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 Next Meeting: Friday May 9, 2014 7:30pm
We normally meet on the second Friday of each month except July and August.

Welcoming Our Computer Overlords in Astronomy

Our society has seen computers become an important aspect in almost every facet of life. Within astronomy, computers are used to control our telescopes, process and analyze our images, and even create entire new (simulated) universes of our own. With every passing year simulations become more sophisticated as they increase in size, resolution, and physical detail, allowing us unique views into any possible history our Universe might have had.

This talk will give an overview of computers in astronomy. I'll focus on the need for computing in observational astronomy and then on the history of astrophysical simulations. I'll talk about some of the limits and challenges we face with trying to represent our Universe in a computer, and show some of the failures and successes we've had in doing so. I'll finish by talking about the most recent, cutting edge simulations and about my own research in computational astrophysics.


Rory Woods

Rory Woods is a PhD student at McMaster University as well as a presenter at the McCallion Planetarium and the Origins Institute 3D Theater. His research is on computational methods in astrophysics and is applied to galaxy formation.

Location: The Hamilton Spectator Building is located at 44 Frid St, near the junction of Highway 403 and Main St West in Hamilton. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome!
Also: There will be a draw for door prizes at the meeting... a free door prize ticket to all who arrive before 7:30 start time!
HAA supporting our community:
The HAA is collecting donations of non-perishable food for the Hamilton Food Share program.
We are currently collecting at every general meeting.
There will be a drop-off box located near the entrance to the auditorium.
All donations gratefully accepted. Please help.
Thanks to your generousity, we've collected THOUSANDS!! of pounds of food since we began. Let's keep up the great work since the need continues.
NEWS (click on the pictures for more information):
Feb 14, 2014

February meeting roundup

  • McMaster postdoctoral research fellow Rob Cockcroft spoke about Ancient Egyptian Astronomy and his recent field trip to Egypt.
  • Membership Director Leslie Webb made an announcement of a $200 webcam competition that he's donated to the club.
  • Observing Director Matthew Mannering gave his discussion of the Sky this Month, including current events and places in the universe that he would like to visit; sink holes on Mars, ice covered Europa, and the collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy.
  • Jim Wamsley closed the meeting at 9:35 p.m. reminding members of the astrophotography group at his place on Sat. Feb. 15.

Nov 2, 2013

November 20th Anniversary Banquet Roundup

  • The 20th Anniversary Banquet was a great success. To start Joe McArdle had the computer loaded with all the necessary Power Point presentations, and Matthew Mannering and his wife Janice, distributed the door prize tickets. Club members enjoyed the roast chicken dinner provided by the War Plane Heritage Museum's catering staff.

    After dessert and coffee, we launched in to a lineup of speakers that entertained and enlightened us all, starting with John Gauvreau's rendition of "An Astronomical Christmas" poem, as a reason to purchase Your H.A.A. 2014 calendar. Next up was Kevin Salwach, with a great mini talk entitled "What is an Amateur Astronomer". Matthew Mannering then gave us a short lesson in "Celestial Navigation", and the search for longitude. Saving the best for last, Bob McDonald delivered his key note talk, "what would vacations in space look like". Bob's talk was not only funny and entertaining, with fantasy vacations, he also covered the current factual options for vacationing in space.

    After the talks were delivered and the door prizes won, the crowd had the run of the museum for the night.

Oct 11, 2013

October meeting roundup

  • Jim Wamsley reminded everyone of our 20th Anniversary Banquet and announced the HAA 2014 Celestial Events Calendar are on sale. Additional announcements included the November lineup for the McCallion Planetarium at McMaster University, the Telescope Clinic on November 8 and the upcoming astrophotography clinics and cosmology discussion.
  • John Gauvreau presented "The State of the Universe" talk and reminded us about a transit of Jupiter's moons. John also presented photos taken by the MODIS satellite showing algal blooms in Lake Ontario and SOHO photos of a sun-grazing comet. Recent space announcements and the development of theories and knowledge of the universe were also included.
  • Kevin Salwach presented "This Day In Astronomy" outlining historical events from the launching of America's first satellite Pioneer I to Kathryn Sullivan becoming the first woman spacewalker.
  • After our halftime break and the 50/50 draw by Alex Tekatch and Matthew Mannering, HAA Treasurer Steve Germann gave his annual Financial Report for 2013.
  • Jim Wamsley then thanked the outgoing 2012-2013 HAA Council, as well as to the numerous volunteers who helped out at various HAA events throughout the previous 12 months. Jim then presented the proposed HAA Council slate for the 2013-2014 year and opened the floor to nominations.
  • David Tym, Councillor-at-large then officiated the presentation of the new Council, which was declared acclaimed.

