NRC Herzberg News / Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg

By / par Dennis Crabtree (NRC Herzberg), Contributions from / de James Hesser, Chris Willott
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

La version française suit

General News

Luc Simard has accepted the position of Director General of the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre. Luc joined the NRC in 2002 as an archive scientist with the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre. He subsequently became a Team Leader, Instrument Science in the Astronomy Technology Program and took on the role of Director, Astronomy Technology in 2015. As Director, Luc has led a team of 68 scientists, engineers and technicians located at both the Penticton and Victoria sites. Over the years, he has been involved in a number of high profile international telescope instrumentation projects, including, for example, the Gemini High resolution SpecTrograph (GHOST), the mid frequency correlator and beamformer for the Square Kilometer Array and the SPIRou and Near-InfraRed Planet Search (NIRPS) spectrographs for the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT).

Luc was also the Science Instruments Group Leader for the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation, responsible for the delivery of three science instruments and one adaptive optics calibration unit, overseeing work being performed in 20 different institutes located in five countries.

His scientific research has been dominated by work with large galaxy surveys and his primary interest lies in testing galaxy formation and evolution models. Luc has authored or co-authored 98 refereed publications, which have received more than 9,400 citations. He has chaired international conferences in astronomy, been a member of various advisory committees and panels, and has given invited talks in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, covering a wide range of topics including galaxy evolution, science and instrumentation for extremely large telescopes, and project management. Luc is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. He holds a PhD in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Victoria and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California Observatories in Santa Cruz, USA.

Concert of William Herschel’s Music

Friday night >250 people enjoyed a concert at Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral they will not soon forget. Fittingly, the concert recognized the DAO’s centennial and the RASC’s sesquicentennial and, equally fittingly, it was sandwiched between William Herschel’s 285th birthday (15 Nov.) and founding DAO Director John Stanley Plaskett’s 153rd birthday (17 Nov.).

The program consisted of three lively symphonies and two concerti written by musician/composer turned astronomer William Herschel who, inter alia, discovered Uranus and infrared radiation. The program had what are believed to be three North American premieres. Harpsichord virtuoso Michael Jarvis, with his virtuosic violinist partner Paul Luchkow (the “Luchkow Jarvis Duo”), is working to revive Herschel’s music for modern audiences. Eight other excellent musicians joined them with period instruments. RASC members David Lee and John McDonald created the beautiful video that accompanied the music using images and sketches by RASC, Victoria Centre members. David and John both participated in an informative pre-concert talk led by the concert’s producer Ian Alexander (Co-chair of the Cathedral’s Music Committee) which also featured retired DAO astronomer Alan Batten and Michael Jarvis. The audience learned about the music, the origin many years ago of this presentation concept, and what to look for in the accompanying images. Dramatic narration throughout the concert by Alan Batten (William Herschel) and Carolyn Sinclair (Caroline Herschel) was based upon the Herschel’s’ original writings, as extensively researched by Alan and scripted by Ian.

A rehearsal photo by David Lee is shown above. Performance photos by Chris Gainor may be seen here and a short recording by David Lee made during rehearsal may be listened to here.

JWST Update

The two halves of the James Webb Space Telescope are now residing together at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Los Angeles. The completed telescope with integrated science instruments is awaiting integration with the spacecraft in 2019. The spacecraft and its enormous deployable sunshield are undergoing a series of environmental tests. Having successfully completed the acoustics test, the spacecraft has now begun a series of vibration tests that simulate the stresses experienced during a launch.

Following the Independent Review Board report released earlier this year, NASA has set a new launch date of March 30, 2021. The science planning timeline shows that the Cycle 1 Call for Proposals is expected to be released at the end of 2019 or start of 2020. The extra time available before launch is being used to improve the efficiency of JWST operations and the state of the data reduction pipeline and archive functionality (including the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre).

The Canadian JWST team recently supported the first Science Instrument Rehearsal at the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, replicating a week of instrument commissioning activities, including some planned “anomalies”. The exercise was very valuable to test both the flight software and human interactions in this phase of the mission.

There have been some changes to the JWST team at the Universite de Montreal. Julien Rameau has moved on from his position as JWST Instrument Scientist to a new position in France. An advertisement for his replacement is now online here. Nathalie Ouellette has joined the team as the new Canadian JWST Outreach Scientist.


This photo shows the two halves of JWST together in Los Angeles. On the left side three gold-coated hexagonal primary mirror segments of the stowed telescope can be seen. On the right side the stowed spacecraft is being raised for transportation to the environmental test facility; the purple shiny material is the folded sunshield.



Nouvelles d’intérêt général

Luc Simard a accepté le poste de directeur général du Centre de recherche Herzberg en astronomie et en astrophysique. Luc s’est joint au CNRC en 2002 à titre d’expert en archivage des données au Centre canadien de données astronomiques. Il est par la suite devenu chef de l’équipe responsable des instruments au sein du programme Technologies d’astronomie, et a assumé en 2015 le rôle de directeur, Technologies d’astronomie. À ce titre, Luc a dirigé une équipe de 68 scientifiques, ingénieurs et techniciens, répartis dans les sites de Penticton et de Victoria. Au fil des ans, il a participé à de nombreux projets internationaux de haut niveau dans le domaine de l’instrumentation des télescopes, notamment pour le spectrographe optique haute résolution de Gemini [High resOlution SpecTrograph ou GHOST], le corrélateur de moyennes fréquences et le conformateur de faisceaux du Réseau d’un kilomètre carré (SKA) et les spectrographes SPIRou et Near-InfraRed Planet Search (NIRPS) pour le Télescope Canada-France-Hawaï.

Il a également été chef du groupe des instruments scientifiques de l’observatoire abritant le Télescope de trente mètres. Dans ce poste, Luc a été responsable de la livraison de trois instruments scientifiques et d’un dispositif d’étalonnage d’optique adaptative, et a supervisé des travaux exécutés dans 20 instituts différents situés dans cinq pays.

Dans ses travaux de recherche scientifique, Luc s’est avant tout concentré sur les grands levés de galaxies. Il s’intéresse principalement à la mise à l’essai de modèles de formation et d’évolution de galaxies. Il est l’auteur ou le coauteur de 98 publications à comité de lecture, lesquelles ont été citées plus de 9 400 fois. Il a présidé des congrès internationaux en astronomie, il a été membre de diverses commissions consultatives et de groupes d’experts, et il a été invité comme conférencier aux États-Unis, au Canada, en Europe et en Asie, pour aborder un vaste éventail de sujets, dont l’évolution des galaxies, la science et l’instrumentation des télescopes de très grande taille, et la gestion de projets. Il est également professeur auxiliaire au département de physique et d’astronomie de l’Université de Victoria. Il est titulaire d’un doctorat en physique et en astronomie de l’Université de Victoria et a obtenu une bourse postdoctorale à l’observatoire de l’Université de Californie à Santa Cruz, aux États-Unis.

