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.

Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Peter Stetson, from NRC-Herzberg, as the 2016 recipient of the Dunlap Award.

Dr. Stetson obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy at Yale in 1979. After a short research fellowship at Yale he took a Carnegie Fellowship at the Mount Wilson and Las Campanas Observatories, subsequently moving to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) of NRC-Herzberg in 1983.
Dr. Stetson has been the principal research officer at DAO since 2003.
He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006, and was awarded the George van Biesbroeck Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 2008.

To address the problem of measuring the properties of stars in digital images from the earliest CCDs, Dr. Stetson developed and released the DAOPHOT program in 1986. He has single-handedly maintained, improved, and supported it since then. Countless investigators have used DAOPHOT; the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to measure the size of the Universe and the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of dark energy are but two transformational scientific results that exploit its photometry. Dr. Stetson’s more recent spectral line measurement code, DAOSPEC, has been adopted by many of the world’s largest optical facilities. Additionally, Dr. Stetson’s carefully calibrated, freely available photometric standard star catalog now exceeds 114,000 objects, and underpins the majority of photometric observations carried out today. Dr. Stetson has also long served as an image structure expert for senior National Research Council engineers, impacting the design of instruments for the nex
t generation of large facilities such as the Thirty Meter Telescope.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Stetson on the receipt of the 2016 Dunlap Award.

Qilak Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jaymie Matthews, from the University of British Columbia, as the 2016 recipient of the Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1987, Dr. Matthews held positions at Western and l’Université de Montréal before moving to the University of British Columbia as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in 1988. He obtained tenure at UBC in 2000, and has been a full professor there since 2008.

Dr. Matthews’ dedication and boundless enthusiasm for communicating with the public about astronomy are illustrated by the dozens of outreach activities in which he participates annually, ranging from public presentations, to radio interviews, to campus tours, to TV show consultations. Beyond his legendary teaching reputation at UBC, he has given courses aimed at younger children as well as special lectures in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the First Nations Summer Science Programme, and the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) undergraduate lecture series, among many others. In recognition of these efforts, Dr. Matthews received the CAP Education Medal in 2002, was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Please join CASCA in thanking Dr. Matthews for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.

2016 Beals Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Chris Pritchet, from the University of Victoria, as the 2016 recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award.

Dr. Pritchet obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Toronto in 1975. After holding positions at the University of British Columbia, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Calgary, Dr. Pritchet has been on faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria since 1982. He was Department Chair from 1995-1998, and the chair of the 2010-2020 Long Range Plan Committee for Canadian Astronomy. Dr. Pritchet is currently an associate fellow of the CIfAR Cosmology and Gravity program as well as the principal investigator of CANFAR, which coordinates astronomical computing resources across Canada.

Dr. Pritchet’s research in observational cosmology combines the best available technology with sophisticated analysis techniques. His discovery, along with Sidney van den Bergh, of RR Lyrae variable stars in the Andromeda galaxy is recognized as a vital contribution to fixing distance scales in the Local Group. He is a leader of the Supernova Legacy Survey that has provided precise measurements of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe, and he initiated the close galaxy pair study in the Canadian Network for Observational Cosmology redshift survey. He has also produced important results on galaxy mass profiles, globular cluster distributions, and stellar populations of galaxies in the local universe. Dr. Pritchet has mentored over three dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and has also made important contributions to astronomy education and outreach as a Galileo lecturer of the International Year of Astronomy and the initiator and primary organizer of Vict
oria’s Café Scientifique.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Pritchet on a distinguished career of scientific achievement and community service.

Gilles Fontaine awarded the 2016 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the awarding by the Canadian Association of Physicists of the 2016 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics to Gilles Fontaine, Université de Montréal, for his pioneering, world-renowned work in theoretical and observational studies of white dwarf stars and the late stages of stellar evolution, including major contributions to the equation of state for white dwarfs and investigations of pulsating compact stars, as well as the discovery of a new class of subdwarf pulsators. His leadership has built what is arguably the preeminent group in the world in this field.

(From the CAP press release:) A true follower of the tradition of excellence in the field of astrophysics in Canada, Professor Fontaine has distinguished himself internationally for the exceptional quality of his research in stellar astrophysics, especially for his study on the final phases of stellar evolution (white dwarfs and subdwarfs, the final products of stellar evolution for most stars). Not only did he build the foundations for an actual theory on the evolution of white dwarfs, he is also one of the pioneers who first used them as cosmochronometers independent from the other components of our galaxy. He also became a true leader in the field of astroseismology, the unique method by which we can examine the internal structure of stars by studying their “starquakes”, using observations and numerical modeling. His work in science, popular worldwide, has earned him multiples prizes and awards.