Sep 13, 2013

September meeting roundup

  • Jim Wamsley provided a number of welcoming and opening remarks to everyone in attendance. He reminded us of upcoming events including our public night in Grimsby on Sat Sept 14, and our 20th Anniversary dinner in November. He also provided an overview of our Annual General Meeting in October and encouraged members to come forward seeking positions on next year's council.
  • Dr. David Galbraith spoke about his travels to the US Southwest earlier this past spring including his visits to the Lowell Observatory and Barringer Crater. He spoke about the history of the places he went to and their connection to our hobby. Clearly he was inspired by the places he travelled to and encouraged us to also make an effort to go there.
  • Mike Jefferson provided a brief overview of his recent spectroscopy efforts.
  • After the break, Kevin Salwach and John Gauvreau each gave rousing presentations of their This Date In Astronomy History, and The Sky This Month respectively. In particular John showed a number of member-submitted photos taken over the summer months.

June 14, 2013

June meeting roundup

  • Jim Wamsley welcomed everyone to the June meeting. Jim reminded everyone that this was our last meeting until Sept, but to keep an eye on your emails for notification of upcoming public events and observing sessions, either at Binbrook or impromptu sidewalk astronomy sessions. Jim also indicated that sales of tickets for our 20th Anniversary dinner are going slowly and encouraged people to buy them soon so we could pay for the event and guest speaker, Bob McDonald who's being flown in from BC for the dinner.
  • Dr. Christine Wilson provided a very interesting recap of the science and results coming in from the Herschel Space Observatory which has recently ended it's primary mission. She also provided an overview of the early work that's going on at ALMA which is still under construction, but already producing excellent results. Both programs studies the Universe in infrared or in submillimeter wavelengths which are invisible to us, but reveals many things that we can't see with visible light.
  • Mike Spicer indicated he had some batteries available for various types of observing lights.
  • After the break, John Gauvreau, our observing director, provided a photo review of Cherry Springs Star Party, attended by 9 HAA members. He then followed with some objects to see this month, mostly paying attention to the area around the Summer Triangle (Deneb, Lyra and Altair). As always, more info can be found in the June EH newsletter.

May 10, 2013

May meeting roundup

  • Jim Wamsley, our club chair, welcomed everyone to the May meeting. Jim summarized some of the upcoming club events including wrap up of the Astronomy 101 sessions, cosmology group and Grimsby Public Stargazing Night on May 18.
  • Phil Mozel, a science educator, War of 1812 recreation enthusiast and amateur astronomer provided us with an interesting overview of the astronomical history that was transpiring during the time leading up to and surrounding the War of 1812.
  • After the break, Mike Spicer talked briefly about the Pocket Sky Atlas and had a few for sale.
  • Kevin Salwach provided another one of his "This Date In History" sessions, noting some of the astronomy related events that occured on May 10 throughout history.
  • John Gauvreau, our observing director, showed some recent club member photos and provided an overview of some of the upcoming celestial objects for May. More info can be found in the May EH newsletter.

April 12, 2013

April meeting roundup

  • Club chair Jim Wamsley welcomed more than 80 members and guests to the April meeting. Jim summarized some of the upcoming club events including Astronomy 101 sessions, astro-photography group and Astronomy Day coming up on April 20.
  • Dr. Doug Welch gave an overview of his ongoing research into light echoes from supernovae and gave us an interesting update on where it's going and what it's telling us including some confirming evidence of asymmetry in supernova explosions.
  • After the break, Kevin Salwach highlighted some of the notable events that occured on April 12 throughout history.
  • John Gauvreau, our observing director, showed some recent club member photos and provided an overview of some of the upcoming celestial objects for April. More info can be found in the April EH newsletter.

March 8, 2013

March meeting roundup

  • With over 100 members and guests in attendance, club chair Jim Wamsley welcomed everyone to the March meeting. Jim summarized some of the upcoming club events including Astronomy 101 sessions, astro-photography group and the Telescope Clinic on March 22.
  • Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn provided an overview of her journey from her first scope at 11 through early film astro-photographs, through her evolution to becoming one of the premier astro- photographers. She showed us many of her fanastic images, including collaborations she's done with other notables such as Paul Mortfield and Steff Cancelli.
  • After the break, Kevin Salwach highlighted some of the notable events that occured on March 8 throughout history.
  • Mario Carr gave us an overview of his work helping to promote the club in print and TV.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau wrapped things up with a quick reminder about comet PanSTARRS coming into view after sunset in the western horizon. Details can be found in the March EH newsletter.

