Improvements to TMT advice and feedback mechanisms

Dear CASCA members,

As promised in my recent President’s Message, here is some more information on what CASCA has been doing to improve its advisory structures relevant to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

Firstly, CASCA and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) together have formed the CASCA/ACURA TMT Advisory Committee, whose main functions are to provide advice to CASCA and ACURA on the current state of the TMT project and to act as a conduit for consulting with and informing the Canadian Astronomical community about the state of the TMT project.

The composition of the CASCA/ACURA TMT Advisory Committee is as follows:

Michael Balogh (Waterloo; Chair of the Committee)
Stefi Baum (Manitoba; ACURA appointment)
Ray Carlberg (Toronto; CASCA appointment)
Sarah Gallagher (Western; CASCA appointment)
David Lafrenière (Montreal; CASCA appointment)
Harvey Richer (UBC; ACURA appointment)
Christine Wilson (McMaster; ACURA appointment)

The committee has begun its deliberations and has been developing ambitious plans for ways to help you connect to the project. The committee will be organizing Town Hall-style events to get your feedback and I encourage you to participate fully in these. We can all look forward to hearing much more from the TMT Advisory Committee over the next few months.

Another important CASCA committee that has been working hard on your behalf is the Long-range Plan Implementation Committee (LRPIC). This is chaired by John Hutchings (NRC). To help make sure LRPIC captures the full range of the community’s views, the CASCA Board has decided to add some additional members to LRPIC, and the first of these additions is Sara Ellison (Victoria).

Canadian astrophysics goes from strength to strength, and one key to all of this is the excellence of the vibrant community from which we draw terrific people to serve on these committees. I know I sound like a bit of a broken record, but these people are all busy, yet they have all volunteered to do a ton of work on our behalf. They all deserve our thanks, so please remember to thank them next time you see them.

Best regards,

Roberto Abraham

Exploring the Universe with JWST – II / Montreal, October 24-28 – 3rd announcement

** Third announcement – Registration and abstraction submission deadline JULY 15th, Preliminary Program available **

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled for launch in October 2018, will be one of the great observatories of the next decade. Its suite of four instruments will provide imaging, spectroscopic and coronagraphic capabilities over the 0.6 to 28.5 micron wavelength range and will offer an unprecedented combination of sensitivity and spatial resolution to study targets ranging from our Solar System to the most distant galaxies. With JWST’s launch date approaching rapidly and a first call for proposals scheduled for the end of 2017, it is important to give the astronomical community opportunities to present, highlight and discuss scientific programs that will be made possible by JWST. In this context, we are organizing the scientific conference “Exploring the Universe with JWST – II”, which will take place during the week of the 24th to the 28th of October 2016 at the Université de Montréal (Canada). The conference will cover a broad range of scientific topics org
anized around the main JWST science themes:

• The end of the “dark ages”: first light and reionisation.
• The assembly of galaxies.
• The formation and evolution of stars and planets.
• Planetary systems and the origins of life (exoplanets)
• Our Solar System.

This conference is in the same spirit as the one held in the Netherlands at ESTEC (ESA headquarters) in October 2015. The attendance will be limited to approximately 250 persons.

Preliminary program can be found here:
Registration and payment:
Abstract soumission: – Submission deadline 15 July

Invited Speakers
• Alyson Brooks (Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, USA)
• David Charbonneau (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA)
• Julianne Dalcanton (University of Washington)
• Richard Ellis (University College London, UK)
• Jonathan Gardner (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, USA)
• Jason Kalirai (STScI)
• Dave Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles, USA)
• Ralph Pudritz (McMaster University / Origins Institute, Canada)
• Sherry Suyu (Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan)

Important dates & deadlines
• 15 May: 2nd announcement (invited speakers chosen, program sessions identified, abstract submission form open, payment form);
• 15 July: registration deadline and abstract submission deadline;
• 15 August: release of the program.

