Western Space Weekly Webinars


Western faculty, graduate students, and guest lectures from academia, the space industry and government present new discoveries, mission-specific opportunities, interesting training initiatives as well as industry-specific policies, challenges, and prospects with the intention of informing and engaging participants in discussions about relevant topics in planetary science and exploration.

2020-2021 Western Space Weekly Webinar Schedule

September 18th 2020 - Welcome back Western Space! 

welcome back

Speakers: Dr. Gordon Osinski, Dr. Jan Cami, Dr. Jayshri Sabrinathan, Dr. Parshati Patel, And Courtney Barrett provide updates on what the Istitute has been up to over the summer and were we are headed

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September 25th 2020 - Science Communication and Space

Speaker: Niamh Shaw

N Shaw

Dr. Niamh Shaw is passionate about people and curiosity, and all things space and is delighted. An Irish polymath with 2 degrees in engineering, a PhD in science and almost 20 years of performance & writing experience, she has been providing events for the general public since 2014. On a mission to be writer-in-residence at the International Space Station, Niamh wants to connect with a wider global community using space stories to highlight sustainability issues and responsible behaviour as Earth citizens. A recent graduate of practical science communication at Cambridge University, Niamh was awarded 'Outstanding contributions to STEM Communications' by Science Foundation Ireland in 2018. In response to the COVID pandemic, she recently launched a new podcast series  'Humans of Space' on Spotify and Apple Podcast, a relaxed and warm chat with guests from the space sector every week to highlight the interdisciplinary and international message of space. As keynote speaker she has spoken at prominent events including the Irish President's residence (Áras an Uachtaráin) on International Women's Day 2019, the Department of Foreign Affairs Dublin on St Brigids Day 2020, WIRED Live UK, NASA Johnson Space Centre (USA), TEDxUCD and New Scientist (UK) and has appeared on 'The Late Late Show' and 'The Tommy Tiernan Show' on Irish television. Her first book 'Dream Big- an Irishwoman's Space Odyssey' from Mercier Press was published in March 2020 and she writes regularly for BBC’s Sky at Night magazine. Whenever the pandemic is pushed back, Niamh plans to resume work on her project 'Walking Slowly to Space', a global walking project to meet & chat with diverse communities, & share & exchange ideas about science & space. A key part of her quest to get to space is to connect with as many people as possible & she will not stop until she has shared the wider message of a safer, healthier & fairer planet for all.

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October 2nd 2020 - Gotta Go: The life and times of the fastest stars in the Milky Way

Speaker: Fraser Evans 


Over the last 15 years, the astronomical community has discovered with increasing frequency stars in our Milky Way galaxy which are travelling at extremely high velocities, up to and exceeding 1000 km/s in the Galactic rest frame. These velocities are high enough such that these stars will eventually escape the Milky Way entirely, leaving us behind as they fly off into intergalactic space. The interest in these objects is two-fold. First, they flag the extreme astrophysical processes capable of accelerating them to such insane speeds, so they can offer insight into the dynamics of stars around supermassive black holes, the physics governing supernova explosions, the nature of dense star clusters, and perhaps even more bizarre phenomena. Second, their ability to travel extreme distances in their lifetimes make them a useful tracer for mapping out the gravitational potential of the Milky Way and our close neighbours. In this talk, I will review the history and current state of fast star research and discuss my own contributions to the field.

Fraser was born and raised in tiny Blind River, Ontario. He did his undergraduate degree at McMaster University, and stuck around to do his MSc studying galaxy evolution under Dr. Laura Parker. After a brief stint as teaching faculty at McMaster, he hopped across the Atlantic to begin his PhD doing theoretical modeling of fast stars at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, where he has just entered his third year.

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October 9th 2020 - Thanksgiving long weekend - No Forum

Thanks giving in space

The Institute for for Earth and Space Exporation wishes everyone a safe and healthy thanksgiving long weekend! 


October 16th 2020 - Finding Your Non-Linear Career Path in Space

Speaker: Tanya Harrison


Dr. Tanya Harrison calls herself a “Professional Martian.” She has spent the last decade working as a scientist and in mission operations on multiple NASA Mars missions, including the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers. Her specialty lies in geomorphology: the study of a planet’s evolution based on its surface features. Before Mars however, Tanya had her head in the stars as an astronomer studying the metal content of star clusters and recurring novae systems. She holds a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Western Ontario, a Masters in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Wesleyan University, and a B.Sc. in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Washington. Currently she is the Director of Research for Arizona State University’s Space Technology and Science (“NewSpace”) Initiative. Tanya is also an advocate for advancing the status of women in science and for accessibility in the geosciences. You can find her prolifically tweeting about the Red Planet—and her experiences with both #WomenInSTEM and #DisabledInSTEM—as @tanyaofmars.

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October 23rd 2020 - Characterizing an Ancient River Delta at Jezero Crater, Mars

Speaker: Dr. Tim Goudge

goudge creater

Dr. Tim Goudge is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geological Sciences within the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Goudge’s research focuses on the use of remote sensing data to study the signature of surface processes recorded in the topography, mineralogy, and sedimentary rock record of Mars, Earth, and other planetary bodies. Prior to UT, Dr. Goudge received a BSc in geological engineering from Queen’s University, and a ScM and PhD from Brown University

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October 30th 2020 - What's blowing on the solar wind, and its impacts on Earth and human endeavours. 

