John Hutchings wins CSA’s John H. Chapman Award of Excellence

In recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Canadian Space Program, Dr. John B. Hutchings was presented with the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence during a ceremony at the 17th Conference on Astronautics of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI ASTRO 2016) in Ottawa, Ontario.

Dr. Hutchings has led Canada’s participation in landmark missions, like the James Webb Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on India’s ASTROSAT. These missions are helping make significant advances in space science and new technologies. The fact that he was able to lead so many major projects to fruition while maintaining excellent relations with international partners and a highly productive research career, is testimony to his skills, passion and perseverance.

Dr. Hutchings is indeed an enormously productive scientist who has made several major scientific discoveries. Authoring over 450 publications, he is in the top 0.5% of most cited astrophysicists worldwide. This is truly a remarkable personal achievement that reflects on Canadian science and innovation. As a true leader, he also generously shared his knowledge and served as a mentor to a generation of brilliant minds.

The Chapman Award is a tribute to the distinguished career and achievements of an extraordinary individual, whose vision and contributions have shaped Canada’s space program.

2015 Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach

CASCA is pleased to announce Mr. Paul Delaney from York University as the recipient of the 2015 Qilak award.

Mr. Delaney was an active member of the Canberra Astronomical Society in his native Australia before obtaining his MSc in Astronomy at the University of Victoria in 1981. He became the Observatory Coordinator at York University in 1986, where he has also been the Director of the Division of Natural Science since 2002.

For Mr. Delaney’s infectious enthusiasm and tireless advocacy for astronomical outreach has spanned several decades. Charged with ensuring access for York physics students in his role as observatory coordinator, Mr. Delaney went one step further and built a thriving public outreach program that welcomes over 5,000 visitors to the observatory annually and a weekly YorkUniverse global radio audience of 30,000. Mr. Delaney’s face and name are also ubiquitous on Canadian media when there is a major sky event, with near-weekly appearances with major news outlets. Mr. Delaney has been an active member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) throughout his long career, and is currently the second vice-president of the RASC Toronto Centre. Mr. Delaney has received several awards for his sustained and enthusiastic service promoting astronomy, including the 2010 Sandford Fleming Medal, a Top-10 lecturer in TV Ontario’s 2005 “Best Lecture” competition, and both Faculty of Science and University-wide teaching awards at York.

Please join CASCA in thanking Mr. Delaney for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.

2015 Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Anne Archibald as the 2015 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Archibald completed her doctoral studies at McGill University in 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Vicki Kaspi. Her thesis, entitled “The End of Accretion: The X-ray Binary/Millisecond Pulsar Transition Object PSR  J1023+0038”, reports the discovery and detailed study of an eclipsing binary radio pulsar. Using several different telescopes at a variety of wavelengths, Dr. Archibald established the transitional nature of the system from low-mass X-ray binary to millisecond radio pulsar, the first such object discovered and a key “missing link” in our understanding of neutron star binary evolution.

Dr. Archibald is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), where she is continuing her pulsar research and working on the LOFAR radio telescope.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Archibald on the receipt of the 2015 J.S. Plaskett  medal.

CASCA Executive Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Ralph Pudritz, from McMaster University, is the 2016 recipient of the CASCA Executive Award.

In 1998 Dr. Pudritz was appointed the chair of the original Long Range Planning panel, the outcome of which was the highly influential LRP2000 report (“The Origins of Structure in the Universe”). Prior to this report, individual leaders and panels in various sub-disciplines had succeeded in developing Canadian involvement in a range of facilities and institutes, but LRP2000 was the first long-range plan that the Canadian astronomical community itself generated through a process of broad consultation, debate, and, ultimately, consensus. Dr. Pudritz drove this process forward with vision and energy. LRP2000 not only succeeded in cementing Canadian involvement in ALMA, TMT and the SKA (remarkable in the face of the very challenging funding climate), it also succeeded in transforming the process by which our community communicates our aspirations to the federal and provincial governments and other funding partners. The LRP2000 report became the model for future decadal plans that
have succeeded in developing a unified vision for Canadian astrophysics, and this success is in no small measurable attributable to the efforts of Ralph Pudritz and to his colleagues on the LRP2000 panel. Dr. Pudritz has subsequently gone on to develop the Origins Institute at McMaster University, a visionary research and teaching institute with a multidisciplinary focus on biology, mathematics, physics and astrophysics. This is another achievement well worthy of recognition by the Executive Award.

The Board of Directors of CASCA congratulates Dr. Pudritz on his distinguished career of scientific achievement, thanks him for his outstanding record of service to the community, and is honoured to award him the 2016 CASCA Executive Award.

2016 J. S. Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jonathan Gagné as the 2016 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Gagné completed his doctoral studies at l’Université de Montréal under the supervision of Dr. David Lafrenière and Dr. René Doyon. His thesis, entitled “La recherche de naines brunes et étoiles de faible masse dans les associations cinématiques jeunes du voisinage solaire”, identifies and characterizes new substellar mass objects that belong to nearby young associations of stars. Dr. Gagné developed a powerful new algorithm to select highly probable substellar objects in young associations that is now widely used by the community. He also carried out an all-sky survey to identify, follow-up and characterize actual candidates, more than doubling the number of confirmed brown dwarfs.
Dr. Gagné is now widely recognized as a leading figure in the study of nearby young substellar objects.

Dr. Gagné is currently a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science, where he will work to identify and characterize young brown dwarfs with only a few times the mass of Jupiter.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Gagné on the receipt of the 2016 J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Peter Stetson, from NRC-Herzberg, as the 2016 recipient of the Dunlap Award.

