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.”


2017 Petrie Prize

The 2017 R. M. Petrie Prize is awarded to Dr. Charles Beichman for his incredible career contributions to the study of extrasolar planetary systems.

Dr. Beichman is currently the Executive Director of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech, which is the focus of exoplanet research at NASA. Dr. Beichman’s search for evidence of planetary systems is long-standing, dating back to the first detections of planetary systems with IRAS through the Spitzer Space Telescope and now looking forward to the James Webb Space Telescope. He has published many key papers on Kuiper Belt and Asteroid Belt analogs around other stars and has developed analysis tools that were essential to several breakthrough observational results.

For the past 10 years Dr. Beichman has been closely associated with and helped to formulate NASA’s program to search for planets around other stars, serving as Chair of the Science Working Group for the Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) and authoring numerous articles and reports on TPF and the search for terrestrial and ultimately habitable planets. He is also involved in extensive outreach efforts that include appearances on several programs about space.

It is an honour to add Dr. Beichman’s name to the long list of distinguished past Petrie Prize recipients.

2017 Qilak Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Pierre Chastenay of the Université du Québec à Montréal as the 2017 recipient of the Qilak Award.

Dr. Chastenay received his MSc in Astrophysics from Université Laval, in Quebec City, in 1987. He then embarked on a remarkable career in public science communications and earned a PhD in Science Education from Université de Montréal in 2013.

Dr. Chastenay has been a leader in astronomy education and outreach in Canada for over 30 years. He led the development of over 100 long-running programs at the Planétarium de Montréal from 1988 to 2013. He was host of 156 episodes of Téléscience from 1996 to 2007 and over 200 episodes of Le Code Chastenay, which won a Prix Gémeaux in 2016. As a professor at UQAM, he has been creating educational materials for both students and teachers, and he has effectively been training a new generation of science teachers. The sheer breadth of his achievements (TV/radio, books, articles, planetarium programs) has earned him the prestigious distinction of becoming Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Chastenay’s long and distinguished record of outstanding contributions to communicating astronomy to Canadians.

La Société canadienne d’astronomie CASCA a le plaisir de remettre le Prix Qilak 2017 au Professeur Pierre Chastenay, de l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

Pr. Chastenay a complété une maîtrise en astrophysique à l’Université Laval (Québec) en 1987, avant d’entreprendre une remarquable carrière en communication scientifique auprès du grand public. En 2013, il a complété un doctorat en didactique des sciences à l’Université de Montréal.

Pr. Chastenay est un chef de file en éducation en astronomie et en communication avec le public depuis plus de 30 ans. Au Planétarium de Montréal, il a produit ou réalisé plus de 100 spectacles de planétarium entre 1988 et 2013. Il a animé 156 épisodes de l’émission de vulgarisation scientifique Téléscience entre 1996 et 2007 et plus de 200 épisodes du Code Chastenay (gagnant d’un Prix Gémeaux en 2016). Comme professeur de didactique des sciences à l’UQAM, il a conçu du matériel éducatif tant pour les élèves que les enseignants. La somme de ses accomplissements (télévision et radio, livres, articles, spectacles de planétarium) lui a mérité la prestigieuse distinction de devenir Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade.

La Société canadienne d’astronomie CASCA est fière de souligner la longue et prolifique carrière du Pr. Chastenay et ses contributions exceptionnelles à l’éducation en astronomie du public canadien.

2017 J. S. Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Fereshteh Rajabi as the 2017 recipient of the J. S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Rajabi completed her doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario under the supervision of Dr. Martin Houde. Her thesis entitled “Dicke’s Superradiance in Astrophysics” extends the mathematical description of this intriguing physical process to many phenomena of astrophysical interest. Superradiance is a quantum mechanical and coherent behaviour between closely spaced atoms or molecules (i.e., several within a wavelength) that makes them, when certain conditions are met, emit radiation that is much more focused and intense than expected. Dr. Rajabi used superradiance to elegantly explain anomalous fluxes in the 21cm line of hydrogen atom and unexplained maser flares and bursts in the envelopes of evolved stars. She made fundamental physical advances that brought superradiance out of the lab and into an ever more surprising Universe. Her work has attracted worldwide attention not only in astrophysics, but also in the field of quantum optics.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Rajabi on the receipt of the 2016 Plaskett medal for her highly original work to advance our understanding of fascinating transient phenomena in the Universe.

