ALMA Update

By Gerald Schieven and Douglas Scott

(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)

Call for Proposals (Cycle 3)

On March 24, the Joint ALMA Observatory will issue a call for proposals to observe in Cycle 3, to run from 1 October 2015 through September 2016. The deadline for proposal submission will be 15:00 UT on 23 April 2015. Information will be found on the ALMA Science Portal at ALMA Science.

The Millimetre Astronomy Group at NRC Herzberg acts as a node of the North American ALMA Research Center, in support of ALMA operations and for the Canadian community. Please contact Gerald Schieven, Brenda Matthews or James Di Francesco if you need assistance with ALMA proposal preparation and/or data reduction.

Douglas Scott is the Canadian representative on the North American and international ALMA Science Advisory Committees, and should be contacted for information related to these committees, or to ensure that issues of specific interest to Canadians are discussed at future meetings.

Science Verification Data Sets from the Long Baseline Campaign

New data sets have been released, including long baselines for the first time. These are scientifically interesting in their own right, as well as being useful for demonstrating the future capabilities of ALMA. The targets are the HL Tau circumstellar disk, the z=3 lensed galaxy SDP.81 and the asteroid 3 Juno. The basic observations are described in 3 papers (plus a 4th overview paper) that have been accepted for publication in ApJL. These join the approximately 200 papers that have already been published based on ALMA data.

New Call for Development Studies

A new Call for Development Studies is being issued on 2015 March 16. The primary aims of these studies are to:

  • give groups in North America the opportunity to propose ALMA upgrades that may later be implemented as part of the ALMA Development Plan;
  • support the development of conceptual and detailed designs for ALMA upgrades; and
  • encourage relevant long-term research and development in areas important for ALMA.

The completed studies will be used, together with similar studies from the other ALMA partners, to augment and implement the ALMA Development Plan. The period of performance for funded Studies will run from the award date (October 1, 2015) to no later than September 30, 2016 (approximately one year). Award pool – a total of one million U.S. dollars ($1.0M) is available for funding Studies during the FY2016 Development Program cycle (subject to the FY2016 Federal Budget and allocation of funds). As a guideline, the NRAO expects to fund several Studies. No individual Study will be funded in excess of two hundred thousand U.S. dollars ($200K). Proposers are requested to submit a Notice of Intent by May 15, 2015. The closing date is June 12, 2015. (A call for Development Projects, for which the aim is to implement the results of a Study, is expected in 2016.)

Further details are can be found in the “Conditions Governing the Call for Study Proposals” (available at
Call for Proposals Study; refer to the “Proposal Documents” table).

In the previous call for development studies issued in 2013, two of the six funded projects had strong Canadian participation. One of those is described below.

Heterodyne Receiver Array Development Study

NRC Herzberg participated in the first round of NA Development Studies, analyzing the need and conceptual optical design for a heterodyne receiver array for the ALMA 12-m Total Power Array antennas. Such an instrument could greatly improve the efficiency of recovering single-dish data that are combined with mosaics of single pointings obtained with the interferometric ALMA 12-m Array. The study was conducted by Stéphane Claude, Doug Henke, and James Di Francesco. Since typical heterodyne arrays have on-sky beam spacings of ~2 x FWHM, they are somewhat inefficient at gathering single-dish data for mosaics. Instead, an array with a much more closely-packed architecture could sample the relatively small areal sizes of interferometric mosaics more efficiently. Such a close-packed design, incorporating a cold stop within the optical path, was investigated as part of the study. First, a fully sampled hexagonally arranged array was considered and it was found that performance suffered from a very large increase in receiver noise due to the power terminated within the cold baffling of the cryostat. Next, it was shown that promising performance could be obtained if the spacing was increased to “twice-Nyquist” (still very compact for heterodyne arrays, since the packing density is increased by a factor of four). Performance depends on the frequency band chosen and the dominance of sky and background noise within the system. Further investigation of the dense heterodyne array (DHA) concept will continue, and a report detailing the results of the study will be submitted to NRAO mid-March.

ALMA Technical Maintenance

The Millimetre Technology Group (MTG) at NRC Herzberg in Victoria supports maintenance and repair of the ALMA Band 3 cold cartridge assemblies, which provide the 84 to 116 GHz frequency coverage of ALMA. These cartridges have proven to be very robust, with only 3 cartridges per year (of a total complement of 72) returning to NRC for repair. In January-February 2015 NRC Herzberg staff travelled to the OSF in Chile in order to install and commission a second cartridge test set system (CTS-2; CTS-1 is in the laboratory in Victoria), which is an integrated system for testing, troubleshooting, and verifying Band 3 receivers. The presence of CTS-2 in Chile, with ALMA staff trained by NRC, will permit some of the more routine repair and maintenance tasks to be done at ALMA, minimizing transport of cartridges between Canada and Chile. It will also facilitate ongoing Band 3 upgrade activities.

