The presence in Victoria of both the Astronomy Group at UVic and the HIA gives Victoria the largest per capita concentration of astronomers in Canada, and the vibrancy of this community offers undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral and visiting researchers with a diversity of research opportunities, ranging from theoretical, observational and computational cosmology to adaptive optics, from stellar structure to active galactic nuclei, from the optical to the submillimeter, from supernovae to astronomical instrumentation, unparalleled elsewhere in Canada.

The primary research interests of the UVic Astronomy group members are:

    • Theoretical, Observational and Computational Cosmology
    • Formation and Evolution of Galaxies and Galaxy Systems
    • Chemical and Dynamical evolution of Galaxies, Extragalactic Astronomy
    • Galactic Structure and Extragalactic Radio Astronomy
    • Origin of the elements, chemical evolution of populations and galaxies
    • Formation, evolution and death of stars
    • Gravitational Lensing, Binary, Multiple and Variable Stars,
    • Gravitation and Black Hole Physics, Relativity and Relativistic Astrophysics
    • Observational and Theoretical studies of Globular Clusters Stellar Populations
    • Search for Extra-Solar Planets, Comets and Asteroids
    • Laboratory Astrophysics, Astronomical Instrumentation and Software.

     

 

 

Arif Babul Dave Balam Patrick Cote
David Crampton Aaron Dotter Sara Ellison
Laura Ferrarese Alex Fullerton Ann Gower
David Hartwick Falk Herwig Jim Hesser
John Hutchings Alan Irwin Werner Israel
Douglas Johnstone JJ Kavelaars Julio Navarro
Chris Pritchet Russ Robb Sidney van den Bergh
Colin Scarfe Peter B. Stetson Don Vandenberg
Kim Venn John Willis Stephenson Yang

 

 

Arif Babul, BASc (Toronto), PhD (Princeton)

University of Victoria Distinguished Professor; Founding Director of Canadian Computational Cosmology Collaboration (C4)

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Arif Babul is a physical cosmologist whose research seeks to understand how the dark matter distribution in the Universe, having emerged from the Big Bang event in a remarkably smooth, homogeneous state, coalesces into discreet observable structures like galaxies and clusters of galaxies. He is especially interested in identifying the physical processes that determine the observable physical properties of these systems.

Over the past few years, Prof. Babul has focused his energies primarily on understanding the formation and evolution of galaxy groups and clusters, which collectively rank among the largest, most massive (the largest of such systems have masses equivalent to that of 10,000 billion suns or a 1000 Milky Way-like galaxies), dynamically stable, gravitationally bound systems in the Universe. Originally thought to be the simplest (and hence, the most boring) of the cosmological systems, recent X-ray, optical and radio observations reveal that these systems are abuzz with activity: ranging from powerful shocks arising when groups and clusters are drawn by their mutual gravity, crash together, to nearly galaxy-sized "bubbles" inflated by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies orbiting within these systems. Theoretical and analytic analyses by Babul and collaborators, among others, suggest that all of these processes play a critical role in shaping the observable properties of these systems. But how? That is the question at the heart of Babul's work. And in pursuit of this question, Babul uses the full gamut of tools available to modern-day cosmologists - from the development of intuitive, physically motivated, analytic models that offer physical insights into the problem to sophisticated, high resolution numerical simulations run on some of the world's most powerful supercomputers.

In addition to his study on groups and clusters, Babul is also actively engaged in modeling the evolution of satellites in orbit around galaxies like the Andromeda and the Milky Way. He and his collaborators are especially interested in understanding the origin of the a number of tidal features observed in the Andromeda galaxy, including a 100 kiloparsec long, nearly linear trail of stars (the Giant Southern Stream).

Beyond this, Babul is always open to working on any interesting astrophysical phenomena that captures his imagination. In the past, he has worked on a variety of topics including: gravitational lensing, accretion onto black holes, x-ray bursts from neutron stars, gamma ray bursts from high redshift sources, as well as the physics of superconducting cosmic strings.

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Research Associate; Member of Near-Earth Surveillance space mission science team

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Dave Balam is the principal observer of the Near-Earth object tracking program (Spaceguard Canada) of the University of Victoria. The program has been conducted over the past 24 years using the telescopes of the Climenhaga Observatory (University of Victoria) and for the past ten years with the 1.82-m Plaskett telescope of the National Research Council of Canada. Balam has discovered thirty-seven new minor planets and one comet (Comet Zhu-Balam 1997 L1) during the course of the program. Balam maintains direct collaborations with the Spacewatch Program (University of Arizona), the Spaceguard Central Node (Rome) and the Minor Planet Center (Commission 20 of the International Astronomical Union). Dave Balam is a member of the science team of the Near-Earth Surveillance space mission sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency and the Department of National Defence.