Speaker: Scott Sutherland 


After earning a BSc in Physical Sciences from the University of Guelph and a Certificate in Meteorology from York University, Scott spent over 10 years working in the field of meteorology - as an air quality scientist for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, an operational weather forecaster for The Weather Network, and an air quality meteorologist for Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. Beginning in 2012, Scott embarked on a new career as a science writer and science communicator. Founding the Geekquinox blog on Yahoo Canada, he began writing about all aspects of scientific research, from molecules to multiverses. Returning to The Weather Network in 2014, he brought his passion for science communication to the company's online news team. In addition to communicating the science of weather and climate change, Scott is the Weather Network's go-to source for news about space and space exploration. One of Scott's favourite topics, which combines a number of his interests, is Space Weather. From the awe-inspiring to the potentially dangerous, the varied impacts of our active Sun - on space operations, on Earth's magnetic field, and in the upper atmosphere - form a fascinating field of research. Additionally, efforts to forecast those impacts are still in their fledgling state, en par with where weather forecasting was a few decades ago. With new insights streaming in from solar space missions, this should be a promising field of research in the years to come

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November 6th 2020 - Fall Reading week No Forum

fall at UWO


November 13th 2020 - Confirmation Pending- Please check back

Details to follow


November 20th 2020 - STRATOS Program Overview and Opportunities

Speaker: Phillipe Vincent


 Philippe Vincent began his career as a Mechanical Engineer in the aeronautics sector. While working for Pratt and Whitney Canada, he was responsible of developing dual sources for turboprop engine components such bearings and castings. He was also an ACE quality system champion. Mr. Vincent joined the CSA in 2005. He contributed to satellite and ISS projects, in partnership with ESA and JAXA, before being assigned to the Terrestrial Rover Prototypes support (2010) and the Canadian High-Altitude balloons program (STRATOS) (2012). In collaboration with the French Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), Philippe held the position of Payload Integration Manager during several balloon flight campaigns in Canada, Sweden and Australia. Recently, Mr. Vincent has been appointed as the new Mission Manager for STRATOS. Part of his mandate will be to renew the collaboration agreement with CNES, ending in 2022, and manage the future flight campaigns.

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November 27th 2020 - Biodosimetry for diagnosing and treating accidental radiation exposure (in space)

Speaker: Dr. Peter Rogan

 peter rogan

Dr. Peter Rogan is the Director of the Laboratory of Genome Bioinformatics, Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario, Schulich School of Medicine, and Faculty member of Western Space. Dr. Rogan is a molecular biologist with a strong record of accomplishments in human genetics and computational molecular biology. He has made significant contributions to the study of genotype-phenotype relationships in a variety of inherited and imprinted disorders, and, together with Dr. Thomas Schneider, proposed and applied the concept of information analysis to the systematic analysis of human mutations. Dr. Rogan has established an independent and continuous record of accomplishments in several areas including computational biology, image processing of molecular biological data, genetic database construction, linkage analysis, molecular evolution, and cytogenomics.

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December 4th 2020 - Fast Radio Bursts, CHIME

Speaker: Daniele Michilli

Daniele M

 Details to Follow


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December 11th 2020 - Lunar Flashlight

Speaker: Barb Cohen


Lunar Flashlight is an innovative, small NASA mission to be launched as a secondary payload on the first Space Launch System, Artemis-1. This highly mass- and volume-constrained satellite will demonstrate several technologies for NASA, including the use of “green” propellant, the ability for a CubeSat-sized satellite to perform science measurements beyond low Earth orbit, and the first planetary mission to use multi-band active reflectometry from orbit. Lunar Flashlight will detect and map water ice in permanently shadowed regions of the lunar south pole by measuring surface reflectance at multiple wavelengths. Mapping and quantifying lunar water ice addresses one of NASA’s Strategic Knowledge Gaps to understand the lunar resource potential for future human exploration of the Moon. Dr. Barbara Cohen is the Principal Investigator for the Lunar Flashlight mission, leading the science team.

Dr. Cohen is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center interested in the geochronology and geochemistry of the Moon, Mars and asteroids. She is a member of the science teams for the Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance, the PI for a mass spectrometer manifested on the Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander, and is developing a flight version of her noble-gas geochronology technique, the Potassium-Argon Laser Experiment (KArLE), for use on future planetary landers and rovers. She most recently served as co-chair for the Artemis III Science Definition Team.

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Stay tuned for next terms line up!



2019-2020 Western Space Weekly Webinar Schedule

Dr. Catherine Neish February 21 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Dragonfly: A Rotorcraft Lander at Titan

On June 27, 2019, NASA announced its next New Frontiers mission: Dragonfly. This audacious mission will send a rotorcraft to explore Saturn’s largest moon Titan, and evaluate its potential for prebiotic chemistry and (possibly) extraterrestrial life. The Dragonfly mission will also give us a countless high-resolution views of this strangely Earth-like moon, showing us how rivers and sand dunes form on an icy moon at 94 K. In this presentation, I will provide a summary of the history of the Dragonfly mission, its scientific goals, and the next steps forward, from launch in 2026 to landing in 2034.

