Cassiopeia Newsletter – 2015 Summer Solstice


In this issue:

President’s report
A Big “Thank you” to the Government of Canada
CASCA Annual General Meeting 2015
CASCA-2015 at a glance
LRP Update
Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg / NRC Herzberg News
ALMA Matters
Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles Canadiennes de Gemini
Herschel-HIFI 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.

Cassiopeia est le bulletin d’information de la CASCA, publié quatre fois par année, aux solstices et aux équinoxes (21 mars, 21 juin, 21 septembre et 21 décembre). Pour soumettre un article, écrivez à Les soumissions doivent être reçues au moins une semaine avant la parution. Nous acceptons les fichiers en format texte (ascii) et Word. Veuillez noter que la mise-en-page de votre document ne sera pas conservée. Veuillez faire parvenir vos images en pièces jointes à votre courriel plutôt que de les insérer dans votre article. Pour les liens à des sites internets, veuillez inclure l’adresse entre parenthèses à côté du mot ou de la phrase devant servir d’ancre.

LRP Update

By John Hutchings, on behalf of the LRP Implementation Committee
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2015)

While the Mid-Term Review panel is working towards their report, expected near the year-end, many of the LRP initiatives are in a state of flux. The LRPIC keeps track of these regularly, and this memo gives a snapshot of events as they are unfolding now. A summary table of LRP projects with dates, costs, and partners, can be found here.


Now we have approved funding, Canada is a formal member of the TIO, with specified hardware responsibilities. Construction has been halted while complex negotiations take place on the overall future use of the mountain. The recent statement by the Governor of Hawaii covers many of the issues.


There is an active Canadian SKA committee reporting to ACURA, led by Bryan Gaensler. This group has put together a report detailing Canadian interest and capability to move ahead into SKA1. The SKA organization itself has not yet settled on several details of the partnership, and it will take time before Canada is in a clear position to make definite funding applications.


MaunaKea Spectroscopic Explorer is the proposed 10-class MOS upgrade for CFHT. The project office is located and supported at CFHT, and is active in developing detailed designs, conducted with partners that include China and India, as well as the current CFH. A workshop was held in Nanjing in April, and a large international science team will meet in Hawaii in July. This design stage will complete at the end of 2017.


CSA have study contracts in place for a number of specific NASA-approved contributions to WFIRST, both in hardware and software arenas. These studies will be complete in August. Following that, CSA will need to decide what detailed partnership they will support, and enter discussion with NASA on that, and the science return Canada gets.


Following the detailed concept study of a few years ago, CSA currently have a detector development contract with ComDev. A science definition study and further design work development are both pending within CSA.


These are two JAXA proposed space missions with Canadian science interest. JAXA is expected to select between these and other choices this summer, so our options may be affected.


These are linked as single-dish supporting telescopes for ALMA, as well as having their own unique capabilities. The future of Canadian participation in both of these is uncertain and subject to funding needs.


There is an activity to involve a significant number of Canadians in LSST that involves matching funds from the Dunlap Institute. Those interested should look for details as this evolves, as it potentially affects our participation levels in facilities such as Gemini and MSE.


The future directions and funding for space science remain unclear, with no future missions supported. This situation is a significant concern for Canadian space astronomy plans. A workshop to bring some of these issues and ideas forward, has been postponed, but a call for `Topical Teams’ has been issued.

President’s Report


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

Hi, everyone,

The undeniable highlight of the past 3 months was the announcement by the Federal government on April 6, 2015 that it would fund Canada’s share of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). TMT construction funding appeared as a line item in the Federal budget that was released on April 21, 2015, with funding for the past year and the next five years set out in some detail. TMT also merited its own two pages in the budget document.

This announcement was the culmination of at least seven years of activity by many players, including the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy, university presidents, ACURA, CASCA, individual astronomers, and the general public. I want to take this opportunity to summarize the activities that I personally was involved in or was aware of over the past year that helped us achieve such a successful conclusion.

Over the summer of 2014, a number of Canadian astronomers wrote to Minister Holder. Some also met with their individual MPs and/or with their University President or Vice-President Research. These efforts resulted in some initial discussion of the TMT at the U15 meeting of university presidents in August. Also in August, the Coalition made Pre-Budget Submission on the TMT. In July there was also a very good article by Ivan Semeniuk on the TMT in the Globe & Mail that generated some follow-up media interest on radio and television. In September the Coalition sent copies of the TMT two-pager and brochure to all MPs.

