Professor Christine Wilson is Elected to the Royal Society of Canada (Sept. 9, 2013)

This is an official CASCA Press Release.

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Societe Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the election of Dr. Christine Wilson of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, to the Royal Society of Canada.

As Canada’s senior National Academy, the RSC exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both of Canada’s official languages, to mentor young scholars and artists, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians generally on matters of public interest (http://rsc-src.ca/en/about-us/our-purpose/mandate-mission-and-vision).

Christine received her PhD in astronomy at Caltech in 1990 and moved to McMaster University in 1992. She has been the Canadian project scientist for ALMA since 1999 and is currently the principal investigator of three international projects: the Herschel Very Nearby Galaxies Survey, the JCMT Nearby Galaxies Legacy Survey, and the SMA Luminous Infrared Galaxies Survey.

Contacts:
Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957
cascapressofficer@gmail.com

Laura Ferrarese
CASCA President
casca-president@casca.ca

Christine Wilson
wilson@physics.mcmaster.ca

CASCA Twitter Account (Sept. 19, 2013)

The new CASCA Twitter account (@AstroCanada) went live on September 19, 2013. Unlike most corporate Twitter accounts, the CASCA one is run by actual CASCA members. Each week, a new CASCA member will be given the keys and the opportunity to tweet about their work, observing trips, conferences and general life as an astronomer. More information and guidelines are available on the CASCA webpages. If you would like to take over the CASCA Twitter account for a week, please email Dennis Crabtree (Dennis.Crabtree@nrc.ca).

CITA Postdoctoral Fellowships (Deadline November 15, 2013)

Postdoctoral research fellowships beginning September 1, 2014 are being offered at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. A Ph.D. in any field of theoretical astrophysics is required. Fellows are expected to carry out original research in theoretical astrophysics under the general supervision of the permanent faculty whose interests include: cosmology, interstellar matter, galaxy and planet formation, solar physics, high energy astrophysics, numerical relativity and gravitational waves.

We only accept electronic submissions. Visit the CITA website at: www.cita.utoronto.ca for application instructions. Applicants will be asked to submit a curriculum vitae, statement of research interests and arrange for three letters of recommendation. The deadline for applications and all letters of recommendation is November 15, 2013.

The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE POSITIONS

CITA expects to offer one or more Research Associate positions of three to five years duration. The start date will be September 1, 2014. Applicants should have an excellent research record in astrophysics and postdoctoral experience. Funds will be available for travel and other research expenses. The primary duty is to carry out original research in theoretical astrophysics, but Research Associates are also expected to work with postdoctoral fellows and to assist with the administration of the Institute. All applicants for these positions are also considered automatically for postdoctoral fellowships.

We only accept electronic submissions. Visit the CITA website at: www.cita.utoronto.ca for application instructions. Applicants will be asked to submit a curriculum vitae, statement of research interests and arrange for three letters of recommendation. The deadline for applications and all letters of recommendation is November 15, 2013.

The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas. This is an international search. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

NATIONAL POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIPS

As part of its mandate to promote research throughout Canada, CITA provides partial support for postdoctoral fellows working in theoretical astrophysics or closely related fields at Canadian universities other than the University of Toronto, through its National Fellows Program.

The responsibility for identifying and nominating potential CITA National Fellows who will work at a given university lies with the faculty at that university. Only faculty at Canadian universities may submit nominations. The deadline for these nominations November 15, 2013 for fellowships to start in September 2014. Please check with the nominating institution for their internal deadlines.

If you are interested in applying for National Fellowships at other universities in Canada, please contact any of the following faculty by email or check department websites for further research and application details:

Professor Alan Coley, Dalhousie University (aac@mathstat.dal.ca)
Professor Andrew Cumming, McGill University (cumming@physics.mcgill.ca)
Professor Julio Navarro, University of Victoria (http://www.astro.uvic.ca/~jfn/)
Professor Ethan Vishniac, University of Saskatchewan (ethan.vishniac@usask.ca)
Professor Paul Charbonneau, Université de Montréal (paulchar@ASTRO.UMontreal.CA)
Professor Shantanu Basu, University of Western Ontario (basu@uwo.ca)
Professor Eric Poisson, University of Guelph (epoisson@uoguelph.ca)
Professor Gary Hinshaw, University of British Columbia (http://www.astro.ubc.ca/citafellow.html)
Professor Natasha Ivanova, University of Alberta (www.physics.ualberta.ca/en/Research/AstronomyAndAstrophysics.aspx)
Professor James Wadsley, McMaster University (wadsley@mcmaster.ca)

e-News: June/July 2013

 

