Career Opportunities with the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (Deadline July 1, 2014)

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation (CFHT) operates a major optical telescope on Maunakea on the island of Hawai’i. We are launching a project that will transform the observatory into an advanced, modern and unique facility capable of shedding light upon the biggest questions confronting 21st century astrophysics. The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) project involves upgrading the current 3.6 meter general-use facility with a new telescope of 10 meter aperture, new enclosure, and incorporating dedicated leading-edge technology and highly-multiplexed spectrometers. The MSE project team will lead the development and coordination of international partnerships and plans, to ultimately bring this ten year duration, > $200M project to a successful conclusion.

We are searching for the following talented team members to join us as we take these conceptual plans to a scientific reality:

Project Manager

The Project Manager will be responsible for the overall management and technical direction of the MSE development and for the construction being carried out by CFHT. Responsibilities include preparing the construction proposal, maintaining the integrity of the project schedule and the deliverables, and promoting the MSE project to international communities. Professional qualifications: An advanced degree in physical science or engineering, or equivalent knowledge and experience; an established track record of success in managing large technical projects; and experience with development, procurement and deployment of new scientific instrumentation or facilities. Experience in the management of international scientific projects is highly desirable.

Project Scientist

The Project Scientist will be responsible for leading the scientific development of the MSE in collaboration with team members. Responsibilities include the development of a detailed science case, science requirements and operational concept for the MSE; development of the commissioning plan and leading the commissioning work. Candidates must have a Ph.D. in astronomy, with an excellent record of research publications in peer-reviewed journals and international recognition within their field. Previous experience with scientific instrumentation or facility development and in astronomical research observations that are closely aligned with the science case for the MSE is highly desirable.

These positions are based at the observatory headquarters in Waimea, Hawaii. We offer competitive, comprehensive benefits package including off-island relocation assistance and private school (K-12) tuition support for dependent children. Salary is dependent upon qualifications and experience.

For more information and to apply please visit us at:

Please apply by 30 June 2014 as the first review of applications will start on 1 July 2014. The position will remain open until filled.

This email has been forwarded to CASCA members as a service to the community. Unless explicitly stated, this does not imply an endorsement of its contents by CASCA or the CASCA Board.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Project Office Now Open for Business (May 14, 2014)

The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) project, formerly know as the “Next Generation CFHT”, has opened a Project Office at CFHT’s headquarters in Waimea, Hawaii, with the goal of generating a Construction Proposal over the next three years.

The Project Office is the culmination of over five years of design and feasibility studies that have demonstrated the opportunity to achieve compelling and dramatic science through upgrading CFHT into an advanced, modern and unique facility. MSE, a 10 m dedicated wide field spectroscopic telescope, will be capable of observing up to ~3200 separate objects simultaneously at spectral resolutions ranging from ~2000 – 20,000, within a ~1.5 square degrees field of view. By leveraging the exceptional image quality of the CFHT site, MSE will yield stunning new research capabilities to tackle problems ranging from dark matter, dark energy and cosmology, to galaxy evolution and structure, the archaeology of the Milky Way, stars and stellar systems, and exoplanets. Intended to support both individual programs and large scale surveys of unprecedented scale, MSE will complement the other Maunakea observatories as well as those planned for deployment worldwide and in space.

Contact Information:

  • CFHT Executive Director, Doug Simons (
  • MSE Project Manager, Rick Murowinski (
  • MSE Project Scientist Alan McConnachie (

Additional Information:

Odd planet, so far from its star… (May 13, 2014)

An international team led by Université de Montréal researchers has discovered and photographed a new planet 155 light years from our solar system.

MONTRÉAL, May 13, 2014 – A gas giant has been added to the short list of exoplanets discovered through direct imaging. It is located around GU Psc, a star three times less massive than the Sun and located in the constellation Pisces. The international research team, led by Marie-Ève Naud, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the Université de Montréal, was able to find this planet by combining observations from the the Gemini Observatories, the Observatoire Mont-Mégantic (OMM), the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and the W.M. Keck Observatory.

A distant planet that can be studied in detail

GU Psc b is around 2,000 times the Earth-Sun distance from its star, a record among exoplanets. Given this distance, it takes approximately 80,000 Earth years for GU Psc b to make a complete orbit around its star! The researchers also took advantage of the large distance between the planet and its star to obtain images. By comparing images obtained in different wavelengths (colours) from the OMM and CFHT, they were able to correctly detect the planet.