Concert William Herschel

Le vendredi 16 novembre, plus de 250 personnes ont assisté à la cathédrale Christ Church de Victoria à un [concert][Concert.jpg] qu’elles ne sont pas prêtes d’oublier. L’événement, qui a souligné le centenaire de l’Observatoire fédéral d’astrophysique (OFA) et les 150 ans de la Société royale d’astronomie du Canada (SRAC), s’insérait fort à propos entre le 285e anniversaire de naissance de William Herschel (le 15 novembre) et le 153e anniversaire de naissance du directeur fondateur de l’OFA, John Stanley Plaskett (le 17 novembre).

Le programme proposait trois symphonies et deux concertos entraînants composés par le musicien et compositeur devenu astronome William Herschel, qui a notamment découvert Uranus et le rayonnement infrarouge. Le concert incluait en outre ce que nous considérons comme trois premières nord-américaines. Tout d’abord, la présence de Michael Jarvis, virtuose du clavecin, et de son partenaire violoniste virtuose Paul Luchkow (le « duo Luchkow Jarvis »), qui cherchent à remettre la musique d’Herschel à l’honneur auprès des auditoires d’aujourd’hui. Huit autres excellents musiciens se sont joints à eux avec leurs instruments anciens. Les membres de la SRAC David Lee et John McDonald avaient en outre mis au point une magnifique vidéo pour accompagner la musique d’images et esquisses créées par des membres du centre de Victoria de la SRAC. David et John ont tous deux participé avant le concert à une causerie animée par l’organisateur, Ian Alexander (coprésident du comité musical de la cathédrale), à laquelle ont aussi pris part Alan Batten, astronome de l’OFA à la retraite, et Michael Jarvis. L’auditoire a pu ainsi découvrir l’origine de la musique et du concept de présentation, ainsi que glaner des conseils utiles pour savoir quoi regarder dans les images d’accompagnement. Une narration théâtrale d’Alan Batten (incarnant William Herschel) et de Carolyn Sinclair (incarnant Caroline Herschel) a accompagné le concert, inspirée d’écrits originaux de Herschel et rédigée par Ian à la suite d’une recherche étendue effectuée par Alan.

Ci-dessus une photo prise par David Lee durant une répétition. Des photos du spectacle, prises par Chris Gainor, sont accessibles ici et un court enregistrement vidéo réalisé par David Lee durant les répétitions peut être visionné ici.

Nouvelles du JWST

Les deux moitiés du télescope spatial James Webb (James Webb Space Telescope, ou JWST) sont maintenant rassemblées au Northrop Grumman Space Park de Los Angeles. Le télescope complet doté de tous les instruments scientifiques requis attend son intégration au véhicule spatial, prévue en 2019. L’astronef et son énorme écran solaire rétractable sont actuellement soumis à divers tests environnementaux; les essais acoustiques ont été complétés avec succès et les essais de vibration ont débuté, soumettant l’engin spatial aux stress qu’il devra subir lors du lancement.

À la suite du rapport du comité d’examen indépendant publié plus tôt cette année, la NASA a fixé une nouvelle date de lancement, soit le 30 mars 2021. Le calendrier de planification scientifique indique que l’appel de propositions pour le cycle 1 sera lancé à la fin de 2019 ou au début de 2020. Le temps additionnel prévu avant le lancement sera utilisé pour améliorer l’efficacité du JWST, l’état du flux de réduction des données et les fonctions d’archivage (y compris celles du Centre canadien de données en astronomie).

L’équipe canadienne du JWST a récemment participé à une première répétition de l’utilisation des instruments scientifiques au Mission Operations Center de Baltimore. La simulation a reproduit une semaine de mise en service des instruments, y compris quelques « anomalies » programmées. L’exercice a été extrêmement utile pour tester le logiciel de vol et les interactions humains-machines durant cette phase de la mission.

Certains changements se sont produits dans l’équipe du JWST de l’Université de Montréal. Julien Rameau a quitté son poste de scientifique en instrumentation au JWST pour un nouveau poste en France. Le poste est actuellement annoncé ici. Nathalie Ouellette s’est en outre jointe à l’équipe canadienne du JWST à titre de scientifique chargée de la vulgarisation.


Cette photo illustre les deux moitiés du JWST qui ont été réunies à Los Angeles. On peut voir à gauche trois segments hexagonaux du miroir primaire enduit d’or du télescope en position rentrée. À droite, l’engin spatial est soulevé pour être transporté aux installations d’essais environnementaux; le matériel mauve et brillant est l’écran scolaire replié.

CRAQ Summer School Announcement / Annonce d’École d’Été

By / par Robert La Montagne
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

La version française suit

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ) is announcing its annual Summer School, which will be held on June 12-14, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec.

This year’s topic will be “Stellar Astrophysics”. This 3-day school will focus on star formation, evolution and death, astrophysics from the Sun to the stars as well as astrophysics of massive stars, stellar winds and low-mass stars at the bottom of the main sequence. The summer school will include formal lectures from local and international experts in the field.

The CRAQ Summer School is principally aimed at graduate students in the field of physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, although students who have completed 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.

Additional information about the program, registration and accommodation will be available soon on this site: craq-astro.ca/summerschool.

Email contact: Summer.School@craq-astro.ca



Le Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ) annonce son école d’été annuelle, qui aura lieu du 12 au 14 juin 2019 à Montréal, Québec.

Le thème de cette année portera sur « L’astrophysique stellaire ». Cette école d’une durée de 3 jours, se concentrera sur la formation, l’évolution et la mort des étoiles, sur l’astrophysique du Soleil aux étoiles ainsi que sur l’astrophysique des étoiles massives, des vents stellaires et des étoiles de faible masse au bas de la séquence principale. Cette école d’été comprendra des présentations formelles offertes en anglais par des experts locaux et internationaux dans le domaine.

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 un programme de premier cycle en physique seront également acceptés.

Il n’y a aucuns 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.

Les informations additionnelles à propos du programme, de l’inscription et de l’hébergement seront disponibles bientôt sur le site : craq-astro.ca/summerschool.