Inaugural Richer Gold Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the inaugural Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal is Dr. David Lafrenière of the Université de Montréal.

Dr. Lafrenière earned his PhD in 2007 from the Université de Montréal and went on to the University of Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He returned to Montréal in 2009 and joined the faculty in 2011. David has received many prestigious awards and honours such as Scientist of the Year 2008 – Société Radio-Canada, the 2010 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the 2010 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, and the Medal of Honours of the Assemblée Nationale, Province de Québec.

Dr. Lafrenière is an expert in the field of exoplanet imaging who has made a substantial and significant impact very early in his career. He is among the few people to have led the first imaging discoveries of exoplanets. David’s early work on 1RXSJ1609-2105b has yielded one of the best spectroscopic/photometric datasets ever secured on a gas giant exoplanet. He is the inventor of a mathematically rigorous statistical method called the Locally Optimized Combination of Images (LOCI) algorithm, which was designed to improve contrast achieved in astronomical images. LOCI has become the worldwide gold standard in the analysis of high-contrast images. He also conducted the Gemini Deep Planet Survey (GDPS), the first statistically significant exoplanet imaging survey, which provided one of the best constraints ever obtained on the gas giant planet frequency in wide orbits around main sequence stars. He was a member of the team that first imaged a multi-planet system orbiting another star (HR8799). He is currently the leader of a major exoplanet transit and eclipse spectroscopy program for the Canadian-built NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. It has been said that, if a space mission does one day detect an Earthlike planet and reveal oxygen in its atmosphere, it will do so using techniques descended from Dr. Lafrenière’s LOCI.

In addition to his impressive scientific and technical achievements, it is worth noting Dr. Lafrenière’s extensive service to the Canadian astronomical community. Indeed, he has served on a number of important committees (e.g., JCSA, CanTAC) as well as on science teams for cutting-edge instruments with significant Canadian involvement such as CFHT/SPIROU, Gemini/GPI, and JWST/NIRISS.

Please join CASCA in congratulating Dr. Lafrenière for being awarded the Richer Medal in recognition of his significant and sustained early career research in astronomy.

2017 Martin Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2017 Peter G. Martin award is Dr. Ingrid Stairs of the University of British Columbia.

After receiving her PhD in 1998 from Princeton University, Dr. Stairs went to the University of Manchester from 1998 to 2000 to pursue postdoctoral work. She then continued her research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory from 2000 to 2002 as a Jansky Fellow. She joined the faculty at UBC in 2002 and became a tenured professor in 2007. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research appointed her as Senior Fellow in 2014.

Dr. Stairs is one of world’s experts on pulsars and has made significant contributions to radio astronomy instrumentation. She developed the novel Princeton Mark IV back-end instrument for use at the Arecibo telescope for high-precision timing of relativistic pulsars that was used in the discovery of general-relativistic orbital decay of the binary pulsar PSR B1534+12. She made the first measurement of the Shapiro delay, which continues to enable multiple new tests of General Relativity. She is involved in the development of instrumentation for the upcoming CHIME radio telescope that will observe pulsars as well as the cosmological distribution of hydrogen. She is the Observational Coordinator for the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav).

CASCA congratulates Dr. Stairs on the receipt of the 2017 Martin Award for her fundamental contributions to radio astronomy instrumentation and the understanding of pulsars that have shed new light on General Relativity.

Kaspi and Martin appointed to Order of Canada

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the appointment of Dr Victoria M. Kaspi of McGill University as a Companion of the Order of Canada, and Dr Peter G. Martin of the University of Toronto as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Victoria M. Kaspi is one of the world’s leading experts on neutron stars, the ancient remnants of the most massive stars in the Milky Way. The most massive stars end their lives as black holes. Less massive stars, however, leave behind celestial objects no bigger than the city of Montreal, yet so dense that just one teaspoon would weigh 100 million metric tonnes.