ALMA Band 3 Development Project

In addition to the Development Study described above, the MTG is currently involved in an ALMA Development Project, to enhance the stability of the Band 3 cartridges by upgrading them with permanent magnets and deflux heaters. A few cartridges have been upgraded with magnets and tested in the field on antennas at ALMA, and results look generally promising. The second thread in this effort is the design, implementation, and testing of the deflux heater system. The upgrade of the Front End laboratory at the OSF with CTS-2 will greatly facilitate the upgrading process (the current plan is for NRC to provide a “parts kit” for each cartridge to be upgraded in Chile).

Canadian Gemini News – Nouvelles Canadiennes de Gemini

By/par Stéphanie Côté
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)

La version française suit

Some Stats about the impact of Gemini on Canadian Astronomy

As 2014 marked the 15th year anniversary of the first Canadian Gemini paper (Davidge et al 2000, “The Peak Brightness and Spatial Distribution of Asymptotic Giant Branch Stars Near the Nucleus of M32” ), the CGO decided that it was a good occasion to update various statistics on the Canadian use of Gemini, to better gauge the impact that the Gemini telescopes have had on Canadian astronomy so far. We were not disappointed by the results!

  • Publication statistics indicate that Gemini has served the Canadian community extremely well. Canadians produced 22% of all Gemini papers from 2000 to 2012, even though during that period our effective observing time share was below 13% (up to 2012 the UK were still a partner and moreover about 10% of the time goes to the host countries, Chile and U of Hawaii).
  • Even more impressive is that Canadian Gemini papers are cited more frequently than Gemini papers in general. The median impact of Canadian Gemini papers for the years 2008 to 2012 is 2.8, whereas the overall Gemini average is 2.0, and is comparable to the median impact of Keck papers at 2.8 over the same years. This is superior to every other ground-based telescope.
  • These conclusions hold for a broad swath of the Canadian community: the 10 top-cited Gemini papers with Canadian first authors deal with topics as diverse as exoplanets, pulsars, galaxy evolution at intermediate redshifts, and high-redshift QSOs.
  • Canadians also participated to 21% of all Gemini press releases, and some of the Canadian press releases are amongst those that produced the highest impact.
  • It turns out that Gemini has been a powerful thesis-producing powerhouse for Canada. There are now more than 46 MSc and PhD that have been produced (or are ongoing) in a dozen Canadian universities using Gemini data! During its 15 year lifetime Gemini has enabled more theses than any other major facility to which Canadian astronomers have had access. There are now on average about 5 new Canadian theses per year using Gemini data.

Please let us know if you are, or if you are supervising, a student who has just submitted a thesis with Gemini data, so we can continue to keep track of Canadian Gemini theses, and celebrate the 50th thesis coming up soon!

Figure 1: The median impact of Canadian Gemini papers is way higher than that of Gemini papers in general.  It is equal to that of Keck’s papers, the highest of all ground-based telescopes. L’impact médian des articles Gemini canadiens est de beaucoup supérieur à celui des articles Gemini en général. Il est égal à celui du Keck, supérieur à tous les autres télescopes au sol du monde.

Figure 1: The median impact of Canadian Gemini papers is way higher than that of Gemini papers in general. It is equal to that of Keck’s papers, the highest of all ground-based telescopes. L’impact médian des articles Gemini canadiens est de beaucoup supérieur à celui des articles Gemini en général. Il est égal à celui du Keck, supérieur à tous les autres télescopes au sol du monde.

Gemini Science and Users Meeting 2015: “The Future and Science of Gemini Observatory”

There is still time to register to the upcoming Gemini Science and User Meeting, which will be held in Toronto, 14-18 June 2015. The theme of this year’s meeting is “The Future & Science of Gemini Observatory.” The meeting will cover a range of exciting science topics from the international community, including:  Solar System objects, Exoplanets, Galactic astronomy, Near-field Cosmology, Supernovae, Gamma Ray Bursts, distant galaxies, AGN, QSOs, etc.  Current operations and future instrumentation plans will also be discussed.  Contributions from participants and partner communities will serve as a focal point for next-generation instruments, observing modes and synergies with other facilities as the Observatory looks ahead to 2020 and beyond. If you’re interested in learning more about Canada’s largest ground-based optical observatory, please register to participate. For more details, visit the meeting website:

Quelques statistiques sur l’impact de Gemini sur l’Astronomie Canadienne

Puisque 2014 marque le 15e anniversaire de la parution du premier article Gemini canadien (Davidge et al 2000, ” The Peak Brightness and Spatial Distribution of Asymptotic Giant Branch Stars Near the Nucleus of M32″), l’OGC a décidé que c’était une bonne occasion pour mettre à jour diverses statistiques sur l’utilisation canadienne de Gemini, afin de mieux évaluer l’impact que les télescopes Gemini ont eu sur l’astronomie canadienne jusqu’ici. Nous n’avons pas été déçus par les résultats!

