President’s Report


By Chris Wilson, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Printemps/spring 2016)

Hi, everyone,

Spring is in the air, and that means it is time to start planning your trip to the next annual CASCA meeting, to be held this year in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Registration is now open and the abstract submission deadline is April 8. More information is available on the meeting web site. The graduate student workshop will be on May 30th, 2016 with the CASCA meeting itself May 31st – June 2nd, 2016. In addition, there will be a half-day meeting on the status and future of ground-based submillimetre astronomy in Canada on Friday, June 3rd. The meeting will be held at the historic Fort Garry Hotel, located in the heart of Winnipeg, within easy walking distance of many attractions such as The Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Our new Diversity and Inclusivity Committee has drafted a meeting Code of Conduct that is being reviewed by the CASCA Board. There will also be a special plenary session on diversity and inclusivity at the meeting itself.

The Westar Lecture series is planned to resume in 2016. The new model for this series will combine a Westar lecture by an astronomer with hands-on teacher training activities offered by Discover the Universe. An ad hoc Westar committee has been formed to coordinate planning; the committee consists of Lorne Nelson for the CASCA board, Julie Bolduc-Duval for Discover the Universe, and Phil Langill from the Unviersity of Calgary. The EPO Committee will select the initial lecturers. We are planning to target more remote sites without good connections with a local university, possibly in northern Canada.

Many of you will have seen the announcement on February 16, 2016 that Vicky Kaspi has been awarded the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council. It is great to see a member of our community recognized with this high-profile national award! Vicky is also the first woman ever to be awarded the Herzberg medal. Congratulations to Vicky on this well-deserved award!

Spring is also the time when we announce our CASCA award winners. Our winners this year are

  • Chris Pritchet (University of Victoria) for the Carlyle S. Beals Award for groundbreaking research
  • Peter Stetson (NRC Herzberg) for the Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research
  • Jonathan Gagné (Carnegie Institute for Science) for the J. S. Plaskett Medal for the most outstanding doctoral thesis
  • Jaymie Matthews (University of British Columbia) for the Qilak Award for astronomy communications, public education, and outreach
  • Ralph Pudritz (McMaster University) for the Executive Award for outstanding service

Congratulations to all our award winners and I look forward to seeing you at the CASCA meeting in Winnipeg!

Work on the report from the Mid-Term Review panel is very nearly finished. An initial draft was released to the community for a two-week comment period on February 23. The final revisions are nearly done and we expect to release the final report (electronically, English only) any day now. The report will be translated into French and printed in both official languages, which will take additional time.

Early in the new year, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy reached out to the new Federal Government, with letters to key ministers followed up by a face-to-face meeting with the Minister for Science, Kirsty Duncan, in Ottawa on February 25. We took this opportunity to introduce the minister and her staff to our long range planning process and to highlight key facilities from that plan, including the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Square Kilometre Array, and WFIRST. The tone of the meeting was very cordial and the new minister appears very interested in hearing about the exciting science that our community does, which is very encouraging.

In facility news, the TMT situation continues to evolve slowly, with meetings by the TIO Board in February 2016 and the beginning of a process to review possible alternative sites for the telescope (see contribution from Ray Carlberg in this newsletter). The Canadian Space Agency celebrated the successful launch on March 17, 2016 of Hitomi (formerly known as ASTRO-H), a new Japanese X-ray telescope with which Canada is involved. The CSA has also released a Request for Proposals for Phase 0 studies for the WFIRST mission, which is an important and necessary step towards ultimately securing Canadian participation in this Dark Energy mission.

Finally, one of the annual tasks of the CASCA President as chair of the Canadian National Committee for the IAU is to submit our “Annual Performance Review” to the National Research Council. This report is important as it helps to justify the payment of our annual membership dues (29,000 Euros in 2016) to the IAU. This year we continued our tradition of excellence and achieved a rank of 3 out of 28 Canadian National Committees across a wide range of disciplines that submitted reports for 2015.

Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Québec 2016 Summer School / École d’été 2016 du Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec

From/de Robert Lamontagne
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

La version française suit

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Québec (CRAQ) is announcing its first Summer School, which will be held on August 24-26th in Montréal, Québec.


This year’s topic is “The Astrophysics of Compact Objects”. During this 3-day school you will learn both theoretical and observational aspects of white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. This summer school will include formal lectures from local and international experts in the field, as well as laboratories on data handling and analysis.

The CRAQ Summer School is principally aimed at graduate students in the field of physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, although students who have finished at least the last year of an undergraduate program in physics will also be accepted.

There is no registration fee. However, we cannot offer traveling funds or cover lodging expenses. Lodging at a reasonable cost will be made available to the participants on the university campus.

If you are interested, please fill in the required fields at the following address:

Email contact:

Le Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ) annonce sa première école d’été, qui aura lieu du 24 au 26 août à Montréal, Québec.


Le thème de cette année est « L’astrophysique des objets compacts ». Au cours de cette école d’une durée de 3 jours, les aspects théoriques et observationnels des naines blanches, des étoiles à neutrons et des trous noirs seront abordés. Cette école d’été comprendra des présentations formelles offertes en anglais par des experts locaux et internationaux dans le domaine, ainsi que des laboratoires sur le traitement et l’analyse des données.

L’école d’été du CRAQ s’adresse principalement à des étudiants aux cycles supérieurs dans le domaine de la physique, de l’astronomie et de l’astrophysique. Les étudiants ayant complété la dernière année du programme de premier cycle en physique seront également acceptés.