Dr. McCausland February 28 2020– PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Phil McCausland

Tagish Lake meteorite fall and investigation: A unique messenger from the early solar system

In the predawn hour of January 18th, 2000, an exceptionally bright fireball was widely seen traveling southeast across Alaska, Yukon and northernmost B.C. The event itself was spectacular and well-recorded, but was surpassed during the subsequent days and months by the recovery of unique meteoritic material from the fall; in all some 10 kg of friable carbonaceous chondrite fragments were recovered from the frozen surface of Tagish Lake. Twenty years on, we can now look back on the event and put this Canadian meteorite in research perspective: The Tagish Lake (hydrous C2) carbonaceous chondrite appears to represent a portion of the solar system that has not previously been sampled, and provides a new window on processes active in the early solar system, from beyond the original “snow line.” Amongst recovered meteorite classes, the Tagish Lake meteorite represents perhaps the most porous, primitive material available, with an exceptionally low mean bulk density of 1.64 ± 0.02 g/cm3 and corresponding porosity of 40%! Chondrules within Tagish Lake appear to be undeformed and representative of their original nebular environment. Tagish Lake is also a host for pre-solar grains and pre-solar organic material. More recently, it is considered to be a likely analogue material for the surfaces of C-type near Earth asteroids Bennu and Ryugu, visited by ongoing sample-return missions OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa-2, respectively. In its unprecedented features, the pristine nature of the still-frozen fragments that were initially collected, and the large amount of material ultimately recovered, the Tagish Lake meteorite is a premiere scientific event, the subject of essential early solar system research for years to come.

Dr. Stan Metchev February 7 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Shadow swarm: the tiny comets of the outer solar system

Up to a trillion kilometre-sized icy planetesimals reside around and beyond Neptune’s orbit, in a region fo the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. Only a few thousand of the largest ones are known, typically with sizes of a few hundred kilometres or larger. Not even the next generation of space-based, or extremely large ground-based telescopes will be able to directly image the multitude of small icy Kuiper Belt objects. The number, orbital, and size distribution of these planetesimals carry dynamical clues of the early evolution of the solar system. I will overview a new approach to detecting these small and distant planetesimals that relies on the rare and serendipitous occultations of distant stars. Together with my team, we are commissioning the Colibri Telescope Array: a wide-field rapid-imaging observatory dedicated to the detection of stellar occultations by Kuiper Belt objects. I will present our experimental approach to detecting Kuiper Belt objects with Colibri, and will overview the project status and future.
Viraja Khatu January 30 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

How can Internships Enhance Graduate Learning Experiences?

Pursuing internships during a graduate career can help advance knowledge or technical skills in any given field.  Graduate academic programs are generally research intensive. They demand a substantial time investment in conducting research as well as publishing the results.  In such a setting, the two important questions for graduate students to consider are how to acquire the background knowledge and hands-on skills required for their research, and how to get the results published in time for the degree.  Through internships, graduate students can get a handle on the above aspects of doing academic research work. I will share my experience while working as an astronomy graduate intern at the Gemini North Observatory (Hilo, Hawai‘i) in the summer of 2019 through the New Technologies for Canadian Observatories (NTCO-CREATE) program.
Dr. Pauline Barmby January 23 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

The 2020 Long-Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy & Astrophysics

A large fraction of research in observational astrophysics relies on shared facilities too large to be operated by any one research group or university. Planning for and funding these facilities requires coordination within the research community. Organized by the Canadian Astronomical Society, LRP2020 is the third in the series of Canadian Long Range Plans for astronomy and astrophysics. LRP2020 is reviewing the field of astronomy and astrophysics, along with associated education, training, and outreach programs, and will produce a list of recommended priorities for the next decade. In this talk I’ll describe the current state of the LRP process, especially as it relates to space astronomy. I’ll describe some future proposed missions and how the LRP interacts with other research fields, the Canadian Space Agency and Canadian industry.
Dr. Parshati Patel January 17 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Training and Engaging the Next Generation of Space Scientists and Engineers through the Space Explorers Program

The Western Space educational outreach program strives to engage youth to explore the universe and aims to empower children with the basic knowledge and workings of the many branches of planetary science and space exploration. The Space Explorers program promotes experiential learning and since its launch, has engaged more than 600 students through hands-on activities. To assess the potential of the Space Explorers Program to engage youth, camp participants are invited to complete a survey at the conclusion of the program. Survey statements gauge campers' experiences, as well as their interest in the field of space science and technology, thus providing insights into the impact of the program. The survey also allows for the evaluation of programming, camp activities, and facilitators. Based on preliminary findings, the program is certainly on its way to achieving the goal of engaging and training the next generation of scientists and engineers, while exposing them to various aspects of planetary science, space and space exploration. We intend to leverage campers' experiences and recommendations to continue developing robust programs as we move into the next phase of science and technology themed educational outreach initiatives.
Dr. Holly Capelo, University of Bern January 10 2020 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Direct measurements of dust-drag fluid instability in connection with protoplanetary disk evolution

