News From AU – Contributed by The Insider

Aurora research facility going on-line; asteroids feature topic at most recent Lunch ‘n Learn event

Sir Isaac Newton, Connors told his Lunch ‘n Learn audience May 21, “Looked like a rock star – but was really ugly.” Despite appearances, the late scientist’s Laws of Motion formed an integral part of Connors’ research into “Earth’s Companion Asteroids.”

The already-operational Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory will be on-line by next week, Dr. Martin Connors told attendees at AU’s most recent Lunch “?n Learn event, held May 21 in the Governing Council Chamber.

The new facility, under construction since Oct. 31, 2002, is allowing Connors to continue his study into space weather, and the effect of auroral activity on things such as navigation, power grids and satellites.

It’s exciting work, and Connors is enthusiastic about conducting his research in Athabasca. However, his real reason for being there was to talk about asteroids. The AU scientist was part of a team that, in 2002, determined and described the characteristics of 2002 AA29, a companion asteroid of Earth.

An appreciative audience listened as Connors, Canada Research Chair in Space Science, Instrumentation and Networking, described how a group of such apparently harmless asteroids are traveling toward the Earth. According to Connors, 2002 AA29 is about the size of a football field, and full of precious metals, like platinum.

“If it was possible for it to hit us, it could do some damage,” he explained. “If we could get to the asteroids, it would be worth trillions and trillions of dollars.”

As this asteroid is one million times too faint for the unaided eye to see, Connors relies on telescope images that are gathered in places like Hawaii – or downloaded from the Internet. Connors noted he hopes to have more happy research news for AU staff soon.

“We have found some interesting things we’ve published and we’re working on more interesting things,” he said. “Hopefully I will get to talk to you soon about something we can send a spacecraft to.”

The origins of humidity – Can You See Your Breath?

Greg Wiens, Director of Facilities and Services at Athabasca University, presents part two of a three-part series devoted to helping us understand humidity, where it comes from, and how it affects comfort levels and personal health issues at AU.

What is the correct level for indoor relative humidity? Or is there one?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have published a guide for indoor air quality.

There is considerable debate among researchers, IAQ professionals, and health professionals concerning recommended levels of relative humidity. In general, the range of humidity levels recommended by different organizations seems to be 30-60 per cent. Relative humidity below this level may produce discomfort from dryness. On the other hand, maintaining relative humidity at the lowest possible level helps to restrict the growth of mold and mildew. The concerns (comfort for the most part) associated with dry air must be balanced against the risks (enhanced microbiological growth) associated with humidification.

The guidelines for indoor humidity levels, as published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), indicate that satisfactory indoor humidity levels are achieved when relative humidity is between 25-60 per cent. While ASHRAE’s report does note that these levels may not be achievable in certain areas due to local conditions, it outlines discomfort issues of high or low indoor humidity, and emphasizes the potential for excessive humidity to cause long-term problems.

The issue of moisture condensing on, or in, a building’s walls is a concern in many locations, but most notably in areas where colder, dryer weather occurs for a portion of the year, as in the Canadian prairies. Saskatchewan Labour has published a guideline specifying the following maximum indoor humidity levels during the colder weather:

When the outdoor temperature is, the maximum indoor humidity should be:
-10° C 30 per cent
-20° C 20 per cent
-30° C 15 per cent

The humidity levels of ventilation at post-secondary educational institutions also varies, as detailed in the following summary:

a) University of Alberta – Above 0° C maintained at 25 per cent; below 0° C maintained at 17 per cent.
b) Montana State University – No humidification, except for the library
c) University of Colorado, Boulder – No humidification, except for libraries, special-collections rooms, computer rooms and the music building.

Thus, there is no one humidity level that can apply to every location. Local weather conditions and building design influence workable humidity levels for individual buildings. Both high and low humidity can cause discomfort for occupants, but high humidity can have a more serious long-term effect on both the building and the health of its occupants.

CIM joins the military

Left to right: Brigadier General Robin Gagnon, CD; Colonel (ret.) J. J. Lehmann, Registrar, Canadian Forces College; Peter Carr and Lee Weissling, Corporate Relations Manager, CIM at recent signing ceremony in Toronto.

On May 16, AU’s Centre for Innovative Management and the Department of National Defence (DND), through the Canadian Forces College (CFC), signed an agreement to provide Canadian Forces officers with increased access to AU’s Executive MBA programs. The agreement is the first of its kind for CIM, and reflects the growing prominence of AU’s MBA programs among Canada’s military forces.

Under the terms of the agreement, AU recognizes the academic rigor and managerial level experience of the CFC programs, and their high level of transferability within the Executive MBA context. Canadian Forces officers who have successfully completed at least six CFC courses will be given transfer credit for elective requirements in the Executive MBA programs.

Peter Carr, Executive Director of CIM, highlighted the mutual benefits of the unique alliance.

“Our agreement with the Department of National Defence is evidence of the growth and success of our graduate management programs,” he said. “It will broaden the scope of our MBA programs to include the specialized and highly complementary expertise of Canadian Forces officers.

“We are pleased to team up with DND in this new collaboration,” Carr continued. “It reflects both organizations’ commitment to graduate education that meets the present and future needs of Canadian Forces personnel.”

For more information, visit CIM’s web site at

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