ITEMS OF INTEREST POSTED ON THE CASCA WEBPAGES IN JUNE/JULY 2013:

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Scientific Authorities Sign the TMT Master Agreement (July 25, 2013)

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project announces today that all of the scientific authorities of the TMT partners have signed a Master Agreement. The Master Agreement document establishes a formal agreement amongst the international parties defining the project goals, establishing a governance structure and defining member party rights, obligations and benefits.

TMT is a unique and vibrant collaboration among universities in the United States with institutions in the nations of Canada, China, India and Japan, and with major funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Uniting these various parties under a Master Agreement stands as a significant accomplishment for TMT as a scientific endeavor with global reach.

“The signing of this Master Agreement marks a major milestone in the official commitment to and formalization of this global collaboration, ensuring that the TMT project is on schedule and progressing smoothly,” said Henry Yang, Chair of the TMT Collaborative Board. “We have been working towards this moment for a long time and this is a special day for astronomy’s next-generation observatory.”

The Master Agreement brings together the TMT partners for the purpose of developing, designing, financing, constructing, commissioning, operating and decommissioning a next-generation, thirty meter-class astronomical observatory.

“We are pleased with this vote of confidence from the scientific authorities,” said Edward Stone, Vice Chair of the TMT Board. “Their signing of this Master Agreement is a key endorsement of TMT’s scientific merits as well as the project’s overall implementation plan.”

Looking ahead, the next step will be for the financial authorities of the partners to similarly sign the document and finalize the funding plan.

“With the scientific authorities now all on board, we welcome and look forward to the critical support of the remaining financial authorities in advancing the TMT project,” said Yang.

2013 has been a busy and successful year for TMT, and the signing of the Master Agreement is a major step forward in the creation of a revolutionary astronomical facility. Construction of TMT is planned to begin in April 2014 and TMT is scheduled to begin scientific operations in 2022 on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Signatories of the Master Agreement:

The signatories of the Master Agreement are: Donald E. Brooks, Chair of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) Institutional Council; Jean-Lou Chameau, President of the California Institute of Technology; Masahiko Hayashi, Director General of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ); Dr. P. Sreekumar, Director of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics; Jun Yan, Director General of the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) and Mark Yudof, President of the University of California.

Statements from TMT Partners:

“ACURA is pleased to be a partner in signing the Master Agreement as Scientific Authority, and is currently engaged with the National Research Council to discuss moving the project forward for funding in Canada. TMT will be a vital resource for research in Canadian universities. It will deepen our knowledge of many of the major issues in astronomy & astrophysics in ways that would not be possible without such a new generation telescope,” said Ernie Seaquist, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA).

“China is excited to be an active partner of such a world-leading facility, which represents a quantum leap for our community. With yet another major step taken, we look forward to many decades of solving the mysteries of the cosmos from Mauna Kea,” said Jun Yan, Director General of the National Astronomical Observatories of China.

”We are delighted to start contribution to make this scientific enterprise a reality. We believe TMT and Subaru will be a good match to explore many key riddles of the Universe,” said Prof. Masahiko Hayashi, the Director General of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

“TMT-India is extremely happy to participate in the joint signing of the TMT Master Agreement. It is an important milestone in our global endeavor to raise astronomical observations to a new level with the promise of exciting science. With a large number of young students and researchers in our growing academic program, the Indian astronomical community sees the complete realization of the TMT project as an important stimulus to astrophysics research programs in India. We look forward to jointly addressing the next milestone in this program,” said Dr. P. Sreekumar, Director, Indian Institute of Astrophysics.

About the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation:

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believes in bold ideas that create enduring impact in the areas of science, environmental conservation and patient care. Intel co-founder Gordon and his wife Betty established the foundation to create positive change around the world and at home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Science looks for opportunities to transform–or even create–entire fields by investing in early-stage research, emerging fields and top research scientists. Environmental conservation efforts promote sustainability, protect critical ecological systems and align conservation needs with human development. Patient care focuses on eliminating preventable harms and unnecessary healthcare costs through meaningful engagement of patients and their families in a supportive, redesigned healthcare system. Visit us at Moore.org or follow @MooreScientific.