How planetary precursors (planetesimals) from out of the dust grains present in gaseous protoplanetary disks remains an open question. While grain adhesion forces bind solids at small scales (micrometers-decimeters) and gravity on large scales (kilometers), bridging these extremes across growth barriers in the meter size range requires an additional solid-concentration mechanism, often assumed to derive from the two-way drag coupling between the gas and solid phases, which results in a 'streaming instability'. I present the findings from ground-based two-phase flow experiments which represent the first and only demonstration of particle concentration via the theorized flow instability. The experiments support the growing consensus that dust-drag instability should occur universally, and derives principally from the differential motion of dust and gas in a mass-loaded fluid. While these results do not prove that planetesimals form by aero-gravitational instabilities, they strongly suggest that streaming-instability-driven turbulence is inevitable, provided that the control parameters can reach critical values. This parameter regime has not otherwise been reached in laboratory studies and neither is it directly addressed by existing theory of particle suspension dynamics. I will discuss the continuation of this research, meant to connect classical approaches to studying granular two-phase flow with the study of astrophysical fluids and planetesimal formation and evolution.
MRO-HiRISE Teams December 13 2019 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

WesternU misson operations and training with the HiRISE imager on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: Results from Imaging cycles 339 & 340

Since late 2014, CSA-funded adjunct research professor Livio Tornabene, has led WesternU-based science operations and training for the most powerful and high-resolution imager to photograph Mars: HiRISE. Starting on Oct. 8th of this year, two teams led by himself and PDF Eric Pilles and four trainees (Vidhya Ganesh Rangarajan, Chimira Anders, Leah Sacks and Will Yingling) helped plan 213 new images of Mars over a 4-week period. HiRISE’s 339rd imaging campaign (led by Tornabene) executed on Saturday, Oct. 26th and continued to Saturday, Nov. 9th when it handed off to the 340th imaging campaign (led by Pilles), which continued to Saturday, Nov. 23rd as Mars continued into Northern Summer/Southern Winter. Here they present together their latest exploits, and what they experienced while planning two back-to-back two-week sets of high-resolution images of the surface of Mars from WesternU’s Mission Control facility. Come hear all about it and to see some of their favorite images!
Bryan Southwell November 29 2019 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

An Instrumented Rover Wheel

Barefoot Rover is a research project at NASA-JPL with the intention of assessing the feasibility of a tactile-sensing rover wheel. In doing so, rover safety may be enhanced through in-situ terrain data, and the scientific community can benefit from knowledge of terramechanics parameters. The planetary surface community is also interested in rock and surface pattern detection. My focus for this work is the terramechanic aspect, which is the study of wheel or tracked vehicle interaction with the terrain, where the terrain's properties are of utmost interest. An additional area of research work is applying machine learning methods to the data for in-situ analysis. Detecting different terrains, such as loose sand or duricrust, will help rover drivers avoid unsafe terrain or flag areas for further study. Duricrust is loose sand covered by a layer of hard, or high cohesive strength, soil. MER Spirit broke through a layer of duricrust on Mars and became immobilized. The implementation of a tactile-sensing wheel on future rovers will mitigate driving risks and enhance rover autonomous driving capabilities.
Dr. Els Peeters November 22 2019 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Western’s eyes on the JWST skies

Today, the world is eagerly awaiting the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Hailed as the bigger and more sensitive successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), JWST will similarly inspire the general public and have researchers develop the most innovative approaches to process and analyze observations of unprecedented quality to study the Universe near and far. Given these expectations, the entire world will be watching closely when the first science observations with JWST are presented to the public, and those may well have a Canadian stamp on them. In this talk, I'll give a general description of JWST and its capabilities, and I will highlight how Western is involved in the first science observations to be made by JWST
Dr. Paul Wiegert November 15 2019 – PAB 100 12:30 – 1:30pm

Interstellar asteroids and comets: what are they and where do they come from?

In 2017, the first asteroid to enter our Solar System from interstellar space was discovered by Rob Weryk (who did his PhD here at Western) at the PanSTARRS telescope. The asteroid is now called 'Oumuamua, a Hawaiian term which signifies 'Messenger from Afar'. Now in 2019 a second visitor, comet Borisov (named after its discoverer) has also appeared. 'Oumuamua was rocky (unexpected), relatively slow (unexpected) and small (expected); while Borisov is icy (expected), fast (expected) and large (unexpected). I'll briefly summarize what we know about these puzzling visitors, and outline the efforts being made at Western to back-track them to their points of origin, somewhere within our Milky Way galaxy.
Dr. Nick Craine November 8 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

Pioneering the Stratosphere: High Altitude Benefits from the Evolving UAV Landscape

Stratodynamics provides high-altitude earth observation platforms and services enabling new, cost-effective access to the stratosphere. Their recent flight from the Canadian Space Agency's Stratos Balloon Base achieved many firsts in Canadian aviation including: the first release of a UAV from a scientific gondola in Canada; the first UAV flight above 29,000 feet in Class A airspace; and the highest altitude flight of a UAV or remotely piloted aerial system (RPAS). Gary Pundsack and Nick Craine will present the details of the record breaking August 31st flight, discuss their recent NASA flight opportunity award and display their flagship platform called the HiDRON.
Catheryn Ryan November 1 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