“Planets are much brighter when viewed in infrared rather than visible light, because their surface temperature is lower compared to other stars,” says Naud. “This allowed us to indentify GU Psc b.”

Knowing where to look

The researchers were looking around GU Psc because the star had just been identified as a member of the young star group AB Doradus. Young stars (only 100 million years old) are prime targets for planetary detection through imaging because the planets around them are still cooling and are therefore brighter. This does not mean that planets similar to GU Psc b exist in large numbers, as noted by by Étiene Artigau, co-supervisor of Naud’s thesis and astrophysicist at the Université de Montréal. “We observed more than 90 stars and found only one planet, so this is truly an astronomical oddity!”

Observing a planet does not directly allow determining its mass. Instead, researchers use theoretical models of planetary evolution to determine its characteristics. The light spectrum of GU Psc b obtained from the Gemini North Observatory in Hawaii was compared to such models to show that it has a temperature of around 800°C. Knowing the age of GU Psc due to its location in AB Doradus, the team was able to determine its mass, which is 9-13 times that of Jupiter.

In the coming years, the astrophysicists hope to detect planets that are similar to GU Psc but much closer to their stars, thanks, among other things, to new instruments such as the GPI (Gemini Planet Imager) recently installed on Gemini South in Chile. The proximity of these planets to their stars will make them much more difficult to observe. GU Psc b is therefore a model for better understanding these objects.

“GU Psc b is a true gift of nature. The large distance that separates it from its star allows it to be studied in depth with a variety of instruments, which will provide a better understanding of giant exoplanets in general,” says René Doyon, co-supervisor of Naud’s thesis and OMM Director.

The team has started a project to observe several hundred stars and detect planets lighter than GU Psc b with similar orbits. The discovery of GU Psc, a rare object indeed, raises awareness of the significant distance that can exist between planets and their stars, opening the possibility of searching for planets with powerful infrared cameras using much smaller telescopes such at the one at the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic. The researchers also hope to learn more about the abundance of such objects in the next few years, in particular, using GPI instruments, the CFHT’s SPIRou, and the James Webb Space Telescope’s FGS/NIRISS.


About the study

The article Discovery of a Wide Planetary-Mass Companion to the Young M3 Star GU Psc will be published in The Astrophysical Journal on May 20, 2014. The team, led by Marie-Ève Naud, doctoral student at the Department of Physics of the Université de Montréal and member of the CRAQ, consisted mainly of UdeM students and researchers, including Étienne Artigau, Lison Malo, Loïc Albert, René Doyon, David Lafrenière, Jonathan Gagné, and Anne Boucher. Collaborators from other institutions also participated, including Didier Saumon, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; Caroline Morley, UC Santa Cruz, California; France Allard and Derek Homeier, Centre for Astrophysical Research, Lyon, France; and Christopher Gelino and Charles Beichman, Caltech, California. The study was made possible with funding from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

See the article in The Astrophysical Journal

About the CRAQ

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Québec is a partnership between the Université de Montréal, McGill University, and the Université Laval. The CRAQ brings together all researchers working in the field of astronomy and astrophysics of these three institutions, as well as other collaborators from Bishop’s University, the Canadian Space Agency, the Cégep de Sherbrooke, and the private sector (Photon etc., ABB Bomem Inc., Nüvü Caméras). The CRAQ is funded through the program Regroupements stratégiques of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQ-NT). The CRAQ constitutes a unique grouping of researchers in astrophysics in Québec bent on excellence and whose varying and complementary fields of expertise allows them to be innovative, creative and competitive in several scientific fields, thus offering graduate students a wide variety of subjects in both fundamental and applied fields of research.

Additional information




Marie-Ève Naud
CRAQ – Université de Montréal
514 343-6111, ext 3797

René Doyon
Director, Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic
Professor, Department of Physics
CRAQ – Université de Montréal
514 343-6111, ext 3204


Olivier Hernandez, Ph. D.
CRAQ – Université de Montréal / Head of Media Relations
514 343-6111, ext 4681 | | @OMM_Officiel  | @CRAQ_Officiel