Results from the First Indigenous Astronomy Workshop at the University of Toronto

By/par Hilding Neilson, CLTA Assistant Professor (U of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

On November 2 and 3 2017, we held a workshop on the topic of Indigenous astronomy at the University of Toronto. The workshop was sponsored by the Centre for Indigenous Studies, the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. The purpose of the two-day workshop was to bring together astronomers, educators and Indigenous scholars from around the Greater Toronto region to discuss methods for improving engagement with Indigenous communities and how to be more inclusive in delivering Indigenous knowledge in the classroom. This workshop is part of a larger initiative to develop new curriculum and learning materials around Indigenous astronomy.

More specifically, the goal of the workshop was to address the following three questions:

  • How do we enhance Indigenous knowledge in the astronomy classroom?
  • How do we build connections between astronomer and Indigenous communities?
  • How do we motivate more Indigenous people to participate in STEM and education?

As part of the workshop, we invited speakers from across eastern Canada to lead this discussion. The workshop was opened by Elder Andrew Wesley who related his own personal connections with the sky and nature along with the importance of understanding nature as part of Indigenous culture. This was followed by Professor Melanie Jeffery, who shared about developing the Indigenous Ecology course that is a science breadth course at the University of Toronto. That discussion highlighted the need to understand Indigenous worldview as part of the education process in science along with the tensions between literacy and oral traditions in learning. One of the more interesting topics in the discussion was the role of storytelling in the teaching methodologies that can be incorporated into astronomy teaching as a way to diversify teaching and learning.

Professor Cheryl Bartlett from Cape Breton University and Ms. Carola Knockwood from Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey presented talks around the concept of Two-Eyed Seeing in science. This concept was highlighted in the Naylor report on science as a way to connect research in the academic sphere with First Nations knowledge systems and perspectives. Both speakers discussed the value of Two-Eyed Seeing for health and biological sciences and how astronomers might consider applying this philosophy. Ms. Knockwood also discussed how Eurocentric knowledge methods used in academia are not necessarily serving Indigenous learners because of how Universities tend to be disconnected from traditional Indigenous knowledge.

We also heard from Mr. Frank Dempsey from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada who has spent years sharing Indigenous astronomy stories with the public and Dr. David Pantalony from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology. Mr. Dempsey discussed various stories from the Mi’kmaw tradition of Muin and the Seven Hunters along with stories about constellations that are similar to Orion and the Pleiades. Dr. Pantalony presented a discussion on a new exhibit at the museum centred on Indigenous sky knowledge that was co-curated with Prof. Annette Lee from St. Cloud State University and Mr. Wilfred Buck from the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center as an initial step to including Indigenous knowledge in science outreach.

Along with the talks, a significant fraction of time of the workshop was dedicated to discussion of the three key questions and to develop strategies for engagement with Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous communities. In particular, three important lessons are:

  1. We, as astronomers, should work to interact with and learn from Elders and knowledge keepers on their terms. Many Elders want to share their knowledge and see it used respectfully and earnestly.
  2. When we discuss Indigenous knowledge in the classroom it should be done in context. That discussion should acknowledge the place of that knowledge in Indigenous life. This context includes discussion of culture, prejudice and the impact of colonization. While this discussion is challenging we cannot simply discuss Indigenous astronomy without discussing Indigenous culture and history.
  3. In various talks, stories were related about how university/college education requires Indigenous students to think in terms of western knowledge system that treats their own knowledge as less valuable. This settler mentality creates added stress for Indigenous student wishing to pursue advanced education. One way to encourage more Indigenous students is to build community connections that encourage working in both western and Indigenous knowledge systems.

This workshop and public discussion was the first step in developing curriculum for astronomy courses around Indigenous content and developing strategies for collaborating and serving Indigenous communities in Canada. This initiative is important as our astronomy courses do not reflect the diversity of the nation and ignores the contributions of Indigenous knowledge. It is the hope of those involved with this workshop that it be the first workshop of many and helps move forward the national conversation the astronomy community needs to have about delivering and including Indigenous astronomy knowledge in the classroom.

Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By/par Stéphanie Côté (CGO, NRC Herzberg / OGC, CNRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

La version française suit

Grab some Fast Turnaround Time!

Contrary to popular belief, the Fast Turnaround proposals do not need to be urgent to qualify for this program. The FT program is designed to be used to conduct pilot studies, complete data sets, and follow up newly-discovered objects, basically any kind of project with scientific value that you can think of.

The way it works is that users submit proposals at the end of each month. Proposals are then peer-reviewed by the PIs of the submitted proposals in the following couple of weeks. The successful programs are activated a couple of weeks later and stay active in the queue for 3 months.

Canada has not been using much of its share of allocated FT time so far, so we encourage Canadians to apply for FT time; there is lots of time to grab! Both Gemini North and South accept FT proposals.

The next Gemini FT deadline is at 23:59 Hawaiian Standard Time on December 31.

For full details about the program, including the latest Call for Proposals, see the FT web pages.

To receive monthly deadline reminders and news of changes to the program, send a message to Gemini-FT-reminders+subscribe.

PIT easier than ever with the little help of a video

Please note that the Gemini User Support Group has produced a series of short YouTube videos to help you fill the Phase 1 Tool PIT. There is a video for a general PIT tutorial but also some videos for some specific subjects such as how to enter the Observations info, Band 3 or entering the Time requests. You can see the full playlist here.

Gemini Remote Observing Station in Victoria

Last September we inaugurated our new Gemini Remote Observing Station installed here on the hill, which enables observations using GPI on Gemini-South to be done remotely and entirely controlled through a VNC link. The Gemini Remote Observing station consists of two powerful Dell tower workstations and a total of 10 monitors. It is installed in one of the ground floor rooms in the “White House” on Observatory Hill close to the DAO telescopes (which used to be first DAO director John Plaskett’s residence, but had been converted to offices decades ago). Such remote observing facilities connecting to Gemini only exist in Stanford and Berkeley so far, to help the GPI campaign team support their numerous observing runs. The Canadian Gemini Office becomes the first National Gemini Office with such a remote observing facility. Christian Marois with University of Victoria students Ben Gerard, Zach Draper and postdoc Celia Blain succeeded in September for the first time to connect via VNC to GPI at Gemini-South and take control of the instrument and take the first data (imaging nearby stars to search for extrasolar planets) for the GPI campaign program. Two other successful observing runs were conducted by the team in early November and late November.

Our hope is that in the future this remote observing station could evolve to be able to connect to other current Gemini instruments. It could help the training of local students in giving them ample exposure to observing at a large telescope. Eventually it could also be offered to Gemini Large Programs teams in the Canadian community for their Gemini Priority Visiting observations, saving them the expense of travelling to Hawai’i or Chile. In the future it will also be useful for the commissioning of GHOST, the future Gemini High-Resolution Optical Spectrograph, built in part by HAARC.

Figure 1: First observations from the Gemini Remote observing station at DAO, with UVic postdoc Celia Blain and students Ben Gerard and Zach Draper.

Figure 1: First observations from the Gemini Remote observing station at DAO, with UVic postdoc Celia Blain and students Ben Gerard and Zach Draper.

Recent Canadian Gemini Press Releases

  • Clare Higgs (University of Victoria) is one of the numerous co-Is on the Gemini papers from the first-ever detection of optical and infrared light linked to a gravitational wave event. The gravitational wave event GW170817 was detected by LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), Virgo, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope on August 17, 2017. Gemini was one of the first telescopes to capture the first infrared photons ever seen from this neutron-neutron star merger, a so-called kilonova. Gemini provided more data than any other telescopes following the fading object over 25 nights with imaging and spectroscopy data. The Gemini spectra showed directly that the neutron star binary merger formed and dispersed heavy elements, like gold and platinum, into space. This solves the decades-long mystery of the origin of the heaviest elements. The Gemini press release is here.
  • G-IRMOS got funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation! This is a future Gemini visitor instrument, meant to be a TMT pathfinder. It will consist of multiple deployable IFU (4) over a 2×2 arcmin field using Multi-Object Adaptive Optics (MOAO) fed by GeMs. It will be geared for JWST follow-ups, for the study of star formation, metallicity and kinematics of high-z galaxies, stars & planet formation within our Milky Way, and supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies. The PI is Suresh Sivanandam at Dunlap Institute, with a team of over 20 astronomers distributed in 6 canadian universities. You can view the press release from the Dunlap Institute here.

Join the thousands and thousands of Gemini Observatory followers on Facebook and Twitter @GeminiObs

Sautez sur du temps de Retour Rapide!