  • Les statistiques de publication indiquent que Gemini a servi la communauté canadienne extrêmement bien. Les Canadiens ont produit 22% de tous les articles Gemini de 2000 à 2012, même si au cours de cette période, notre part de temps d`observation effective était inférieure à 13% (jusqu’à 2012 le Royaume-Uni était toujours un partenaire et de plus 10% du temps va aux pays d’accueil, soit le Chili et l’U of Hawaii).

  • Encore plus impressionnant est le fait que les articles Gemini canadiens sont cités plus souvent que les articles Gemini en général. L’impact médian des articles Gemini canadiens pour les années 2008 à 2012 est de 2,8, alors que celui de tous les articles Gemini globalement est de 2,0. Cet impact de 2,8 est comparable à l’impact médian des articles Keck (aussi à 2,8) au cours des mêmes années. Ceci est supérieur à tous les autres télescopes au sol du monde.
  • Ces conclusions sont valables pour une large bande de la communauté canadienne: les 10 articles Gemini les plus cités avec un(e) premier(e) auteur(e) canadien(ne) traitent de sujets aussi divers que les exoplanètes, les pulsars, l’évolution des galaxies à redshift intermédiaires, et les QSOs à haut redshift.
  • Les Canadiens ont également participé à 21% de tous les communiqués de presse issus de Gemini, et certains des communiqués de presse canadiens sont parmi ceux qui ont produit le plus d’impact.
  • Il s`avère que Gemini est une géante usine à production de thèses pour le Canada. Il y a maintenant plus de 46 thèses de maîtrise et de doctorat qui ont été produits (ou sont en cours) dans une douzaine d’universités canadiennes basées sur des données Gemini! Au cours de sa durée de vie de 15 ans Gemini a permis la création de plus de thèses que toute autre installation majeure à laquelle les astronomes canadiens ont eu accès. Il y a maintenant en moyenne environ cinq nouvelles thèses canadiennes par année qui utilisent des données Gemini.

Veuillez s`il-vous-plaît nous laisser savoir si vous êtes, ou si vous supervisez, un(e) étudiant(e) qui vient de soumettre une thèse avec des données Gemini, afin que nous puissions continuer à mettre à jour notre liste des thèses Gemini canadiennes, et pour bientôt célébrer la 50eme thèse à venir!

Conférence Scientifique et Réunion des usagers Gemini 2015: “L’Avenir et la Science de l’Observatoire Gemini”

Vous avez encore le temps de vous inscrire à la prochaine conférence Scientifique et réunion des usagers Gemini , qui se tiendra à Toronto, du 14 au 18 Juin 2015. Le thème de la conférence de cette année est «L’Avenir et la Science de l’Observatoire Gemini.” La conférence portera sur un éventail de sujets scientifiques passionnants de la communauté internationale, y compris: les objets du système solaire, les Exoplanètes, l’astronomie galactique, la Cosmologie des galaxies proches, les Supernovae, les Sursauts gamma, les galaxies lointaines, les AGNs, les QSOs, etc.  Les opérations  et  les futurs plans d’instrumentation seront également discutés. Les contributions des participants et des communautés partenaires serviront de point focal pour les instruments de la prochaine génération,  les modes d’observation et les synergies avec d’autres installations alors que l’Observatoire se tourne vers 2020 et au-delà. Si vous êtes intéressé à en apprendre davantage sur le plus grand observatoire optique du Canada, veuillez s’ il vous plaît vous inscrire. Pour plus de détails, visitez le site Web:

President’s Report


By Chris Wilson, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)

Hi, everyone,

The past three months have been a bit quieter than the fall, but as you will see from this report, the pace of activities will be picking up as we move into the spring.

I would like to start by thanking the 361 members of CASCA who renewed their membership and paid their dues before December 1, 2014. I would like to encourage the remaining members 159 members to pay their dues as soon as possible! Just as a reminder, you must be a member of CASCA to present at a CASCA annual meeting. (The ability for non-members to be sponsored once every 5 years is meant primarily for undergrads and other special cases.) Also, you must be a member to be eligible for a CASCA award or to nominate someone for an award. If you do not intend to renew your membership (perhaps you have moved to a new job out of the country?), you can resign from the society by emailing our secretary, James di Francesco.

The 2015 CASCA annual meeting will be held in Hamilton, Ontario from May 24-27 and is hosted by McMaster University. The graduate student workshop, Board meeting, and welcome reception will take place on May 24, with the scientific sessions on May 25-27. Invited speakers include Sara Ellison (Victoria), Avery Broderick (Perimeter/Waterloo), Alyson Brooks (Rutgers), and Bryan Gaensler (Dunlap/Toronto) as well as our various prize and award speakers. Registration for the meeting is now open; I encourage you to register by April 1, 2015, as after that date the cost of registration will rise. Abstract submission is also open and abstracts are due by April 1. Students who are presenting at the meeting (either an oral or poster presentation) will be eligible for partial travel support. The deadline for reserving your room at the special meeting rate at the Sheraton Hotel is April 23.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) continues to occupy a lot of time and energy. In terms of lobbying activities, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy has not undertaken any major new initiatives, but is more in a mode of responding to inquiries as they appear. I believe there is significant effort going on behind the scenes by some of the university presidents on our behalf but do not know any details. The announcement in February that the 2015 Federal Budget would be delayed until at least April was a real surprise and led to questions from community members about what impact this might have on our TMT participation. My understanding is that a budget announcement in April will not cause any difficulties. I also believe our TMT partners will be able to wait a little longer should the budget or the relevant details relating to the TMT not appear until May, as they realize we have no control over the timing of these things. I remain cautiously hopeful that we will be successful in obtaining funding for the TMT.

The Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the 2010 Long Range Plan is now well underway. The MTR panel has met 3 times by telecom in preparation for the town hall meetings, which will occur March 24-26. There will be three town hall meetings: in Montreal on Tuesday, March 24; in Toronto on Wednesday, March 25; and in Victoria on Thursday, March 26. Please try to attend one of these town hall meetings if you can; they are an important opportunity for you to raise issues with the MTR panel and for the panel to hear about the concerns and priorities of our wider community. A list of discussion questions has been circulated and is posted on the town hall area of the CASCA web site; I also encourage you to read the white papers that are posted as well. There will be an MTR information session as part of the CASCA meeting in Hamilton; however the panel has decided not to hold a separate MTR session immediately after the CASCA meeting.

As you will see from the MTR white papers, there are a number of facilities and initiatives underway in our community with various levels of progress (e.g. CCAT, MSE, WFIRST, etc.). I am going to discuss just two of these in a bit of detail here and will try to provide updates on the most timely of the other projects in future reports. The first I will discuss is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA): there have been some major developments and progress related to the SKA in the last three months. Given the potential construction timeline for the SKA, I feel it is important to provide a few highlights here. The second is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), which has transitioned in the past 6 months from a national facility operated jointly with the UK to a new partnership among East Asian countries, UK universities, and Canadian universities.

The SKA Organisation issued a press release March 9 describing the outcomes of the recent rebaselining exercise for SKA Phase 1. SKA1 LOW, based in Australia, consists of over 100,000 dipole antennas with a collecting area of 0.4 square kilometres and operates from 50-350 MHz. SKA1 MID, based in South Africa, consists of 200 antennas with a collecting area of 33,000 square metres and operates from 350 MHz – 14 GHz. SKA1 MID will include the 64 MeerKAT dishes. Construction is planned to start in 2018. The full press release on the rebaselining outcomes can be found here: SKA press release. An SKA Key Science Workshop will take place in Stockholm August 24-27; see the workshop website SKA Workshop for more details about the meeting.

The past three months have also seen the transfer of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) to the new East Asian Observatory (EAO). Two consortiums of universities from the UK and from Canada are partnering with EAO in the operation of the JCMT for the next two years. The Canadian consortium universities are Alberta, Lethbridge, McMaster, Saint Mary’s, Waterloo, and Western. The observatory has begun a five-month period of pilot observations as semester 15A; during this period, proposal PIs must be from one of the consortium universities or the East Asian partner countries (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). The call for both PI and survey proposals for semester 15B is expected to be announced April 1, with proposals due May 15, 2015. The new JCMT web site can be found here: JCMT website.

I would like to end by congratulating our 2015 award winners. Laura Ferrarese is the 2015 receipient of the Peter G. Martin Award for Mid-Career Achievement. Paul Delaney is the 2015 recipient of the CASCA Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education, and Outreach. Anne Archibald is the 2015 winner of the J.S. Plaskett Medal, awarded for most outstanding Ph.D. thesis by a graduate of a Canadian university. Congratulations to you all!

Herschel-HIFI News

Submitted by Sylvie Beaulieu, Herschel-HIFI Instrument Support Scientist
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)

Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE)

Although HIPE 12.1 is the current released version, the release of HIPE 13.0 is at our door’s step! Please visit the HIPE Download page regularly for an imminent release by mid-April. In the meantime, you are invited to visit What’s New in HIPE for the latest changes in this coming release. Additional information can be found in HIFI Instrument and Calibration. This page will be updated for HIPE 13.0 once this version is released.

Herschel Science Archive (HSA)

Just a reminder that the Herschel Science Archive has been 100 % public domain since the 29th of October 2013. This represents an excellent opportunity for additional astronomical discoveries for the larger Canadian astronomical community. You are thus invited to browse through the Archive and dig for undiscovered treasures! But wait, there’s more! The Herschel data can be used in combination with e.g. JCMT/SCUBA-2 and ALMA data (see Workshop advert) so you may find additional data to complement your science.

The HSA interface is user friendly which makes it easy to search for your favourite object. A new feature of the HSA
interface allows you to access the ‘User Provided Data Products’ supplied by the Key Programmes. Additionally, once
the Archive products are processed with HCSS 13.0, at least 75 % of the Spectral Scan products will have been expertly flagged by ICC, therefore increasing the quality of the deconvolution.

Conferences, workshops and webinars related to Herschel

Herschel feature stories

In this issue, we present three contributions from our Canadian scientists.

Introducing new MSc student James Cambell (working with Dr. Rene Plume, University of Calgary) who will use HIFI data for his mémoire.

This 2016 master’s thesis will explore Herschel-HIFI observations of C18O (5-4), (7-6), (9-8), (11-10), and (15-14) towards a sample of 14 hot cores. With ancillary ground based measurements of C18O (1-0) and (2-1), obtained with IRAM 30m, as well as C18O (3-2), obtained with JCMT, we can derive the total C18O column density with the contribution of the hot emission well constrained. No emission is detected in the highest observed transition towards most of the hot core sample. Synthetic spectra are fit to the observations via local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) modelling implemented in CASSIS as well as non-LTE modelling utilizing the RADEX code. Two physical components are required in order to properly fit the line profiles across multiple transitions, which we model as (1) an extended cool clump and (2) an embedded hot core. Clump sizes are estimated from JCMT C18O (3-2) maps allowing us to accurately model the total column density of the extended component for each source. HIFI 13CO (9-8) maps confirm the assumption that the extent of the hot emission is contained within a beam size. We thus model each hot core with an assumed typical size of 0.1 pc yielding an additional estimate of the total column density endemic to the embedded component.

We are looking forward to reading the results in 2016!

Introducing PhD student Kianoosh Tahani (working with Dr. Rene Plume, University of Calgary)

Herschel Observations of EXtra-Ordinary Sources (HEXOS): Analysis of the 1.2 THz Spectral Survey Towards Orion South

We will present results from a spectral survey toward Orion-S, taken by the HIFI instrument aboard the Herschel Space Telescope, in which we detected 744 spectral lines with S/N > 3sig originating from 50 different molecular and atomic species, as well as a number of unidentified lines. Focusing on the not blended lines, we performed LTE modelling for each of the detected species. This analysis provides us with the physical conditions of Orion-S (column density, temperature, source size, etc.). We could identify the presence of both warm (80 K) and cold (40 K) regions.

This work will be submitted soon. Stay tuned, and contact Kianoosh if you would like to learn more!

And a new contribution by our 2014 J.S. Plaskett medalist:

Dr Andy Pon (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching) and collaborators P. Caselli, D. Johnstone, M. Kaufman, M. J. Butler, F. Fontani, I. Jiménez-Serra, and J. C. Tan

Mid-J CO shock tracing observations of infrared dark clouds I

Infrared dark clouds (IRDCs) are dense, molecular structures in the interstellar medium that can harbour sites of high-mass star formation. IRDCs contain supersonic turbulence, which is expected to generate shocks that locally heat pockets of gas within the clouds. We present observations of the CO J = 8-7, 9-8, and 10-9 transitions, taken with the Herschel Space Observatory, towards four dense, starless clumps within IRDCs (C1 in G028.37+00.07, F1 and F2 in G034.43+0007, and G2 in G034.77-0.55). We detect the CO J = 8-7 and 9-8 transitions towards three of the clumps (C1, F1, and F2) at intensity levels greater than expected from photodissociation region (PDR) models. The average ratio of the 8-7 to 9-8 lines is also found to be between 1.6 and 2.6 in the three clumps with detections, significantly smaller than expected from PDR models. These low line ratios and large line intensities strongly suggest that the C1, F1, and F2 clumps contain a hot ga gas component could be generated by turbulence dissipating in low velocity shocks.

This work is described in more detail in Pon et al. (astro-ph1503.00719).

The University of Waterloo Herschel-HIFI Support Group is committed to assist you with accessing data through the Herschel Science Archive (HSA) and in using the Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE) to process your data. Please do not hesitate to contact us. Our webpage HIFI has a dedicated page on Data Processing.


By Ernie Seaquist, ACURA Executive Director
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)


This is the seventh issue of the semi-annual newsletter for E-Cass readers. The intention is to keep the community up to date on the activity of ACURA. ACURA is the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, with a membership of 20 universities. ACURA exists to promote the interests of Canadian university astronomers, including the highest priority LRP projects requiring funding by the Federal Government. The current projects of interest to ACURA are the TMT and the SKA. ACURA also maintains an active role in advancing the interests of its member institutions in the governance of federally supported astronomy, currently undertaken by NRC.

ACURA is primarily concerned with the promotion of its two highest priorities – the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) following the ground based priorities for world observatories in the LRP. More on these topics below.

Activity on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)

Most of the activity during the last six months has been related to the promotion of the TMT by ACURA together with its Coalition partners – CASCA and Industry. There is urgency for a government decision on TMT now because of the date adopted by the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Board for a final decision by the partners to proceed with TMT construction. The TIO Board is awaiting a report by the Canadian government on its funding before taking this decision, currently scheduled for the TIO Board meeting on April 29/30, 2015. ACURA is currently an Associate Member (non-voting) of the TIO, and reports regularly to the Board, mainly on our activity to promote TMT with the government and the status of the decision. There is much pressure on ACURA from the TIO Board now that Canada is the only partner not to sign the participation agreements with funding in place, and that on-site construction is beginning this month.

TMT lobbying activity during the past several months has been extensive and strategic, focusing on the offices of the PMO, the PCO, Department of Finance and Industry Canada. Independent contacts by the Coalition Industry Co-chair have also been very extensive. All of these meetings and contacts have been successful in bringing awareness of TMT to the highest levels of government, and an acknowledgement at these levels of the importance of the project scientifically, economically, and internationally. The main issue is money, given the large “ask” of $300M over 10 years. Much discussion has focused on the suggestion by Industry Canada that the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) could be used to support the TMT. However, as is now well known, this fund presents a problem at least for funding the majority of the cost, especially the enclosure (half the cost) which is infrastructure, not research. In addition, from a practical standpoint, the fund offers neither sufficient financial support overall nor an appropriate timeframe for immediate support of TMT. Minister of State for S&T Ed Holder was formally consulted by letter of this problem by the Coalition on December 8, shortly after the detailed terms and procedures for CFREF were announced.

In addition, ACURA has engaged its member university presidents (through ACURA Council members) in supporting the TMT. The project has been discussed at the U15, and among individual presidents. The result is that presidents of the key universities which initiated the original design study have expressed their support on behalf of ACURA institutions to government for Canadian participation in the TMT, and are engaged in discussing with senior levels of government scenarios for such participation.

Additional efforts have been made to contact senior levels of the Canadian government through channels in the partner countries with some indication of success through contacts initiated in the U.S.

A late positive development was the completion of a new report commissioned by NRC on the economic benefits of astronomy instrumentation development at NRC, focusing on the TMT and SKA work. The report entitled Astronomy Technologies Study by the Ottawa firm of DoyleTech Corporation gives a particularly good account of the benefits of the TMT. The report demonstrates the large potential economic benefit of the adaptive optics (AO) work stemming from the emerging new applications to fields such as medicine, the defence industry, communications, and the consumer optical market. Industry Canada has an in-depth awareness of this report, and through NRC, has approved its release to ACURA, though not to the general public. However, we have permission to send the Executive Summary to key individuals with interest in advancing the TMT in Canada.

The bottom line on TMT is that there is an awareness of this project at all relevant levels of government, and that this has stimulated action at the highest levels. One of the challenges of course is the current economic climate in Canada, which suffers from the depressed price of oil, though the resulting delay in the Federal Budget can be seen as giving some breathing space for the decision on TMT.

Activity related to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

On SKA matters, there has been a pause in ACURA engagement over the last several months, but this is about to change as the new chair of the new ACURA Advisory Council on SKA (AACS), Bryan Gaensler, has arrived in Toronto to take up his new position as Dunlap Institute Director. Bryan is firmly taking the reins of AACS. The ACURA Board has allocated a financial contribution for the support of AACS activity, appropriate since ACURA has taken the SKA university activity under its wing following the departure of Russ Taylor to South Africa. Future and ongoing ACURA support for SKA activity in the universities is anticipated.

Based on a recommendation from the AACS, the ACURA Board also nominated Bryan as the NRC appointed Scientific Director from Canada to the international SKA Organization Board of Directors, and I’m pleased to report that NRC has approved this appointment. The Scientific Director is one of two appointees to the Board, the other being Greg Fahlman as the NRC (voting) member.

Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg – NRC Herzberg News

By/par Dennis Crabtree (NRC-Herzberg)
with contributions from/avec l’apport de Eric Chisholm, Alan McConnachie

(Cassiopeia – Spring 2015)

The English version follows

Rapport Cassiopeia du Bulletin de CNRC Herzberg

Les rubriques qui suivent reviendront dans chaque numéro du bulletin et ont pour but de tenir les astronomes canadiens au courant des activités de CNRC Herzberg. Les commentaires des astronomes sur la manière dont CNRC Herzberg accomplit sa mission, c’est-à-dire « assurer le fonctionnement et la gestion des observatoires astronomiques mis sur pied ou exploités par l’État canadien » (Loi sur le CNRC), sont les bienvenus.


