Cosmic Nights: Mars

Cosmic Nights returns! Join the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre for another virtual astronomy event, for adults! This time we’re exploring the red planet Mars. Our host Michael Unger will be joined by the Space Centre’s astronomer Rachel Wang, and special guest Joalda Morancy, Astronomy and Astrophysics major from the University of Chicago.

By tuning in live you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and join the discussion. So grab your favourite beverage and tune in as we celebrate everything Mars!

The content covered during this event will be tailored to an adult audience.


“Earth and Mars: A Love Story?” with Rachel Wang
Mars has been a fascination for humans from Earth ever since we first started to observe it. It appeared to be a red star which is why we named it after the Roman god of war, but as we’ve traveled closer, and landed rovers, we now have a richer understanding of the planet and our relationship to it.

Rachel Wang is the astronomer at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and recent UBC graduate in physics and astronomy. Her formal role is being the content knowledge expert, while also striving to educate and inspire students of all ages that walk through the Space Centre’s doors. At UBC, she researched blazars using the UBC CTIO telescope in Chile and completed her undergraduate thesis on ultra-cold neutrons at TRIUMF. In her spare time, she dreams of discovering what dark matter is made of and becoming a CSA astronaut.

“The Future of Human Exploration to Mars” with Joalda Morancy
Have you ever wondered why multiple government agencies and private companies are set on putting the first human steps on Mars? How is it even possible to send a crew of people to another it even possible? It's time to talk about how we will accomplish humanity's greatest feat yet, traveling to and walking on another planet.

Joalda Morancy is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, United States. She is studying Geophysics and Astrophysics, focusing mainly on planetary science. Currently, she serves as Director of Operations for Students for the Exploration and Development of Space USA (SEDS-USA) and is an Earth Science intern at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, supporting the ECOSTRESS mission that is currently onboard the International Space Station.

Joalda is a huge fan of space exploration and hopes to one day become an astronaut herself. For now, though, she is sticking to studying the different planets in our solar system, specifically Mars. She grew a fascination with the planet during the beginning of her space science journey and was interested in the fact that she someday may walk on the planet herself, and now wants to dedicate her time to learning as much about the planet as she can.

Along with her planetary science interests, Joalda is very passionate about science communication and inspiring the public to learn more about the universe around us. She especially wants to inspire young Black kids to get active in STEM and believe that they belong in the field. Through the NASA JPL Solar System Ambassadors program, she talks to kids on the south side of Chicago and does lots of STEM outreach.

In the future, Joalda hopes to pursue her doctorate in Planetary Science, focusing on the geomorphology of Mars, become an astronaut, and perform science communication to a greater audience!

“InSight on Mars” with Anna Mittelholz

We will be releasing this bonus interview as part of the Cosmic Nights broadcast. Our Program Coordinator Michael Unger interviews Anna Mittelholz, a Post Doctoral Fellow in Geophysics at the University of British Columbia.

Dust off your glue gun and make your own Mars culinary rover using food, candy, or whatever you can find in the kitchen. Check out this Planetary Pasta Rover activity from NASA for inspiration.

Send us a photo of your completed rover and we’ll share our favourites during the live broadcast of Virtual Cosmic Nights: Mars.

Email your photos to [email protected] along with your name and location. Providing your work gives us permission to share it during the broadcast, and on the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s social media accounts. We will only share your first name and location publicly.


There are two ways to participate in the event:

1) ZOOM We will send you a link and password to join before the event starts.

2) TELUS Optik TV® channel 611 (only available to subscribers with a 4K PVR box )

Event Details

July 22, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm