Carlyle S. Beals Award Presented to Dr. Harvey Richer (March 18, 2014)

The Carlyle S. Beals Award is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in research — either a specific achievement or a lifetime of research. CASCA is pleased to announce Prof. Harvey B. Richer, from the University of British Columbia, as the recipient of the 2014 Carlyle S. Beals Award.

Prof. Richer received his Ph.D. in 1970 from the University of Rochester, where he studied the physical properties of carbon stars under the supervision of Prof. Stuart Sharpless. Soon afterwards, he joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia where he has remained ever since. An internationally recognized expert on stellar populations in the Milky Way, star clusters and external galaxies, Prof. Richer was a pioneer in the study of globular clusters with CCDs, carrying out a number of landmark studies of these important stellar systems beginning with CFHT in the mid 1980s and continuing until the present day with the Hubble Space Telescope. Notable highlights from his more than 140 refereed publications include the discovery of young globular clusters in the outer halo, and a series of papers characterizing the faint but extensive white dwarf populations belonging to the globular clusters M4, NGC 6397 and 47 Tucanae.

In addition to his research on globular clusters and their constituent stars, Prof. Richer has worked on wide range of topics in astrophysics, including the mass function of the Galactic halo, optical counterparts of X-ray sources, and ground-layer adaptive optics systems for ground-based telescopes.

CASCA congratulates Prof. Richer on a distinguished career of scientific achievement and community service.

CASCA’s 2014 Executive Award for Outstanding Service Presented to Dr. Peter G. Martin (January 29, 2014)

In alternate years, the CASCA Board has the honour to bestow the Executive Award for Outstanding Service “to an individual who has made sustained contributions in service that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact regionally, nationally and/or internationally.” Dr. Peter G. Martin, of the University of Toronto, is the recipient of the 2014 Executive Award.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, 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. The Canadian astronomical community, as a whole, benefits greatly from both CITA and the Dunlap Institute: e.g., through CITA’s National Fellows program, a vital source of postdoctoral funding for Universities across the country, and through the outreach efforts to which both Institutes are firmly committed.

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. His ties with CASCA are particularly strong: he served as President of the Society between 2006 and 2008, and two of CASCA’s most prestigious awards, the Martin award and the Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools, are endowed thanks to his initiative.

With over 280 publications in peer reviewed journals, on topics ranging from the interstellar medium to active galactic nuclei, Dr. Martin has received numerous prizes and honours, including CASCA’s Beals Award in 1994. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2007.

For more than four decades, Dr. Martin has been a driving force and steadfast supporter of astronomy in Canada. In bestowing the Executive award on behalf of the entire astronomical community, the CASCA Board recognizes his outstanding contributions to our society and extends to Dr. Martin a small, but heartfelt, token of our gratitude.

Dr. Rob Thacker to chair the Mid Term Review Panel

The CASCA Board is pleased to announce that Dr. Rob Thacker will chair the panel charged with the Mid Term Review of the 2010 Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy.

Dr. Thacker, one of Canada’s preeminent scientists in the field of galaxy evolution and structure formation, is a Full Professor and Canada Research Chair at Saint Mary’s University, where he is presently serving as chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department. His dedication and service to the Canadian astronomical community is extensive. He was a member of the CASCA Board between 2007 and 2010, and has since been invaluable in advising and assisting the Board on issues ranging from the state of financial support for astronomical research to national initiatives related to High Performance Computing. He was one of the original members of CASCA’s Long Range Plan Implementation Committee, and is presently the Chair of Compute Canada’s Advisory Council of Research. Most importantly, Dr. Thacker was one of the seven members of the 2010 Long Range Plan Panel. He is therefore intimately familiar with the LRP process and is in a unique position to undertake the critical task of leading the team in charge of evaluating progress on the LRP five years after its release, and advising on future directions.

On behalf of the CASCA Board and the entire astronomical community, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly express my appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Thacker for taking on this critical role.