Courriel: Summer.School@craq-astro.ca

A Summary of the “Future of Space Astronomy in Canada” Workshop

By / par Pauline Barmby (Western University)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

Approximately 65 members of the space astronomy community, from universities, industry, government, and public institutions, gathered at the Université de Montréal on Nov 6-7, 2018 for the Future of Space Astronomy in Canada workshop. The goal of the meeting was to “stimulate ideas and plans for the forthcoming Long Range Plan 2020.. [and].. hear about the status of ongoing and future space astronomy projects and to discuss current issues with CSA [Canadian Space Agency] funding.” Many of the most exciting science questions in astronomy including detection of life on exoplanets, and uncovering the nature of dark energy require observations from space. Canadian astronomers want to be or already are involved in a vast array of space astronomy missions.

Presentations discussed the background and context for LRP2020, Canadian involvement in current and future [proposed] space astronomy missions, the unique space technologies existing and under development in Canadian industry, and space-related outreach. Current mission involvement by Canadians ranges from leadership roles in design studies (e.g. CASTOR) to development of specific and globally unique technologies for proposed missions (e.g. LiteBIRD, SPICA), to instrument testing and science planning for soon-to-launch missions (e.g. JWST). CSA science advisor S. Gallagher emphasized that Canadian astronomers can be proud of our world-leading science1; with J. Hutchings [NRC] and J. Rowe [Bishop’s] she made it clear that the CSA’s space astronomy budget is far too low to support our future ambitions. The long timescale between mission initiation and science return require a long-term plan for CSA and its funding which allows for open, competitively-allocated support for missions of various sizes2. Our inability to join missions in the last decade means that JWST will be the last “new mission” in which Canada participates for some time.

After J. Hutchings discussed the lessons learned from the Long Range Plan 2010 (LRP2010), R. Thacker [St. Mary’s, CASCA] introduced the plans for LRP2020. Once Canadian astronomers have decided on their priorities through LRP2020, realizing them is the next step. Engagement with government and outreach to the public are critical to increasing funding for the CSA; the Don’t Let Go Canada campaign by the Canadian aerospace industry covers more than space astronomy but shares the goal of a re-invigorated CSA. A strong space sector is needed not just to stay internationally competitive, but also to guarantee national security, foster economic development, and improve resource management. As F. Grandmont [ABB] pointed out, space technology is subject to export limitations even from Canada’s closest international partners and allies: the US and Europe. University-led research into remote-sensing and/or space-based capabilities is an effective and economical way to pursue this, with a strong multiplier effect because of the involvement of HQP. The federal government’s recent investments in fundamental science are helpful but do not directly contribute to space science and technology, where CSA is the cognizant agency.

Resolutions discussed at the end of the meeting addressed the path forward to improve the state of Canadian space astronomy. Canadian industry has made (and has the potential to make more) unique technological contributions to space astronomy, and astronomers need to work more closely with industry in developing common talking points to jointly advocate for increased public support for the CSA. We need to be less shy about promoting our science to the public and discussing its benefits to Canada with our elected representatives, and to be united in our advocacy for community priorities after LRP2020 is complete. Enthusiastic participation in the LRP process and in utilization of JWST – our country’s largest space astronomy investment – is critical.

1Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada (2018), The Council of Canadian Academies
2See also Vision for Space Exploration in Canada (2017), Caiazzo, Gallagher, and Heyl; Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard (2018), Space Advisory Board

enure Track Position in Astronomy, Campion College

Campion College at the University of Regina invites applications for a
probationary tenure-track appointment in astronomy at the rank of
Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics to begin July 1, 2019.
The successful candidate will have a PhD in astronomy and have a record of
a strong commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching. Teaching
duties will primarily involve introductory and intermediate classes in
astronomy. There are also opportunities to develop higher level
undergraduate courses, and to supervise special-case graduate students,
although the Department of Physics offers neither an undergraduate major
nor a graduate program in astronomy. Excellence in research, in any area
of astronomy, and a proven ability to contribute to a team environment is
also essential.

Campion College is a Jesuit Catholic community of learning dedicated to
the development of the whole person – intellectually, spiritually,
socially – for service in society. Located on the University of Regina
campus, Campion offers courses in the natural sciences, social sciences,
humanities, and fine arts. The College is a fully accredited member of the
Associations of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and its graduates
receive University of Regina degrees. Campion faculty are voting members
of their respective faculties (e.g., Science, Arts, Graduate Studies) of
the University of Regina.

Interested candidates should forward an application (including a letter of
application, a curriculum vitae, transcripts, and evidence of both
teaching effectiveness and scholarly activities) in a single PDF file to
Dr. Allison Fizzard, Dean of Campion College, at campion.dean@uregina.ca.
Candidates should also arrange for the submission of three confidential
letters of reference, either to be sent separately in PDF format to
campion.dean@uregina.ca, or as part of a package by those using Interfolio
or a similar service.

Campion College is committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all
employees and applicants for employment at the College. To that end, the
College encourages the hiring, retention, and
promotion of members of designated groups including women, indigenous
peoples, persons with disabilities, visible and non-visible minorities.
Review of applications will begin December 1, 2018, and will continue
until suitable candidates have been identified. Salary is commensurate
with qualifications and experience. All qualified candidates are
encouraged to apply; however, Canadians and permanent residents will be
given priority.

Dunlap Postdoctoral Fellowships in Astronomy and Astrophysics

The University of Toronto <https://www.utoronto.ca/> invites applications
for Dunlap Postdoctoral Fellowships within the Dunlap Institute for
Astronomy and Astrophysics <http://www.dunlap.utoronto.ca/>. This growing
unit pursues groundbreaking research in experimental astrophysics, in
close collaboration with Toronto colleagues in the Department of Astronomy
and Astrophysics <http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/>(DAA), the Canadian
Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics <http://www.cita.utoronto.ca/>
(CITA) and the Centre for Planetary Sciences
<http://cps.utoronto.ca/>(CPS).

Dunlap Fellows are expected to conduct a program of original research
either independently or in collaboration with others at the University,
and will be offered professional development and mentoring across a range
of areas relevant to a scientific career. Candidates will be selected on
the basis of potential for innovative research in instrumentation,
software, or observations, and on their ability to further the goals and
activities of the Dunlap Institute. Fellows have access to laboratories,
computing clusters and fabrication facilities, and can propose for
additional internal support for their experimental or computational plans.
Dunlap Fellows are also strongly encouraged to participate in the
Institute’s outreach and training initiatives. The range of activities and
opportunities in research, outreach and training can be seen in the annual
reports on the Dunlap Institute’s web site.