The TMT Planning Team held monthly telecons over the summer and early fall of 2014 and was heavily involved in the outreach to Holder and the preparation of the pre-budget submission. However, as the lobbying became more confidential, political, and requiring rapid responses, more and more of the work and discussion was done by the Coalition co-Chairs (Don Brooks, Guy Nelson, and myself) along with ACURA Executive Director Ernie Seaquist, our TSA lobbyist Duncan Rayner, and TMT Canadian Project Scientist Ray Carlberg. Also in the fall I believe there were parallel discussions and lobbying efforts going on among key university presidents. However, I have only indirect knowledge of these efforts and likely the details are known only to the presidents involved. So I will not say anything further except that the strong support by key university presidents and their willingness to interact with government on our behalf was certainly an essential part of the effort that resulted in a successful outcome on TMT.

On October 20, 2014, the three Coalition co-Chairs traveled to Ottawa for meetings with staff in the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Finance, and the Privy Council Office. Those meetings were very professional and cordial, and my impression was that the level of interest in the TMT project was highest in Finance and the PCO, despite the fact that they did not have as much history with the TMT as did Industry. In late October/early November, Industry co-chair Guy Nelson participated in a large Canadian delegation trip to China; although we did not manage to get TMT into any of the announcements during that trip, he made valuable contacts among staff members, including in the Prime Minister’s office, which were likely very useful later on. The coalition followed up with a letter to all MPs in November.

In November the Coalition was requested to come to Ottawa for a meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office; although we were not able to settle on a November meeting date, we did have a meeting with the PMO December 16, 2014. In late November, I wrote personally to the Prime Minister about the TMT as CASCA President, as it occurred to me that he might not have been reached individually by any of the other letters.

In January 2015, a very good and positive story on the TMT appeared in the Toronto Star, highlighting that we were approaching a now or never decision for Canada’s participation and saying that the TMT is something Canada should be doing. The Coalition sent an email-blast to all MPs in late January with the links to the Star article. There was a similar article about Canada’s potential role in the TMT in Nature in March. In late March we received a request for some more information on the TMT from a staff member in the PMO. On March 31, 2015, the Coalition had its first firm indication that we were going to have a positive outcome on the TMT, and after several hectic days, by April 6 most of us, including representatives from the RASC and other amateur communities, were in Vancouver to hear the Prime Minister announce Canada’s commitment to the TMT. At the request of the government, I also attended the 2015 Budget Stakeholders Lock-Up in Ottawa on April 21, presumably to be available to answer any media questions afterwards. In the event there was no media interest in the TMT that day, the news-worthy event having probably been the earlier announcement on April 6.

With hindsight, the December 16th meeting with the PMO was a real turning point. We were scheduled to meet with two mid-level staff members, but at the last minute a very high-level and well-connected staff member joined the meeting and asked a lot of very focused and interested questions. He said very positive things, such as the TMT is exactly the type of project that a federal government should be doing, because it can’t be left to the private sector, an individual university, and so on. This person likely played a key role in moving the TMT through the process. I happened to see him after the Budget Lock-Up and was able to say thank you in person.

So that is a brief history of the TMT efforts in Canada over the past year. We had a little celebration at the CASCA Banquet in Hamilton where a number of individuals were thanked publicly and invited to speak, and we had a wonderful set of TMT cupcakes (see photos elsewhere in this issue) for people to enjoy. In addition, the CASCA Board formally recognized Don Brooks and Guy Nelson as Patrons of the society, in recognition of their hard work on are behalf as coalition co-chairs over many years.

While TMT was obviously the big news story of the past three months, there have been other important activities going as well. The Mid Term Review panel has been very active. A series of three town hall meetings were held in Montreal, Toronto, and Victoria from March 24-26, 2015. On April 20, the MTR panel held a face-to-face meeting at the Toronto Airport Sheraton to review the results from the town halls and to come up with a preliminary list of recommendations. These preliminary recommendations were presented to the community at the CASCA Annual General meeting in a special one-hour session on May 27, 2015. The MTR panel will focus on writing the report over the summer, with the release of the final report planned for late fall, 2015.