Contrairement à la croyance populaire, les demandes de Retour Rapide (=Fast Turnaround) n’ont pas besoin d’être urgentes pour être admissibles à ce programme. Le programme RR est conçu pour être utilisé pour mener des études pilotes, compléter des ensembles de données ou suivre des objets nouvellement découverts, bref tout type de projet ayant une valeur scientifique que vous pouvez imaginer.

La façon que le programme fonctionne est que les utilisateurs/trices soumettent des demandes à la fin de chaque mois. Au cours des deux semaines suivantes, les demandes sont examinées par les chercheur(e)s principaux(ales) des demandes soumises. Les programmes retenus sont activés quelques semaines plus tard et restent actifs dans la queue d’observation pendant 3 mois.

Jusqu’à maintenant le Canada n’a pas utilisé beaucoup de sa part de temps alloué à ce programme, alors nous encourageons les canadien(ne)s à faire une demande de temps RR, il y a beaucoup de temps disponible! Gemini Nord et Sud acceptent tous les deux des demandes RR
La prochaine date limite pour le programme RR à Gemini est à 23:59 (heure normale Hawaïenne) le 31 décembre.

Pour plus de détails sur le programme, y compris le dernier appel de demandes, consultez les pages Web de RR ici.

Pour recevoir des rappels mensuels des dates limites et des nouvelles sur les changements apportés au programme, envoyez un message à Gemini-FT-reminders+subscribe.

PIT plus facile que jamais avec l’aide de vidéos

Veuillez noter que le groupe de soutien aux utilisateurs de Gemini a produit une série de courtes vidéos sur YouTube pour vous aider à remplir la Phase1 avec PIT. Il existe une vidéo qui est un tutoriel général sur PIT, mais aussi d’autres vidéos sur des sujets spécifiques tels que comment remplir la section observations, la bande 3 ou la section des requêtes de temps. Vous pouvez voir la sélection complète ici.

Le narrateur de ces vidéos n`est nul autre qu`André-Nicolas Chené, un ancien membre de l`OGC, maintenant à Gemini.

Une Station d’observation Gemini à distance à Victoria

En septembre dernier, nous avons inauguré notre nouvelle station d’observation Gemini à distance installée ici à Victoria, qui permet d’effectuer des observations en utilisant GPI sur Gemini-Sud à distance et entièrement contrôlé par un lien VNC. La station d’observation Gemini à distance se compose de deux puissants postes de travail Dell et d’un total de 10 moniteurs. Elle est installé dans l’une des salles du rez-de-chaussée de la «Maison Blanche» sur la colline de l’Observatoire près des télescopes OFA (qui était la résidence du premier directeur John Plaskett, mais qui a été convertie en bureaux il y a des décennies). De telles stations d’observation à distance se connectant à Gemini n`existent présentement qu`à Stanford et à Berkeley, pour aider l’équipe de la campagne de GPI à soutenir leurs nombreuses missions d’observation. L`Office Gemini canadien devient le premier office national Gemini doté d’une telle station d’observation à distance. Christian Marois et les étudiants de l’Université de Victoria Ben Gerard, Zach Draper et la chercheuse postdoctorale Celia Blain ont réussi pour la première fois en septembre à se connecter via VNC à GPI à Gemini-Sud et à prendre le contrôle de l’instrument pour prendre des données (imagerie d`étoiles proches pour détecter des planètes extrasolaires) pour le programme de campagne GPI. Et depuis deux autres missions d’observation ont été menées avec succès par l’équipe en début novembre et fin novembre.

Nous espérons qu’à l’avenir cette station d’observation à distance pourrait évoluer pour pouvoir se connecter à d’autres instruments Gemini. Cela pourrait aider la formation des étudiants locaux en leur permettant l`accès facile à l’observation sur un grand télescope. Éventuellement, elle pourrait également être offerte aux équipes des Grands Programmes Gemini de la communauté canadienne pour leurs observations en mode Visiteur Prioritaire à Gemini, ce qui leur éviterait de devoir voyager à Hawaï ou au Chili. À l’avenir, elle sera également utile pour la mise en service de GHOST, le futur spectrographe optique à haute résolution de Gemini, construit en partie par HAARC.