The Dunlap Institute, DAA, CITA and CPS together host over 130 staff and
students in astronomy, who conduct a diverse research program across
instrumentation, observation, computation and theory. The Dunlap Institute
is located on a beautiful 19th century campus in the heart of one of the
world’s great cities. Rated as having one of the highest standards of
living in the world, Toronto offers a huge range of indoor and outdoor
pursuits, outstanding food and music, and a vibrant and diverse cultural
community.

The Dunlap Institute is committed to an inclusive and flexible workplace.
We encourage applications from qualified applicants of all sexual
orientations and gender expressions, members of visible minorities,
Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and potential
dual-academic-career hires.  Subject to immigration regulations,
successful candidates will be given the option to take up their
Fellowships as part-time appointments (such a request need not be made as
part of a candidate’s initial application and will not be disclosed to the
selection committee).

Appointments are initially for three years, with a subsequent possibility
of extension for one further year subject to outstanding performance in
public outreach and education activities. Dunlap Fellowships include an
annual salary of CAD $70,056 plus generous benefits
<http://benefits.hrandequity.utoronto.ca/cupe-local-3902-unit-5/>, a
research allowance of CAD $18,000 per year, relocation assistance, and the
opportunity to request additional research funds from the Dunlap Institute.

The approximate expected starting date is September 1, 2019. Applicants
must have earned a PhD in astronomy, astrophysics, or a related field at
the time of appointment. Only applicants with a PhD awarded on or after
January 1, 2014, will be considered, except in the case of career
interruption or other extenuating circumstances.

All application materials must be submitted online by November 30, 2018.
In service of our goals of an unbiased and equitable hiring process, an
initial evaluation of applicants will be made via a 300-word anomymised
summary of the applicant’s proposed research program, which should be
submitted via the online form. Applicants should also submit (in a single
file in PDF format) a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a publication
list, and a 3-page detailed description of their proposed research
program.  Applicants should also ask three referees to send letters
directly to the Dunlap Institute via email to
fellowships@dunlap.utoronto.ca by November 30, 2018.

The normal hours of work are 40 hours per week for a full-time
postdoctoral fellow (pro-rated for those holding a partial appointment)
recognizing that the needs of the employee’s research and training and the
needs of the supervisor’s research program may require flexibility in the
performance of the employee’s duties and hours of work.

Employment as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto is
covered by the terms of the CUPE 3902 Unit 5 Collective Agreement. This
job is posted in accordance with the CUPE 3902 Unit 5 Collective
Agreement.

The University of Toronto is strongly committed to diversity within its
community and especially welcomes applications from racialized persons /
persons of colour, women, Indigenous / Aboriginal People of North America,
persons with disabilities, LGBTQ persons, and others who may contribute to
the further diversification of ideas.

To apply online, please go to
http://coolstar.dunlap.utoronto.ca/jobs/job/dunlap-postdoctoral-fellowships
2018/

Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté and / et John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The extended Science Maturation Study reported in the June Cassiopeia has its mid-contract review at CSA on Sept 12. Some 35 science cases, ranging from solar system to cosmology, have been developed and fed into defining requirements for instrumentation, orbit, operations, and data handling. A nominal suite of legacy and PI-type programs has been used to define a design minimum lifetime of 5 years.

Technical work has included reviewing updated detector options, bandpasses for UV, u and g, guiding to achieve 0.15″ images, laser and X-band communications, solar panel and power requirements, spectroscopic options, on- and off-axis optical designs, and optical components.

Work has continued towards substantial potential partnerships with JPL and IIA in India, with nominal ideas for hardware contributions as well as science interests. A group in the UK is also eager to join, and has sought funding. Some key funding decisions should emerge within the next year.

Work is proceeding well, and a well-developed and costed mission is expected by the end of the work, next March. CASTOR remains a substantial goal for CSA, and the Space Advisory Board and the Coalition for astronomy have it in their lobbying considerations with the government. The upcoming wide-field and space astronomy workshops in Waterloo and U de Montréal will be opportunities to discuss the project in the broad Canadian context.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

Science Forum

Registration has now opened for the next TMT Science Forum, to be held December 10-12 in Pasadena, California. Please note that registration is free for students and members of the International Science Development Teams (ISDTs). In addition, ACURA has agreed to provide some travel support for University-based researchers who wish to attend this meeting, given its importance to the future success of TMT. To apply for this funding, please email mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca with a short description of your involvement in TMT, and your need for funding support.

Among other things, the Science Forum is an excellent opportunity for ISDT members to meet face to face. With Canada recently stepping up to join these ISDTs at an appropriate level, this is the time to take advantage of that membership to ensure your science interests are represented as TMT develops.

Instrumentation

The TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC) is meeting Sept 12-13, and one of their main agenda items is to discuss progress with the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) design. The instrument team continues to work on advancing two possible designs: one using traditional slitmasks (Xchange) and another using optical fibers, over a wider field of view. At a recent, independent cost review, both instruments were found to significantly exceed the $50M cost cap when appropriate contingency is included. A subcommittee has been evaluating the scientific implications of proposed descope options for both designs, and will be reporting to the SAC at this meeting.

The other item before the SAC is a report from a subcommittee that has been considering white paper submissions for the next instrument to be constructed, after WFOS and IRIS. The SAC is in the process of reviewing and prioritizing the submissions, with a goal of identifying one or more studies for possible design funding.

Of likely relevance to future instrumentation discussion will be the Exoplanet Science Strategy report recently released by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The full report is available here. In particular, it recognizes the pivotal role that both TMT and GMT will play in the study of planet formation, and recommends that the National Science Foundation (NSF) invest in both the GMT and TMT and their exoplanet instrumentation to provide all-sky access to the U.S. community.

Funding and Construction Developments

In August, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled in favour of TMT regarding the case of the sublease. The issue at stake here was a possible requirement to conduct a contested case hearing for the granting of the sublease, as was done earlier this year for the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP). The court ruled, unanimously, that a contested case hearing is not required for the sublease.

The remaining case before the Supreme Court is the appeal of the Land Board’s decision to award the CDUP itself. A decision is expected in the coming weeks, hopefully before the Board meeting in October. Coincidentally, the permitting process for the alternative site in the Canary Islands (ORM) is expected to conclude, following unanticipated bureaucratic delays.

As recently announced, the US community is now working under the leadership of NOAO to prepare a proposal for US participation in both TMT and GMT. If this is well received by the US Decadal planning process, it may pave the way for substantial (25%) NSF involvement in the project. A potential complication is that NSF participation will likely trigger the need for a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Depending on how this is staged, it could lead to further delays. No such EIS would likely be required for construction on ORM, La Palma. The Board is expected to make a site recommendation this October. CATAC will be revisiting our site selection report and recommendations from May 2017 to identify anything that might have changed or need more research, so that we can reaffirm or modify our recommendations as necessary. Continued input to CATAC on this important issue is still welcome.

Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) / Compte rendu de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC)

By / par Denis Laurin (Senior Program Scientist, Space astronomy, Space Exploration Development, Canadian Space Agency)

(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

denis.laurin@canada.ca
(www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/sciences/astronomy.asp)

The English version follows

Bienvenue à Dre Sarah Gallagher, nouvelle conseillère scientifique à l’ASC

Le 12 septembre, notre ministre de l’Innovation, des Sciences et du Développement économique, l’honorable Navdeep Bains a annoncé la nomination de Dre Sarah Gallagher de l’Université Western à titre de première conseillère scientifique de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC). Pendant son mandat de deux ans, elle partagera son temps entre ses travaux à l’Université Western et son travail à l’Agence. Dre Gallagher relèvera directement au Président de l’Agence de précieux conseils qui détermineront les futures orientations du Canada dans le domaine des sciences spatiales. Elle collaborera étroitement avec la conseillère scientifique en chef du Canada, Dre Mona Nemer, pour veiller au maintien de l’intégrité scientifique, à l’ouverture des données et à la prise de décisions fondées sur la science au sein du gouvernement. Dre Gallagher contribuera à la promotion des sciences spatiales auprès des Canadiens et verra à faire connaitre leurs retombées dans la vie de tous les jours. Elle entrera officiellement en fonction à l’Agence le 1er octobre 2018.

Études en astronomie spatiale supportées par l’ASC

Au cours de cette année, le programme d’exploration spatiale de l’ASC a préparé des appels d’offres pour des propositions ciblant des études permettant d’évaluer de nouvelles idées de missions alignées avec les priorités de nos communautés scientifiques. Ces priorités ont été définies au moyen de consultations, de l’atelier ACES 2016 et des équipes thématiques de l’ASC, ce qui a culminé avec la rédaction du rapport “Canadian Space Exploration – Science and Space Health priorities for Next Decade and Beyond” 2017 (ftp://ftp.asc-csa.gc.ca/users/ExP/pub/Publications/Science%20Priority%20Reports/). L’ASC et Services Publics et Approvisionnement Canada (SPAC) avaient affiché plusieurs demandes de propositions (DP) en astronomie spatiale et en exploration planétaire et, au moyen d’un processus compétitif, ont sélectionné les études présentées ci-dessous.

Seules les études d’astronomie spatiale sont listées, avec le responsable scientifique entre parenthèses, en ordre de la date de début du contrat:

  • Étude de contribution de mission pour LiteBIRD, par univ. McGill (Matt Dobbs), janv. 2018, 9 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique pour CASTOR, par Honeywell et CNRC (Pat Côté), janv. 2018, 15 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique « Photometric Observations of Extrasolar Planets”, par univ. Bishops’ (Jason Rowe), mai 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique pour LiteBIRD, par univ. McGill (Matt Dobbs), juin 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de concept Colibri (télescope à rayons X haute résolution), par UBC (Jeremy Heyl), sept. 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de concept EPPE “Extrasolar Planet Polarimetry Explorer”, par Magellan et UWO (Stan Metchev), sept. 2018, 15 mois

Les études combinent un soutien industriel et un leadership académique.

Au moment d’écrire ces textes, l’étude CASTOR vient de terminer sa revue à mi-parcours. Il s’est tenu au siège de l’ASC avec la participation de 23 membres de l’équipe de l’étude. Cette étude a le but d’analyser non seulement les objectifs scientifiques, mais aussi leurs impacts sur la conception de la mission et ses instruments, et devrait fournir des informations importantes à des fins de planification, y compris pour le prochain Plan à Long Terme.

Subvention VITES en astronomie spatiale

L’avis d’offre de participation VITES 2017 conclut son processus et des accords de subvention sont en préparation. Voir la page Web de FAST AO pour un rappel des objectifs de ce programme.

Au moment de la rédaction de ce texte, tous les accords de subvention des propositions sélectionnés n’avaient pas été finalisés. Il n’est donc pas possible de fournir la liste des subventions octroyées à ce stage, mais elle sera disponible et rendue publique fin octobre (voir le lien ci-dessus). Il y aura possiblement un résumé des projets dans le prochain numéro de Cassiopée.

Autre support de planification de l’ASC

Le secteur de l’Exploration spatiale de l’ASC continue d’aider la communauté à identifier les opportunités et partenariats potentiels futurs. L’ASC fournit un appui à la participation aux équipes de définition de la science et de la technologie (STDT) de la NASA ainsi que pour d’autres propositions de mission intéressant la communauté. Ce support est géré par l’Université St-Mary’s. L’ASC prévoit également d’appuyer le processus du processus du Plan à long terme (PLT 2020).

ASTROSAT (Jean Dupuis, John Hutchings)

ASTROSAT approche la fin de la troisième année d’opération et plusieurs astronomes canadiens en font l’utilisation et ont soumis des demandes de temps d’observation dans le cadre des appels pour propositions publiés par l’ISRO. Prenez note que le problème avec le détecteur NUV d’UVIT est toujours présent rendant ce canal inutilisable pour le moment, mais les canaux FUV et VIS restent disponibles. Les autres instruments sont toujours opérationnels, mais avec des dégradations mineures. Veuillez contacter Joe Postma (University of Calgary, jpostma@ucalgary.ca) pour plus de détails et de l’assistance. Les observateurs canadiens ayant obtenu du temps d’observation pendant le cycle A04 seront contactés sous peu par l’ASC au sujet de la disponibilité de subventions pour soutenir l’analyse des données ASTROSAT (point de contact pour les subventions à l’ASC est Jean Dupuis).

JWST (Jean Dupuis, Chris Willott, René Doyon)

Un report du lancement de JWST au mois de mars 2021 a été annoncé par la NASA ce qui a entraîné le report de la date de soumission des demandes de temps du cycle 1 d’observations au printemps 2020. Plus de détails au sujet du calendrier du cycle 1 seront fournis au courant des prochains mois. Entre temps, nous encourageons fortement les futurs utilisateurs de JWST de profiter de ce délai afin de mieux se familiariser avec les nombreuses modes d’observations offertes par la suite d’instruments disponibles sur JWST ainsi qu’avec les logiciels disponibles (ETC, APT, etc.) pour la préparation des demandes de temps. De nombreuses ressources sont disponibles afin d’assister les astronomes dans le développement de leurs demandes de temps à STScI (voir ici) et l’équipe scientifique canadienne de JWST est prête à vous aider! Nous tenons également à souhaiter la bienvenue au Dre Nathalie Ouellette qui s’est récemment jointe à l’équipe JWST à l’Université de Montréal et qui sera en charge de la sensibilisation du public pour la mission JWST.