February 8, 2013

February meeting cancelled

  • Due to the major snowstorm that hit our area today, regrettably we had to cancel the February meeting for the safety of our members and guests.
    Our guest speaker, Dr Christine Wilson, has graciously agreed to reschedule her presentation for our June meeting.

January 11, 2013

January meeting roundup

  • Club chair Jim Wamsley welcomed everyone to the January meeting. We had a full house with more than 100 in attendance, with a significant number of first-timers. Jim provided some comments about the beginners program starting Jan 19 and the scope loaner program.
  • Dr Laura Parker provided an overview of galaxy types and formation. She talked about galactic collisions and how elliptical and spiral galaxies form and change (evolve) over time. Then she covered some of her research into galaxy groups - an intermediary stage between isolated galaxies and galaxy clusters.
  • After the break, Justin O'Donnell provided an overview of the Mars One program.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau wrapped things up with a humourous look at a "bad" commercial with an astronomy theme to it, and a brief Stellarium view of the night sky and emphasized that Jupiter is currently at its best point for observing.

December 14, 2012

December meeting roundup

  • Club chair Jim Wamsley welcomed everyone to the December meeting and announced the start up of a new beginners club which will meet regularly to cover the basics of telescopes and how to find objects in the sky.
  • KW Telescope store owners Brady Johnson and Brian Dernesch showed off some of the new mounts they have at the store, plus Brady gave an interesting presentation on photometry (monitoring the varying brightness of stars).
  • After the break, Kevin Salwach gave a short presentation on the various events and people that shared today's anniversary, including the birth of Tycho Brahe who happened to share the same birthday as Kevin.
  • Dr. David Galbraith of the Royal Botanical Gardens showed us some of his nighttime photography and discussed a course he was going to hold at the RBG.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau closed the night with a discussion on the objects we can enjoy this time of year, including some interesting notes on Jupiter and the Geminids.

November 9, 2012

November meeting roundup

  • New club chair Jim Wamsley welcomed everyone to the November meeting.
    He also made a special presentation to Dave Gaylor to thank him on behalf of the club for his generous donation of his Celestron SCT and accessories to be used for our scope loaner program and public events.
  • John Gauvreau talked about the 2013 HAA Calendar which has many wonderful images from club members.
  • HAA member Don Pullen provided an introduction to radio and amateur radio astronomy.
  • After the break, Kevin Salwach gave a short presentation on the various events and people that shared today's anniversary, including the birth of Carl Sagan.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau tried to convey a sense of scale of things in the Universe, and then followed with a short presentation of things that can be seen in the sky this month using the open source software Stellarium.
  • Jim made some closing remarks, reminded folks about the Telescope Clinic on Nov 23 and the Cosmology discussion group meeting on Dec 1, and thanked everyone for attending.

October 12, 2012

October meeting roundup

  • Club chair Bob Christmas opened the HAA's Annual General Meeting with some welcoming remarks.
  • Club secretary Jim Wamsley spoke briefly about the telescope loaner program and the success of the Food Share program, thanking those who've contributed.
  • Treasurer Steve Germann provided a detailed financial report on the club in the Treasurer's Year End report.
  • Don Pullen conducted the elections for the officers of the club for the 2012-2013 year. Congratulations to the new council.
  • The official portion of the meeting was closed.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau broke from his usual monthly presentation, and as a treat to the less experienced members and guests, provided his Tour of the Universe talk. It was light, interesting and fun - well appreciated by everyone in attendance.

September 7, 2012

September meeting roundup

  • After our summer break, club chair Bob Christmas welcomed everyone to the September meeting. He recounted some of the events our club held over the summer and reminded us about another public night coming up in Burlington on Sept 22.
  • Club secretary Jim Wamsley spoke briefly about the telescope loaner program.
  • Bob then introduced our featured speaker for the evening, HAA member Tim Philp. Tim spoke to us about gravity, the various historical interpretations of what gravity was thought to be, and brought us up to more modern efforts to define this elusive and pervasive force.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau showed some pictures taken by members over the summer and then went on to cover many of the interesting things visible this time of year.

June 8, 2012

June meeting roundup

  • Bob Christmas welcomed everyone to the June meeting and announced upcoming HAA public events (watch website for details)
  • Bob then introduced our featured speaker for the evening, Dr. Mike Reid of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto. Mike's topic was about the Big Bang Model. He explained how it came about and provided substantial evidence to show how solid a model this is. He clarified some misconceptions people have about this model and delved into some of the details such as how we can detect objects at great distances - even those which would be out of visual reach, yet can still be detected. Some very challenging concepts yet he did a great job explaining them so that regardless of background, everyone learned something meaningful.
  • Our observing director John Gauvreau showed some pictures taken by members of the solar eclipse and Venus transit expeditions that various members undertook. It was very pleasing to see that more than 80% of our attendees had seen the transit in some form. A great experience that will last a lifetime.