Il n’y a aucun frais d’inscription. Cependant, nous ne pouvons offrir de subside pour couvrir les frais de déplacement ou d’hébergement. Des chambres à coût abordable sur le campus de l’université seront disponibles pour les participants.

Si vous êtes intéressés, veuillez remplir les champs requis à l’adresse suivante :


Herschel-HIFI News

De/from Sylvie Beaulieu, Herschel-HIFI Instrument Support Scientist
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

Herschel Science Archive (HSA)

The latest Herschel Science Archive is v.7.1.1. It was released on 8 February 2016. In this release, you will find links from individual observations associated to refereed publications. This feature is accessible from the query result page in the HSA User Interface by selecting the “DETAILS & PUBLICATIONS” button, and then clicking on the tab “Publications”. Footprints for photometric observations (PACS & SPIRE) greatly improve the accuracy of geometrical searches. Herschel data are 100% public domain.

Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE)

The current HIPE release is version 14.0.1, with HIFI_CAL_24_0 as its latest Calibration Tree. All changes included in this release are highlighted in the What’s New in HIPE page. Additional information can be found in the HIFI Instrument and Calibration page. In April, the HSC will release HIPE 14.1. Further details can be found below but your main source of information about changes in HIPE is from the links included above.

What’s New in HIPE 14.1

The changes highlighted below reflect changes that occurred in the developper’s track but that are coming up in 14.1. We invite you to continue to monitor the What’s New in HIPE for future changes.

While working on the Expert Reduced Products, the calibration team discovered that in HIPE 14.0 the flag SPUR_WARNING, which is meant to be just a warning, is actually being honoured in the fitBaseline task. For data that contain this flag, the task will simply ignore the data without allowing you to decide if the warning is severe enough to justify an automatic rejection of the data concerned. The task has been corrected in 14.1 to allow you to display the data with its SPUR_WARNING mask. The onus is then on you to decide if the data with the SPUR_WARNING flag need to be rejected. The task fitBaseline allows you to add a mask (using a flag like IGNORE_DATA) on the bad data. We invite you to consult the HIFI Data Reduction Guide for further information on the details of running the task fitBaseline.


Herschel documentation can be accessed through HIPE and the HSC and has been updated to version 14.0.1. Eventually, you will be able to access the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library as the permanent site for all documentations related to Herschel. The release date is not yet available at the time of writing this newsletter. For the moment, we advise you to visit the HSC page on a regular basis.

University of Waterloo Group News

By the time you read this news segment, the Herschel-HIFI Waterloo group will be shutting down, ceasing operation on the 31st of March 2016. Although no support will be available from that date via the Waterloo group, we will try to maintain the webpage live, and as up-to-date as possible. All links to data reduction and documentation will eventually be pointing to the Herschel Science Centre (HSC) at the European Space Agency. Any enquiries should be redirected to the HSC Helpdesk.

The implementation of the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library (HELL) is progressing well but is not yet available to the public at the time of writing this news segment. Permanent links to the ESA Herschel Project and to the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library will be available through our webpage as soon as a release date is announced.

The University of Waterloo Herschel HIFI Support Group highly encourages you to continue to browse through the wonderful public Herschel data through the Herschel Science Archive (HSA). Our webpage will remain live but in a static mode. The page has a dedicated section on Data Processing. It was a privilege to support the Canadian community.

A final word from Mike Fich

The formal end of the Herschel mission has arrived. However, as with all good observatories, the data will provide years of good science. Our HIFI team has worked hard to put all of the data into good, well-reduced form so that anyone can make use of it in the future with minimal time investment in learning about the data reduction process. The software and documentation for both the data and all of the software is now complete and included in the archives for future users.

I am proud of what our team has produced and would like to thank all of those who have helped us over the almost twenty years since we began working on this mission. Participation in this project has been one of the defining endeavours of my career and a highpoint that I will always remember and treasure. Thank-you!

Conferences, workshops and webinars related to Herschel

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer Update – Mid-Term Review, Collaboration Meeting, and More

By/par Patrick Hall, MSE Advisory Group member
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)


With spring comes a new logo for the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project. Science and technical work for MSE continues: a draft of the Detailed Science Case will shortly be sent to the Science Team, and a new engineer has been hired to work in the Project Office.

Progress in Canada

The MSE project was well-received by the Long-Range Plan Mid-Term Review Panel (MTRP). The comment draft of the MTRP report highlighted how MSE will help understand the process of galaxy formation in dark matter halos. The MTRP “strongly recommends that Canada develop the MSE project, and supports the efforts of the project office to seek financial commitments from Canadian and partner institute sources”.

To that end, a group of Canadian engineers and scientists is proposing to conduct conceptual design studies of the Fibre Transport System which connects the fibre positioners to the spectrographs. A CFI application is also in preparation for construction of a prototype high-resolution spectrograph and design and development of integrated observational and operational databases and software. Industry partners Fibertech Optica and ABB Bomem are involved in both these initiatives. Contact Patrick Hall at to find out more.

Meetings Worldwide

The annual MSE Collaboration Meeting will be held April 27-29 at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Spain, as represented by Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), officially joined the MSE project in December 2015. You can register to attend the meeting at this site.

MSE will also have a presence at the CFHT users’ meeting in Nice on May 1-4, at the CASCA meeting in Winnipeg on May 30 – June 2, and at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation meeting in Edinburgh June 26 – July 1. Hope to see you there!

Gemini News / Nouvelles de Gemini

By/par Stéphanie Côté (NRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

La version française suit

An excellent crop of proposals for 2016A

Figure 1- Oversubscription on Gemini-North (blue) and Gemini-South (red).