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Adjunct Associate Professor (University of Victoria), Principal Research Officer (National Research Council, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics)

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Pat Côté received his Ph.D. degree in 1994 from McMaster University. Following postdoctoral appointments as a Plaskett fellow at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA-NRC)in Victoria and as a Sherman Fairchild fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, he worked as a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University from 2000 to 2004. In 2004, he returned to Canada as a senior research astronomer at HIA. He is the author of roughly 100 papers in the professional literature and is a frequent user of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope, the W.O. Keck Observatory and Gemini Telescopes, and the Very Large Telescope in Chile. His research interests include the study of dark matter, galaxy evolution, supermassive black holes, star clusters and galactic nuclei. He was the principal investigator of the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey, which used the Hubble Space Telescope to study the properties of galaxies in the nearby Virgo Cluster. He is the lead scientist for two large projects that are presently under development: the Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and uv Research (CASTOR) and the Next Generation Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (ngCFHT).

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Research Officer and Head of the Optical Instrument Group (HIA); Limited Term Professor

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Crampton's current research focuses on the high redshift Universe, principally through searches and studies of extremely high redshift galaxies, quasars and gravitational lenses. He is also the leader of the optical instrument group at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory who are constructing spectrographs and adaptive optic systems for the Gemini Telescopes, and designing instruments for the Next Generation Space Telescope. The commissioning phases of these instruments offer opportunities to exploit the latest technological innovations to explore the Universe.

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Research Associate; Canadian FUSE Mission Support Astronomer

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I am working as a Canadian support scientist for the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer satellite observatory. FUSE was developed jointly by NASA, CNES, and CSA; it is operated by the Johns Hopkins University, where I am stationed. It is designed to obtain high-resolution spectra of faint sources in the 900-1200 Å wavelength region. I work in the science data processing group on software to characterize and improve the calibration of FUSE spectra. I support Canadian participation in the mission by serving as the point of contact for Canadian Guest Investigators concerning technical and policy issues. FUSEalso provides a unique source of data for my research into the atmospheres of hot, massive stars, especially the outflows of material known as stellar winds. I am deeply involved in work to characterize mass loss via stellar winds as a function of metallicity by modeling FUV spectra of OB stars in the Galaxy and Magellanic Clouds. I am also using the rich variety of FUV spectral diagnostics to understand the origin of the variability commonly observed in hot-star winds.

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Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Cosmology

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Dr Ellison works on high redshift galaxies and is particularly interested in how their star formation affects their chemical composition. There are a number of techniques that can be used to probe the chemical evolution of galaxies, and Dr Ellison uses data gathered from large optical and radio telescopes to address such issues as: What is the star formation history of the most distant galaxies? How are galaxies affected by their environments? Are the products of star formation spread throughout the intergalactic medium?

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Associate Professor

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Dr Gower's research has focussed on the study of radiogalaxies and quasars in the hope of gaining a better understanding of the evolution of these enigmatic objects. Together with her colleagues she has used the Very Large Array to map the radio structure of a large sample of quasars covering a wide range of luminosity and redshift. Two questions in which she is especially interested are how far relativistic effects can explain the observed radio structures and also what triggers the onset of radio emission from these objects, particularly in the form of radio jets.

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Professor

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Hartwick's primary research interest is the formation and evolution of galaxies. This problem can be approached observationally in at least two ways. Either one can make observations of high redshift objects with the largest ground-based and space-based telescopes and interpret the appearance of the universe when it was only 10% of its present age or one can observe the oldest objects in our own Galaxy and its neighbourhood and from the spatial, kinematical, and chemical information obtained attempt to learn just how our own Galaxy and others nearby formed. Harwick favours the latter and notes that insights gained along the way will also shed light on the dark matter problem.

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Assistant Professor

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Herwig investigates the formation of the elements in stars. His research includes aspects of nuclear astrophysics, stellar evolution and stellar hydrodynamics. The research involves large-scale multi-physics computer simulations of mixing processes in stars as well as the detailed nucleosynthesis in a wide range of nuclear production sites in stars and stellar explosions. The goal of this research is to develop a predictive and accurate understanding of how the elements are made. This can then be used by other researchers, including in our group at Victoria, to address problems, for example in galactic archeology - the search for and analysis of the first generations of stars.

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Director of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory; Adjunct Professor

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Hesser has worked on many different topics during his career, from laboratory astrophysics to observed properties of ZZ Ceti and other classes of variable stars. His current research interests involve stellar populations in the Milky Way, its satellites, and relatively nearby galaxies, with an emphasis on determining absolute and relative ages for, and the duration of, the initial epoch of star, and massive star cluster, formation. These studies involve a combination of precision photometric and spectroscopic techniques using large ground-based telescopes as well as the Hubble Space Telescope. The ultimate goal of these studies is to provide hard constraints on, and insight into, how large galaxies form and evolve.