About TMT:

TMT is the next-generation astronomical observatory that is scheduled to begin scientific operations in 2022 on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. TMT is a collaboration of the California Institute of Technology, University of California, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, a consortium of Chinese institutions led by the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and institutions in India supported by the Department of Science and Technology of India. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. For more information, visit tmt.org , www.facebook.com/TMTHawaii or follow @TMTHawaii.

TMT Media contact:

Gordon K. Squires
TMT Communications & Outreach Lead
squires@tmt.org
626-216-4257

The ESA Summer of Code in Space Program (Deadline August 4, 2013)

The ESA Summer of Code in Space program (SOCIS; http://sophia.estec.esa.int/socis2013/) is designed to attract undergraduate and graduate developers to write code to for various space related open source software projects. It offers a sizeable remuneration of 4000 Euros for a coding period of 3 months (mid-August to mid-November). Astropy/specutils has been selected as a mentoring organizations and is now accepting applications (for details please go to https://github.com/astropy/specutils/wiki/SoCiS-2013-ideas; deadline is 4th of August). The Astropy Project is a community effort to develop a single core package for Astronomy in Python and foster interoperability between Python astronomy packages. Our SOCIS mentorship will focus on expanding the astropy-specutils package that is designed to deal with code that focuses on spectral data analysis.

ESA has some eligibility criteria http://sophia.estec.esa.int/socis2012/?q=faq#socis_elig_restrictions.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) International Top Young Fellowship (Deadline August 31, 2013)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) International Top Young Fellowship (ITYF) was established as a prestigious new fellowship program in 2009. The ITYF is designed to attract outstanding, highly motivated, early-career researchers in any of the space science fields covered by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) to work in Japan for 3 (extendable to 5) years. An excellent remuneration package is offered, including research budget (including travel expense) so that the fellow can extend their international profile, as well as developing collaborations within Japan.

The most recent call for JAXA International Top Young Fellowship applications, for FY2013, has been issued. The application deadline is 31 August 2013. Please see the below link for further details.

http://www.jaxa.jp/employ/index_e.html

Professor and Director, Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Deadline October 1, 2013)

The University of Toronto is seeking a Director to lead the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. This joint tenured appointment will be at the rank of Full Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics (51%) and the Dunlap Institute (49%). The appointment of the successful candidate is expected to take effect July 1, 2014.

The Dunlap Institute is a leading centre for research and outreach whose mission is to develop innovative astronomical instrumentation and advanced observing techniques, and to mount public education and outreach programs. The Institute’s plans include a continuing increase in faculty, postdoctoral, and staff appointments over the next few years. The Institute has strong ties to the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and to the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics hosted by the University.

The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. in the area of Astronomy and Astrophysics or related field. The successful candidate will be a distinguished leader, with outstanding academic achievement and established abilities in teaching and research supervision, with experience in building collaborative teams and in relating to a range of external national and international partners, and the energy and imagination to exploit this opportunity. The Director will foster innovation in the Institute’s core academic and research programs, building on the existing strengths in astronomy and astrophysics and working with distinguished faculty to enhance its impact. The successful candidate will promote the development of innovative means for channeling information on astronomy and astrophysics to the general public.

Established in 1827 by royal charter, the University of Toronto is the largest and most prestigious research-intensive university in Canada, located in one of the world’s great cities. University of Toronto astronomers enjoy access to many national and international observatories, including ALMA, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Gemini Observatory, and James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and are presently active in the exploitation of the Herschel Space Observatory, MOST, and Planck. They are also actively engaged in the development of BIT, BRITE, CHIME, Gemini F2T2, Gemini Planet Imager, JWST, Keck/NIRES and OSIRIS, SDSS IV/MaNGA, the South Pole Telescope, SPIDER, SuperBLASTpol, an Arctic observatory, novel near-infrared spectrographs for large telescopes, as well as planning and instrument development for the Thirty-Meter Telescope, in which Canada is a consortium partner. Major computing capacity is available in the University’s SciNet facility and the Southern Ontario Smart!
Computing Innovation Platform (an IBM Blue Gene/Q system housed at the same Centre), among the most powerful in the world.