May 18, 2012

May meeting roundup

  • Bob Christmas welcomed everyone to the May meeting.
  • Jim Wamsley talked about the continued success of the Food Share collection and the Loaner Scope program.
  • Bob introduced our feature speaker for the evening, Rob Cockcroft of McMaster University and the Origins Institute. Rob spoke to us about transits and the history of the Venus transits in particular. It was interesting that since the invention of the telescope and its first use for astronomy in 1609, there have only been 6 observed Venus transit due to the long period between transit pairs. So the upcoming transit on June 5 will the 7th and still a special event with the next one not occuring until 2117. After his talk, Rob generously handed out free solar obsering glasses to those in attendance, and invited everyone to the observing event planned at the McMaster campus.
  • After the break, John Gauvreau showed some pictures taken by members of the "super"-moon and images brought back by Bob Christmas from his trip to Mexico. Then he delved into the main portion of his talk, highlighting some of the wonderful double-stars visible at this time of year.

April 13, 2012

April meeting roundup

  • Bob Christmas opened the meeting with his usual remarks and announcements of upcoming events.
  • Our guest speakers for this evening were Brian Dernesch and Brady Johnson, the owners of KW Telescope.
    Brian opened with news that they will be moving to a new location in the near future. Then he covered some interesting new astro-toys including compact quality binoculars, some eyepieces and a new tracking mount for astro-photography.
    Next Brady presented his talk about using line (narrow-band) filters to achieve amazing astro-photos from urban backyards.
  • After the break and door prize draws, our observing director, John Gauvreau, fortunately didn't have any technical problems this month and was able to successfully present the Sky This Month.
  • We also had a silent auction for an excellent, hand-made telescope.

March 9, 2012

March meeting roundup

  • Meeting opened with a few brief remarks by HAA Chair, Bob Christmas.
  • Next Mike Spicer was back in fine form as he talked about attempting the Messier Marathon. He presented an interesting perspective, showing that it could be attempted mostly with just binoculars and covering most of the objects within the first hour or 2 after sunset and an hour or so before sunrise while others struggle and freeze using scopes all night long.
  • After a break and some door prize draws, we ran into to technical difficulties setting up for the Sky This Month. However undeterred, our observing director John Gauvreau managed to effectively entertain the group with a new toy he received. A small tube with metal caps on each end, when held by hands, completes a circuit resulting in amusing lights and sounds. Reminiscent of an old cola commercial, John eventually had a room of about 70 amateur astronomers holding hands in a large circle as we all completed the circuit and were rewarded with resultant visual and audible cues.
    Despite efforts by Joe, Bob and others, we were unable to get the projection system working, so John continued to present his Sky This Month, albeit without the expected visual aids, and in the spirit of a true entertainer covered the main highlights both informatively and in an enjoyable fashion. Kudos to John for continuing under these trying conditions and doing so brilliantly.
  • The meeting was then adjourned as some of us retired to a local watering hole for more laughs and social discourse.

February 10, 2012

February meeting roundup

  • Meeting opened with a few brief remarks by HAA Chair, Bob Christmas.
  • Next we had a fascinating presentation about Maya history and cosmology from Ian McGregor of the Royal Ontario Museum. A long lasting culture, which still endures, had a straight-forward counting system but challenging written language to translate. It wasn't until the last 20-30 years that reliable translations have been possible. With current info, and that there is only 1 single incomplete and damaged reference to the end of the 13th Baktun - it is now clear that there was NO prophecy of an Armageddon in 2012.
  • After a break and a few more announcements, Joe McArdle indicated that a number of the HAA members like to venture out to photograph full moons as they rise from various locations. He invited others to participate and provided a list of full moon dates with rise times.
  • Kevin Salwach provided a report on astronomically-themed historical events that occurred on this date.

January 13, 2012

January meeting roundup

  • HAA Chair Bob Christmas welcomed everyone and provided some opening remarks.
  • Our observing director, John Gauvreau highlighted that today's date was the anniversary of Galileo detecting all 4 Galilean moons in 1610. John then went on provide an excellent snapshot of seasonally relevent constellations and objects that we can tackle.
  • During the evening, we also had Rob Roy in to hold a silent auction on many astronomy-related books.

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