CASCA Board statement on the University of California at Berkeley sexual harassment case

The Board of Directors of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is appalled by the recent news that Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been found to have violated the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy over a period of many years. Such behaviour has no place in our professional academic and working environment. We wish to express our concern for the women whose lives, both professional and personal, have been affected adversely by Dr. Marcy’s actions. We also feel that the sanctions that were originally levied by the University of California, Berkeley, against Dr. Marcy were inadequate compared to the damage he has caused to others.

CASCA has an Ethics Statement that states “All people encountered in one’s professional life must be treated with respect and dignity. Discrimination, harassment and abusive behaviours, be it against colleagues, students, or members of the media or the public, are never acceptable.” We have also implemented a code of conduct at our annual scientific meeting, which includes identifying one or more persons in authority and present at the meeting with whom concerns about inappropriate behavior during the meeting may be raised. We will be reviewing our own policies and procedures to identify additional measures that should be taken to protect our members.

Christine Wilson, President, CASCA


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CFHT data helps New Horizons navigate toward Pluto

Launched January 19 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft is now getting very close to Pluto with a predicted closest approach on Tuesday July 14 at 11:49:57 UTC, 01:00 HST. This will be the first human encounter with the Plutonian world. New Horizons will get there relying on CFHT data.

New Horizons is roughly 2.5 meters (8 feet) across and weighed approximately 480 kilograms (1,050 pounds) – about half a ton – when first fueled. It travels a the tremendous Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 kilometers per seconds (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). At this speed however, New Horizons will only be able to make a flyby close to Pluto and will not be able to enter orbit. Entering orbit would mean that operators would have to reduce the craft speed by over 90%, which would require more than 1,000 times the fuel that New Horizons can carry.

Nevertheless, a series of maneuvers are needed for a collisionless approach to Pluto so an accurate mapping of the objects close to or in the Plutonian system is crucial. In order to achieve this, the New Horizons team performed several images scans for smaller objects, for both intrinsic scientific interest, and as potential collision hazards. However, in order to enable the hazard search, New Horizons required a high-precision flux/position reference system.

CFHT discretionary time awarded to JJ Kavelaars at the CADC in 2014 turned out to be the best dataset to do just that. During the 2014A semester, Kavelaars and collaborators used MegaCam to refine Pluto’s astrometric system, improving our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and aiding the New Horizons pre-encounter hazard search team. The catalog resulting from these observations allows more precise calibration than any other wide field imager currently in operation due to the decade long use of MegaPrime on CFHT and the precise calibration system developed for this camera by Stephen Gwyn at the CADC. CFHT/MegaPrime astrometric reference catalogue is now being fed directly into the navigation process for guiding New Horizons into it’s final encounter with the Pluto system.

Additional information:

CFHT press release

New Horizons website

Contact Information:

Stephen Gwyn
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics

JJ Kavelaars
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics

2012 Carlyle S. Beals Award

CASCA is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. David Crampton, from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA), as the recipient of the 2012 Carlyle S. Beals Award.

Following the completion of his doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Dr. Crampton joined the scientific staff at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in 1967. A leading scientific and technical figure in the Canadian astronomical community for more than 40 years, Dr. Crampton has authored more 250 refereed papers spanning a wide range of topics, including the properties of young stars, the structure of the Milky Way, X-ray binaries and black holes, quasars, the evolution of galaxies, and the history of cosmic star formation. Dr. Crampton’s past honours and distinctions include the BC Science Council Gold Medal (1983), the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Muhlmann Award (1991), and the Commemorative Medal of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2002).

From 1986 to 2006, Dr. Crampton led the astronomy technology research group at HIA. During this period, he was the PI or Co-PI, on a series of the ground-breaking instruments for Canadian telescopes, including the CFHT Herzberg Spectrograph, MOS/SIS spectrograph and its OSIS near-IR upgrades, MOCAM, Adaptive Optics Bonnette, and MegaPrime, as well as the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS). Literally hundreds of astronomers have used the DAO, CFHT, and Gemini telescopes to publish thousands of articles based on data collected with these instruments. From 2004 to 2009, he was the leader of the TMT Science Instruments Group, a project in which he remains actively involved. Since 2010, he has been a leading figure in efforts to redevelop CFHT.

2013 Qilak Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 Qilak Award is Dr. James E. Hesser of the National Research Council.