BRITE

Avec la continuation des opérations réussies du nanosat BRITE et des résultats scientifiques uniques, l’ASC maintient son soutien aux opérations et à la science de BRITE, avec une contribution à SFL pour les opérations satellitaires et un soutien financier transféré au chercheur principal au CMRC.

Le comité consultatif JCSA

Les membres du comité sont présentement:

Jason Rowe, Bishop U. (co-président)
Denis Laurin, CSA (co- président)
Chris O’Dea, U. du Manitoba
Renée Hlozek, U. de Toronto
Locke Spencer, U. de Lethbridge
Chris Willott, CNRC Herzberg
Daryl Haggard, U. McGill

La dernière rencontre a eu lieu après la CASCA à Victoria. La prochaine réunion sera par télécom en novembre ou décembre.



Welcome to Dr Sarah Gallagher, our new Science Advisor to the CSA

On September 12 our Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, announced Dr. Sarah Gallagher of Western University as the first Science Advisor to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). During her two-year, part-time mandate, she will divide her time between her work at Western University and working at the CSA. Dr. Gallagher will report directly to the CSA’s President, to shape Canada’s future direction in space science and champion Canadian space research. She will work closely with the Government’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, to support the integrity, openness and the impact of science in government. Dr. Gallagher will also help promote space science and its relevance to our daily lives by engaging with Canadians and inspiring our next generation of space scientists. She officially begins 1st Oct 2018.

CSA Supported Space Astronomy Studies

In the last year the CSA Space Exploration program prepared calls for proposals to enable studies to assess new mission ideas aligned with the priorities of our scientific communities. These priorities were set forth through consultations, the CSEW 2016 workshop and with the CSA Topical Teams, resulting in the “Canadian Space Exploration – Science and Space Health priorities for Next Decade and Beyond” 2017 report (ftp://ftp.asc-csa.gc.ca/users/ExP/pub/Publications/Science%20Priority%20Reports/). CSA with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) posted several Request for Proposals (RFP) in Space Astronomy and Planetary Exploration and through a competitive process selected the studies listed below.

Only the space astronomy studies are listed, with the science lead in brackets, in order of start date:

  • Mission contribution study for LiteBIRD, by McGill Univ. (Matt Dobbs), Jan 2018, 9 months
  • Science maturation study for CASTOR, by Honeywell and NRC (Pat Coté), Jan 2018, 15 months
  • Science maturation study for Photometric Observations of Extrasolar Planets, by Bishops’ Univ. (Jason Rowe), May 2018, 16 months
  • Science maturation study for LiteBIRD, McGill (Matt Dobbs), June 2018, 16 months
  • Concept study for Colibri (High-Resolution X-ray Telescope), by UBC (Jeremy Heyl), Sept 2018, 16 months
  • Concept study for EPPE (Extrasolar Planet Polarimetry Explorer), by Magellan and UWO, (Stan Metchev), Sept 2018, 15 months

The studies have a combination of industrial support and academic leadership.

At the time of this writing the CASTOR study has just completed its Mid-term Review. It was held at CSA HQ with an attendance of 23 members of the study team. Its purpose is to analyse not only the science objectives, but also their impact on mission and payload design and should provide important information for planning purposes including the LRP 2020.

FAST Grants for Space Astronomy

The CSA 2017 FAST Announcement of Opportunity is concluding its process and grant agreements are being prepared. See the FAST AO webpage for a reminder of the objectives of this competition.

At the time of this writing not all selected proposal grant agreements have been finalized, so it is not possible to provide the list of awards at this point, but it will be available and made public at the end of October (see link above), and I may provide a summary in the next issue of Cassiopeia.

Other CSA Support for Planning

CSA SE continues to support the community towards identifying future opportunities and partnerships. Support to the NASA Science and Technology Definition Teams (STDT) participation and other mission proposals of interest to the community is provided by CSA and managed via St-Mary’s Univ. CSA also plans to support the process of the LRP 2020 process.

ASTROSAT (Jean Dupuis, John Hutchings)

ASTROSAT operations are approaching the 3-year mark, and many Canadian astronomers are using this unique observatory and have submitted proposals in response to the Calls for Proposals issued by ISRO. Note that an issue with the NUV detector of UVIT continues, so this channel is unavailable at this time, but the FUV and VIS channels are still available. Other instruments are operating with some minor degradations. Contact Joe Postma (University of Calgary) for details and assistance. Canadian observers that have obtained observing time during cycle A04 will soon be contacted by CSA about the availability of data analysis grants (CSA contact for grants is Jean Dupuis).

JWST (Jean Dupuis, Chris Willott, René Doyon)

The announcement by NASA of the delay of JWST’s launch to March 2021 has caused the Cycle 1 proposal deadline to be delayed to no earlier than Spring 2020. More details about the Cycle 1 schedule will be available over the next few months. In the meantime, we strongly encourage the future users of JWST to take advantage of this delay to better familiarize themselves with the numerous observation modes available with the suite of science instruments on-board JWST, as well as with the software tools (ETC, APT, etc.) available for the preparation of proposals. STScI is providing several resources to assist astronomers in the development of their observing proposals (see here) and the Canadian JWST science team is there to help you! We also wish to welcome Dr. Nathalie Ouellette who has recently joined the JWST team at the Université de Montréal where she will be responsible for public outreach for the JWST mission.

BRITE

With continued successful operations of the BRITE nanosat and unique and productive science outputs, the CSA maintains support to BRITE operations and science, with a Contribution to SFL for satellite operations and financial support transferred to the PI at RMC for data reduction respectively.

The JCSA Consultation Committee

The current membership comprises:

Jason Rowe, Bishop U. (co-Chair)
Denis Laurin, CSA (co-Chair)
Chris O’Dea, U. of Manitoba
Renée Hlozek, U. of Toronto
Locke Spencer, U. of Lethbridge
Chris Willott, NRC Herzberg
Daryl Haggard, McGill U.

The last meeting was at CASCA in Victoria. The next planned meeting will be by telecom in November or December.