The full CAP press release is available here

Victoria Kaspi wins the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the selection of Dr. Victoria M Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal, Canada to receive the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council 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 uses the largest and most powerful radio and X-ray telescopes in the world to study the physical behaviour of neutron stars, pulsars and magnetars (neutron stars with very strong magnetic fields). Her seminal research sheds light on how stars evolve, how they die and, ultimately, the very nature of matter under extreme conditions.
Dr Kaspi’s research group has had major impacts in the field of astrophysics, including unique tests confirming Einstein’s long-held theory of general relativity and discovering the fastest rotating star. Her team’s landmark discovery of powerful X-ray bursts from an enigmatic class of stars (a finding that essentially doubles the number of known magnetars in our galaxy) was published in Nature in 2013.

Dr Kaspi received her PhD from Princeton University in 1993. 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.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Kaspi for this well earned recognition of her outstanding contributions to cosmology and to Canadian scientific excellence.

VLA Reveals Spectacular “Halos” of Spiral Galaxies

A study of spiral galaxies seen edge-on has revealed that “halos” of cosmic rays and magnetic fields above and below the galaxies’ disks are much more common than previously thought.

cascafinalHSTdiskMedianhalo

Composite image of an edge-on spiral galaxy with a radio halo produced by fast-moving particles in the galaxy’s magnetic field. In this image, the large, grey-blue area is a single image formed by combining the radio halos of 30 different galaxies, as seen with the Very Large Array. At the center is a visible-light image of one of the galaxies, NGC 5775, made using the Hubble Space Telescope. This visible-light image shows only the inner part of the galaxy’s star-forming region, outer portions of which extend horizontally into the area of the radio halo.

IMAGE CREDIT: Jayanne English (U. Manitoba), with support from Judith Irwin and Theresa Wiegert (Queen’s U.) for the CHANG-ES consortium; NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA/STScI

SCIENCE CREDIT: Theresa Wiegert, Judith Irwin and the CHANG-ES consortium.

An international team of astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to study 35 edge-on spiral galaxies at distances from 11 million to 137 million light-years from Earth. The study took advantage of the ability of the VLA, following completion of a decade-long upgrade project, to detect radio emission much fainter than previously possible.

“We knew before that some halos existed, but, using the full power of the upgraded VLA and the full power of some advanced image-processing techniques, we found that these halos are much more common among spiral galaxies than we had realized,” said Judith Irwin, of Queen’s University in Canada, leader of the project.

Spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way, have the vast majority of their stars, gas, and dust in a flat, rotating disk with spiral arms. Most of the light and radio waves seen with telescopes come from objects in that disk. Learning about the environment above and below such disks has been difficult.

“Studying these halos with radio telescopes can give us valuable information about a wide range of phenomena, including the rate of star formation within the disk, the winds from exploding stars, and the nature and origin of the galaxies’ magnetic fields,” said Theresa Wiegert, also of Queen’s University, lead author of a paper in the Astronomical Journal reporting the team’s findings. The paper provides the first analysis of data from all 35 galaxies in the study.

To see how extensive a “typical” halo is, the astronomers scaled their images of 30 of the galaxies to the same diameter, then another of the authors, Jayanne English, of the University of Manitoba in Canada, combined them into a single image. The result, said Irwin, is “a spectactular image showing that cosmic rays and magnetic fields not only permeate the galaxy disk itself, but extend far above and below the disk.”

The combined image, the scientists said, confirms a prediction of such halos made in 1961.

Along with the report on their findings, the astronomers also are making their first batch of specialized VLA images available to other researchers. In previous publications, the team described the details of their project and its goals. The team has completed a series of VLA observations and their latest paper is based on analysis of their first set of images. They now are analyzing additional datasets, and also will make those additional images available to other scientists when they publish the results of the later analyses.

With the data from their study made public, “others can do their own analysis to explore other aspects of these halos and what they can tell us about galaxies and their evolution,” said Marita Krause of the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany.

The data are available at: http://queensu.ca/changes

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Original press release: <a href=”https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/galaxy-halos”>https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/galaxy-halos</a>.