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Research Officer (Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics; Limited Term Professor The Canadian Principal Investigator and Program Scientist for FUSE;

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Hutchings is involved in several space astronomy and instrument development projects. He is also a team member for the HST, FUSE, CUVIT, NGST projects. Hutchings' research activities span a range of topics including:

  1. Investigation of active galaxies (quasars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies) through direct imaging and spectroscopy in UV, optical, NIR, and radio wavelengths as well as studying the dynamics of emission line regions and the morphologies of host galaxies in variety of environments both locally and at high redshifts. This investigation involves extensive use of HST, CFHT adaptive optics, far UV spectra, and 21cm spectra.
  2. Study of X-ray binary systems to determine stellar masses, the evolutionary history, the nature of the accretion processes, and the physics of formation of jets. This study involves the joint analyses of both X-ray observations as well as imaging and spectroscopy data from ground-based telescopes.
  3. Study of massive hot stars in nearby galaxies in order to learn about mass-loss due to winds as well as the differences in the stellar populations, the star-formation histories and the interstellar extinction between galaxies. This work relies heavily on spectra acquired from HST, FUSE, and ground-based telescopes.

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Irwin is interested in using the velocity and gravitational field known for the Earth as a function of time to predict the difference in clock rate between proper and coordinate time. This transformation is important for reducing spacecraft ranging, pulsar timing, and precise radial velocity observations, and he has recently reduced the uncertainty of this transformation to 0.1 ns -- two orders of magnitude better than previous results. Irwin is also interested in combining the synthetic spectrum technique, stellar-interior modeling, and orbital analysis to determine the chemical abundance and physical properties of binary stars. To support this research and also to potentially support future research in astroseismology with Don VandenBerg, he has made significant improvements to the equations of state that are used for stellar-interior calculations and synthetic spectrum calculations.

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FRS, FRASC, CIAR Fellow and Adjunct Professor

General relativity is a nonlinear field theory, and the most subtle of all field theories in that it describes the long-range field that creates and moulds the arena in which every other field has to play its role. Astronomical science has advanced to the point where we routinely encounter situations - some undoubtedly real, others still more or less hypothetical - where the influence of this field reaches out from highly concentrated, localized sources to deform the global topology and causal structure of vast regions of space, or even the entire universe. In this difficult realm, the nonlinear aspects of the field are fully unleashed, ordinary intuition falters and the 75-year old theory of Einstein continues to spring surprises on us. The most profound challenge now facing general relativists and cosmologists is to come to grips with these nonlinearities using the complete arsenal of presently available analytical and numerical techniques.

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Associate Research Officer (HIA-NRC); Adjunct Assistant Professor

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Johnstone works in the interface between observational and theoretical star formation, specifically on the structure of star-forming regions on grand scales and on circumstellar disk dispersal. Applying theoretical models to the ground-breaking observations taken recently by his colleagues and himself with the JCMT, he is probing the morphology of molecular clouds and the fragmentation properties which lead to the production of individual stars in an effort to understand this complicated process. With the advent of ALMA at the end of the decade, these models will quickly be testable and should aid in the designing of dedicated experiments with the first of the World Observatories to probe star formation at appropriate scales.

He also continues to work constraining the lifetime of circumstellar disks, and thus the timescale for formation of planetary systems, by expanding on our present models for evaporation of disks and producing new theoretical models for other possible disk destruction mechanisms. Observations with HST and CFHT have been instrumental in understanding the complex interaction of the evaporating disk material and the ambient ISM. All of these endeavours have benefitted from graduate (and undergraduate) involvement.

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Senior Research Officer (HIA-NRC); Adjunct Associate Professor

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Kavelaars works on the surveys of the content of the outer solar system, the Kuiper belt, as a probe of planet formation. Most famous for his discoveries of irregular satellites of the giant planets, JJ's research is now focussing on the dynamics at the end of the formation of the giant planets. JJ is the 'Archive Scientist' for the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and makes extensive use of archival data and imaging processing techniques in his research.

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CIAR Fellow; Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow; Professor; Deputy Director of C4

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Navarro's research interests are centered on the formation and evolution of galaxy systems within the overall cosmological context. Within this broad topic, he is particularly interested in several subtopics:

  1. understanding the clues to the nature of the elusive 'dark matter' that may be drawn from the internal dynamics of galaxies,
  2. the origin of galaxy morphologies, and their link to the overall accretion history,
  3. the assembly and evolution of galaxy clusters, the most massive equilibrium systems in the Universe today, with special emphasis on the physics of the hot, X-ray emitting intracluster medium.