The 2015 CASCA annual meeting was held in Hamilton, Ontario from May 24-27 hosted by McMaster University. The graduate student workshop this year focused on Statistics in Astronomy and was led by Dr. Eric Feigelson (Penn State Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics). By all accounts this was a big success. The main meeting featured a variety of interesting contributed and invited talks as well as a number of lunch sessions focussing on particular telescopes, including a very well attended information session on the SKA on Monday. The CASCA Board and student awards for the best poster by a graduate student were both one by Alexandre Fortier from Université de Montréal for his poster “On the Origin of DQ White Dwarfs”. The CASCA Board award for best student talk was won by Paolo Turri from the University of Victoria for his talk “Precision photometry from the ground: observations of the double subgiant branch of NGC 1851 using GeMS MCAO”, while the CASCA student award for best student talk was won by Nicholas MacDonald from Boston University for his talk “One Epoch at a Time: Discovering Jet Structure in Blazars through Radio Map Stacking”.

A Big “Thank you” to the Government of Canada


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

On April 6, 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would be a partner in the construction and operation of the Thirty Meter Telescope, committing up to 243.5 million dollars in construction funding. I am sure I speak for all members of the Canadian Astronomical Society when I say that we are extremely grateful to the Government of Canada for this commitment, the largest capital funding ever provided to a Canadian astronomical telescope.

The Thirty Meter Telescope will be a revolutionary facility producing exciting new discoveries in areas from studies of planets around other nearby stars to the formation of galaxies at the edge of the visible universe. Canada’s participation in TMT construction speaks to the international competitiveness of Canadian industry, which will build the telescope enclosure and its adaptive optics system. For Canadian astronomers and universities, participation in the TMT will help us to maintain our world-leading reputation in Astronomy and Astrophysics and to continue to attract the very best students and researchers to study and work in Canada.

As CASCA members, we look forward to working with our national and international partners to build the Thirty Meter Telescope and to sharing its first science results with our fellow Canadians.

Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles Canadiennes de Gemini

By/par Stéphanie Côté
(Cassiopeia – Summer/Été 2015)

La version française suit

Some Stats from Semester 2015B: Send more Gemini-South Proposals! And send longer proposals too!

Figure 1 - Oversubscription rates for Gemini-North and Gemini-South.

Figure 1 – Oversubscription rates for Gemini-North and Gemini-South.

Despite receiving a healthy number of proposals for 2015B (35 in total), the oversubscription rates have gone down, particularly for Gemini-South where the numbers of hours requested has plummeted to half of what it has been in recent semesters (see Figure 1). In the last 3 years we had seen unusual higher oversubscriptions for Gemini-South over Gemini-North for several semesters, thanks to the commissioning of Flamingos-2 and GPI in the South. But this semester the demand for the South has been at its lowest, mainly because large GMOS-S proposals are completely missing. This is perhaps an effect of the new Large Programs mode. Large GMOS-N proposals are also lacking but overall numbers for the North are good, thanks for a healthy interest in the new GRACES.

Figure 2 - Average length of proposals submitted to Canada (in the case of joint proposals, only the amount of time requested to the Canadian TAC is counted).

Figure 2 – Average length of proposals submitted to Canada (in the case of joint proposals, only the amount of time requested to the Canadian TAC is counted).

Also the numbers of hours requested per proposal is unusually low for Canada, at just over one night per proposal, 10.6hours (see Figure 2). A large number of Canadian proposals are actually joint proposals (about 40%), which means that their total time request will get spread over several partners and this leads to only a small request to the Canadian TAC. Canadian users should be more ambitious by requesting more time per proposal.

News about the GeMs Upgrade

The project to upgrade the Natural Guide Star Sensors of GeMs , lead by the Australian National University, has made progress and passed its design review in March 2015. NGS2 will provide a 1.5 magnitude boost in sensitivity , which will increase the sky coverage to approximately 3 times that offered by the current NGS in GeMS. It is planned for installation in early 2016. If you have in the past considered a GeMs proposal but were disappointed by the lack of suitable guide stars around your pet targets, then please try again in 6 months time and there is a good chance that this time your project will be feasible.

Also recently a team of specialists from Gemini North and South explored the options opened by new laser technologies to recover enough laser photon return to sustain GeMS long-term performances. In the past it has been difficult to maintain a sustainable workable state with the current laser and a GeMs run in the Fall even had to be cancelled because of laser issues. Their feasibility study found several candidates could indeed replace the current laser for an equivalent photon return. They recommended to proceed to procurement for a new laser that would be more stable. This was approved by the Gemini STAC and Board and is now going ahead. We should expect a delivery in about 6 months.