Figure 1: Premières observations à partir de la station d`observation Gemini à distance à l`OFA, avec la chercheure postdoctoral de l`Université de Victoria Celia Blain and les étudiants de thèse  Ben Gerard et Zach Draper.

Figure 1: Premières observations à partir de la station d`observation Gemini à distance à l`OFA, avec la chercheure postdoctoral de l`Université de Victoria Celia Blain and les étudiants de thèse Ben Gerard et Zach Draper.

Communiqués de presse canadiens récents

  • Clare Higgs (Université de Victoria) est l’une des nombreux co-Is sur les articles Gemini sur la toute première détection de lumière optique et infrarouge liée à un événement d’onde gravitationnelle. L’onde gravitationnelle GW170817 a été détectée par LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), Virgo et le télescope spatial Fermi en rayons Gamma le 17 août 2017. Gemini a été l’un des premiers télescopes à capturer les premiers photons infrarouges jamais vus de cette fusion d’étoiles neutron-neutron, une soi-disant kilonova. Gemini a fourni plus de données que tout autre télescope en suivant l`objet qui s`est éteint lentement pendant 25 nuits avec des données d’imagerie et de spectroscopie. Les spectres Gemini ont montré directement que la fusion binaire des étoiles à neutrons formait et dispersait des éléments lourds, comme l’or et le platine. Cela résout un mystère vieux de plusieurs décennies de l’origine des éléments les plus lourds dans l`espace. Le communiqué de presse Gemini est ici.
  • G-IRMOS a été financé par la Fondation Canadienne pour l’Innovation! C’est un futur instrument visiteur de Gemini, destiné à être un précurseur pour TMT. Il se composera de multiples Unités de Champ Intégrales déployables (4) sur un champ de 2×2 minutes d`arc en utilisant l’optique adaptative multi-objets (MOAO) alimentée par GeMs. Il sera destiné aux suivis JWST, à l’étude de la formation d’étoiles, de la métallicité et de la cinématique des galaxies à haut redshift, de la formation des étoiles et planètes dans notre propre Voie Lactée, et des trous noirs supermassifs dans des galaxies voisines. Le chercheur principal est Suresh Sivanandam de l’Institut Dunlap, avec une équipe de plus de 20 astronomes répartis dans 6 universités canadiennes. Vous pouvez consulter le communiqué de presse de l’Institut Dunlap ici.

Rejoignez les milliers et milliers de suiveurs de l’Observatoire Gemini sur Facebook et Twitter: @GeminiObs.

ALMA Matters


From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

New ALMA Director

After a competitive selection process that began in January 2017, the international governing board of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has selected Dr. Sean Dougherty as the new ALMA Director for a 5-year term beginning in late February 2018. Dougherty is currently the director of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, Canada’s national radio astronomy facility, run by NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics. He has served as a member of the ALMA Board representing North America for four years and was the chair of the ALMA Budget Committee for the last two years.

SPICA Status Report

By/par David Naylor, SPICA Canadian HoN and Co-I and Doug Johnstone, SPICA Science Team
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)