Dr. Hesser has been a prominent figure in Canadian and international astronomy for many years. The director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory since 1986, Dr. Hesser is a past president of both CASCA (2004-2006) and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1987-1989), and a former vice-president of the American Astronomical Society (1991-1994). In 1997, Dr. Hesser was one of the first recipients of the prestigious Michael Smith Award, given through NSERC Canada to “honour people and groups that are inspirational in the way that they promote science to the general public”. He received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his services to the National Research Council and to all aspects of astronomy. In 2004, he received the CASCA Executive Award for exceptional service to CASCA, and he holds the title of Honorary President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

With a career-long commitment to astronomy education and public outreach, Dr. Hesser has led by example to forge an effective, efficient partnership between the main organizations of professional and amateur astronomy in Canada: CASCA, RASC, and the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ). In collaboration with others, he worked diligently to establish respectful partnerships with Canada’s Aboriginal communities to preserve and celebrate indigenous knowledge of astronomy, and to illustrate pathways by which Aboriginal youth can aspire to and enter careers in science and technology. A longtime supporter of community outreach programmes, he often gives enthusiastic talks at astronomy conferences and other venues across Canada to encourage, motivate, and inspire his professional and amateur colleagues to participate in EPO activities.

Perhaps most significantly, Dr Hesser worked tirelessly to lead International Year of Astronomy (IYA) efforts within Canada. From 2005 to well beyond 2009, he led and guided this highly visible international project by serving as Canada’s “single point of contact” and as chair of the Executive Committee and Advisory Board for IYA within Canada. Under his direction, the IYA provided a “Galileo Moment” (i.e., “an engaging astronomy experience”) to more than two million people in Canada through more than 3600 separate events, from coast to coast to coast, and in both official languages. Always mindful of the need to cultivate lasting partnerships that sustain public interest in astronomy, Dr. Hesser has been a driving force behind “Beyond IYA” efforts within Canada.

The 2013 recipient of CASCA’s Executive Award is Dr. John B. Hutchings, of the National Research Council of Canada.

A native of South Africa, Dr. Hutchings joined NRC in 1967, after graduating from Cambridge University. During his long and distinguished career, Dr. Hutchings has received numerous awards and honors, including the Beals Award from the Canadian Astronomical Society in 1982, the Gold Medal from the Science Council of British Columbia in 1983, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1987. Although he formally retired from NRC in January 2012, this has had no effect on his commitment to strengthening the role of astronomy within Canada.

The author of over 450 papers in refereed journals, Dr. Hutchings is in the top 0.5% of most cited astrophysicists worldwide. He has worked on remarkably diverse topics including massive stars, stellar winds, X-ray binaries, novae, cataclysmic variables, the interstellar medium, active galaxies and quasars, radio galaxies, and high-redshift galaxy clusters. For this, he has used of a wide array of space- and ground-based facilities, from X-ray and ultraviolet satellites to radio interferometers.

Often working on astronomy’s forefront topics, from his early career Dr. Hutchings has been an indefatigable champion of space astronomy, leading Canadian participation in a series of key missions, including the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, Astrosat and the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope. In particular, beginning in the early 1980s, Dr. Hutchings worked tirelessly to secure Canadian participation in FUSE, negotiating access policies that enabled Canadian scientists to gain greater access than would be expected given Canada’s share of the costs, and leading the design of FUSE’s Fine Error Sensor (FES) camera, a critical system responsible for the precise tracking of the telescope.

The FES represented Canada’s first foray into international space astronomy hardware, meeting tracking and pointing specifications far more stringent than required by any previous Canadian effort in space plasma physics or communications satellites. Moreover, the FES package helped to open the door to Canada’s participation in JWST, thus enabling Canadians to be part of one of the most technologically advanced, and scientifically exciting, astronomy projects ever undertaken. From the initial phases of JWST’s mission design, Dr. Hutchings worked closely with the CSA and NASA to support negotiations that ultimately resulted in Canada being responsible for the design and construction of two of JWST’s critical instruments: the Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS), and the Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS). Dr. Hutchings has been Canadian Project Scientist for JWST from 2001 to 2012, as well as Principal Investigator for the FGS.

Finally, Dr. Hutchings has been a steady voice and leader in many national and international committees. In Canada, he is a key contributor to CASCA/CSA’s Joint Committee for Space Astronomy, and a member of CASCA’s Ground Based Astronomy committee, of the Coalition for Astronomy TMT Planning Committee, and of CSA’s Euclid Science Advisory Committee. He is currently chair of CASCA’s Long Range Plan Implementation Committee, which is actively working to establish a framework for implementing and operating Canadian astronomical facilities in the coming decade.

For more than four decades, Dr. John Hutchings has charted a course of excellence for Canadian astronomy, setting the highest standards in scientific achievements, technical contributions, and service to the community.

2013 Plaskett Medal

Dr. Hasegawa completed his doctoral studies in 2012 at McMaster University. His thesis, entitled “Planet Traps in Protoplanetary Disk and the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems”, was carried out under the supervision of Prof. Ralph Pudritz. This work explores in detail — from both a theoretical and computational perspective — the possibility that inhomogeneous structure in protostellar accretion disks can create ‘planet traps’ where major planets are built up primarily through the capture of rapidly migrating planetary cores, followed by the accretion of dense gas.

