Each week, a number of discussion groups meet focused on different topics that link MSI researchers.
The Planet Lunch series brings together about 20 researchers from the Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Physics for a weekly lunch discussion. By bringing together this diverse group, the goal is to apply expertise on geology and planetary atmospheres as studied in our Solar System to exoplanets. In this way we can achieve a much better understanding of what we are learning from the observational data on exoplanets, which is much less detailed than for our Solar System planets. Experience derived from Solar System studies also guide the development of future astronomical facilities to study exoplanets. Each term, the group chooses a theme or particular area of planetary science that they want to learn more about, and each week someone leads a discussion about a paper or a topic related to that theme. Recent topics have included icy worlds (with a focus on tidal/radiogenic heating, oceans under ice, sea ice rheology, detecting icy worlds), the origins of life, the interior structure and dynamics of planets, and the history and future of Earth (from planet formation to tidal spin-down of Earth, runaway/moist greenhouses, and feedback between life and planets).
The Black Hole Lunch series is an informal gathering and discussion that centers on supermassive black hole (SMBH) research. The group derives mostly from the research teams of Daryl Haggard (McGill), Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo (UdeM), and Tracy Webb (McGill), but is open to all researchers with McGill/MSI and the University of Montreal. Meetings alternate between McGill and UdeM, where attendees tackle core concepts including growth, feeding, and feedback from SMBHs. They also discuss observational and theoretical challenges and share new discoveries and research findings.
The goal of Random Papers is to gain a broad view of current astrophysics research. Each week we run a script to choose 5 random papers published in the last month in refereed astrophysics journals (see randompapers.net). This gives a different slice of the literature than the typical astro-ph discussion, with papers from outside our own research areas or those that might not otherwise be chosen for discussion. Rather than reading each paper in depth, the goal is to focus on the big picture, with questions such as: How would we summarize the paper in a few sentences? What are the key figures in the paper? What analysis methods are used? Why is this paper being written, and Why now?
Astro-ph is a weekly journal discussion that takes place every Friday morning at the MSI over donuts and coffee. It is an open and intellectual discussion where people can feel free to share something they've learned from an interesting paper without criticism, and where the astronomy community at McGill can learn from one another. It lasts around 30 minutes and is named so because of the arXiv tag from where nearly all our papers come: astro-ph!
Cosmo-ph is a weekly journal club at MSI focused on keeping up with recent results in observational and theoretical cosmology. Discussions are generally led by graduate students and postdocs, and feature papers that have appeared on the arXiv in the last few weeks. Attendees include researchers at all career stages, with expertise spanning a broad range, from instrumentation, to observations and data analysis, to high-energy particle theory.
Neutron stars are a common thread that join multiple research groups at MSI. They are a possible source of at least some Fast Radio Bursts, being detected in large numbers by CHIME (Prof. Kaspi & Prof. Dobbs’s groups), the discovery of a neutron star merger by LIGO has opened up a new way of studying these exotic objects (Prof. Haggard’s group), and they are associated with emission at all astronomical wavelengths, including the highest energy photons (Profs. Hanna and Ragan's groups). These new observational discoveries are challenging theories of how neutron stars form and evolve, and what matter is like in their dense interiors (Prof. Cumming's group). Each week, researchers from across MSI come together to discuss the latest papers and discoveries involving neutron stars in an informal setting.