Figure 1- Oversubscription on Gemini-North (blue) and Gemini-South (red).

We received an excellent crop of Gemini proposals for semester 2016A, with the largest oversubscriptions we’ve seen in the last 5 years. A total of 46 proposals were received (up from 34 for 2015B), The oversubscriptions jumped to 2.6 for G-North and 3.2 for G-South (using the ratio of requested time over the amount of time available in Band 1 and 2 to Canada; Band 1 + Band 2 hours correspond to the number of hours actually observed for Canadian programs each semester, while Band 3 is overfilling the queue). The total number of hours requested was one of our largest demand in Canadian Gemini history.

Only 2 Subaru exchange time proposals were received for 2016A.

For 2016A Canadian interest in the various instruments is back to GMOS on top as usual, with requests for GMOS-N time to 37% of North time this semester and GMOS-S time to 43% of South time. The next most popular instrument is Flamingos2 with 29% of the South time. Next comes a healthy demand for GRACES with 6 proposals totaling 20% of the North time requests. Note that the GRACES proposals tend to come from new users, including some senior astronomers who had never applied to Gemini before.

Percentages of time requested by each instrument on Gemini-North.

Percentages of time requested by each instrument on Gemini-North.

Percentages of time requested by each instrument on Gemini-South.

Percentages of time requested by each instrument on Gemini-South.

Recent Canadian Press Release

Gemini and the AAS released a joint press release in November to mark the success of the first year of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES). This is an ambitious three-year study dedicated to imaging young Jupiters and debris disks around 600 nearby young stars using GPI. Led by Bruce Macintosh from Stanford University, the survey began a year ago and has already been highly successful, with several findings already published in peer-reviewed journals. In its first year, the team has already found what GPI was designed to discover — a young Jupiter in orbit around a nearby star (51 Eri b), this was published in Science in October 2015 and includes many Canadian co-authors: C. Marois, B.C. Matthews, L. Saddlemyer (NRC), J. Rameau, E. Artigau, R. Doyon, D. Lafreniere ( Montreal), S. Bruzzone, S. Metchev (U of WO), J. K. Chilcote, J. Maire, M. A. Millar-Blanchaer (U.of Toronto), Z. H. Draper, B. Gerard, M. Johnson-Groh (U of Victoria).You can view the full press release here:

Une excellente récolte de demandes pour 2016A

Figure 1- Sursouscription sur Gemini-Nord (bleu) et Gemini-Sud (rouge).

Figure 1- Sursouscription sur Gemini-Nord (bleu) et Gemini-Sud (rouge).

Nous avons reçu une excellente récolte de demandes Gemini pour le semestre 2016A, engendrant les plus grandes sursouscriptions que nous avons vues au cours des 5 dernières années. Au total, 46 propositions ont été reçues (contre 34 pour 2015B), Les sursouscriptions ont bondi à 2.6 pour Gemini-Nord et 3.2 pour Gemini-Sud (en utilisant le rapport entre le temps demandé sur la quantité de temps disponible dans les Bandes 1 et 2 au Canada ; Bandes 1 + Band 2 correspondent au nombre d’heures effectivement observées pour les programmes canadiens chaque semestre, tandis que la Bande 3 est un surremplissage de la queue). Le nombre total d’heures demandées a été l’un des plus hauts de toute l’histoire Gemini canadienne.

Seules 2 demandes d’échange avec Subaru ont été reçues pour 2016A.

Pour 2016A l’intérêt des astronomes canadiens pour les différents instruments est de retour à la normale avec GMOS en tête, comme d’habitude, avec des demandes de temps totalisant 37% du temps du Nord pour GMOS-N et 43% du temps du Sud pour GMOS-S. Le prochain instrument le plus populaire est Flamingos2 avec 29% du temps du Sud demandé. Vient ensuite un intérêt grandissant pour GRACES avec 6 demandes totalisant 20% du temps demandé au Nord. Notez que les demandes GRACES ont tendance à provenir de nouveaux utilisateurs, y compris certains astronomes seniors qui n’avaient jamais appliqués à Gemini auparavant.

Pourcentages de temps demandés pour chaque instrument à Gemini-Nord.

Pourcentages de temps demandés pour chaque instrument à Gemini-Nord.

Pourcentages de temps demandés pour chaque instrument à Gemini-Sud.

Pourcentages de temps demandés pour chaque instrument à Gemini-Sud.

Récent communiqué de presse canadien

Gemini et l’AAS ont publié un communiqué commun en Novembre pour marquer le succès de la première année du Gemini Planète Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES). Il s’agit d’une étude ambitieuse de trois ans dédiée à l’imagerie de jeunes Jupiters et disques de débris autour de 600 jeunes étoiles proches en utilisant GPI. Dirigée par Bruce Macintosh de l’Université de Stanford, l’étude a commencé il y a un an et a déjà connu un grand succès, avec plusieurs résultats déjà publiés dans des revues avec comité de lecture. Au cours de sa première année, l’équipe a déjà trouvé ce que GPI a été conçu pour découvrir – une jeune Jupiter en orbite autour d’une étoile proche (51 Eri b), cela a été publié dans la revue Science en Octobre 2015 et comprend de nombreux co-auteurs canadiens: C . Marois, BC Matthews, L. Saddlemyer (CNRC), J. Rameau, E. Artigau, R. Doyon, D. Lafreniere ( Montréal), S. Bruzzone, S. Metchev (U de WO), JK Chilcote, J. Maire, MA Millar-Blanchaer (U.of Toronto), ZH Draper, B. Gérard, M. Johnson-Groh (U de Victoria) .Vous pouvez consulter le communiqué de presse ici:

NRC Herzberg News / Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg

From/de Dennis Crabtree (NRC-Herzberg)
with contributions from/avec des contributions de Les Saddlemyer & Morrick Vincent

(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

La version française suit

These reports will appear in each issue of Cassiopeia with the goal of informing the Canadian astronomical community on the activities at NRC Herzberg.

