Three Minutes to Impact."

Since 1988, David has been writing the monthly column Star Trails in Sky & Telescope magazine.

David has appeared on many television shows, like Today, Good Morning America, and World News Tonight, where he and Gene Shoemaker and Carolyn Shoemaker were named "Person of the Week" for July 22, 1994.

David has been awarded two honorary doctorate (DSc) degrees, one each from Queen's University (1994) and Acadia University (1995).

David has recently been accepted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he is writing a Ph. D. Dissertation for the Department of English on the topic of King Lear, an exploding star, and the battle between Astrology and Astronomy

David graduated B.A. (English) from Acadia University in 1972 and M.A. (English) from Queen's University in 1979.

David is adjunct scientist and member of the Senior Advisory Board for the Flandrau Science Center in Tucson, on the campus of the University of Arizona, near the Lunar & Planetary Laboratory.

David is Honorary President of the Kingston Centre and of the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

David has never taken a formal astronomy course

* Biography from David H. Levy's homepage

6. Terence Dickinson - Amateur Astronomer

Terence Dickinson

Terence Dickinson has been editor of SkyNews since the magazine's first issue in 1995. He has been involved in astronomy full-time since 1967 as a writer, an editor, a teacher and a broadcaster.

He is Canada's leading author of astronomy books for both adults and children. Notable among his 14 books is NightWatch, one of the best-selling stargazing books in the world. His popular articles on astronomy have appeared in dozens of magazines, from Reader's Digest to Popular Mechanics.

He is a weekly columnist for The Toronto Star and a regular commentator for the Canadian Discovery Channel and CBC Radio. Asteroid 5272 Dickinson is named after him.

In 1995, he was appointed by the Governor General as a Member of the Order of Canada.

* Biography from SkyNews website

7. Tyler Foster - Astronomy Student

A Christmas gift of Terence Dickinson's "Nightwatch" in 1983 is the earliest inspiration Tyler Foster had to follow a career in astronomy. A rickety refracting telescope followed, as did involvement with the Edmonton chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. While working towards his B.A. in English Literature (earned in 1992), Tyler was encouraged by local professional astronomers, and participated in the early days of CCD astronomical research with small telescopes. He also served multiple public education roles in astronomy.

A past lack of success with high school mathematics and physics was overcome when Tyler graduated with an Honors B.Sc. in theoretical physics from the University of Alberta in 1998. By then, he was a published researcher in the field of CCD photometry and variable stars, teaching children's and adult education courses on the science of the night sky, and credited with the implementation of hardware and software creation for the CCD system attached to the 1/2 meter telescope at University of Alberta's Devon Astronomical Observatory.

A well-rounded experience in many wavelengths of astronomy is key to the success of the modern astronomer. Therefore, for his M.Sc. Tyler joined the Canadian Galactic Plane Survey, and began working in a truly multi-wavelength team environment. Mentoring under many of Canada's finest working astronomers working on the survey helped him to become a fluent radio astronomer. He is now pursuing the Ph.D. degree, bringing techniques from optical and radio wavelengths together to create new multi-wavelength approaches to answering questions focussed on the structure of the Milky Way Galaxy. Currently, it is the dust content of our Galaxy that obsesses him, as he believes it can be turned into a tool for measuring distances to objects withinthe Milky Way.

When not observing, Tyler likes to remind himself of the concepts of mass and gravity by weightlifting.