The distribution of organic material in Martian-analogue volcanic rocks, as determined with ultraviolet laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy

The Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT) research project (Lim et al., 2019) has been developed to test exploration capabilities and return samples from two Mars-analogue volcanic environments. We used an ultraviolet laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy instrument to detect and characterize the distribution of potential organic biosignatures in samples returned from two BASALT mission deployments and correlate the fluorescence results with a variety of sample properties. These samples represent a range of alteration conditions found in the volcanic environments of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, HI, USA and Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID, USA. Samples were also analyzed using scanning electron microscopy with electron-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) to characterize the mineralogy present at fluorescent points-of-interest and confirm the presence of carbon-bearing material. Finally, He-gas pycnometry and micro-computerized tomography were used to determine the porosity of the samples, which could be compared to the results from LIF and SEM-EDS measurements. Some minerals deposited in the sample vesicles through fumarolic activity were found to be highly fluorescent, with time-resolved fluorescence spectra suggesting the presence of organic material associated with these mineral deposits. Overall, samples collected proximate to active or relict meteoric fumaroles from Hawai’i were shown to contain materials with strong evidence for organic deposits, compared to little evidence in samples collected from Idaho.
High Altitude Balloon team October 25 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

High Altitude Balloon Initiative

The High Altitude Balloon Initiative began in January 2018 and has launched two separate payloads since its conception. In May 2018 the team launched a ~2 kg payload carrying a suite of various atmospheric sensors to study the environment of the upper atmosphere. While the initial assembly of the team and the launch itself was successful, the loss of GPS data at the apex of the flight complicated the recovery of the payload. The payload was recovered on May 29, 2019 near Grand Valley, Ontario after being discovered in a field. To conduct a second launch in 2019, the High Altitude Balloon (HAB) team partnered with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS)-Canada and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to sample microbial aerosols via stratospheric balloon as part of the CSA’s STRATOS program. The ~800, 000 cubic meter balloon travelled to an altitude of 37 km and Westernu HAB’s payload, housed on the gondola, was controlled remotely from the ground during the flight. The gondola was shared by five other experiments running simultaneously. SEDS-Canada had arranged to reserve two spaces on the CSA’s gondola, one of which had been granted to the Westernu HAB team for this year’s launch. The experiment successfully sampled microbial aerosols at four different points during the flight and was returned via helicopter to have the samples preserved as soon as possible. Currently the samples are being analyzed to determine whether any variations exist as a function of altitude.
photo of Gavin Tolometti Gavin Tolometti October 18 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

Volcanic Analogue for the Exploration of Mars

In July 2019, Gavin Tolometti traveled to the 2014-15 Holuhraun lava field in Iceland to study its diverse lava flow morphology's and compare them to radar and high-resolution (cm-scale) topographic remote sensing data. Remote sensing data is relied upon when studying the morphology of surface features, including lava flows, on other planetary bodies such as Mars. It is important to understand how to interpret the data because results and interpretations are dependent on the wavelength scale and resolution. Gavin will discuss why it is important to understand and compare different remote sensing datasets to study lava flow morphology and summarize the research that has been completed and currently ongoing at the 2014-15 Holuhraun lava field.

The Holuhraun lava field is situated in the Bárðarbunga-Veiðivötn, one of Iceland’s largest volcanic systems, and is marked as the largest effusive basaltic eruption since the Laki eruption in 1783-84. On the 29th of August 2014, a small 600 m long fissure opened on the floodplain and for four hours basaltic lava erupted onto the surface. Extension of the fissure to 1.8 km occurred after twenty-four hours of inactivity. From the 31st of August to the 27th February 2015, the effusive basaltic eruption occurred and had a maximum discharge rate of ≥350 m3/s, average flux of ~90 m3/s, a total area cover of ~85.4 km2 and an estimated bulk volume of 1.44 km3. The lava field stands as a strong Martian analogue site because of its pristine condition, hosting lava flow morphology's analogous to Martian lava flows, proximity to glaciers and diverting an active hydrology system, which has implications for astrobiology.
photo of Phile Stooke Dr. Phil Stooke– October 4 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

Solar System Roundup

On the 62nd anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 and the dawn of the Space Age, Phil Stooke will provide a summary of current events in the solar system. From rovers on the Moon and Mars, and sampling missions to two asteroids, to orbiters at Venus, Mars and Jupiter, there is plenty going on up there and a lot more planned for the near future. Phil will survey these science missions and other developments in space exploration including new rockets and plans for human space flight in the next few years.
photo of Gordon Osinski Dr. Gordon Osinski– September 27 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm

Exploring Other Worlds By Exploring Our Own

The world of space exploration is rapidly evolving. More than ever before, the international scientific community is attempting to answer fundamental questions on the origins of life and of the Solar System, by exploring other planetary bodies. There are currently more active robotic space missions than at any other time in history. It is clear that humans will return to the Moon, possibly within the next 5 years. The Moon is the only planetary body, besides the Earth, to have been explored by humans. Currently, the only way we can "explore" Mars and other planetary bodies is via images and chemical data sent back from unmanned orbiting spacecraft and rovers, and through the study of meteorites. Interpretations of other planetary bodies must, however, begin by using the Earth as a reference. This introduces the concept of terrestrial analogues, which are places on Earth that approximate the geological, environmental and/or putative biological conditions on Mars and other planetary bodies, either at the present-day or sometime in the past. From impact craters to hot springs to polar deserts, Canada possesses a wide variety of analogue sites that serve to inform scientific interpretations from space missions through the field of comparative planetology.