Dr. Stetson obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy at Yale in 1979. After a short research fellowship at Yale he took a Carnegie Fellowship at the Mount Wilson and Las Campanas Observatories, subsequently moving to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) of NRC-Herzberg in 1983.
Dr. Stetson has been the principal research officer at DAO since 2003.
He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006, and was awarded the George van Biesbroeck Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 2008.

To address the problem of measuring the properties of stars in digital images from the earliest CCDs, Dr. Stetson developed and released the DAOPHOT program in 1986. He has single-handedly maintained, improved, and supported it since then. Countless investigators have used DAOPHOT; the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to measure the size of the Universe and the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of dark energy are but two transformational scientific results that exploit its photometry. Dr. Stetson’s more recent spectral line measurement code, DAOSPEC, has been adopted by many of the world’s largest optical facilities. Additionally, Dr. Stetson’s carefully calibrated, freely available photometric standard star catalog now exceeds 114,000 objects, and underpins the majority of photometric observations carried out today. Dr. Stetson has also long served as an image structure expert for senior National Research Council engineers, impacting the design of instruments for the nex
t generation of large facilities such as the Thirty Meter Telescope.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Stetson on the receipt of the 2016 Dunlap Award.

Qilak Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jaymie Matthews, from the University of British Columbia, as the 2016 recipient of the Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1987, Dr. Matthews held positions at Western and l’Université de Montréal before moving to the University of British Columbia as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in 1988. He obtained tenure at UBC in 2000, and has been a full professor there since 2008.

Dr. Matthews’ dedication and boundless enthusiasm for communicating with the public about astronomy are illustrated by the dozens of outreach activities in which he participates annually, ranging from public presentations, to radio interviews, to campus tours, to TV show consultations. Beyond his legendary teaching reputation at UBC, he has given courses aimed at younger children as well as special lectures in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the First Nations Summer Science Programme, and the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) undergraduate lecture series, among many others. In recognition of these efforts, Dr. Matthews received the CAP Education Medal in 2002, was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Please join CASCA in thanking Dr. Matthews for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.

2016 Beals Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Chris Pritchet, from the University of Victoria, as the 2016 recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award.

Dr. Pritchet obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Toronto in 1975. After holding positions at the University of British Columbia, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Calgary, Dr. Pritchet has been on faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria since 1982. He was Department Chair from 1995-1998, and the chair of the 2010-2020 Long Range Plan Committee for Canadian Astronomy. Dr. Pritchet is currently an associate fellow of the CIfAR Cosmology and Gravity program as well as the principal investigator of CANFAR, which coordinates astronomical computing resources across Canada.

Dr. Pritchet’s research in observational cosmology combines the best available technology with sophisticated analysis techniques. His discovery, along with Sidney van den Bergh, of RR Lyrae variable stars in the Andromeda galaxy is recognized as a vital contribution to fixing distance scales in the Local Group. He is a leader of the Supernova Legacy Survey that has provided precise measurements of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe, and he initiated the close galaxy pair study in the Canadian Network for Observational Cosmology redshift survey. He has also produced important results on galaxy mass profiles, globular cluster distributions, and stellar populations of galaxies in the local universe. Dr. Pritchet has mentored over three dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and has also made important contributions to astronomy education and outreach as a Galileo lecturer of the International Year of Astronomy and the initiator and primary organizer of Vict
oria’s Café Scientifique.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Pritchet on a distinguished career of scientific achievement and community service.

Gilles Fontaine awarded the 2016 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the awarding by the Canadian Association of Physicists of the 2016 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics to Gilles Fontaine, Université de Montréal, for his pioneering, world-renowned work in theoretical and observational studies of white dwarf stars and the late stages of stellar evolution, including major contributions to the equation of state for white dwarfs and investigations of pulsating compact stars, as well as the discovery of a new class of subdwarf pulsators. His leadership has built what is arguably the preeminent group in the world in this field.

(From the CAP press release:) A true follower of the tradition of excellence in the field of astrophysics in Canada, Professor Fontaine has distinguished himself internationally for the exceptional quality of his research in stellar astrophysics, especially for his study on the final phases of stellar evolution (white dwarfs and subdwarfs, the final products of stellar evolution for most stars). Not only did he build the foundations for an actual theory on the evolution of white dwarfs, he is also one of the pioneers who first used them as cosmochronometers independent from the other components of our galaxy. He also became a true leader in the field of astroseismology, the unique method by which we can examine the internal structure of stars by studying their “starquakes”, using observations and numerical modeling. His work in science, popular worldwide, has earned him multiples prizes and awards.

The full CAP press release is available here

Victoria Kaspi wins the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the selection of Dr. Victoria M Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal, Canada to receive the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Dr. Victoria M. Kaspi is one of the world’s leading experts on neutron stars, the ancient remnants of the most massive stars in the Milky Way. The most massive stars end their lives as black holes. Less massive stars, however, leave behind celestial objects no bigger than the city of Montreal, yet so dense that just one teaspoon would weigh 100 million metric tonnes.

Dr Kaspi uses the largest and most powerful radio and X-ray telescopes in the world to study the physical behaviour of neutron stars, pulsars and magnetars (neutron stars with very strong magnetic fields). Her seminal research sheds light on how stars evolve, how they die and, ultimately, the very nature of matter under extreme conditions.
Dr Kaspi’s research group has had major impacts in the field of astrophysics, including unique tests confirming Einstein’s long-held theory of general relativity and discovering the fastest rotating star. Her team’s landmark discovery of powerful X-ray bursts from an enigmatic class of stars (a finding that essentially doubles the number of known magnetars in our galaxy) was published in Nature in 2013.

Dr Kaspi received her PhD from Princeton University in 1993. She has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including the Hubble Fellowship, the Annie Jump Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society, and has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London, and the US National Academy of Sciences.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Kaspi for this well earned recognition of her outstanding contributions to cosmology and to Canadian scientific excellence.