Feedback is welcome from community members about how NRC Herzberg is doing in fulfilling our mandate to “operate and administer any astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada” (NRC Act).

Integration and Test (I&T) Facility for TMT

The existing integration and test facilities at NRC Herzberg in Victoria were constructed in 1999-2000. In order to maintain Herzberg’s ability to deliver state-of-art instrumentation for TMT, these facilities need to be improved. Specifically, a new I&T facility is required for the construction and testing of NIFIRAOS, the facility adaptive optics system for the TMT.

The new I&T facility will have a 30m by 23m footprint and will be located in an area between an existing parking lot and the side of the sites services building (Figure 1). The new building will be a single story building and consist of three working areas, a Class 1000 Clean Room, a Cold Room, two sets of washrooms, and a Plant Room (Figure 2).

Since the structure is very large, the outside will be finished in a manner to reduce its visibility (Figure 3).

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Figure 3.


SPIROU development is proceeding at a rapid pace. This spring the sub-systems will all come together in Toulouse at the CNRS integration facility. Towards this effort, the staff at the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics labs have been assembling and testing the cryo-mechanical system. This includes the vacuum sub-system, optical mounts and mounting and the precision thermal control system. Final sub-system acceptance testing is scheduled to be complete by the end of May, followed immediately by shipment to Toulouse.

In order to meet the 1 metre/second precision requirement, the optical elements, their mounts and the optical bench must be maintained to a temperature that doesn’t vary by more than +/- 1 milliKelvin over a 24 hour period.

During the past six months, the final fabrication and assembly of the sub-components has been progressing. Examples are the large parabola mount shown in Figure 4 and the 3-prism mount shown in Figure 5.

Figure 4.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

Figure 5.

Figure 6 shows the SPIROU optical bench mounted on the G10 thermal isolation legs. The radiation shielding and aluminum multi-layer insulation is visible just below. The aluminum frame structure below the shielding supports the entire opto-mechanical structure that will operate at 80K. The full-sized surrogate parabola (~40kg), fold mirror and grating are utilized to provide mass and fitting confirmation without risking the final optical elements at this point in development.

Figure 7 shows the optical bench covered by the active radiation shield. This shield will be actively controlled to a precision of better than 10 milliKelvin in order to have an acceptably small effect on the optical system due to radiation effects.

Figure 6.

Figure 6.

Figure 7.

Figure 7.

With the system almost completely assembled, the next two months will see multiple cool-down cycles to demonstrate reliable operation, tuning of the thermal control system and finalization of the software interfaces.

Figure 8 and Figure 9 show the wrapped thermal critical components being covered up by the moving end of the vacuum vessel for an initial thermal test.

Figure 8.

Figure 8.

Figure 9.

Figure 9.

Les rubriques qui suivent reviendront dans chaque numéro du bulletin et ont pour but de tenir les astronomes canadiens au courant des activités de CNRC Herzberg.

Les commentaires des astronomes sur la manière dont CNRC Herzberg accomplit sa mission, c’est-à-dire « assurer le fonctionnement et la gestion des observatoires astronomiques mis sur pied ou exploités par l’État canadien » (Loi sur le CNRC), sont les bienvenus.

Installation d’intégration et d’essai du Télescope de trente mètres (TMT)

La construction des installations de CNRC Herzberg à Victoria, actuellement utilisées pour l’intégration et les essais des appareils, remonte à 1999-2000. Pour que l’on continue de fournir des instruments à la fine pointe de la technologie au TMT, ces installations devront être rénovées. Plus précisément, on aura besoin d’une nouvelle Installation d’intégration et d’essai pour fabriquer et tester le NIFIRAOS, système d’optique adaptative du TMT.

De 30 m sur 23 m d’envergure, la nouvelle installation sera aménagée à un endroit situé entre le parc de stationnement existant et le côté du bâtiment des services aux sites (figure 1). Il s’agira d’un édifice à un étage regroupant trois aires de travail : une salle blanche de classe 1 000, une salle réfrigérée, deux salles de bain et une salle technique (figure 2).

La structure étant assez imposante, l’extérieur sera aménagé de manière à moins jurer dans le paysage (figure 3).

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Le point sur le spectropolarimètre infrarouge (SPIRou)

Le développement du SPIRou va bon train. Ce printemps, les sous-systèmes seront assemblés à Toulouse, à l’installation d’intégration du CNRS. En prévision de cela, le personnel des laboratoires des programmes d’astronomie et d’astrophysique de CNRC Herzberg a monté et testé le système cryomécanique, qui comprend le sous-système sous vide, les fixations des éléments d’optique et les commandes thermiques de précision. Les essais finaux, qui déboucheront sur l’approbation du système, devraient se terminer d’ici la fin du mois de mai et seront immédiatement suivis par l’expédition de l’équipement à Toulouse.

Pour respecter la contrainte d’un mètre/seconde au niveau de la précision, les éléments d’optique, leurs fixations et le banc optique devront être maintenus à une température qui ne variera pas de plus de un millikelvin en 24 heures.

La fabrication et l’assemblage final des sous-éléments ont progressé au cours des six derniers mois, ainsi qu’on peut le constater à la figure 4, illustrant le grand support parabolique, et à la figure 5, représentant la fixation du triple prisme.