Laura Ferrarese
CASCA President

Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools (October 30, 2013)

The Canadian Astronomical Society is pleased to announce the establishment of a new Award, the Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools.

The Dunlap Award is made possible thanks to a generous gift from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto.

The award will be presented in even-numbered years to an individual or team for the design, invention, or improvement of instrumentation or software that has enabled significant advances in astronomy. The nominee, or leader of a nominated team, shall be a member of CASCA and a Canadian astronomer or an astronomer working in Canada.

Nominations for the 2014 Dunlap Award are sollicited at this time and can be tended until 15 January 2015. Details can be found on the Dunlap Award page on the CASCA website:

In June 2014, CASCA will present the inaugural Dunlap Award at the society’s annual meeting in Quebec City.

Leslie Sage
CASCA press officer
+1 301 675 8957

Chris Sasaki
Communications and New Media Specialist
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of Toronto
50 St. George Street
Toronto, Canada
M5S 3H4
416 978 6613

Professor Christine Wilson is Elected to the Royal Society of Canada (Sept. 9, 2013)

This is an official CASCA Press Release.

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Societe Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the election of Dr. Christine Wilson of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, to the Royal Society of Canada.

As Canada’s senior National Academy, the RSC exists to promote Canadian research and scholarly accomplishment in both of Canada’s official languages, to mentor young scholars and artists, to recognize academic and artistic excellence, and to advise governments, non-governmental organizations, and Canadians generally on matters of public interest (

Christine received her PhD in astronomy at Caltech in 1990 and moved to McMaster University in 1992. She has been the Canadian project scientist for ALMA since 1999 and is currently the principal investigator of three international projects: the Herschel Very Nearby Galaxies Survey, the JCMT Nearby Galaxies Legacy Survey, and the SMA Luminous Infrared Galaxies Survey.

Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957

Laura Ferrarese
CASCA President

Christine Wilson

CASCA Twitter Account (Sept. 19, 2013)

The new CASCA Twitter account (@AstroCanada) went live on September 19, 2013. Unlike most corporate Twitter accounts, the CASCA one is run by actual CASCA members. Each week, a new CASCA member will be given the keys and the opportunity to tweet about their work, observing trips, conferences and general life as an astronomer. More information and guidelines are available on the CASCA webpages. If you would like to take over the CASCA Twitter account for a week, please email Dennis Crabtree (

CASCA Executive Award for Outstanding Service Presented to Dr. John B. Hutchings (March 17, 2013)

The CASCA Executive Award for Outstanding Service recognizes sustained contributions that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact regionally, nationally and/or internationally.

On behalf of the CASCA Board, it is my pleasure to announce that the 2013 recipient of CASCA’s Executive Award is Dr. John B. Hutchings, of the National Research Council of Canada.

A native of South Africa, Dr. Hutchings joined NRC in 1967, after graduating from Cambridge University. During his long and distinguished career, Dr. Hutchings has received numerous awards and honors, including the Beals Award from the Canadian Astronomical Society in 1982, the Gold Medal from the Science Council of British Columbia in 1983, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1987. Although he formally retired from NRC in January 2012, this has had no effect on his commitment to strengthening the role of astronomy within Canada.

The author of over 450 papers in refereed journals, Dr. Hutchings is in the top 0.5% of most cited astrophysicists worldwide. He has worked on remarkably diverse topics including massive stars, stellar winds, X-ray binaries, novae, cataclysmic variables, the interstellar medium, active galaxies and quasars, radio galaxies, and high-redshift galaxy clusters. For this, he has used of a wide array of space- and ground-based facilities, from X-ray and ultraviolet satellites to radio interferometers.