Dr Kaspi received her PhD from Princeton University in 1993. As well as receiving the 2016 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal from NSERC, she has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including the Hubble Fellowship, the Annie Jump Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society, and has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London, and the US National Academy of Sciences.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the interstellar medium, Dr Martin moved to the University of Toronto shortly after receiving his PhD in 1972, where he quickly began a series of efforts — continuing to the present day — that bolstered Canada’s reputation as a world leader in astronomical research. In 1984, he co-founded the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Research (CITA), which quickly grew into one of the world’s leading centres for theoretical astrophysics. During the past decade, he worked tirelessly to establish the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, now poised to become a major centre for the development of astronomical instrumentation.

Dr Martin’s contributions to the national community are equally extensive. He has served on countless national and international committees, including the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), of which he was one of the founding advisors.

CASCA congratulates Dr Kaspi and Dr Martin for this exceptional recognition of their outstanding contributions to fundamental research as well as the Canadian astronomy and astrophysics community.

Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal for Early Career Research in Astronomy

CASCA is pleased to announce the establishment of a new award, the Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal for Early Career Research in Astronomy.

The Richer Medal is made possible thanks to a generous gift from Professor Harvey B. Richer.

The Richer Medal will be presented in odd numbered years to an individual in recognition of significant and sustained early career research in astronomy.

The nominee will be a member of CASCA, and a Canadian astronomer or an astronomer working in Canada. The candidate will normally have received their Ph.D. within the previous ten years; allowances will be made for extended leaves of up to two years (e.g. maternity or paternity leaves, medical leaves, etc.)

Nominations for the 2017 Richer Medal are solicited at this time and can be tended until 15 January 2017. Details can be found on the Richer Medal page on the CASCA website: http://casca.ca/?page_id=7914

In May 2017, CASCA will present the inaugural Richer Medal at the society’s annual meeting in Edmonton.

John Hutchings wins CSA’s John H. Chapman Award of Excellence

In recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Canadian Space Program, Dr. John B. Hutchings was presented with the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence during a ceremony at the 17th Conference on Astronautics of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI ASTRO 2016) in Ottawa, Ontario.

Dr. Hutchings has led Canada’s participation in landmark missions, like the James Webb Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on India’s ASTROSAT. These missions are helping make significant advances in space science and new technologies. The fact that he was able to lead so many major projects to fruition while maintaining excellent relations with international partners and a highly productive research career, is testimony to his skills, passion and perseverance.

Dr. Hutchings is indeed an enormously productive scientist who has made several major scientific discoveries. Authoring over 450 publications, he is in the top 0.5% of most cited astrophysicists worldwide. This is truly a remarkable personal achievement that reflects on Canadian science and innovation. As a true leader, he also generously shared his knowledge and served as a mentor to a generation of brilliant minds.

The Chapman Award is a tribute to the distinguished career and achievements of an extraordinary individual, whose vision and contributions have shaped Canada’s space program.

2016 J. S. Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jonathan Gagné as the 2016 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Gagné completed his doctoral studies at l’Université de Montréal under the supervision of Dr. David Lafrenière and Dr. René Doyon. His thesis, entitled “La recherche de naines brunes et étoiles de faible masse dans les associations cinématiques jeunes du voisinage solaire”, identifies and characterizes new substellar mass objects that belong to nearby young associations of stars. Dr. Gagné developed a powerful new algorithm to select highly probable substellar objects in young associations that is now widely used by the community. He also carried out an all-sky survey to identify, follow-up and characterize actual candidates, more than doubling the number of confirmed brown dwarfs.
Dr. Gagné is now widely recognized as a leading figure in the study of nearby young substellar objects.

Dr. Gagné is currently a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science, where he will work to identify and characterize young brown dwarfs with only a few times the mass of Jupiter.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Gagné on the receipt of the 2016 J.S. Plaskett Medal.