CASCA extends its congratulations to Dr. Hasegawa, who is currently an East Asian Core Observatories Association (EACOA) Fellow at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) in Taiwan.


2014 Plaskett Medal

ponCASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2014 J.S. Plaskett Medal is Dr. Andrew Pon.

Dr. Pon completed his doctoral studies at the University of Victoria in 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Johnstone (UVic, NRC-Herzberg). His thesis, entitled “Shocks, Superbubbles, and Filaments: Investigations into Large Scale Gas Motions in Giant Molecular Clouds”, covers a wide range of topics in star formation — including gravitational collapse, turbulent heating, and Galactic ecology. This work bridges theory and observations, and crosses traditional boundaries between the detailed investigation of individual nearby star-forming regions and the much larger scale studies of galactic-scale star formation.

Dr. Pon is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, where he is continuing his studies of turbulent dissipation and shock heating in molecular clouds.

2014 Qilak Award

Trottier_Howard (11)finsmCASCA is pleased to announce Prof. Howard Trottier of Simon Fraser University (SFU) as the recipient of the 2014 Qilak award.

Prof. Trottier received a Ph.D. from McGill University in 1987. He has been a professor of physics at SFU since 1993, specializing in studies of lattice Quantum Chromodynamics.

For many years, Prof. Trottier has shown a remarkable dedication to education and public outreach. A past president of the RASC Vancouver centre, he is presently serving as Director of Telescopes. Prof. Trottier and his alter ego — MrStarryNights — have had a profound impact on astronomy education in British Columbia. Since 2007, Prof. Trottier has organized the Starry Nights program — popular gatherings of astronomy enthusiasts at SFU’s Burnaby campus. Starting in 2009, Prof. Trottier has held daytime workshops for thousands of school-age children in which participants learn the basics of telescope optics and usage; thanks to his tireless fundraising efforts, over 150 tripod-mounted refracting telescopes have been donated, about half to public schools, and half to individual families with young children. Another initiative born out of Prof. Trottier’s vision and fundraising efforts is SFU’s Astronomical Teaching Observatory, currently under construction at the Burnaby Mountain campus and to be opened in the fall of 2014. The associated Science Outreach Centre, inaugurated in January 2014, is already providing space and support for both astronomy and general science workshops for thousands of elementary, middle and high school students during daytime visits from nearby schools, for home-school families, and community groups.

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

The Canadian Astronomical Society Delighted by Canada’s Commitment to Construction Funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope

VANCOUVER, April 6, 2015 – The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is delighted by Canada’s commitment to construction funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) international partnership, announced yesterday evening by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver.

“The TMT is the top priority in Canada’s Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, our roadmap to continued international leadership in this field. Canada’s astronomers will point to today’s announcement for decades to come as a critical moment in furthering our excellence in the field,” said Christine Wilson, President of CASCA and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy.

The TMT is a revolutionary telescope conceived and designed by Canadian astronomers and industry working together with their partners in China, India, Japan, the University of California and the California Institute of Technology. The TMT will be almost 100 times more powerful than the current best telescope. The telescope will examine the first stars to form in the universe, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and the atmospheres and other properties of planets within the habitable zones of other stars.

“Canada has consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and that success is directly linked to our ability to access the top facilities in the world, like the TMT. This is a great day for Canadian astronomy as we have now secured long-term access to what will be the world’s most powerful ground-based telescope,” stated Wilson.

CASCA joined with its Coalition for Canadian Astronomy partners from the university sector and industry in welcoming the Prime Minister’s announcement.

“Canadian astronomers have been responsible for some of the greatest discoveries in this field, and it is our hope that the TMT will inspire a new generation of young Canadians to pursue a career in the sciences. The science TMT will deliver will be transformative for astronomy, both in Canada and around the world. This is a once-in-a-generation project in which all Canadians can take great pride,” said Ray Carlberg, Canadian TMT Project Director.

About the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société canadienne d’astronomie
The Canadian Astronomical Society was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers. The society is devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. CASCA’s road map to international leadership in this field is the Long Range Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics, or LRP. The LRP was created by a Blue Ribbon Panel to chart a course for Canadian astronomy. It calls for Canadian participation in the next generation of global astronomy projects, coupled with investments in technology development in Canada, the training of young Canadian scientists and engineers, and intellectual leadership in the planning and operation of facilities by Canadian astronomers.

For further information, contact:

Christine Wilson
CASCA President
(905) 525-9140 x27483

Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
(301) 675-8957

Ray Carlberg
Canadian TMT Project Director
(416) 978-2198

For more information about TMT, visit