• Student: $275 CAN ($239 CA + Tax) / ~$210 US (Tax included)  / ~€187 (Tax included)
• General: $476 CAN ($414 CAN + Tax) /  ~$370 US (Tax included) / ~€324 (Tax included)
• Banquet: $90 CAN ($78,50 CAN + Tax) / ~$70 US (Tax included) / ~€61(Tax included)

Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC)
• René Doyon (U. de Montréal/iREx; co-chair)
• Chris Willott (NRC-Herzberg ; co-chair)
• Michael Balogh (U. of Waterloo)
• Beth Biller (U. of Edinburgh/ROE)
• Peter Behroozi (UC Berkeley)
• Isobel Hook (U. of Lancaster)
• JJ Kavelaars (NRC-Herzberg)
• Robert Kennicutt (Cambridge, IoA)
• Charles Lada (CfA)
• Laura Pentericci (INAF)
• Marshall Perrin (STScI)
• Allison Sills (McMaster)
• Tommaso Treu (UCLA)

Local Organizing Committee (LOC)  –
• Loïc Albert (UdeM/iREx)
• Étienne Artigau (UdeM/iREx)
• Nick Cowan (McGill/iREx)
• Olivier Hernandez (UdeM/iREx)
• François-René Lachapelle (UdeM/iREx)
• David Lafrenière (UdeM/iREx)
• Marie-Eve Naud (UdeM/iREx)
• Jason Rowe (UdeM/iREx)

JWST is a joint mission between NASA, ESA and CSA.

2016 Dunlap Institute Introduction to Astronomical Instrumentation Summer School – 14 ~ 19 August

Dunlap Institute 2016 Summer School


University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

14 ~ 19 August 2016

The annual Dunlap Institute Summer School includes both lecture and laboratory activities and is intended for students who have finished at least the 3rd year of an undergraduate program or are in the early years of a graduate program, and have a background in astronomy, physics, or engineering.

Students will:

• Learn basic principles of radio, infrared, optical, x-ray and gamma-ray instrumentation
• Learn how detectors and spectrographs work
• Learn in lecture and hands-on laboratory sessions
• Work with students from around the world
• Learn about a career in instrumentation
• Learn from international leaders in the field of astronomical instrumentation
• Attend a professional development/mentoring session

Instructors include leading instrumentation and observational astronomers from the Dunlap Institute, U of T’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, and from Canadian, U.S. and international institutions.

Registration fee (without waiver): $500.00

Travel subsidies and registration fee waivers available.
Applications and travel subsidy deadline: 15 April 2016

For full details and to apply:

Great Lakes Cosmology and Galaxies Workshop 2016, McMaster June 19-22

Name: James Wadsley
Email address:
Affiliation: McMaster University

Dear Colleagues,

This is to announce the 2016 Great Lakes Cosmology and Galaxies workshop to be held at McMaster University, Ontario, June 19-22.   The workshop will mark the 11th Great Lakes Cosmology Meeting and the first time the meeting has been held in Canada.  Please forward this message to your group members and colleagues, particularly in the US Great Lakes region.

The meeting will begin with a half-day Python in Astro workshop Sunday, June 19th and 3 days of talks will follow.   A key goal is to provide opportunities for junior researchers (graduate students and postdocs) to give talks and network.  Sessions will also include talks by senior researchers.  We aim to keep the meeting affordable with a nominal registration fee and on campus accommodation available.  Travel support is available for graduate students coming longer distances.

Simon White (MPA, Garching) will deliver an Origins public talk on Tuesday evening, June 21st, entitled:
“All from Nothing: the structuring of our Universe”.

We strongly encourage you to register and indicate your interest in giving a talk or a poster ASAP.  The registration fee will be due after talk selection.

A broad list of topics is listed on the site.  We also welcome suggestions with respect to the program and other enquiries at:

Best Regards,

James Wadsley for the organizing committee

JWST Early Release Science Program: A Survey to Gauge Community Interests

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled for launch in October 2018, and the first call for proposals will be released in 2017. The Space Telescope Science Institute, following the recommendations of the JWST Advisory Committee (, is now defining the parameters for an Early Release Science (ERS) program.