CNRC Herzberg a recruté avec succès deux attachés de recherche pour le télescope Plaskett. Les demandes reçues étaient aussi nombreuses qu’excellentes, cette année, et touchaient des domaines très variés. J’ai le plaisir de vous annoncer que Samantha Lawler et Nicholas McConnell, les deux meilleurs candidats, ont accepté notre offre.

Astronomie optique

Exploreur spectroscopique du Mauna Kea (MSE)

Le développement des activités se poursuit à la cadence prévue.

  • Le bureau du projet a pris passablement d’ampleur avec l’arrivée de la Chine et de l’Inde, mais aussi avec l’approbation du budget complet pour les activités de 2015. Un nouvel ingénieur de projet installé à Waimea entrera en fonction en avril.
  • Au début d’avril, l’équipe technique tiendra une réunion à Nanjing, en Chine, en vue de coordonner les activités de conception et d’ingénierie entre ses membres, disséminés un peu partout (y contribueront le Canada, la Chine, la France, l’Inde et le CFHT).
  • L’équipe scientifique a remis son rapport sur les activités de la première phase, qui amorce l’élaboration de la version détaillée du dossier scientifique et du cahier des charges scientifiques (SRD en abrégé, pour Science Requirements Document). Le SRD est un des documents de haut niveau – ils sont plusieurs – se rapportant au projet (avec le document sur l’architecture de l’observatoire, le cahier des charges de l’observatoire et le document conceptuel des opérations) en cours d’élaboration et dont le contrôle devrait changer de main plus tard cette année.
  • La première réunion annuelle de l’équipe scientifique du MSE devrait avoir lieu du 29 au 31 juillet, au complexe hôtelier Marriott de Waikoloa Beach, sur la côte ensoleillée de Kona, sur la grande île d’Hawaï. Il s’agit de la semaine précédant le congrès de l’UAI, qui se tiendra à Honolulu et pour lequel les inscriptions ont débuté.

Renseignements :

Technologie astronomique


Le GHOST (pour Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph ou spectrographe optique à haute résolution de Gemini) a franchi l’examen de conception préliminaire (décembre 2015). Il s’agissait du premier examen du genre pour un instrument destiné aux observatoires Gemini réalisé en dix ans. L’équipe canadienne de CNRC Herzberg, qui faisait partie des sous-traitants, devait procurer la partie « spectrographe » de l’instrument. Ses membres passent maintenant sans délai à l’étape suivante, avec le concours de leurs collègues de l’Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO – le maître d’œuvre) et de l’Australian National University (ANU).

Le système optique comporte deux bras qui couvriront simultanément les longueurs d’onde de 363 à 950 nm. L’appareil permettra de réaliser des observations en résolution standard (R>50 000) et en haute résolution (R>75 000). Dans le premier cas, le GHOST pourra aussi observer deux cibles en même temps, sur un champ de vision de 7,5 minutes d’arc de diamètre. Surveillez le bulletin pour en apprendre davantage sur la conception du GHOST, qui poursuit son évolution et devrait balayer le ciel au début de 2018!

The NRC Herzberg News Cassiopeia Report

These reports will appear in each issue of E-Cass with the goal of informing the Canadian astronomical community on the activities at NRC Herzberg. Feedback is welcome from community members about how NRC Herzberg is doing in fulfilling our mandate to “operate and administer any astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada” (NRC Act).

General News

NRC Herzberg successfully completed the recruitment of two Plaskett Research Associates. We received many excellent applications for this year’s Plaskett’s in a wide range of fields. I am happy to announce that our top two ranked applicants, Samantha Lawler and Nicholas McConnell have accepted our offers.

Optical Astronomy

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer

Development activities continue apace for MSE:

  • The Project Office has expanded significantly following the participation of China and India in the project, and the securing of the full budget request for 2015 activities. A new Project Engineer will be starting for the project in April, based in Waimea.
  • An Engineering team meeting is being organised in Nanjing, China, in early April, to coordinate design and engineering activities among the distributed engineering team (with contributed effort from Canada, China, France, India and CFHT).
  • The Science Team has reported back on Phase 1 activities that mark the start of the detailed development of the Science Case and Science Requirements Document (SRD). The SRD is one of several high level documents for the project (including the Observatory Architecture Document, Observatory Requirements Document and Operational Concept Document) that are in development and which are expected to enter change control later this year.
  • The first annual MSE Science Team meeting is scheduled to take place 29 – 31 July at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort on the sunny Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. This is the week before the start of the IAU in Honolulu. Registration is now open.

For more information, see:

Astronomy Technology


The Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST) succeeded in its preliminary design review (December 2015). This was the first successful PDR Gemini has had for an instrument in the last ten years. The Canadian team, from NRC-Herzberg, has been sub-contractor to provide the spectrograph portion of the instrument and in concert with our Australian colleagues from the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO – prime contractor) and the Australian National University (ANU) are keenly moving into the next stage of the project.