Figure 4.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

Figure 5.

La figure 6 montre le banc optique du SPIRou fixé sur les pattes G10 à isolation thermique. Le bouclier contre les rayonnements et l’isolation faite de nombreuses couches d’aluminium sont visibles immédiatement en dessous. Le cadre en aluminium situé sous le bouclier soutient l’ensemble du système optomécanique, qui fonctionnera à la température de 80 K. Le simulacre de parabole grandeur nature (~40 kg), le miroir de repliement et le réseau permettront d’effectuer les vérifications relatives à la masse et aux ajustements sans que l’on fasse courir de risques aux éléments d’optique finaux à cette étape du développement.

Sur la figure 7, on peut voir le banc optique recouvert du bouclier anti-rayonnement. Celui-ci sera contrôlé dynamiquement à une précision supérieure à dix millikelvins afin que les effets des rayonnements sur le système optique soient assez faibles pour être acceptables.

Figure 6.

Figure 6.

Figure 7.

Figure 7.

Puisque l’assemblage du système est presque chose faite, les deux mois qui suivent verront de nombreux cycles de refroidissement ayant pour buts de prouver la fiabilité opérationnelle du système, d’affiner les réglages des commandes thermiques et de finaliser les interfaces du logiciel.

Les figures 8 et 9 illustrent les composants thermiques essentiels dans leur emballage sur le point d’être couverts par la partie mobile de l’enveloppe sous vide en prévision d’un premier test thermique.

Figure 8.

Figure 8.

Figure 9.

Figure 9.

News from Discover the Universe – Nouvelles d’À la découverte de l’Univers

From/de Julie Bolduc-Duval, coordinator (
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

La version française suit

As you may know, CASCA has been involved in the teacher-training program Discover the Universe (DU) since its beginning in 2011. Here are some highlights from the last few months:

  • In November 2015, we offered our first international workshop, thanks to funding from the IAU’s Office for Astronomy Development. We reached 176 (French-speaking) teachers from 11 countries on 3 continents. The content of the workshop is now available to astronomy and education professionals in Africa to share with teachers who couldn’t participate in the online workshop due to limited internet access.

    guide activites

  • Funding received in 2015 from the Quebec government allowed us to create an activity kit for afterschool programs. This kit, which includes an 80-page manual as well as 6 videos, is only available in French for now but we would like to translate it in the future. It’s available for free on our website.

  • In 2016, the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto joins us as a major partner. This is great news for us as we are now able to grow our program. Our goal is to develop more resources for teachers and offer more workshops online and across the country. DU remains a national and bilingual program.

If you are interested in teacher training, have already developed resources or simply find the idea interesting, please let me know! We hope to create a network of interested people in different universities and research institutes across Canada.

Comme vous le savez peut-être, CASCA est impliquée dans le programme de formation des enseignants À la découverte de l’Univers (DU) depuis ses tous débuts en 2011. Voici quelques réalisations importantes des derniers mois:

  • En novembre 2015, nous avons offert notre première formation à l’international, grâce à du financement de l’Office for Astronomy Development de l’UAI. Nous avons rejoint 176 enseignants francophones de 11 pays répartis sur 3 continents. Le contenu de la formation est maintenant accessible à des professionnels de l’éducation et de l’astronomie en Afrique afin de la partager avec des enseignants qui ne pouvaient pas participer dans notre formation en ligne dû à un accès internet limité.

    guide activites

  • Grâce à du financement obtenu du gouvernement du Québec sous le programme NovaScience, nous avons développé une trousse d’activités astronomiques pour les groupes parascolaires. Cette trousse, qui inclut un manuel de 80 pages ainsi que 6 vidéos accompagnatrices, est disponible gratuitement sur notre site web. N’hésitez pas à vous y référer si vous voulez des idées d’activités à faire avec les jeunes. La trousse est uniquement disponible en français pour l’instant, mais nous espérons pouvoir la traduire bientôt.

  • En 2016, l’Institut Dunlap pour l’astronomie et l’astrophysique de l’Université de Toronto se joint à nous en tant que partenaire majeur. C’est une excellente nouvelle pour nous, car nous sommes maintenant en mesure de faire croître notre programme. Notre objectif est de développer davantage de ressources pour les enseignants et d’offrir plus d’ateliers en ligne et à travers le pays. DU demeure un programme national et bilingue.

Si vous êtes intéressés par la formation des enseignants du primaire/secondaire, si vous avez déjà développé des ressources ou organisé des évènements pour eux ou si vous êtes simplement intéressés par le sujet, faites-moi signe! Nous espérons créer un réseau de personnes intéressées dans les différentes universités et instituts de recherche partout au pays.

Square Kilometre Array Update

From/de Bryan Gaensler (, Canadian SKA Science Director
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

For more information on the SKA, subscribe to the Canadian SKA email list and visit the Canadian SKA WWW site.

International SKA Activities

Canada is one of 10 member countries of the SKA Organisation, and is represented on the SKA Board of Directors by Greg Fahlman (NRC) and Bryan Gaensler (University of Toronto). The Board most recently met in July 2015 (Cape Town) and November 2015 (Jodrell Bank). Notable outcomes from these two meetings included:

  • Election of a new Board Chair (Giovanni Bignami, Italy) and Vice-Chair (YIN Jun, China)
  • Discussion of ongoing site characterisation surveys, pre-construction activities, power policies, operations planning, and construction of the SKA headquarters site
  • Approval of a cost-constrained budget for the SKA Organisation for 2016
  • Consideration of a revised schedule and baseline design for SKA1

The next SKA Board meeting will be held on April 4-5, 2016 (Pune).

