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RASC Mississauga Centre meeting November 28

  • University of Toronto Mississauga (map)

The November 28 meeting of the RASC Mississauga Centre will feature a talk on the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array radio telescope.

Talk Title:  New eyes on our origins: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array 

Speaker: Dr Rachel Friesen, David Dunlap Institute

With 66 radio dishes operating as a single telescope located 5 km above sea level on the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile, the ALMA observatory was designed to probe fundamental questions about our universe, from the formation of galaxies to planets. I will talk about why we built ALMA, how it works, and describe some of my own work with ALMA studying the earliest stages of star formation. 

The Atacam Large Millimetre Array in Chile.

The Atacam Large Millimetre Array in Chile.

Rachel Friesen studies the earliest stages of star formation by observing the cold, dense molecular clouds from which stars arise. She examines the light emitted by molecules within these regions to gain an understanding of the composition, structure, temperature and internal motions of these stellar nurseries—and thus gain a better understanding of the birth of stars and planetary systems.

Because this light is found at radio wavelengths, Friesen makes her observations using radio telescopes facilities like the Very Large Array, the Australia Telescope Compact Array, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. She also makes use of observations from space telescopes such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.

Friesen received her PhD from the University of Victoria, and joined the Dunlap Institute in August, 2012, from the North American ALMA Science Center at the NRAO in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr Rachel Friesen courtesy  The Grid

Dr Rachel Friesen courtesy The Grid

I am a Dunlap Fellow at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto

I study the early stages of star formation in isolation and in clusters. My research focuses on analysing the structure and composition of dense gas in star forming molecular clouds through observations at multiple single-dish and interferometer telescope facilities. 

I completed my PhD in 2009 at the University of Victoria in beautiful British Columbia, working with James Di Francesco (see my thesis here). I next became involved in preparations for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) as a Postdoctoral Fellow with the North American ALMA Science Center until 2012. 

You can read more on my research page, or see my publication list here


The meeting will be held from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. at The University of Toronto,Mississauga Campus, in lecture hall SE2082 in the William Davis Building. The meeting is open to the public and is free.  


Enter off of Mississauga Road. Park in lot 4 or the parkade, across from the fitness centre south of theDavis Building. Enter through the Fitness centre, walk up the stairs untilyou reach the main corridor then turn right. (If you need an elevator,follow the corridor to the right of the stairs, then go up to the mainfloor.) Look for the Mississauga Centre sign in front of the lecture room. Directions to UTM.

Post meeting plans: we usually continue the discussion post-meeting at a local bar – please join us!