Fast Turnaround Proposals: deadline every end of the month

This is a reminder that the Fast Turnaround Program is continuing on Gemini-north all through the year, and that there is a deadline for proposals at the end of every month. Accepted programs will be active a month later and for a total of 3 months. Already many Canadian programs have been accepted and observed. The FTP will enable Canadian PIs to access targets of interest before the competition.

Quelques statistiques du Semestre 2015B : faites plus de demandes pour Gemini-Sud! Et aussi faites des demandes plus longues!

Figure 1 - Taux de souscription pour Gemini-Nord et Gemini-Sud.

Figure 1 – Taux de souscription pour Gemini-Nord et Gemini-Sud.

Malgré la réception d’un bon nombre de demandes pour 2015B (35 au total), les taux de souscription ont baissé, en particulier pour Gemini-Sud où le nombre total d’heures demandées a chuté de moitié par rapport aux semestres récents (voir Figure 1) . Au cours des 3 dernières années, nous avions vu des taux de souscriptions inhabituellement plus élevés pour Gemini-Sud que Gemini-Nord pour plusieurs semestres, grâce à la mise en service de Flamingos-2 et GPI dans le Sud. Mais ce semestre la demande pour le Sud a été à son plus bas, principalement parce que les longues demandes pour GMOS-S ont complètement disparu. Ceci est peut-être un effet du nouveau mode Grands Programmes. Les longues demandes pour GMOS-N font également défaut mais les chiffres globaux pour le Nord sont tout-de-même bons, grâce à un grand intérêt des canadiens pour le nouveau GRACES.

Figure 2 - Longueur moyenne des demandes soumises au Canada (dans le cas des demandes jointes, seule la quantité de temps demandée au TAC canadien est comptée).

Figure 2 – Longueur moyenne des demandes soumises au Canada (dans le cas des demandes jointes, seule la quantité de temps demandée au TAC canadien est comptée).

De plus le nombre total d’heures demandées par demandes est exceptionnellement bas pour le Canada, et se situe à environ une nuit par demande, soit 10,6 heures (voir la figure 2). Un grand nombre de demandes canadiennes sont en fait des demandes jointes (environ 40%), ce qui signifie que leur demande de temps total va se partager entre plusieurs partenaires, et cela conduit à seulement une petite demande au TAC canadien. Les utilisateurs canadiens devraient être plus ambitieux en demandant plus de temps par demande.

Nouvelles à propos de la mise à niveau de GeMs

Le projet de renouvellement des Senseurs d` Étoiles Guides Naturelles de GeMs, dirigé par l’Australian National University, a fait des progrès et réussi sa revue de conception en mars 2015. NGS2 sera 1,5 magnitude plus sensible, ce qui augmentera la couverture du ciel à environ 3 fois celle offerte par le NGS présent de GeMs. L` installation est prévue pour le début de 2016. Si vous avez déjà par le passé considéré faire une demande GeMs , mais aviez été déçu par le manque d`étoiles-guides disponibles autour de vos cibles préférées, alors veuillez essayer à nouveau dans à peu près six mois, il y a une bonne chance que cette fois-ci votre projet soit réalisable.

De plus, récemment une équipe de spécialistes de Gemini Nord et Sud a exploré les options offertes par les nouvelles technologies laser pour récupérer un rendement suffisant de photons laser pour soutenir les performances de GeMs à long terme. Par le passé il a été difficile de maintenir un état viable durable avec le laser actuel et une mission d`observation GEMS a même dû être annulé cet automne en raison de problèmes du laser. Leur étude de faisabilité a trouvé plusieurs candidats qui pourraient en effet remplacer le laser actuel avec un retour de photons équivalent. Ils ont donc recommandé de procéder à l’approvisionnement d’un nouveau laser qui serait plus stable. Cela a été approuvé par le STAC et le conseil de direction de Gemini , et va maintenant de l’avant. La livraison est attendue pour dans environ 6 mois.

Demandes “Fast Turnaround“ : date limite à la fin du mois

Ceci est un rappel que le programme de demandes “Fast Turnaround“ se poursuit sur Gemini-Nord tout au long de l’année, et que la date limite pour les demandes est à la fin de chaque mois. Les programmes acceptés seront actifs un mois plus tard et pour un total de 3 mois. Déjà de nombreux programmes canadiens ont été acceptés et observés. Ce programme FT permettra aux usagers canadiens d’accéder à des cibles d’intérêt avant la compétition.