This SPICA Status Report is a revised version of a note that was sent to the Canadian SPICA community e-mail distribution list in early November. Since that time we have learned that the ESO M5 selection process has been delayed by a few months and is now expected to take place in February 2018. We remain very optimistic that SPICA will be selected at that time! Canadian astronomers interested in following the developments of SPICA and not already on the SPICA e-mail distribution list should contact David Naylor or Doug Johnstone.
As you may recall, one year ago, 5 October 2016, the SPICA proposal for a mechanically cryo-cooled infrared space telescope was submitted to ESA’s M5 Cosmic Vision call. In total, thirty-five proposals were submitted to that call. We learned on 7 June 2017 that thirteen proposals, including SPICA, made it through the technical and programmatic review, a hurdle designed to ensure that the required technology was feasible and within the M5 budget envelope.  Since that time, these remaining mission concepts have been undergoing rigorous scientific review.
As part of the review process, on 20 October the ESA review committee sent out a list of written questions to each mission team with responses due by 31 October. The questions which the SPICA project received were well posed, but all relatively easily addressed. The final step in the review process was a face to face meeting that took place on in Paris on 8 November. The SPICA PI, Peter Roelfsema, was allowed to take two scientists with him to face the review panel. Accompanied by Takashi Onaka (JAXA) and Martin Girard (CNES), the SPICA team appeared before the ESA panel. Peter Roelfsema reports that the review panel “posed solid/direct questions, mostly for deeper clarification on the answers we had already given, that in my opinion we could address really well. From our side there was no insecurity, no hesitation and we stayed to the point and direct at all times.” Further, “I can safely say that both in the written answers earlier this month as well is in today’s interview we did exactly what was needed – bring across that we have a well-conceived mission, with solid and well-founded science goals, with an open mind as to necessary work and/or adaptations that will need to be done as we learn more in the next years, and all that backed by a very knowledgeable and motivated consortium. I am sure we, again, significantly reinforced our path towards the M5 shortlist.”
According to the ESA M5 review schedule, ESA was to have announced the winning proposals selected for mission studies in December. However, we have recently learned that complications with the M4 decision process have led to a delay in the M5 decision, which is now expected in February 2018. Assuming that SPICA is selected at that time, an outcome for which we remain optimistic, what will follow will be an intense and active three year phase of instrument development to ensure that the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of the various subsystems are at the required level (TRL5/6) before the final mission selection, which is due to take place in February 2021.
There is considerable optimism and excitement about the SPICA mission. At the recent consortium meeting in Rome, attended by myself and Doug Johnstone, many of us were taken off guard by the outright confidence of our PI. Furthermore, these recent SPICA team interactions with ESA have all been very positive. Canada was a founding member of the SPICA team, and although it has been a long journey, dating back to our first meeting (also) in Rome in 2009, it appears that very exciting news is imminent.
You may recall that under the current work package breakdown Canada has been assigned the critical high resolution spectrometer (a Martin-Puplett polarizing Fourier transform spectrometer). This builds on Canadian excellence both in academia and industry. The return from this investment to Canadian scientists like yourselves will be more than four times that awarded to the Canadian Herschel SPIRE team. Herschel was, of course, an amazing success, in part due to the great Canadian scientists involved. Indeed, it is most definitely the success of the Herschel mission that has spurred on the SPICA consortium in making its case to ESA.
Finally, as with all missions, CSA funding will depend upon strong support from the scientific community. Missions must be identified in the Long Range Plan (LRP) and must have a strong cadre of scientists who can exploit the scientific return on what will be a significant investment. Your role in this regard is essential.  Toward this end, a series of refereed SPICA science papers have been published (see below) and the next SPICA consortium meeting, Groningen in March 2018, will devote an entire day to science talks. Finally, an open international conference dedicated to SPICA science is being planned for February/March 2019; Doug Johnstone is part of the SOC. 
Clearly these are exciting times for SPICA. On behalf of the mission thank you for your continued support!
SPICA Canada
SPICA Science

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

By/par Robert La Montagne
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

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 19-21, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec.


This year’s topic will be “Large-Scale Astrophysics: galaxies and beyond”. This 3-day school will focus on our understanding of galaxies, including galaxy dynamics and populations, their environments and the use of galaxies as cosmological probes. 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.

Email contact:

Le Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ) annonce son école d’été annuelle, qui aura lieu du 19 au 21 juin 2018 à Montréal, Québec.


Le thème de cette année portera sur « L’astrophysique à grande échelle : les galaxies et au-delà ». Cette école d’une durée de 3 jours, se concentrera sur notre compréhension des galaxies, incluant la dynamique et les populations de galaxies, leur environnement et l’utilisation des galaxies comme sondes cosmologiques. 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 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 universitaire 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.


A Call to Action for Canadian Astronomy in Space

By/par Jeremy Heyl
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

Over the next few months, the federal government is developing a new long-term plan for the Canadian Space Agency. We believe that the government wants to make a major and possibly transformational investment in space exploration. However, they want to see broad support from the community before they will act.

We developed “A Vision for Canadian Space Exploration” that calls for a sustained, competitive and comprehensive program of science in space over the next decade (see document here) to keep Canada competitive economically, technologically and scientifically. We have presented this vision to members of parliament, the Canadian Space Agency and the responsible ministers.

Now is your chance to drive major change in how astronomy is done in Canada. Canadian astronomers have led globally through partnering in and building the best ground-based facilities. Now astronomy from space plays a larger and larger role in the latest discoveries. Please reach out to your member of parliament to let them know that Canada should invest in space exploration with a sustained program of competitively chosen missions. Let them know how space astronomy can inspire our communities, develop new technologies and train the next generation of innovators for Canada.