Wishing everyone a colourful autumn,
En vous souhaitant à tous un bel automne coloré,
Denis Laurin

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By / par Bryan Gaensler (Canadian SKA Science Director)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

For more information and updates on the SKA:

International SKA Update

The Square Kilometre Array has reached a number of major milestones in the past few months.

July 13, 2018 saw the inauguration of the 64-dish MeerKAT telescope, the precursor to SKA1-Mid, at the SKA site in the Karoo desert region of South Africa. The array was opened by South Africa’s Deputy President, His Excellency The Honourable David Mabuza, and was accompanied by a release of MeerKAT’s stunning new image of the Galactic Centre (see Figure 1). Canada’s SKA Directors Greg Fahlman and Bryan Gaensler and Canadian High Commissioner Her Excellency Sandra McCardell were all in attendance for the celebration. As well as the spectacular MeerKAT array, attendees also viewed the SKA1-Mid prototype dish now under construction at the site.

Figure 1: Canadians at the launch of the MeerKAT array in South Africa, standing in front of MeerKAT’s image of the Galactic Centre. From left to right: Greg Fahlman, Sandra McCardell, Bryan Gaensler, Jan Milligan, Russ Taylor (Credit: Sandra McCardell)

At the other SKA site in Australia, a multi-national team involving the Netherlands, Italy, Malta, UK, China and Australia has now completed a prototype array of SKA1-Low antennas. This 256-element “AAVS1 Test Platform” is now being used to test the antenna technology (see Figure 2). All 36 antennas of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) have now been fitted with phased-array feeds. ASKAP commissioning continues towards the delivery of Array Release 3, an 18-antenna array and the commencement of phase two early science observations. A pilot survey program using all 36 antennas is being planned for the first quarter of 2019. The Australian site now has a fully integrated hybrid power station, and is the only major observatory able to run purely on solar power.

Figure 2: The completed Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS1) at the Australian SKA site (Credit: CSIRO)

The SKA now has a nervous system! After four and a half years, the international consortium tasked with designing the crucial software that will control, monitor and operate the SKA telescopes concluded its work. The first of 12 consortia to complete their work package, Telescope Manager was led by India’s National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) and comprised nine institutions in seven countries, including Canada’s NRC Herzberg.

More countries are signing up to the SKA. In June 2018, Spain become the 11th member of the SKA Organisation, and in July 2018, France became the 12th. Both countries have already contributed greatly to the SKA project through their involvement in the international design consortia and in the SKA’s Science Working Groups.

The 27th meeting of the SKA Board of Directors took place over July 11-12, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Board was updated on progress towards establishing the new Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO). As part of the process to establish the IGO, eight countries have “initialled” the tex of the SKA Convention text, with a formal Ministerial signing ceremony to be scheduled for later this year in Italy. Canada and New Zealand will not be initial signatories to the SKA Convention, but have begun discussions on joining the SKA Observatory as associate members.

Discussions in Cape Town also covered progress on SKA design work, plans for the bridging phase (between the end of design and the start of construction), planning for transitioning between the current SKA Organisation and the future SKA Observatory (the new IGO), and the potential role of SKA regional centres. The next such meeting will be an interim Board meeting in September by video, with an in-person meeting scheduled for November 13-14, 2018 at the new SKA Headquarters in Manchester.

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

Canadian Technology Development for SKA (Luc Simard and David Stevens)

NRC Herzberg continues to be a major participant in pre-construction efforts for the SKA, principally through NRC leadership of the Central Signal Processing (CSP) consortium and their contractor MDA, and also through NRC participation in the DISH and Telescope Manager design work.

The CSP consortium is approaching a major milestone in the form of its Element Critical Design Review, to be held at the SKA Project Office on September 25-28, 2018. This will mark the end of nearly six years of development work. The external reviewers for the review will be Jonathan Weintroub (Harvard), Larry D’Addario (JPL/Caltech), Alain Baudry (Université de Bordeaux) and Cees Bassa (ASTRON), in addition to several reviewers from the SKA Organisation. Four of the five CSP sub-elements (PSS, PST, MID.CBF and LOW.CBF) were reviewed back in February and March 2018. All reviews went well, with good discussion and feedback received. There were more than 1900 Observation Action Registers raised. Most were resolved before or during the meetings. Outstanding actions are being worked and tracked. The last sub-element (Local Monitoring & Control) will be reviewed on September 24, 2018. Both reviews will focus on extensive documentation packages submitted by the CSP team. On the technical side, the team recently reworked Pulsar Search (PSS) to include rapid phase change, tested a different 16k channeliser design in MID.CBF for better performance, and continued to integrate the Frequency Slice Processor FPGA design for the correlation function mode with the different 16k channeliser and settings. A critical interface control document that includes important power and cooling specifications has been finalised with the SKA infrastructure team in South Africa, and is now in the signature stage.

The Mid-Frequency Single Pixel Feed Receiver/Digitiser design (SPFRx) at NRC has undergone a number of significant changes as a result of discussions on requirements between the SKA Organisation and the CSP and DISH consortia in April 2018. In order to maintain phase coherence during band changes, an individual analogue-to-digital converter will be used for each sampling frequency. The two digital processing cards in the Pedestal Unit will be replaced by a single TALON-DX processing card. This key hardware commonality between SPFRx and MID.CBF will leverage the same development and prototyping efforts for both systems in Penticton. Some re-design work is required and is now underway. A second delta Detailed Design Review is now scheduled for October 2018, and Band 1&2 qualification models will be delivered to South Africa in May 2019. The Band 1&2 Critical Design Review will also be held that month. The Digitiser design team has been expanded to include additional resources in Penticton. This effort fits within the overall DISH consortium work which will conclude in mid- to late-2019.

SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (Kristine Spekkens)

The SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) met at the newly-commissioned FAST radio telescope near Guiyang, China, over July, 2-3 2018. In general the SEAC is satisfied with the progress of the project since its last meeting, noting the success of the critical design review process so far, the SKA Organisation’s management of the low-frequency aperture array (LFAA) workpackage, the implementation of the Operations Model Review recommendations and the production of detailed documents regarding global data flow and computational requirements for calibration and archiving as highlights. The SEAC’s recommendations to the SKA Organisation and to the SKA Board were largely accepted, including the development of commissioning software, a technical review of high-performance computing requirements for calibration and archiving, the arbitration of consortia interdependencies, continued LFAA development and resourcing to manage consortia as necessary, and the creation of a reference SKA Regional Centres design.

SKA Regional Centres Coordination Group (Séverin Gaudet)

The SKA Organisation has adopted a tiered model for data and science support, similar to that employed by CERN. Storage and computing resources associated with the operational SKA Observatory itself will be highly constrained in order to keep up with SKA operations. Any further processing and subsequent science extraction by users will require significant, outside computing and storage resources in the form of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs).