Herschel-HIFI News

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

Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE)

HIPE 13.0 is the latest release, and HIFI_CAL_22_0 is the latest Calibration Tree. You are invited to visit ‘What’s New in HIPE’ for the changes in this new release. Additional information can be found in ‘HIFI Instrument and Calibration’

Herschel Science Archive (HSA)

The current ‘Herschel Science Archive’ is v.6.2.1. and has been released on 2 June 2015. Herschel data are 100% public domaine.

University of Waterloo Group News

Since the last publication of our newsletter, we saw the departure of instrument support scientist
Carolyn McCoey who recently gave birth to a beautiful girl. Carolyn was with the Herschel project
for nearly 8 years.

We also bid farewell to our HIFI system architect Kevin Edwards who was with the project for nearly
10 years. The group wishes to thank Carolyn and Kevin for their tremendous good work, they will be
missed greatly.

Please note that the Herschel-HIFI Waterloo group will cease operation by the 31st of March 2016.
Although no support will be available from that date via the Waterloo group, we will try to maintain
the webpage live, and as up-to-date as it is possible to do so.

The Herschel Science Centre, along with the Instrument Control Centres (HIFI, PACS, and SPIRE)
are in the process of implementing a documentation repository which will be known as the Herschel
Explanatory Legacy Library (HELL). This repository will be composed of the Mission and Satellite
Overview manual, the instruments handbooks, the instruments data reduction guides, as well as
technical and tests reports, and any documents that each ICC will want to provide for Legacy.

Permanent links to the ESA Herschel Project and to the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library (HELL)
will be available through our webpage.

What’s New in HIPE 13

Pointing in all observations

A new approach to pointing reconstruction has been implemented in HIPE 13 by introducing additional correction
based on the gyroscope information. For the HIFI data, such a correction will be applied in a conditional fashion depending on a quality figure computed for each individual observation. The new pointing reconstruction will not apply to under-performing cases, and those latter will still use the pointing files used back in HIPE 12. Details about the new attitude reconstruction, and the way it is approached and may impact the HIFI data, can be found in these two documents: Pointing information and memo.

Electrical Standing Wave in Bands 6 and 7

From HIPE 13 onward, observations in bands 6 and 7 will automatically be corrected from the Electrical Standing
Wave affecting those data. The correction is based on an optimised fit to the baseline artefact stored in the
HIFI calibration files and applied by the pipeline. This also means that the optimum solution may not necessarily completely correct the standing wave. Note that the continuum present in band 6 and 7 data can only be fully trusted if the Electrical Standing Wave is corrected. Refined solutions will be provided on a case by case basis in HIPE 14. For instructions on how to benefit from this reprocessing and see the typical improvement expected in the data, please refer to section 11.4 of the HIFI Data Reduction Guide.

Spectral Scan Observations

The reprocessing of spectral scans in HIPE 13 will make use of optimised mask tables for spurs and unruly baseline ranges. This will result in improved deconvolved solutions at the Level 2.5. In order to benefit from this update you should reprocess your data from Level 0 with the new calibration tree (see section 5.4 of the HIFI Data Reduction Guide).

Calibrated OFF position spectra (any mode)

In HIPE 13, the data used in the OFF positions will be processed up to an equivalent Level 2 calibration (both in intensity and frequency) and can therefore be directly compared to the ON-target data. Details about the peculiarity of each OFF spectra can be found in the cookbooks (see chapter 2 of the HIFI Data Reduction Guide). In order to generate those spectra, you need to reprocess the data from the Level 1, and can work from the calibration tree present in the data processed with HIPE 12.1.

Single Point and Spectral Mapping Modes

The Level 2.5 products in these modes have been optimised by stitching the respective spectrometer subbands. In maps, for example, this will result in a smaller number of cubes. More details can be found in section 4.6 of the HIFI Data Reduction Guide.

Feature Story

Congratulations to recent PhD graduate Scott Jones (working with Dr. Martin Houde, Western Ontario)
who used HIFI data for part of his thesis.

Thesis abstract

Star formation is a fundamental process in the evolution of the cosmos. Yet given the abundance
of stellar constituents, it remains preeminent as to why the number of stars is not correspondingly
large. If we cannot satisfactorily explain how stars are formed, then many further avenues of research
are hindered.