Ilaria Caiazzo
Sarah Gallagher
Jeremy Heyl

JCMT Update

By/par Chris Wilson
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)


Anyone on Maunakea in December 2017 will have a chance to see an unusual sight: the JCMT operating without its iconic membrane. (A fantastic picture of the JCMT under “normal” conditions by William Montgomerie is included in this article.) The observatory is planning a month-long observing campaign to see if they can commission the POL-2 polarimeter to operate at 450 microns. If anyone gets a good picture, I would love to see it!

The JCMT continues to perform well and to produce exciting new science results. A recent press release highlights an exciting discovery from one of the large programs, the JCMT Transient Survey of an 18-month recurring twinkle in the submillimetre emission from a young star, which suggests the presence of an unseen planet. The variation was discovered by Hyunju Yoo, graduate student at Chungnam National University and advisor Jeong-Eun Lee, Professor at Kyung Hee University (South Korea) during their analysis of monthly observations of the Serpens Main star-forming region. Their paper was published in ApJ November 1, 2017.

Three of the original seven Large Programs on the JCMT have finished collecting all their data: SCOPE, a continuum survey of pre-stellar evolution focusing on Planck cold cores; MALATANG, a survey of spectral lines (HCN and HCO+) tracing highly excited dense gas in 19 nearby galaxies; and S2COSMOS, a sensitive 2-degree square map of the COSMOS field at 850 microns. The remaining four programs are progressing well. All programs passed their mid-term review last spring.

Observing for some of the nine new large programs began in August 2017 at the start of semester 17A. One of these programs, “HASHTAG”, a deep map of M31 at 850 microns with CO J=3-2 maps in selected regions, has already completed all its CO observing, while other programs (such as JINGLE-II, an extension of the JINGLE nearby galaxy survey to starburst and green valley galaxies) are waiting for their sources to become available in the winter semester. The remaining four programs from the initial large program call have first priority on the telescope during large program nights, which make up 50% of the observing time on the telescope. Summaries and more details on all programs can be found here.

Just as a reminder, all JCMT data (PI and large programs) become public one year after the end of the semester in which the data were taken. Also, although the original call for new members in the large programs has closed, many of the teams continue to accept students and postdocs as new members.

The Board of the East Asian Observatories (EAO) struck a Mid-Term Review Committee to discuss the future of the JCMT. The committee met in July and delivered their report to the Board in October 2017. This report will provide useful input to the EAO Board as they consider whether to renew their contract to operate the JCMT for a second 5-year term. The current JCMT agreement extends until early 2020. The UK university consortium was successful in obtaining a second round of funding to contribute to JCMT operations for an additional three years (taking them to 2021). The current round of Canadian funding from NSERC lasts until March 2019.

The next call for PI proposals for JCMT semester 18B will be issued in mid-February with proposals due in mid-March. Depending on whether or not we can identify new sources of funding in Canada, this call for proposals could be the last call that is open to Canadians PIs.

The DAO 100 Project

By/par James di Francesco
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

Next year, 2018, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Several celebratory events are being planned to commemorate this historic event. One planned event, the DAO100 Project, will greatly benefit from your contribution. Thank you to all those who have very kindly sent us contributions already!

We wish to celebrate the 100th anniversary by collecting vivid accounts of life at the observatory from its current and former staff, postdocs, students, and visitors over the past several decades. We are looking for your best stories here and invite you to kindly contribute to this ambitious enterprise. Highlights of the collected material will be shared as part of other events planned for the 100th anniversary, and woven into an article to be published in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

To stimulate ideas about your contribution, please consider the following about your DAO experiences:

  • When were you at DAO and what role did you play while here?
  • What was the most memorable interaction you had with others at DAO?
  • What was your favourite project?
  • What contribution (e.g., scientific discovery, instrumentation development, computational project, technical or administrative activity) from your time at DAO do you remember most fondly?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened to you during your time here?
  • Was there anything special about DAO you’d like to impart?
  • What significance did DAO play in your life?

Of course, these are just suggestions, and anyone is free to submit any anecdote or particularly meaningful pictures they’d like to share. All contributions will be properly credited to the submitters. (Some light editing may be required, but we will strive to preserve the spirit of all comments and consult with you where necessary to ensure clarity.)