Navarro's favorite tool is numerical simulations of the formation of these objects, based on initial conditions motivated by our current understanding of the early universe, and including the major physical processes that we believe are responsible for the structure of galaxies: hydrodynamical shocks, gravity, heating and cooling processes, star formation, supernovae and winds form massive stars. Putting it all together in one single numerical code is a challenge that Navarro tries to overcome using the fastest supercomputers available today (such as the Minerva supercomputer at UVic--the fastest academic supercomputer in Canada) as well as on dedicated hardware. Past progress makes him confident that astronomers are not too far away from providing thoughtful answers to age-old questions pertaining the origin of galaxies like our own Milky Way.

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Professor

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Pritchet works on observational extragalactic astronomy, ranging from stellar populations in the Local Group, to distant supernovae at the edge of the Universe, to primeval galaxies (that is, galaxies in their first collapse and star formation phases) at look-back times of order 90 percent of the age of the Universe. His current research interests include understanding the progenitors of Type Ia supernovae. He is also involved in software development for astronomical image processing.

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Research Associate; Senior Scientific Assistant

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Extrasolar planets, high precision photometry, variable stars and robotic telescopes are Russell Robb's primary research interests. Our 0.5 meter telescope has been automated to the point that once initialized, it will autonomously observe a star field all night. High precision photometry is essential for the search for transits of planets known to orbit nearby stars. Our program of searching for light variations of known X-Ray and EUV sources has led us to discover numerous variable stars of the eclipsing, spotted, and pulsating types.

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Professor Emeritus

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Binary stars that are resolved by the telescope can have their orbits determined from visual observations, but the stellar masses cannot be found unless the system's distance is known. Those that are not resolved can often be studied spectroscopically, but this leaves ambiguous the orbit's orientation and provides only lower limits to stellar masses. Combination of the two types of observation, for the same system, avoids these difficulties, and thanks to recent advances in techniques for high angular resolution, a rapidly increasing number of binary systems is available for such studies. The low velocity amplitudes and long periods of visually resolved pairs, however, require the use of a spectrograph that is both accurate and stable. Dr. Scarfe makes use of the coude spectrograph of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory's 1.2 m telescope for studies of the velocity variations of these systems, including several in which one (or both) visually resolved component is itself a close binary star. In order to be sure that the spectrograph is stable, he also makes observations of standard stars, and is contributing to attempts to improve the International Astronomical Union's system of such standards.

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Adjunct Professor

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Stetson is primarily interested in the observational study of stellar populations: photometry, astrometry, and spectroscopy to study the history of our Galaxy and other nearby galaxies. He particularly specializes in the development of advanced computer software for the automatic analysis of digital images and spectra.

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Professor

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Through a study of the Galactic globular clusters, it should be possible to answer such questions as "What is the age difference between the youngest and oldest clusters?" and "What are their spreads in age as a function of metallicity and Galactocentric distance?" Because these numbers set the basic timescales for the formation of the halo, they provide fundamental input into our understanding of how galaxies evolve. Moreover, the age of the oldest cluster is an important cosmological constraint since the universe cannot be younger than its constituents. In their on-going effort to resolve these issues, VandenBerg and his group are incorporating helium and metals diffusion into their models, studying the consequences of deep-mixing in giant-branch stars, and extending the model grids to include the horizontal-branch and asymptotic giant branch phases. These calculations, which are tightly constrained by observations, will ultimately be used to synthesize the stellar populations of distant systems. D.A.V. has also been involved in a recent HST program to search for planets and he has joined a collaboration which proposes to use the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) to measure direct trigonometric distances to the nearest globulars.

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Adjunct Professor

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Van den Bergh current research interests include:

  1. Studies of galaxy morphology. Examinations of the the Hubble Deep Field and its environs have shown that galaxies are still evolving quite fast and that the Hubble classification scheme only applies to objects with redshifts <0.3, corresponding to ages less than ~4 Gyr. Preliminary results from recent analyses indicate that the "grand design" spirals and barred spirals do not occur at large redshifts.
  2. Studies of the systematics of globular cluster systems around galaxies of various types. These investigations appear to show that giant elliptical galaxies have had a wider range of evolutionary histories than other galaxy types.
  3. Using globular clusters to study the early evolution of the Milky Way sytem. This work does NOT favor the popular view that most of the Galactic halo formed from captured dwarf galaxies.

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Assistant Professor

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My research covers the use of large astronomical surveys undertaken at X-ray and optical wavelengths and how they reveal the relationship between galaxies and the environment in which they are located. I am also leading the ZEN survey: an important study that aims to detect the most distant, and therefore youngest, stars and galaxies in the Universe.

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Research Associate, Adjunct Associate Professor

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Yang's main interests is the application of stellar spectroscopy, specifically the high-precision radial velocities measurements, to detect sub-stellar objects (eg. planets) in orbit around nearby stars. The technique of precise stellar radial velocity has also been applied to discover and study low-amplitude late-type variables. In addition, Yang is also involved with the study of stellar non-radial pulsations using Doppler imaging of line profiles in early-type stars. Yang's other interests include the study of x-ray binaries and WR stars.

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