This thesis furthers means to probe one of the foremost theories as to the relative lack of stars, interstellar
magnetic fields. These fields have been observationally verified on multiple scales. I will use the most direct
method to probe magnetic fields in known star-forming regions, polarization, at millimetre/submillimetre wavelengths. In particular, I will focus on the effect that magnetic fields have on the emission produced by rotational molecular transitions.

Much of the background behind the study of magnetic fields, and their deduction through submillimetre polarimetry, will be developed in Chapter 1. Here I provide an overview of not only the role that magnetic fields may play in star formation, but also the competing theories of turbulence and magnetohydrodynamic waves. The various manifestations of polarization will also be covered, including polarized molecular transitions.

Chapter 2 will look at one of the most well-studied star-forming regions, Orion KL, through observations of a newly discovered water maser transition at 620.701 GHz. Interstellar masers allow different environments to be probed, regions where more complex activity has created a population imbalance between rotational energy levels.

The remaining two chapters will present methods and data from the Four-Stokes- Parameter Spectral-Line Polarimeter at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. I will look at considerations that must be made when a small map is collected by way of quantifying the amount of instrumental polarization. Spurious polarization signals may pervade the outer edges of the telescope beam, leading to a misrepresentation of the true amount of source polarization. Chapter 3 details the methods involved in removing sidelobes plus the other sources of instrumental polarization, while Chapter 4 goes on to present the actual data to which these techniques have been applied. The data itself is of the molecular transition 12CO (J = 2 -> 1), prominent within the protostellar source OMC-2 FIR 4.


  1. Jones, S. C., Houde, M. and Hezareh, T. 2015, ApJ, to be submitted “The Detection of Non-Zeeman Circular Polarization of CO Rotational Lines in OMC-2 FIR 4”
  2. Jones, S. C., Houde, M., Harwit, M., Kidger, M., Kraus, A., McCoey, C., Marston, A., Melnick, G., Menten, K.M., Morris, P., Teyssier, D. and Tolls, V. 2014, A&A, 567, A31 “Polarisation observations of H2 O JK−1 K1 = 532 − 441 620.701 GHz maser emission with Herschel/HIFI in Orion KL”

Conferences, workshops and webinars related to Herschel

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 has a dedicated page on Data Processing.

ALMA Matters

Submitted by Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Summer/Été 2015)

2015 ALMA Summer School, Penticton 17-21 August

There is still space in the 2015 ALMA Summer School! Join us in Penticton, BC for a week of learning and practicing all things ALMA. Previous experience with interferometers or ALMA is not necessary. We will cover the basics of radio astronomy, interferometry and the how-tos of ALMA (its capabilities, applying for time, managing projects and data reduction). This is a workshop style school with lots of time for hands-on applications. We have room for a maximum of 30 participants.

Please head to this site for more details about the summer school.

Cycle 3 Call for Proposals

The call for ALMA Cycle 3 proposals ended 23 April with 1582 proposals, a record for any astronomical facility, requesting over 9000 hours of 12-m Array time (an oversubscription rate of ~4.3). Twenty-three proposals were submitted with PIs from Canadian institutions, down slightly from Cycle 2. PIs will be notified of the success of their proposals by July 29. Cycle 3 will begin on October 1.

User Support at NRC-Herzberg

If you are an ALMA user who would like one-on-one help with your data, the NAASC is here to help! You can arrange a trip to Victoria (or Charlottesville, VA) to get help from an ALMA expert in dealing with your dataset. Please contact Brenda Matthews [email] at NRC if you are interested in arranging a visit to Victoria, or submit a ticket to the ALMA Helpdesk. Details about visiting the North American ALMA Regional Center in Charlottesville, VA, can be found at this site.

Heterodyne Receiver Array Prototype

Following the successful paper study of a multi-pixel focal plane array for the ALMA total power antennas, funded in part by the North American ALMA partnership’s ALMA Development Studies program, the Millimetre Technology Group at NRC Herzberg is now planning to design, build, and test a small 4-pixel array prototype for the Band 3 frequency range of 84 to 116 GHz. This mini-array project will be used to validate the cold stop design and the very compact 2SB, dual polarization, RF assembly which has been developed in Victoria. Many challenges lay ahead in areas including lenslet design, cold stop optimization, machinability of very compact assemblies, and feasibility of integration into a limited cryostat space.