Submissions of any length are welcome but we ask that you focus your recollections to avoid an intended submission from becoming too ambitious to complete. Please send any and all submissions to by 7 January 2018. Also, please share this invitation with your colleagues so we can get the widest possible distribution.

President’s Message

2014-06-27-Prof. Roberto Abraham

By/par Roberto Abraham, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2017)

Dear CASCA Members,

It’s been a busy summer! Here are some activities that have been going on over the past few months:

CHIME First Light

About two weeks ago, Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, installed the final piece of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), triggering the official First Light for this exciting new radio telescope. Congratulations to the many people involved in CHIME at UBC, McGill, Toronto, and NRC.

CHIME is incredibly innovative and its science is hugely exciting, so it is no surprise to see that its First Light generated a lot of buzz in both the astronomical community and in the media. I can’t wait to see the exciting science it will produce. The process by which CHIME came into existence is also interesting because it is another success story for the CASCA Long-Range Plan process. I was on the LRP2010 committee (chaired by Chris Pritchet at the University of Victoria) and well remember the extensive discussions about CHIME that led to it being declared the top mid-scale priority in the plan. This prioritization evidently played an important role in securing its funding. I’m not a radio astronomer (yet), and I’m no lover of committees (in general), but I must say it is incredibly satisfying watching the CHIME team deliver the goods and knowing that the work the community put into LRP2010 helped make CHIME happen. By being organized, disciplined, and working together, harnessing the many strengths of both Canadian Universities and the NRC, we can build the groundwork for more Canadian success stories in astrophysics. And if you are getting the impression from this buildup that the Canadian community is starting to gear up for LRP2020, well, of course you’re right. Witness (for example) the very successful recent workshop held in Montreal last week on “Canadian Radio Astronomy – Surveying the Present and Shaping the Future”. So, please start thinking about what you want the future to look like, because the planning for LRP2020 will be starting quite soon.

TMT Progress

After nearly five months of hearing evidence, the contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope Project has concluded and State Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano has recommended that a permit be issued to the University of Hawaii to allow construction of the TMT. In parallel with this progress in the legal domain, support for the TMT has been growing in Hawaii. Oahu public support for TMT construction is now almost 80 percent, and the most recent polling indicates that Hawaii Island residents support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. This is great news! Very serious consideration of the backup site (La Palma) continues but we now have many reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of TMT construction at our first-choice site in Hawaii. Challenges remain but this should not come as as a surprise to anybody. (Beyond a certain scale, essentially all ambitious scientific infrastructure projects have to deal with some combination of logistical, financial, and scheduling hurdles. The trick is to have a robust plan in place to manage the challenges.) CASCA members interested in learning how the TMT project is progressing, and on the plans for future instruments, should participate in the community Webcast with senior TMT management being organized by CATAC (see Michael Balogh’s CATAC report in this issue for details). Future webcasts will organized to help keep the community up to date on the considerable progress being made on the TMT.

Perhaps it is not out of place to remind ourselves that the privilege of observing on Mauna Kea has been a huge benefit to many of us. Let’s be grateful for, and respectful of, this privilege. Over the summer, I sat down with a couple of books and did some reading about the fascinating history of the people of Hawaii. Since I’ve been a regular visitor to the islands for 25 years, I’m truly ashamed that it took me this long to read a book on this subject. As the legal process winds down, I hope more astronomers take some time to learn more about the history of the islands. (Though it’s somewhat dated, I can recommend “Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands” by Gavan Daws. If you have other suggestions, please do email me with them.)

Space Science and the Canadian Space Agency

After years of talking about it on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) advisory committee, the JWST Early Release Science proposal deadline has come and gone. The selection committee is meeting in a few weeks and will divide about 500 hours worth of observing time between about 15 proposals, chosen from the 106 submitted. The JWST General Observer call for proposals will come out in two months with a proposal deadline of next March. The lesson you should draw from all this is that THE JWST ERA IS ALMOST HERE!

The Canadian Space Agency has played an important role in the development of the JWST mission and, when the spacecraft launches in 2018, I think that all Canadians will be justifiably proud to learn that a team of Canadian academic, governmental, and industrial scientists, engineers and technicians built one of JWST’s key instruments (the NIRISS spectrometer, whose Principal Investigator is René Doyon at the Université de Montréal), not to mention the critical Fine Guidance Sensor that points and guides the telescope.