A SKA Data Flow Advisory Panel (DFAP) has now been convened, with Canada represented by Chris Loken from Compute Ontario. DFAP has been charged with advising the SKA Board on how to optimise the data flow system to ensure that science results can be efficiently extracted. So far, the panel has reviewed analyses of estimated science data production rates, global networking costs, potential archive sizes and the computational requirements for data re-processing and science analysis. The panel has also considered operational, resourcing and governance issues associated with implementing a solution centrally or through regional centres. The panel began its work in the fall of 2015 and held a two day face-to-face meeting in March 2016 to draft a final report.

For further information on international SKA activities, see the latest SKA Newsletter and the monthly SKA Organisation Bulletin.

SKA Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) Progress

Round 2 of the Treaty Negotiations was held in Rome on January 26-28, 2016. Nine countries were at the negotiating table with formal delegations of typically 3 to 5 people, mainly government officials in ministries responsible for science facilities or the like, with representation from ministries of foreign affairs, or equivalent. Canada was invited as an Observer and Greg Fahlman (General Manager, NRC-HAA) and Gilles Joncas (Chair, ACURA Board of Management) attended.

Good progress was made toward finalising the text of the proposed Treaty Convention that will establish the IGO, but much more work needs to be done in key areas, including the financial arrangements, matters of access to the telescope, procurement and intellectual property rights and policies, as well as the nature of the privileges and immunities required by the project to operate globally. Working groups to deal with these issues were established in the Round 1 session in October 2015 and continue their work between the formal plenary sessions. The working group chairs do share developments with the Canadian Observers although we are not formal participants in the working groups themselves.

The subsequent Round 3 is scheduled for April 19-21, 2016, also in Rome. Canada is again invited as an Observer. This was intended to be the final Round with the convention to be “initialed” and sent back to the respective governments for their internal ratification processes. It is possible that this ambitious goal will not be met and that a subsequent Round will be needed before the key elements of the Treaty are initialed by all Parties. The intent remains to finalise the Convention by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Ratification by five parties, including the three Host countries (UK, Australia, RSA), is required to bring the SKA IGO into existence. This is anticipated to happen by early 2018 in order to initiate procurement activities for the subsequent construction phase.

The principle issues for the Canadian Observers are to ensure scientific access to the facility, with opportunities to influence science priorities and to protect the substantial investment made in developing technology that would be applicable to the SKA. The SKA negotiating parties are aware of Canada’s position and conscious of the need to provide alternatives for countries unable to sign the Treaty to maintain engagement in the Project.

SKA Science and Science Engagement

Development of a new Canadian SKA website has recently been completed, and the site is now live. The site is fully bilingual, and is your starting point for all information about Canadian SKA activities.

The SKA project maintains 11 international science working groups and another 2 focus groups. Membership of science working groups and focus groups is open to all qualified astronomers. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, please contact Bryan Gaensler (

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is one of three designated SKA precursors (i.e., SKA pathfinders on an SKA site), and is the only one of these three currently operational. Australian government funding has now been awarded for MWA phase 2, which will improve the sensitivity of the array by an order of magnitude. The MWA consortium held its annual project meeting and Board meeting in Toronto over Dec 7-9, 2015. The MWA Board decided to admit a Canadian consortium to the MWA project, led by the University of Toronto; the legal process to add this new Canadian partner is now underway. This will provide Canada with one seat on the MWA Board; Bryan Gaensler has been invited to attend Board meetings as an observer until the admission process is complete.

The first of a roughly annual series of SKA-related science meetings for Canadian astronomers was held in Toronto over December 10-11, 2015 (immediately following the MWA project meeting). This was a very successful meeting, attended by 63 astronomers, ionosphericists and industry representatives from Canada, Australia, India, the USA, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The meeting featured 25 talks, covering the SKA project, Canadian contributions to SKA science and technology, industry participation, SKA pathfinders, and future Canadian involvement in SKA (see the full program). In the concluding discussion, a plan emerged for a proposal to the CFI Fund, through which we would begin to develop the tools and infrastructure to support a Canadian SKA Data Centre (along with a short-term focus on similar support for VLASS, CHIME and ASKAP). A CFI proposal is now being developed, led by Erik Rosolowsky (Alberta) and Bryan Gaensler (Toronto).

The University of Toronto and the University of Cape Town will jointly host a major conference, “Fundamental Physics with the Square Kilometre Array”, in April 2017 in Mauritius. The goal is to attract the theoretical physics community to the SKA project. Bryan Gaensler (Toronto; chair) and Ingrid Stairs (UBC) are both members of the Scientific Organising Committee for this meeting.

SKA Technology Development

NRC Herzberg continues to be a major participant in pre-construction efforts across several of the SKA design consortia.

NRC has been designated the lead organisation for the Central Signal Processor (CSP) consortium, and is also leading the SKA1-Mid correlator/beamformer. Work is moving forward strongly on the powerMX FPGA platform (code-named Talon), with prototyping activities well underway.

Within the Dish Consortium, the original recommendation proposed for the downselect on the dish structure was to use the NRC rim-supported composite reflectors. However, this recommendation fell short of the 2/3 assent required by the Dish Board, and a new panelised metal reflector design from Germany and China was allowed to compete against the NRC design. A final downselect occurred in November 2015, and the review panel recommended the German/Chinese design over that developed by NRC. This was a surprising decision, and removes NRC from the SKA Dish Structure work. NRC will continue composite reflector research work for higher frequencies, and will support industry interest in commercial reflectors.