The primary objective of the ERS program is to provide community access to a broad suite of JWST science observations as early as possible in Cycle 1. The observing programs will be chosen by peer review to provide representative datasets and to address technical challenges related to the major instrumental modes available on JWST. ERS observations are expected to seed initial discovery and to inform Cycle 2 proposals, which will be submitted just months after the start of Cycle 1.

We are gathering community input to inform our preparations for the program and invite your participation in our brief survey at The survey will be open until 15 January 2016 and consists of four pages; it should take 10-15 minutes to complete.

More information on the general framework and timeline for the ERS program can be found on the ERS webpage ( Questions and/or comments are welcome via email (jwst_ers [at]

2016 U of T Astronomy Summer Undergraduate Research Program

We are now accepting applications for the annual Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Our SURP is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students in Astronomy, Physics and Engineering to prepare for a career in scientific research.

Over the 16-week program, students will:

• Experience what a career in research is like by independently conducting a project related to on-going astronomical research at U of T
• Collaborate with U of T astronomers
• Enhance their computing skills
• Improve their research writing and communication skills
• Learn about research being conducted at U of T
• Have an opportunity to participate in U of T public outreach activities

Students will be funded by the program and will work with astronomers from the Dunlap Institute, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics (DAA), or the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), depending on the student’s research interest, choice of institute, or choice of research project.

It is a unique opportunity to work within a group comprising three units with complementary expertise in observational research, astronomical instrumentation (Dunlap), and theoretical astrophysics (CITA).

The program runs from 2 May to 19 August, 2016.

The deadline for applications is 29 January, and the official offer date is 5 February.

For full details and to apply, visit:

Space Astronomy Session at CASI Conference (2nd Annoucement)

Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute presents:

ASTRO 2016, 17th CASI Astronautics Conference
Ottawa, Ontario   May 17th to 19th, 2016

There will be session at this conference on space astronomy and the Canadian astronomy community is invited to present papers on any past, current or future space astronomy missions with Canadian involvement. This bi-annual conference attracts many members of the Canadian aerospace sector, both from government (CSA & DND) and industry. This is a good opportunity to inform members of this community about the many diverse Canadian domestic and international space astronomy activities. The theme of this year’s conference is “International cooperation makes space work” and presents an excellent opportunity to showcase Canada’s strengths in space astronomy.

The abstract submission system is now open for this conference.  Please submit your space astronomy abstract at:

To present at this conference, a brief (less than 300 word) abstract is required on or before Dec. 16th, 2015. Authors have the option of submitting either extended abstracts or full manuscripts for the conference proceedings to be published online. Full manuscripts submitted will be reviewed for potential publication in the peer-reviewed Canadian Aeronautics and Space Journal (CASJ).

TMT Second Generation Instrumentation Workshop

Canada is one of the founding members of the Thirty Metre Telescope consortium, having already made significant contributions to the overall design of the observatory.   Canada’s commitment to TMT includes design and construction of the dome and delivering first light instruments NFIRAOS (the Narrow-Field InfraRed Adaptive Optics System) and a portion of IRIS (the Infrared Imaging Spectrograph).

In this workshop, we invite Canadian scientists, engineers, and researchers in industry to participate in a discussion of Canadian interests for the second generation of instruments for the TMT.  As TMT Science Instrumentation Workshops are held regularly by partner countries (see examples here), we propose a discussion to identify Canada’s priorities and options for the future of TMT.    To participate in this workshop, please fill out the registration form available at

CASCA Board statement on the University of California at Berkeley sexual harassment case

The Board of Directors of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is appalled by the recent news that Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been found to have violated the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy over a period of many years. Such behaviour has no place in our professional academic and working environment. We wish to express our concern for the women whose lives, both professional and personal, have been affected adversely by Dr. Marcy’s actions. We also feel that the sanctions that were originally levied by the University of California, Berkeley, against Dr. Marcy were inadequate compared to the damage he has caused to others.