In addition to enabling comparative planetology studies, terrestrial analogues allow for the development and testing of technologies, psychological studies for long duration space missions, software and operations architectures, the training of personnel for future missions, and opportunities to engage and educate children and the general public. Analogue missions represent integrated, interdisciplinary field campaigns conducted in terrestrial analogue environments and provide a critical pathway in preparing to return to the Moon. 
photo of Ken McIssac Dr. Ken McIsaac – September 20 2019 – UCC 54A 12:30 – 1:30pm
Space weather phenomena is a complex area of research and many different variables and signatures are used to identify the occurrence of solar storms and Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections (ICMEs), with inconsistencies between databases and solar storm catalogues. The identification of space weather events is important from a satellite operation point of view, as strong geomagnetic storms can cause orbit perturbations to satellites in low-earth orbit. The Disturbance Storm-Time (Dst) and the Planetary K-index (Kp) are common indices used to identify the occurrence of geomagnetic storms caused by ICMEs, among several other signatures that are not consistent with every storm. Moreover, specific instrumentation is needed for solar storm and space weather phenomena, which can be costly and infeasibly difficult for small and nano-satellite applications. In our work, we demonstrate the capability of a new signature for identification and characterization of Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections, through the use of satellite accelerometer data from the GRACE satellite, and machine learning techniques. Utilizing pre-existing satellite instrumentation, we propose the use of accelerometers for future space weather monitoring applications. Four binary classification algorithms have been explored: Random Forest, Support Vector Machine, Extremely Randomized Trees, and Logistic Regression. It is proposed that a binary classification model can differentiate between a solar storm caused by an ICME versus a period of quiet geomagnetic activity, using only the accelerometer data of a satellite.
Tune in the day of live!

2018-2019 Research Forum Schedule

Friday October 19th at 12:30 PM in PAB 100 - Kelsey Doerksen - "Statistical analysis of the Earth's Thermosphere density levels during Solar Flare events measured by GRACE and CHAMP satellites "


Abstract:  The relationships between solar flares, the Earth’s Thermosphere, and the satellite’s orbiting our planet are of crucial importance for satellite operators to understand. The solar flare events in association with the Geomagnetic Halloween storm of 2003 have been studied in the past, however there has been a lack of research into the effects of solar flares without the accompaniment of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). This talk details the investigation of the Thermosphere’s response to X-class solar flare events from 2002-2017, with a focus on the years 2002-2006. The Thermosphere density, derived from the on-board accelerometers of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites, and the CHallenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) satellite, provide the information required to perform a statistical analysis on the effects of the solar flare events with respect to the Thermosphere density and the satellite’s attitude. It is proposed that the flux brought to the Earth by flares may have a large enough impact on the Earth’s Thermospheric density such that the drag perturbation induced on the orbiting satellites would increase. The presence of fluctuations in the density-derived data of the satellites, corresponding to the time of the flare events, is thought to be a result of the increased drag force causing visible and significant accelerometer fluctuations. Increasing drag force on satellites could then result in the need for in-orbit attitude adjustments, which could pose an increased risk in space-debris collision. A statistical analysis of the X-class events during the lifetimes of GRACE and CHAMP could provide insight to the probable increase of the Earth’s Thermospheric denisty due to the differing strengths of these flares. Such knowledge would be valuable to spacecraft operators entering a period of solar maximum, where an increase in solar activity is expected.

2018 Research Forum Schedule

January 12, 2018 - Dr. Phil Stooke - "The Year of the Moon"

Abstract:  2018 will be an interesting year on the Moon. Two missions will land rovers - one from India, one from China. A second Chinese mission, a sample return, may fly in 2018, though it is more likely to be delayed to 2019. And what of the Google Lunar X prize, which expires in 2018?  Phil Stooke surveys lunar exploration prospects for 2018 and looks at proposed landing sites.