Often working on astronomy’s forefront topics, from his early career Dr. Hutchings has been an indefatigable champion of space astronomy, leading Canadian participation in a series of key missions, including the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, Astrosat and the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, and the James Webb Space Telescope. In particular, beginning in the early 1980s, Dr. Hutchings worked tirelessly to secure Canadian participation in FUSE, negotiating access policies that enabled Canadian scientists to gain greater access than would be expected given Canada’s share of the costs, and leading the design of FUSE’s Fine Error Sensor (FES) camera, a critical system responsible for the precise tracking of the telescope.

The FES represented Canada’s first foray into international space astronomy hardware, meeting tracking and pointing specifications far more stringent than required by any previous Canadian effort in space plasma physics or communications satellites. Moreover, the FES package helped to open the door to Canada’s participation in JWST, thus enabling Canadians to be part of one of the most technologically advanced, and scientifically exciting, astronomy projects ever undertaken. From the initial phases of JWST’s mission design, Dr. Hutchings worked closely with the CSA and NASA to support negotiations that ultimately resulted in Canada being responsible for the design and construction of two of JWST’s critical instruments: the Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS), and the Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS). Dr. Hutchings has been Canadian Project Scientist for JWST from 2001 to 2012, as well as Principal Investigator for the FGS.

Finally, Dr. Hutchings has been a steady voice and leader in many national and international committees. In Canada, he is a key contributor to CASCA/CSA’s Joint Committee for Space Astronomy, and a member of CASCA’s Ground Based Astronomy committee, of the Coalition for Astronomy TMT Planning Committee, and of CSA’s Euclid Science Advisory Committee. He is currently chair of CASCA’s Long Range Plan Implementation Committee, which is actively working to establish a framework for implementing and operating Canadian astronomical facilities in the coming decade.

For more than four decades, Dr. John Hutchings has charted a course of excellence for Canadian astronomy, setting the highest standards in scientific achievements, technical contributions, and service to the community. The Executive Award for Outstanding Service is CASCA’s attempt to recognize the selfless career of a renowned Canadian scientist: please join me in congratulating and thanking Dr. Hutchings for his outstanding contributions to our community.

Laura Ferrarese,
President of CASCA

Dunlap Institute Summer School 2013

Tools and Techniques for Pioneering Astronomers

University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
11-16 August 2013

Dunlap Institute Summer School Poster

This summer school is designed with both lecture and laboratory activities that are intended for senior undergraduates and graduate students with a background in Astronomy, Physics, or Engineering.

Register at:
Registration & Travel Grant Deadline: 12 April 2013
Registration Fee (without waiver): $500.00


* The basic principles of astronomical instrumentation
* How telescopes work
* How long- and short-wavelength detectors work
* How high-precision spectrographs work
* Hands-on laboratory activities working directly with optics and mechanical equipment
* Hands-on experience with Fourier Transform Spectrometers


* What are the latest and upcoming innovative instruments and telescopes?
* How are we discovering extrasolar planets?
* How do we discover and weigh supermassive black holes?
* How and what do we see at the edge of the observable universe?
* How do we measure the growth of structure in the universe?
* How will future instruments discover the first stars and galaxies?
* How will new millimetre-wave telescopes reveal shrouded sites of star formation?
* How and why do we use Adaptive Optics on ground-based telescopes?


Matt Dobbs (McGill University)
Debra Fischer (Yale University)
Olivier Guyon (University of Arizona & Subaru National Observatory)
Jamie Lloyd (Cornell University)
David Naylor (University of Lethbridge)
George Rieke (University of Arizona)


Tuan Do
Rachel Friesen
James Graham
Jérôme Maire
Suresh Sivanandam
Keith Vanderlinde
Shelley Wright


Alice Chow, Tuan Do, Debra Fischer (Yale), Rachel Friesen, James Graham, David Law, Jamie Lloyd (Cornell), Jérôme Maire, Peter Martin, Michael Reid, Chris Sasaki, Suresh Sivanandam, Keith Vanderlinde, Shelley Wright


CASCA/RASC/FAAQ Qilak Award Presented to Dr. James E. Hesser (March 3, 2013)

The Qilak award recognizes outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy in Canada. CASCA is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 Qilak Award is Dr. James E. Hesser of the National Research Council.