NRC continues to lead the Single Pixel Feed digitiser sub-element, passing preliminary design review and preparing to build prototypes in stage 2. The re-baselining addition of Mid band 5 (4.6-13.8 GHz) has added work requiring higher speed samplers to maintain direct conversion. NRC is collaborating with the ALMA high-speed sampler group led by U. Bordeaux, who are developing suitable high-speed samplers. NRC is continuing work on cryogenic low-noise amplifiers for single pixel feeds bands 1 and 2, and has delivered samples to Onsala and EMSS SA, respectively. These same amplifiers have been chosen for MeerKAT, and NRC is in full production with industry partner Nanowave Technologies to deliver MeerKAT bands 1 and 2. NRC will develop prototype band 5 LNAs and submit them for competitive consideration.

Work on phased array feeds (PAFs) is continuing, although the re-baselining decision deleted SKA-Survey and the PAFs from SKA1. NRC is in discussion with CSIRO and ASTRON to form a new advance instrumentation program consortium to continue work on PAFs for SKA. NRC’s L-band PAF was recently equipped with the first room temperature CMOS LNAs from U. Calgary and achieved a hot/cold test system temperature of 20 K. A full prototype to be tested on DVA-1 is being developed. NRC continues to work on cryogenic PAFs, and has moved its concept design to band 4 (2.8-5.2 GHz). A prototype will be produced, again for testing on DVA1.

Within the Telescope Manager (TM) Consortium, NRC is playing a supporting role to NCRA India to develop standards for the local monitor & control software architecture. A standard based on Tango has been developed, and is being ratified for use by all the other consortia.

The SKA’s Science Data Processor (SDP) team is designing the flow of data from the SKA correlator to individual astronomers. A group of Canadian universities and the CADC are working on the SDP design and implementation. The SDP underwent a design review at the beginning of 2015 and the requirements for the SDP are becoming concrete. Regional data centres will be used for the SKA, and discussions are beginning on the path toward establishing a Canadian (North American?) SKA data centre.

ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA

The Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) coordinates activities and discussion on the SKA through the ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA (AACS). Four new members have been appointed to ACURA for 2016: Gregory Sivakoff (University of Alberta), Samar Safi-Harb (University of Manitoba), Dexter Jagula (SkyWatch) and David Stevens (MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates). ACURA thanks outgoing AACS members Jeroen Stil, Norbert Bartel, Brian Fry and Don Aldridge for their contributions. A listing of all members of AACS is available.

AACS meets several times per year, with its next meeting on April 21, 2016. For further information or to propose AACS agenda items, please contact the AACS Chair, Bryan Gaensler (

ALMA Matters

From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

Cycle 4 Call for Proposals

On March 22, the JAO will issue a call for ALMA proposals for Cycle 4, with observations starting 4 October 2016 and running through to the end of September 2017. The proposal deadline is 21 April. Several new capabilities are being offered in Cycle 4, including mm-wave VLBI, solar observing, stand-alone Atacama Compact Array (ACA) proposals, and long-term proposals (>50h). Check the Proposer’s Guide available from the ALMA Science Portal for the full list of capabilities and details about proposing.

Those who would like an in-depth introduction to proposing with ALMA may wish to attend one of the workshops being held March 31 at McMaster University and April 8 at DAO in Victoria. See the next item for more information.

ALMA Days Workshops

The Millimetre Astronomy Group (MAG) at NRC, in their capacity as members of the NAASC supporting ALMA users in North America, will host two “ALMA Days” prior to the Cycle 4 ALMA proposal deadline (21 April 2016). These follow a very successful NRAO Live! event at McGill University in Montreal run by NRAO’s NAASC members with assistance from Brenda Matthews from the MAG. In the coming weeks, members of the MAG will provide 1-day workshops at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON (31 March) and at DAO in Victoria, BC (8 April) to assist those planning ALMA proposals. The focus will be on presenting the ALMA facility, new capabilities and changes to previous modes for Cycle 4, the Observing Tool and using ALMA simulators.

Participants should bring a laptop with the ALMA OT (and CASA — the ALMA DR software — if they wish to test the simulator) installed.

Topics to be covered include:

  • ALMA Overview + Cycle 4 Capabilities
  • Basics of Radio Interferometry
  • The Proposal Process and the Path of ALMA Observations
  • Overview of the ALMA OT
  • Hands-on Session with the OT for proposal preparation
  • The ALMA Simulator Tool in CASA

Those interested in attending should communicate with Brenda Matthews (

Forum on Canadian Future of Ground-Based Submm Astronomy, Friday June 3 in Winnipeg

ALMA is now approaching full operations and many members of our Canadian community have applied to and used this facility to further their research goals. At the same time, several groups in Canada are actively involved in ALMA Development opportunities to further the scientific capabilities of this ground-breaking facility (see two reports below). Our community faces a less certain future regarding access to single dish facilities, however. There continues to be uncertainty around CCAT’s schedule and funding status. These difficulties are having an impact on CCAT’s design (such as removing the enclosure) that may affect the potential science of this planned facility. Many researchers in the Canadian community continue to work to maintain Canada’s status in the CCAT project. At the same time, our access to the EAO-operated JCMT has an indeterminate future beyond Jan 31 2017. Access to PI time on the JCMT is open for now to all members of the Canadian community, and many members of the community are involved in the new wave of large surveys with the JCMT. The amount of PI time however is limited. NRC is no longer involved in the management of the JCMT on behalf of the Canadian community, but those actively utilizing JCMT for their science are exploring avenues to provide new instrumentation to the facility.