CASCA has an Ethics Statement that states “All people encountered in one’s professional life must be treated with respect and dignity. Discrimination, harassment and abusive behaviours, be it against colleagues, students, or members of the media or the public, are never acceptable.” We have also implemented a code of conduct at our annual scientific meeting, which includes identifying one or more persons in authority and present at the meeting with whom concerns about inappropriate behavior during the meeting may be raised. We will be reviewing our own policies and procedures to identify additional measures that should be taken to protect our members.

Christine Wilson, President, CASCA


First Discovery for a New Planet Finder

TORONTO [13 August 2015] An international team that includes astronomers from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics has discovered a first-of-its-kind “young Jupiter” exoplanet which could help explain how our Solar System formed. Called 51 Eri b, it is the first planet detected with a new exoplanet-hunting instrument called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI).

Unlike the Kepler space telescope which detects exoplanets indirectly, the ground-based GPI lets astronomers see and study these distant worlds directly by first correcting for the blurring of the star’s image caused by the atmosphere, then by blocking out the star’s light to reveal the much fainter planet. In addition, GPI is a spectrograph, capable of analyzing light by wavelength.

The instrument was designed specifically for discovering and analyzing faint, young planets orbiting bright stars. “This is exactly the kind of planet we envisioned discovering when we designed GPI”, says James Graham, professor at UC Berkeley and Project Scientist for GPI.

Graham helped develop GPI while director of the Dunlap Institute. He and Stanford Physics Professor (and U of T alumnus) Bruce Macintosh lead the GPI collaboration and are lead authors of the SCIENCE paper announcing the discovery. Co-authors of the paper include Dunlap Fellows Jeffrey Chilcote and Jérôme Maire, as well as U of T PhD-candidate Max Millar-Blanchaer.

“With development spanning nearly a decade, GPI has required contributions from over a hundred extremely talented and devoted people,” says Chilcote, who was part of the team that developed GPI’s spectrograph. “It is simply breathtaking to see all of this hard work pay off with this exciting discovery.”

51 Eri b orbits a relatively young, 20 million year old star named 51 Eridani; the star is 100 light-years from Earth. Of all the exoplanets discovered through direct-imaging, 51 Eri b is the faintest and, at twice the mass of Jupiter, also the lowest-mass. It orbits slightly farther from its parent star than Saturn does from the Sun.

What’s more, 51 Eri b is the coolest of the exoplanets discovered through direct imaging. Its atmosphere is about 430°C—much cooler than most other exoplanets. Combined with the age of the system, this is a clue that the distant planetary system may have formed through a process called core-accretion that can also lead to smaller, rocky planets like Earth.

With its spectrograph, GPI also revealed a strong methane signal from 51 Eri b. Other exoplanets have only faint traces of methane, which makes this newly-discovered world much more like the methane-rich gas giants in our Solar System.

All of these characteristics, the researchers say, point to a planet that is very much what models suggest Jupiter was like in its infancy. According to Macintosh, “This planet really could have formed the same way Jupiter did—this whole planetary system could be a lot like ours.”

And according to Maire, a key member of the team that developed GPI’s data pipeline, “The discovery of this exoplanet, made possible by the development of high-contrast imaging techniques implemented in GPI, provides new insights into planet formation and evolution.”

The Gemini Planet Imager is installed on the Gemini South Telescope in northern Chile and began operating in late 2013. 51 Eri b is the first exoplanet to be discovered as part of the GPI Exoplanet Survey which will target 600 stars over the next 3 years.


Dunlap Institute contacts:

Dr. Jeffrey Chilcote

p: 416-946-5432


Dr. Jérôme Maire

p: 416-978-6569


Max Millar-Blanchaer

p: 416-978-3146


Chris Sasaki

Communications Coordinator

p: 416-978-6613