The role as Director is for an initial five-year term, renewable once. Candidates must demonstrate excellence in, and commitment to, both research and teaching. The successful candidate will be expected to have an active, externally funded and internationally recognized research program and to contribute to the education and training of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, members of sexual minority groups, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

The closing date is October 1, 2013; however the search will remain open until filled. Applications including a cover letter, curriculum vitae, a statement outlining current and future teaching and research interests, and the names and contact details of three referees (who will not be contacted without the consent of the applicant) should be forwarded, in confidence, to: dunlap.search@utoronto.ca.

Inquiries should be directed to Peter Martin, Interim Director, Dunlap Institute at this e-mail address.

For more information please visit our websites:

•Dunlap Institute – http://dunlap.utoronto.ca
•Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics www.astro.utoronto.ca
•Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics www.cita.utoronto.ca

President’s Report (June 15, 2013)

 

Hello everyone,

since I wrote my last report two months ago, I have had the opportunity to attend three meetings that are directly relevant to the strategic planning for Canadian astronomy. Two of these meetings focused specifically on CFHT: the ngCFHT workshop, which took place in Hilo, HI, on March 27-29, 2013, and the triennial CFHT Users’ Meeting, held in Campbell River on May 6-8.  The third meeting was, of course, the 2013 CASCA AGM, which took place on the campus of the University of British Columbia on May 28-30. The following reflects my notes and impressions from these meetings.

 

The Future of the Canada France Hawaii Telescope

CFHT is at a crossroad. Until now, the telescope has maintained world-wide competitiveness – in spite of its modest size in a landscape dominated by 8m class facilities – thanks to its wide-field imaging capabilities. This is changing. HyperSupremeCam (HSC) at Subaru outperforms MegaCam by an order of magnitude in exposure time and 10% to 15% in image quality. DECam, now in full operation at the 4m Blanco telescope, boasts nearly 4 times MegaCam’s field of view. PanSTARRS 1+2 and, especially, LSST (on track for a 2014 start of construction) will eventually completely dominate the wide-field imaging game. These facilities will be game changers. Dome venting (which is underway) and/or upgrades in MegaCam detectors (which have been proposed) will keep the CFHT competitive in the near term, but, in my view, do not represent CFHT’s long-term future.

At the CFHT Users’ Meeting, the Director, Doug Simons, laid out a three-step plan for the telescope: 1) implement new capabilities to keep CFHT competitive in the very near-term; 2) expand the existing partnership; and 3) transform the telescope into a new facility.

Proposals for new capabilities for CFHT will be tended in August 2013, and a selection will be made in late fall/winter. Upgrades to the MegaCam and/or ESPaDOnS detectors, the purchase of narrow-band filters for MegaCam, a 4D Superconducting MKID Camera, and upgrades to the Pueo AO system are some of the ideas floated at the meeting. Before then, we can look forward to SITELLE, an imaging Fourier transform spectrometer with an 11’×11’ field of view and wavelength range between 350 and 850 nm. SITELLE is scheduled to be delivered at the telescope this summer, and will be offered on a shared risk basis in 2014A.

Doug made it clear that the future of CFHT must proceed through expansion of the current consortium with a view towards exploiting the strengths and synergies of the existing facilities on Mauna Kea. CFHT has been working towards this goal for several years already, with Brazil, China, Korea and Taiwan currently buying nights on the telescope. Doug announced that China has expressed an interest of becoming a full partner. This opens an exciting possibility, since the additional funding could be used to cover the operating costs for UKIRT, which is looking for a new owner to take over after September 30, 2013. The advantages are obvious, not least the fact that if (when) CFHT is redeveloped, UKIRT could provide needed telescope access to the Canadian optical community while the CFHT site is under construction.

Which brings us to point 3) in Doug’s presentation. Currently the only proposed long-term future for CFHT is ngCFHT: a 10m telescope, to be built on the existing CFHT pier, equipped with a highly multiplexed, wide field, medium to high resolution spectrograph. The project is proposing to start redeveloping the site in late 2017, with first light expected in ~2021. At both the Users’ meeting, and at the ngCFHT workshop, the case was made by numerous speakers that such facility would outperform all existing or planned wide-field spectroscopic instruments, including BigBoss, AAT/Hermes, VISTA/4MOST, and VLT/MOONS. I was mostly impressed by the diversity of the science cases ngCFHT can address: from exoplanets to cosmology, and everything in between (see http://www.ngcfht.org/science-study for a partial list).