ALMA Technical Maintenance

The Band 3 receivers continue to operate reliably with very few failures. Only one cold cartridge is presently in the Victoria laboratory and it is being used as a test-bed for the cartridge gain stability upgrade project.

ALMA Band 3 Development Project

NRC Herzberg is currently involved in a second Development Program activity to upgrade the gain stability of the Band 3 receivers. Over the past few months we have been able to test magnetic defluxing heaters on a cartridge and have obtained promising results. In close collaboration with the North American partnership and the Joint ALMA Observatory, we are working towards a technical solution that improves gain stability at low cost and low risk for deployment in Chile.

Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg / NRC Herzberg News

By/par Dennis Crabtree (NRC-Herzberg)
avec des contributions de/with contributions from Jim Hesser & Chris Willott

(Cassiopeia – Summer/Été 2015)

The English version follows

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.


Le 29 mai, Greg Fahlman, gestionnaire principal de CNRC Herzberg, obtenait un doctorat ès sciences honoris causa de l’Université de Lethbridge.

Comme on peut le lire sur le site Web de l’université, M. Fahlman dirige le programme Astronomie et astrophysique à CNRC Herzberg du Conseil national de recherches du Canada, principal centre d’astronomie et d’astrophysique du Canada, depuis 2003. D’abord en tant que directeur général, puis comme gestionnaire principal du programme, il a contribué à raffermir la réputation des installations du CNRC en tant qu’observatoires de calibre mondial consacrés à l’astronomie terrestre et spatiale.

Les efforts déployés par la collectivité pour mettre sur pied une organisation qui soutiendra et facilitera la vulgarisation et l’éducation par un meilleur accès aux installations du CNRC sur la colline de l’observatoire ont franchi un jalon important. En effet, le vendredi 5 juin, le gouvernement de la Colombie-Britannique a approuvé la constitution en société des Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Society (NR 9385551). Don Moffatt, Ben Dorman et Catriona Johnson avaient amorcé les démarches à l’automne 2013, après la fermeture du Centre de l’univers, épaulés par les membres du Victoria Centre de la SRAC, Dennis Crabtree et Jim Hesser. Les FDAO peuvent désormais élire leur premier conseil d’administration qui rédigera la demande visant à faire reconnaître la société comme un organisme de bienfaisance.

Durant l’AGA de la CASCA, qui s’est déroulée à Hamilton, le prix Peter G. Martin a été décerné à Laura Ferrarese. Ce prix récompense les contributions majeures à la recherche en astronomie d’un astronome canadien ou d’un astronome travaillant au Canada durant les dix à vingt années qui suivent l’obtention de son doctorat. Pour en savoir plus, consultez ce site.

Comité canadien d’attribution du temps d’observation (CanTAC)

Le CanTAC s’est réuni en mai, sous l’égide d’Ingrid Stairs, de l’UCB, pour discuter des projets relatifs au CFHT et aux observatoires Gemini pour le semestre 2015B et les prioriser. La super-présidente du CanTAC pour la réunion était Kristine Spekkens (RMC), alors que le Groupe galactique était présidé par Andrew Cumming (McGill) et le Groupe extragalactique par Scott Chapman (Dalhousie). Dennis Crabtree continue de fournir des services de secrétaire technique au Comité.

Deux membres (Bohlender et Steinbring) n’avaient qu’un seul mandat ce semestre, car deux des futurs membres du CanTAC n’étaient pas disponibles et ne le seront pas avant la prochaine réunion. La liste complète des membres à la réunion de mai est la suivante:

Groupe galactique Groupe extragalactique
David Bohlender (Herzberg) Arif Babul (Victoria)
Andrew Cumming (McGill) Peter Capak (Caltech)
Laurent Drissen (Laval) Scott Chapman (Dalhousie)
Stanimir Metchev (Western) Alan McConnachie (NRC Herzberg)
Leslie Rogers (Caltech) Kristine Spekkens (RMC)
Ingrid Stairs (UBC) Eric Steinbring (Herzberg)
Peter Stetson (Herzberg)

CanTAC a reçu 22 propositions pour le CFHT (6 du Groupe galactique et autant du Groupe extragalactique) plus 34 pour les observatoires Gemini (21 du Groupe galactique et 13 du Groupe extragalactique) pour le semestre 2015B. Au total, les candidats sollicitaient 315 heures d’observation sur le CFHT et 384 pour Gemini. Les taux d’adhésion étaient de 1,34 pour le CFHT, de 1,30 pour Gemini Nord et de 1,00 pour Gemini Sud.