Unfortunately, JWST will have a very limited lifetime. It is designed to have at least a five-year lifetime after launch, and carries only enough fuel to maintain orbital positioning for a little over ten years. Of course, most space-based endeavours have long lead times, and investments in space missions frequently begin to pay off many years into the future (and, when it comes to flagship missions, sometimes decades into the future). The spectacular near-term future we are anticipating with JWST is thus the product of investments begun many years ago. But what about the decades after JWST? We need to ensure that post-JWST Canada continues to innovate, lead, and inspire.

Operating in synergy with the CASCA Long Range Plan, and with a particular eye toward LRP2020, a number of Canadians have begun thinking about ways to lay out a roadmap to such an exciting post-JWST future. Professors Sarah Gallagher (Western) and Jeremy Heyl (UBC), working with graduate student Ilaria Caiazzo (UBC), have put together a very thoughtful white paper which I think everybody should read. This White Paper, together with the various Topical Team reports now being prepared by the CSA, show how space-based astrophysical research should operate in the country at a variety of levels, from low-cost, agile balloon-based missions that perform end-to-end experiments on a timescale relevant for the training of graduate students, to focused mid-scale missions that target high-risk/high-return subjects such as primordial gravitational waves from the first few moments after the Big Bang, all the way up to proposed participation in (and potentially leadership in) much more infrequent but highly ambitious facilities that will keep our astronomical research and space industrial communities vibrant long after JWST. The key to to this future is increased funding for the Canadian Space Agency, and the immediate audience for our recommendations is the government’s newly-formed Space Advisory Board. The Space Advisory Board’s first report, titled “Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard”, is now available here.

This report summarizes the feedback Space Advisory Board members received from stakeholders during the public consultations on Canada’s future in space. There are exciting plans, but how do we turn these plans into reality? By now you should not be surprised to learn that LRP2020 will be an important component in this. In the meantime, we need to keep delivering the message to the government. And this inevitably brings me to the my final topic: activities by the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy.

Coalition Activities

In late August, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy prepared a pre-budget submission and submitted this to the government. There are two main recommendations in the submission:

Firstly, we offer a recommendation for increased funding for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that is very much in-line with the White Paper noted above. The Coalition believes Canada has the resources to achieve international leadership in space-based astronomy, matching its existing success in ground-based astronomy, and that such a future includes leadership in a future space mission.

Secondly, as noted by the report on the Fundamental Science Review (the Naylor Report), Canada needs a mechanism for funding “big science” projects, which tend to involve multiple international partners, have price tags in the billions, take years to conceive and build, and have lifespans measured in decades. The lack of such a funding mechanism could mean lost opportunities for Canadian astronomy in the future, including those priority projects identified in our pre-budget submission. Therefore, getting a nimble mechanism in place remains a top priority for the Coalition. You will be hearing more about formal CASCA Board support for the Naylor Report soon, along with some suggestions for things you can personally do to help draw attention to this important report.

In addition to providing the government with a formal document as part of the pre-budget submission process, we also wrote to Ministers Bains and Duncan on August 30 to reinforce the priorities noted above. The co-chairs of the coalition (myself, on behalf of CASCA, Don Brooks, on behalf of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, and our industry co-chair Guy Nelson, CEO of Empire Industries) plan to visit Ottawa in October/November to follow-up on the priorities identified in this letter. As with our last visit to Ottawa, we will make an effort to meet with politicians on both sides of the bench.

Let me conclude this message by thanking you, on behalf of the CASCA Board, for your support of our society. We promise to work hard on your behalf. If you have any suggestions for things we could be doing better, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Roberto Abraham

Dr. Ingrid Stairs awarded the Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics of the Royal Society of Canada

Dr Ingrid Stairs from the University of British Columbia has been awarded the 2017 Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics from the Royal Society of Canada

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Ingrid Stairs from the University of British Columbia has been awarded the 2017 Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics from the Royal Society of Canada. The citation reads

“Ingrid Stairs is a leading world expert in finding and using radio emitting neutron stars (pulsars) to study and test theories of gravity. Pulsars, particularly those in binary systems, provide unique laboratories in which to study Einstein’s theory of gravity and any possible deviations from this theory. Professor Stairs has exploited this in numerous situations and continues to do so by developing sophisticated pulsar instrumentation.”