January 26, 2018 - Dr. Gordon Osinski - "Western Space Update"

February 9, 2018 - Yifan Zhou, The University of Arizona - "Cloud Atlas of Brown Dwarfs and Exoplanets"

Abstract: Spectroscopic observations of exoplanets have achieved spectacular success in recent years. These observations not only probed molecular species and atmospheric compositions but also revealed the condensate clouds in these atmospheres. Due to its complex formation processes and significant opacity contributions, the condensate clouds pose a key challenge in understanding the ultra-cool atmospheres of exoplanets. Time-resolved observation of cloud-induced rotational modulations is a powerful technique to study the condensate clouds in substellar atmospheres. Using light curves derived from these observations, we can determine cloud vertical structures and retrieve two-dimensional cloud maps, which provide important constraints on the cloud formation and atmospheric circulation models. Time-resolved observations have achieved great success for brown dwarf and start to be applied to directly imaged exoplanets.  We carried out an HST treasury program   Cloud Atlas  to apply this technique to 19 brown dwarfs, planetary companions and directly imaged exoplanets. I will present the latest results from Cloud Atlas program, especially focusing on high-contrast directly-imaged exoplanets/planetary mass companions, to demonstrate how rotational modulations reveal condensate clouds in these cases. These results highlight the power of time-resolved observations — already transforming brown dwarf studies —  to characterize directly imaged exoplanets and planetary-mass companions.


February 16, 2018 - *2:00 PM - 3:00 PM - BGS 0153*  Dr. David Kring, Lunar and Planetary Institute - " The Calamitous Chicxulub Impact Event"
Abstract:  The ~180 km-diameter Chicxulub impact crater, located on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, is famously linked to the extinction of dinosaurs and most other forms of life on Earth nearly 66 million years ago.  I will review the discovery of the crater and the impact’s environmental effects.  While those effects and their role in the mass extinction that followed have been the foci of most previous studies, it is now recognized that the crater and the hydrothermal system it hosted may also be proxies for the geological processes that shaped the Hadean.  I will, thus, introduce a recent IODP and ICDP expedition to the crater that was designed, in part, to test models of impact-generated hydrothermal systems and their possible role in the origin and evolution of life on Earth.


March 2, 2018 - Dr. Etienne Godin - "Geomorphology of Gullies at Thomas Lee Inlet, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic"

Abstract: Landscape erosion by way of gullying is very common in the continuous permafrost of Earth’s polar regions and Mars mid to high latitudes along plateau slopes. Gullies are particularly interesting because their presence raises questions about the factors contributing to their formation, shape and morphometrics. Water is one such factor driving gully evolution, as runoff or when present as ground ice. Yet water under its liquid form is not the only factor influencing gullies. We surveyed the plateau slopes and their erosional processes at the cold and arid Thomas Lee Inlet, Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic where numerous gullies (n=161) were characterized for their morphometrics geology and hydrological connectivity. In this presentation I will present our recent progress based in 2016 and 2017 fieldwork, how this was integrated into a geodatabase and how we used a statistical tool named Factor Analysis of Mixed Data to classify and group the factors.

March 9, 2018 Dr. Pauline Barmby "Big data in space science"

Abstract:  It seems like “big data” is everywhere these days. In planetary science and astronomy, we’ve been dealing with large datasets for a long time.  So how “big” is our data? How does it compare to the big data that a bank or an airline might have? What new tools do we need to analyze big datasets, and how can we make better use of existing tools? What kinds of science problems can we address with these?  I’ll address these questions with examples including ESA’s Gaia mission, NASA’s WISE mission, and NASA’s Planetary Data System, as well as some of my group’s work on multiwavelength studies of nearby galaxies.

April 13, 2018 - Adam Roy - "Harmony of the Spheres: Engaging Space Science in Music Theory and Practice"

Abstract: Whether The Planets by Gustav Holst, the Start Wars saga by John Williams, or Space Oddity by David Bowie, many things come to mind when thinking of space music or the music of space. While these compositions may express a modern understanding of music as it relates to ideas of space, they largely overlook the shared disciplinary origins and connections between the fields of music and science. The rich historic foundations of the singularity that was planetary science and music theory formed initial explorations of cosmological truth(s) and dominated the intellectual discourse for a significant period in our intellectual history. In the course of this talk I will discuss the historic interconnections of space science and music, the aesthetic representations of such concepts through musical compositions, and the graphic means by which representations of musical spaces play a role in performance practice and transmission. Tracing sonic and conceptual mappings of our universe from Pythagoras and Aristotle to the Renaissance and Enlightenment perspectives of Mersenne, Kepler, Newton, and beyond, this paper explores the harmonious blending between the worlds of science and music. Through explorations of theoretical foundations, compositional intent, and performance practice, I will survey the unique link between the realms of space science and the musical arts.

2017 Research Forum Schedule

September 22 - Dr. Michael Zanetti- "Kinematic LiDAR Scanning: Ultra-high resolution field mapping with a backpack scanner"

Abstract: Kinematic LiDAR scanning (KLS) is a new mobile LiDAR technology for creating ultra-high resolution (1 cm/pixel) topographic digital terrain models (DEMs), and represents a new tool for geologic and geographic exploration.  The scanner is mounted on a backpack allowing the operator to make a 3D point cloud reconstruction of any structure or feature that can be walked over or around (e.g. volcanic features, patterned ground, hillslopes, or buildings). This presentation will show how we are using mobile LiDAR scanning to map periglacial features in the Canadian High Arctic and volcanic features in Idaho, USA, and how these scans are being applied to remote-sensing analyses and other scientific resea rc h.