The ngCFHT workshop was attended by close to 100 participants from Canada, France, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US, many of whom not directly associated with the feasibility study for the project. Although there is no question that the scientific enthusiasm behind ngCFHT is significant, funding is an issue (the cost estimate is ~$200M, to be divided amongst all partners), and of course it remains to be seen whether ngCFHT will remain the only route forward, or whether other ideas will emerge. But one thing is certain: we must act soon – now – or we risk being left behind in the burgeoning field of wide-field spectroscopic surveys.

 

The CASCA Annual General Meeting

The 2013 CASCA AGM took place on the campus of the University of British Columbia on May 28-30. The scientific level of the meeting was very high – with many excellent talks and posters on topics from exoplanets to stellar chronology to the recent Planck results. Presentations were made on future facilities, including SKA, SPICA, CCAT, the Artic Telescope and ngCFHT (TMT was, regrettably, absent), as well as current facilities, in particular JCMT, ALMA, Gemini and CFHT; a lunch discussion focused on the implementation of the LRP and generated some interesting discussion about the future of CFHT and Space Astronomy projects (slides can be found on the LRP Implementation committee webpage. Additionally, I would like to remind everyone that the latest reports from all CASCA committees, containing several statements relevant to the issues discussed here, are posted on the Committee pages on the CASCA website).

In terms of current ground-based facilities, with the exception of ALMA, the outlook is not especially positive. The STFC Council will cease operational support for JCMT on September 30, 2014; consequently, JCMT, like UKIRT, is looking for a new owner, and a Prospectus is expected to be released this summer. As for Gemini, the director Markus Kissler-Patig reported some good news (Flamingos2 has now been installed at Gemini South and is undergoing commissioning, while GPI will be delivered later this summer) but also spoke of a significant (20%) budget cut. In spite of this, Gemini is taking steps to ensure its competitiveness: Markus outlined a plan that facilitates the use of visiting instruments; operationally, the SAC and Board are considering a proposal to allocate 20% of the telescope time to Large Projects (a good idea, in my opinion, as mounting large observing campaigns at Gemini is almost impossible under the current multi-national TAC structure).

At the “business meeting” the membership approved CASCA’s Ethics Statement as well as the new amended by-laws required to comply with the new Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. There are two important changes in the new by-laws (which have not yet been submitted but are expected to take effect within the next year). The first is a change in the structure of the CASCA Executive. The 1st and 2nd vice presidents (now serving a one-year term) will be replaced by a single vice-president, serving for two years. To compensate, the number of directors will be increased from three to four. The second change is in the mechanism to select new Board members. While the Nominating Committee will continue to propose nominees, volunteers will be solicited from the community well in advance of the Committee deliberations.

Finally, it was announced that the 2014 CASCA Meeting will be hosted by Université Laval and take place in downtown Québec City on June 8-11. Two bids to host the 2015 meeting have been received and are being considered.

 

Additional Activities

Since the last report, there has been a new development concerning the review process of NSERC Discovery Grants. In the 2012-2013 competition, none of the six astronomers serving on the panel was working at a Canadian Institution (five worked in the US, one in France). This is of obvious concern. The CASCA Board has been in communication with NSERC on this issue; copies of all correspondence can be found in the CASCA Board webpage. The Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) has also been informed. At this time, the situation is not yet resolved.

A second development concerns High Performance Computing (HPC). Since the last report, the newly appointed Compute Canada (CC) CEO, Bill Applebe, has left the organization, and has been replaced (on an interim basis) by the CEO of Westgrid, Jill Kowalchuk. In a recent email communication, Jill indicated that CC is in the process of forming a Research Advisory Committee, and that this will include a CASCA representative. This is great news, as the lack in the current CC governance of a voice speaking for researchers across Canada has been a serious concern for the membership.

Finally, the CASCA Board is making preparations for a Mid Term Review (MTR) of our Long Range Plan. An MTR panel will be formed (we are in the process of identifying a Chair), and we are planning two Town Hall meetings to be held in June next year (one possibly in Québec immediately following the AGM, and one in Western Canada). Papers describing progress on the LPR priorities, as well as outlining new initiatives that might have emerged since the LPR, will be solicited before then.

 

Until next time, I wish everybody a very happy and productive summer.

Laura Ferrarese,

President of CASCA,

Victoria, June 15, 2013

e-News: May 2013

ITEMS OF INTEREST POSTED ON THE CASCA WEBPAGES IN MAY 2013:

     
CONNECT TO CASCA:
 
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