The optical design features two-arms and will provide simultaneous wavelength coverage from 363nm to 950nm. It will have both standard (R>50,000) and high resolution (R>75,000) observing modes. In standard resolution mode, GHOST will also have the capability to observe two targets simultaneously over a 7.5 arcmin diameter FOV. You can look to E-Cass for future updates highlighting the evolving design and can expect to see GHOST on-sky in early 2018!

Cassiopeia Newsletter – 2015 Vernal Equinox


In this issue:

President’s report
ALMA Update
Gemini News / Nouvelles de Gemini
Herschel-HIFI News
Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg / NRC Herzberg News

Editors: Magdalen Normandeau & Joanne Rosvick

Cassiopeia is CASCA’s quarterly Newsletter, published on or near the solstices and equinoxes (March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21). To submit a contribution please email All submissions must be received at least one week in advance to be published in the next edition. We accept plain text and Word documents. Note that the formatting of your document will not be preserved. Please include any images as attachments in your email, not embedded in the text. Please include URLs in parentheses next to the word or phrase that you wish to act as link anchors.

First Light for a “Made in Canada” Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

TORONTO, ON (March 19th 2015) – On PI Day, March 14th, a team of astronomers expanded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm when they achieved first-light with a ground-breaking instrument. While most searches have been conducted with radio telescopes, the instrument, called NIROSETI, is the first capable of detecting extremely short, extremely bright pulses of infrared light.

“Infrared light is an excellent means of interstellar communication,” said Shelley Wright, an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego, who led the development of the new instrument while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from great distances.

NIROSETI looks for short pulses based on the thinking that an advanced alien civilization attempting to communicate with us would send pulses rather than a continuous signal because an infrared laser can outshine the Sun if the signal lasts only a billionth of a second.

According to Wright, the idea dates back decades. Charles Townes, the late UC Berkeley scientist whose contributions to the development of lasers led to a Nobel Prize, suggested the idea in a paper published in 1961.

Scientists have searched the heavens for radio signals for more than 50 years and expanded their search to the optical realm more than a decade ago. But instruments capable of capturing pulses of infrared light have only recently become feasible.

“We had to wait for technology to catch up,” Wright said. “I spent eight years waiting and watching as new technology emerged.”

Then, three years ago while at the Dunlap Institute, Wright purchased newly available detectors. She and Dunlap Fellow Jérome Maire—who played a key role in developing the new instrument—tested the detectors and found that they could turn the concept into reality. “It was exciting,” said Maire, “to solve the technological challenge of building the first instrument capable of detecting an infrared signal a billionth of a second long.”

For the original release and images:

Staff Scientist – Planetarium & Space Place

Deadline for applications is March 26, 2015.

Staff Scientist for the Planetarium and Space Place
Share your passion for science through exhibits, shows, and programs!

As the Staff Scientist in the Planetarium and Space Place at Science North, you will have a unique opportunity to engage and inspire people of all ages with the science and beauty of our universe. In the Planetarium you will develop and present live shows and programs using the Digistar-5 full dome digital theatre system. In Space Place you will use your science communication skills to develop new science exhibits and programs. Your enthusiasm and leadership will inspire and develop your team of staff and volunteers. Your passion for science will engage school children, teens, and adults with interactive science experiences.

This is a unique career opportunity to share your knowledge and to ignite a passion for science in others. No day is ever the same in this diverse and fast-paced environment.

The successful candidate will:
• have a degree in astronomy, astrophysics, physics, or a related applied science;
• have strong communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills and an ability to multi-task;
• be fluent in both spoken and written English and spoken French;
• be comfortable engaging the public in person, through social media, and through traditional media; and
• work full-time hours with evening and weekend work on a rotational basis.

Job duties:
• Initiate, develop, and implement new exhibits, programs, and shows
• Lead a team of staff and volunteers who interpret science and engage visitors in programs and activities
• Manage exhibit and program budgets
• Identify emerging trends in astronomy and physics, changes in curriculum, innovative ideas and new discoveries for inclusion in programming
• Lead Science North star parties and other special events.

This is a long-term position supported by an excellent compensation package:
• Starting at $42,600
• Annual performance and merit increase consideration
• Participation in the Science North Employee Incentive Plan
• Comprehensive group benefit package including medical, dental, vision, life/travel insurance, short and long term disability coverage
• Pension plan following one year or opportunity for continued participation in Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan
• Professional development opportunities
• Free or discounted admission to partner attractions outside Sudbury, Science North facilities and program discounts, fitness membership contribution
• Minimum 3 weeks vacation with incremental entitlements of one week after 8 and 15 yrs of service

Interested applicants are asked to apply on line at quoting Job Number 1-015. Deadline for applications is March 26, 2015. Science North is committed to an inclusive workplace and invites applications from all qualified individuals to join our diverse team. We thank all interested candidates; only those selected for interviews will be contacted.

Science North is a registered charity.
Science North is an agency of the Government of Ontario.