Given the recommendation of the MTR panel, specifically: “Recommendation: The MTRP reaffirms the importance of next generation single-dish sub-mm facilities, and recommends that Canadian astronomers continue to pursue participation in CCAT, subject to the project meeting its original science goals”, the timing is right for the community to have a frank and open discussion about access to CCAT and JCMT, the timelines for each, and the distribution of effort to ALMA and either or both of these single dish facilities.

Interested members of the community are therefore invited to a face-to-face meeting on the “Status and Future of ground-based submillimetre astronomy in Canada” to follow the CASCA AGM on Friday, 3 June 2016. We will hold the meeting in the CASCA meeting venue from 9am to 12:30pm. The agenda is not yet decided, but we will ask for updates on the three facilities and have lots of time for discussion. There is no charge to attend. We do ask those planning to attend to indicate their interest via email to Erik Rosolowsky ( by 27 May 2016.

Call for Development Study Proposals

All interested parties within the North American ALMA partnership are invited to submit proposals for “Development Studies of Upgrades for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)”. Proposals are due 2 May, 2016. Full information about this call, and the level of funding available, can be found at the following link:

This Call is to invite proposals to conduct studies of ideas that may be further developed and implemented in a subsequent funding cycle. The primary aims of this Call for Project Proposals are to:

  • encourage the flow of development ideas from the North American ALMA operations community into the ALMA Development Program Plan;
  • support the development of conceptual and detailed designs by the North American ALMA operations community for possible future inclusion in the ALMA Development Program Plan; and
  • support ALMA-relevant, long-term research and development by the North American operations community.

For examples of ALMA Development Projects that began as Development Studies, see the next two items on CARTA and on Band 3 upgrades.

CARTA – An ALMA Data Analysis and Visualization Tool

Through the ALMA Development Program, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary are collaborating with NRAO to create CARTA — the Cube Analysis and Rendering Tool for Astronomy. CARTA is a visualization project that aims to provide the functionality of the CASA viewer combined with the stability and performance that comes with a modern application. Currently, the CARTA project has developed the core application and is rapidly implementing new features to deliver the tools that radio astronomy users need. The CARTA project will deliver the software to the ALMA project on Sept. 1st where it will become part of the CASA software package. If you would like to participate in the beta testing of CARTA, please contact Erik Rosolowsky ( or visit our webpage to download a beta version.

Band 3 Cartridge Upgrades

Over the past few years, the Millimetre Instrumentation Group at NRC Herzberg in Victoria has been developing and testing options for improving the stability of the Band 3 receivers on ALMA. The solution adopted, block heaters for on-demand magnetic field defluxing of the SIS mixers, has been implemented and validated on one cartridge which has now arrived in Chile. Over the next few years, this upgrade should be gradually applied to all Band 3 cartridges as the Front End cryostats cycle through the ALMA laboratory for routine maintenance. This should result in improved power stability with an additional small enhancement in sensitivity.

ALMA Instructional Videos

The NRC MAG has been producing instructional videos for ALMA. The most recent is a short (6 minute) film on using single-dish data to estimate ALMA sensitivity requirements. An earlier video explores what “Largest Angular Structure” and “Maximum Recoverable Scale” mean.

Jim Hesser is awarded the Schneider Medal

From/de Marilyne Lavoie, Media Relations Officer, NRC
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2016)

Dr. James (Jim) Hesser, an internationally known astronomer and accomplished NRC manager, is the recipient of the 2015 W.G. Schneider Medal. Dr. Hesser exemplifies the criteria set for the award, which recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to NRC “above and beyond” the expectations of their job duties and who exemplify NRC values.

Dr. Hesser’s career is marked by decades of scientific leadership and public service in global astronomy and astrophysics. After receiving his PhD from Princeton and starting his astronomy career in Chile, Jim joined NRC as a research officer (RO) in 1977. His leadership skills were soon recognized and in 1986 he was appointed Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) in Victoria, BC.

Throughout this 36-year tenure at NRC Dr. Hesser oversaw scientific and technology development work that helped Canada advance its global presence in world astronomy. His service in high offices of all major North American professional societies in his field, as well as on the boards of preeminent international observatories, has strengthened the network of global collaborations that characterize NRC’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics (NRC Herzberg) programs today.

Jim’s impact has also been profound on NRC and on the broad Canadian astronomy community. Dr. Hesser’s research on the chemical evolution of the early universe through the study of star clusters was ground-breaking and helped attract top talent to NRC for many years. His mentoring helped many prominent astronomers develop their professional careers. Through his long-time involvement in the Victoria chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) and the volunteer-based Scientists and Innovators in the Schools, Jim has done much to bring astronomy to the public at large, culminating with his work as Canadian Chair of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.

Jim retired as DAO Director – the longest serving in the observatory’s history – in 2014, but his service continues. As Strategic Advisor to the General Manager for NRC Herzberg, he continues to mentor students and researchers while strengthening important stakeholder relationships. This relationship building has contributed to the establishment of the not-for-profit “Friends of the DAO Society” dedicated to supporting science outreach activities at the purpose- built visitor centre playfully named the Centre of the Universe (CU). CU is located adjacent to the NRC observatory’s historic Plaskett telescope.

As NRC celebrates its Centennial year just ahead of the Centennial of that pioneering telescope named after DAO’s founding Director John Stanley Plaskett, it is certainly fitting that an astronomer of Jim Hesser’s calibre is the recipient of the Schneider Medal. “John Plaskett put Canada’s observatory on the map,” notes NRC Herzberg GM Greg Fahlman. “Jim’s legacy is helping keep it there.”