Dr. Hesser has been a prominent figure in Canadian and international astronomy for many years. The director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory since 1986, Dr. Hesser is a past president of both CASCA (2004-2006) and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1987-1989), and a former vice-president of the American Astronomical Society (1991-1994). In 1997, Dr. Hesser was one of the first recipients of the prestigious Michael Smith Award, given through NSERC Canada to “honour people and groups that are inspirational in the way that they promote science to the general public”. He received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his services to the National Research Council and to all aspects of astronomy. In 2004, he received the CASCA Executive Award for exceptional service to CASCA, and he holds the title of Honorary President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

With a career-long commitment to astronomy education and public outreach, Dr. Hesser has led by example to forge an effective, efficient partnership between the main organizations of professional and amateur astronomy in Canada: CASCA, RASC, and the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ). In collaboration with others, he worked diligently to establish respectful partnerships with Canada’s Aboriginal communities to preserve and celebrate indigenous knowledge of astronomy, and to illustrate pathways by which Aboriginal youth can aspire to and enter careers in science and technology. A longtime supporter of community outreach programmes, he often gives enthusiastic talks at astronomy conferences and other venues across Canada to encourage, motivate, and inspire his professional and amateur colleagues to participate in EPO activities.

Perhaps most significantly, Dr Hesser worked tirelessly to lead International Year of Astronomy (IYA) efforts within Canada. From 2005 to well beyond 2009, he led and guided this highly visible international project by serving as Canada’s “single point of contact” and as chair of the Executive Committee and Advisory Board for IYA within Canada. Under his direction, the IYA provided a “Galileo Moment” (i.e., “an engaging astronomy experience”) to more than two million people in Canada through more than 3600 separate events, from coast to coast to coast, and in both official languages. Always mindful of the need to cultivate lasting partnerships that sustain public interest in astronomy, Dr. Hesser has been a driving force behind “Beyond IYA” efforts within Canada.

CASCA thanks Dr. Hesser for his commitment to deepening the public’s understanding and appreciation of astronomy.

Laura Ferrarese, President, on behalf of the CASCA Board
Patrick Cote, Chair, on behalf of CASCA’s Awards Committee

CASCA’s Peter G. Martin Award Presented to Dr. Victoria Kaspi (March 3, 2013)

The Peter G. Martin Award is awarded to a Canadian astronomer, or astronomer working in Canada, within ten to twenty years of receipt of his or her PhD degree, to recognize significant contributions to astronomical research. CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2013 Peter G. Martin award is Prof. Victoria Kaspi of McGill University.

Dr. Kaspi received her Ph.D. in 1993 from Princeton University, under the supervisor of Nobel laureate Joseph Taylor. Following postdoctoral fellowships at Caltech and JPL, she was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1997 to 2002. In 1999, she moved to McGill University, where she is currently the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology. Her numerous awards and distinctions include the Annie Jump Cannon Prize (1998), Steacie Prize (2006), Rutherford Medal (2007) and John C. Polanyi Award (2011). She is a Fellow of both the Royal Society, and the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2011 was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The author of more than 200 refereed publications, Prof. Kaspi’s research interests focus on neutron stars, radio pulsars and magnetars, with an emphasis on observational radio and X-ray astrophysics. Scientific highlights from Prof. Kaspi’s career include pioneering efforts in high-precision radio timing of millisecond pulsars, the use of binary pulsars in tests of General Relativity, the connection between pulsars and magnetars, and the study of highly magnetic radio pulsars in the field.

Please join us in congratulating Prof. Kaspi on the receipt of the 2013 Peter G. Martin Award.

Laura Ferrarese, President, on behalf of the CASCA Board
Patrick Cote, Chair, on behalf of CASCA’s Awards Committee