The SKA Regional Centre Coordination Group (SRCCG) is developing the concept of a network of SRCs distributed around the globe. Since May 2018, the SRCCG has met three times to deal with two urgent requests from the SKA Organisation and from the Board:

  • SRC Costing: A revision of the SRC Requirements document was requested to improve the estimates for the global SRC resources necessary to support the science productivity of the facilities. These include storage capacity, processing capacity and types of FTE support. The document must be completed by the beginning of October 2018 for submission to the next meetings of SEAC and the Board. This requirements document with a distribution model are necessary inputs to planning for a Canadian SRC.
  • Governance: In response to a request from the SKA Organisation for a governance model for SRCs, the SRCCG’s position was that the governance model should be developed by the SRC members in collaboration with the SKA Organisation and not by the SRCCG. There are many models of international resource collaborations such as CERN’s WLCG, so this is not seen as a project risk. This issue spurred the need to begin thinking about forming an international SRC collaboration (see next paragraph).

    In parallel with the SRCCG discussions, a meeting of representatives of potential SRC members was held in August 2018 to discussed to lay out a framework for forming an SKA Regional Centre Organisation. A draft outline of this framework is being drafted; once finalised, it will be distributed to stakeholders in Canada to gather comment before the end of September 2018. All potential member consultations will be merged into an expanded document for the next face-to-face meeting of the SKA Board in November 2018.

Canadian SKA Regional Centres Advisory Committee (Erik Rosolowsky)

The Canadian SKA Regional Centre Advisory Committee (CSRCAC) has been working with the NRC to define the scope of a possible Canadian SKA Regional Centre. Regional centres are an integral part of the SKA data ecosystem, and provide the primary point of contact between the SKA Observatory and the astronomical community. Given that that the CADC and other national organisations already perform many of the key functions of a regional centre, we are exploring the implications of hosting a regional centre in Canada. At CASCA 2018 in Victoria, the scope and structure of a Canadian SKA regional centre was one of the main topics of discussion. The primary question we are facing is what kind of services would enable the SKA regional centre to be a facility that supports all of Canadian astronomy. We are planning more community consultation and we will work closely with NRC to define a regional centre plan that matches community needs.

Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis

The Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA) is a newly established consortium of six Canadian universities, funded by a $10.3M grant from the CFI. CIRADA is developing the tools and infrastructure needed to support a Canadian SKA Data Centre, with direct application to the VLA, CHIME and ASKAP, and in close collaboration with CADC, NRAO and other partners. The CIRADA projects has now formally kicked off, and initial use cases are being developed. See CIRADA for more information.

SKA Science and Science Engagement

Canadian astronomers continue to participate in almost all SKA science working groups. The working groups on transients, pulsars, the Milky Way and the cradle of life are all currently chaired by Canadians (Michael Rupen, Ingrid Stairs, Erik Rosolowsky and Doug Johnstone, respectively). The next SKA science meeting, “New Science enabled by New Technologies in the SKA Era”, will take place at the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank over April 8-12, 2019; the abstract and registration deadlines are both October 26th, 2018.

The SKA Organisation is now undertaking SKA Science Data Challenges. These will be increasingly realistic simulated SKA data products, aimed at preparing the scientific community for extracting science most efficiently from the actual SKA data products as soon as they become available. The first Data Challenge release will be relatively modest in scope, providing simulated continuum image data products for random pointing directions obtained with SKA1-Mid at a small number of centre frequencies. However, this should already allow for testing of source finding and characterisation code that can be compared with the input catalogue for completeness and reliability as well as more specific analysis of relevance to particular Science Working Groups (e.g., recovering source ellipticities with the precision that would be needed for a weak gravitational lensing experiment). The first release for the SKA Data Challenges will soon be made available here.

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 email contact@skatelescope.ca.

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is the precursor of SKA-Low and is a powerful science facility in its own right (see MWA for details). MWA phase 2, which improves the sensitivity of the array by an order of magnitude, is now operating. Canada, through the University of Toronto, is a full member of the MWA project, with representation on the MWA Board. Any Canadian astronomers wishing to join the MWA Consortium and to consequently gain access to MWA data, software tools and science collaborations should contact Bryan Gaensler.

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). Current members of AACS are listed here. AACS meets several times per year, with its next meeting in November 2018. For further information or to propose AACS agenda items, please contact the AACS Chair, Bryan Gaensler.

CASCA-Westar Lectureship Call-out

By / par Phil Langill (U. Calgary, Director, Rothney Astrophysical Observatory)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The English version follows

La Société canadienne d’astronomie (CASCA) aimerait offrir à votre communauté ou organisation la possibilité d’accueillir une conférence Westar. Suivant ses engagements pour partager la science avec le public, la CASCA s’engage à fournir le financement nécessaire pour qu’un(e) astronome canadien(ne) distingué(e) se rende dans votre communauté pour un séjour de deux jours où il/elle donnera une conférence publique gratuite et interagira avec les membres de votre communauté. De plus, en fonction de vos besoins et de leur expertise, le/la conférencier(ère) pourra également offrir d’autres activités gratuites telles que l’observation au télescope, des visites en classe ou une formation en astronomie pour les enseignants. La conférence Westar met en vedette nos incroyables chercheurs canadiens en astronomie, suscite l’enthousiasme et l’intérêt pour l’astronomie et la science, et offre des possibilités d’éducation pour le grand public et les enseignants de sciences.

Si vous souhaitez qu’un conférencier Westar visite votre communauté, nous vous encourageons à visiter notre site web et remplir le formulaire d’application. Les candidats retenus seront avisés le plus rapidement possible. Veuillez répondre aux questions aussi précisément que possible, car elles sont conçues pour nous aider à optimiser le processus de planification.



The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) would like to offer your community or organization the opportunity to host a Westar Lecture. As part of its commitment to share science with the public, CASCA will provide the necessary funding for a distinguished Canadian astronomer to visit your community for a two-day stay. He or she will give a free public lecture and interact with members of your community. In addition, depending on your needs and expertise, the speaker may also offer other free activities such as telescope observation, classroom visits, or astronomy training for teachers. The Westar Lecture showcases our incredible Canadian astronomers, inspires enthusiasm and interest in astronomy and science, and provides educational opportunities for the general public and science teachers.

If you would like a Westar speaker to visit your community, we encourage you to visit our website and fill out the application form. Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible. Please answer questions as specifically as possible as they are designed to help us optimize the planning process.