September 29 - Dr. Paul Wiegert - "Detecting Invisible Planets and Other Neat-o Things Planetary Dynamics Can Do For You"

Abstract: The question of how planets and other bodies orbiting the Sun behave and interact is one of the oldest problems in physics. But despite the long history of Planetary Dynamics, the richness of non-linear systems of this type continues to present us with surprises and opportunities for 21th century discoveries. I will outline a few of the current Planetary Dynamics research projects being worked on here at Western. Included on the menu are how the Moon helped capture an ill-fated temporary moon of our planet, strange asteroids that go the 'wrong way' around the Solar System, whether pieces of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos could ever hit you on the head, and how to detect 'invisible' planets orbiting other stars.

October 6 - No Research Forum due to Thanksgiving

October 20 - Danny Bednar - " 50 years of the Outer Space Treaty: What's in it and Where's it Going?"

Abstract: October 10 th , 2017, marked 50 years since the Outer Space Treaty entered into force. In it’s five decades, the treaty has been signed by 105 nations, including every space-faring government in the world, and is often referred to as the single most important document related to outer space politics. While the treaty has been noted for it’s optimistic language that focuses on international cooperation and scientific exploration, it has also been contested by a variety of long-standing and emerging interests within the broader space community. What exactly is in the treaty and what parts are contested? This talk will cover the major components of the Outer Space Treaty, focusing mostly on Articles I-X. Further, current and future interests such as those related to orbital debris mitigation, resource extraction, off-Earth colonization, and increased militarization will be discussed regarding future challenges for the OST and the continuing debate of who, and what, space is for.

October 27 - Dr. Peter Brown - " Fireball producing meteorites: A Canadian perspective "

November 3 - Dr. Livio Tornabene - " HIRISE Planning from WesternU: Highlights from teams 273 and 285 "

Abstract: The members of the last two WesternU HiRISE operations teams (Teams 273 and 285), led by adjunct research professor Livio Tornabene, will present their latest exploits, and what they experienced while planning two-week’s worth of high-resolution images of the surface of Mars from WesternU’s Mission Control facility. Come hear all about it and see some of their favorite images! HiRISE’s 273 rd imaging campaign executed on Saturday, April 15 th and continued to Saturday, April 29 th as Mars continued into Northern Spring / Southern Fall. The 285 th HiRISE imaging campaign executed on Saturday, September 30 and continued to Saturday, October 14th as Mars continued into Northern Summer/Southern Winter.

November 10 - Dr. Sarah Gallagher - "How to ruin a beautiful machine:  Radiation damage in the early days of the Chandra X-ray Observatory"

Abstract: In the first months after the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, abrupt radiation damage to the ACIS CCD detectors was discovered.  The damage affected the sensitivity, image quality, and energy resolution of an exquisite instrument, and had to be stopped and mitigated as much as possible. From my perspective as a graduate student on the ACIS instrument team, I’ll talk about how the risk of radiation damage should have been anticipated, and how the fixes were only possible because the telescope had been over-engineered and beautifully calibrated.

November 17 - Rushi Ghadawala - " Space Entrepreneurship: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges for Commercial Space Sector "

Abstract: During the talk, I intend to talk about the journey of BR Aerospace Group since foundation and connect it with the proposed title of my talk, "Space Entrepreneurship: Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges for Commercial Space Sector". During the talk, I will also mention the role of space applications in the capacity building for nations and states, based on the outcome of recent UNOOSA symposium and participation of BRASS-Canada. I also intend to throw some light on our past projects, on-going projects, including MOSES project under the H2020 consortium in the European Union, and upcoming project of UNOOSA's Dreamchaser mission participation and development of Solar Powered UAV for EO purpose. I am also planning to highlight my engagement with UWO and possible roadmap of working together.

November 24 - Gavin Tolometti - Rosetta Legacy Workshop Summary

Abstract: On the 2nd of March 2004, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Rosetta spacecraft and its lander Philae on its journey to orbit and analyse the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft took approximately ten years to reach the comet and then spent two years orbiting it. On the 12th of November 2014, the Philae lander was detached from the spacecraft and began its decent towards the comets surface. The spacecraft continued to orbit the comet until the 30th of September 2016, when the mission concluded with a controlled impact on the comet. The Rosetta mission was one of the most inspirational and ambitious missions conducted in the 21st century. As all missions, it required the cooperation of scientists and engineers from diverse science backgrounds. The mission was also contributed by ESA’s member states and NASA. From the 3rd to 6 th of October this year, experts from the Rosetta mission (including engineers who designed the equipment) organized the first “Rosetta Science Operations Scheduling Legacy Workshop”. The workshop taught university students how the Rosetta mission was planned before and after launch of the spacecraft. The workshop provided the opportunity to understand how missions at ESA are run and planned, learn the basics of the software MAPPS, and promote postgraduate opportunities available for European and Canadian graduate students.

December 8 - 1:30-2:30 PM - Joint Seminar with Physics and Astronomy

Dr. Robert Weryk -"Discovery circumstances of the first interstellar asteroid"

Abstract- For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. Our team from the Pan-STARRS observatory – being the first to detect the interstellar visitor – has chosen the name 'Oumuamua’ for our discovery. The name is of Hawaiian origin and means a messenger from afar arriving first. I will discuss the results that appeared in Nature on 20 November 2017.</p <!--