Les pressions exercées par le Groupe extragalactique sur le CFHT se sont atténuées au cours des trois ou quatre derniers semestres, peut-être en raison d’une hausse du temps consacré aux grands programmes d’observation. La faible demande pour le radiotélescope Gemini pourrait aussi découler du fait que les grands programmes ont démarré. Toutefois, dans le cas de Gemini, un autre facteur pourrait intervenir : le faible nombre d’heures d’observation sollicitées en moyenne. La durée moyenne demandée pour le CFHT est de 15,5 heures, contre 11,3 pour Gemini.

En fin de compte, le nombre d’astronomes inscrits aux deux télescopes ne dépasse que légèrement le maximum et les chercheurs ne devraient pas hésiter à soumettre une demande pour l’ensemble des heures d’observation que requiert leur projet.

Astronomie spatiale


Des ingénieurs du Goddard Space Flight Center de la NASA testent les procédures de nettoyage du miroir du JWST avec de la neige carbonique (Photo de la NASA).

Des ingénieurs du Goddard Space Flight Center de la NASA testent les procédures de nettoyage du miroir du JWST avec de la neige carbonique (Photo de la NASA).

Le télescope spatial James Webb (JWST) est un projet conjoint de la NASA, de l’ASE et de l’ASC. La construction du JWST, son intégration et les essais progressent toujours à un bon rythme, conformément à l’échéancier reformulé en 2011. La date du lancement étant prévue dans un peu plus de trois ans, les activités se multiplient, car on veut s’assurer que tous les éléments seront fonctionnels à la fin de la période de mise en service de six mois. Le premier appel de propositions devrait avoir lieu vers novembre 2017. Par conséquent, les astronomes n’ont pas trop de temps devant eux pour commencer à planifier ce qu’il feront des nouvelles capacités révolutionnaires de ce télescope en vue de résoudre les énigmes scientifiques qui les intriguent.

Le Canada fournira le détecteur de guidage de précision (FGS) ainsi que l’imageur dans le proche infrarouge et spectrographe sans fente (NIRISS). Ces appareils ont été réinstallés dans le module intégré d’instruments scientifiques (ISIM) après remplacement des détecteurs, des réseaux prismés et du moteur des disques de filtres. L’ISIM subit maintenant des essais de vibration et des essais acoustiques, que suivra la phase finale des vérifications sous vide et sous zéro, des essais de rendement et des tests de caractérisation, cet automne. Ensuite, l’ISIM sera intégré à la structure du télescope.

These reports will appear in each issue of Cassiopeia 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

Greg Fahlman, NRC Herzberg’s General Manager, received the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, from the University of Lethbridge on May 29th.

As stated on the University of Lethbridge’s website, “Since 2003, Fahlman has been a leader at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics, Canada’s top centre for astronomy and astrophysics. First as its director general, and now as general manager of astronomy and astrophysics, he has helped strengthen the NRC’s reputation as a world-class facility for ground- and space-based astronomical observatories.”

A community effort to create an organization to support and encourage public outreach and education based upon access to NRC’s facilities on Observatory Hill has reached an important milestone. On Friday, 5 June, the Province of BC approved the incorporation of Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Society (NR 9385551). The effort, begun in the fall of 2013 after the closure of the Centre of the Universe, was led by Don Moffatt, Ben Dorman and Catriona Johnson, with input from members of the RASC Victoria Centre, Dennis Crabtree and Jim Hesser. FDAO can now establish its initial board of directors, which will formulate its application for charitable organization status.

During the CASCA AGM in Hamilton, the Peter G. Martin award was presented to Laura Ferrarese. This award recognizes “significant contributions to astronomical research by a Canadian astronomer or an astronomer working in Canada, within 10-20 years of their PhD”. See this site for details.

Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC) (CanTAC)

CanTAC met in May, hosted by Ingrid Stairs at UBC, to discuss and rank CFHT and Gemini proposals for semester 2015B. The CanTAC SuperChair for this meeting was Kristine Spekkens (RMC), while the Galactic panel chair was Andrew Cumming (McGill) and the Extragalactic panel chair was Scott Chapman (Dalhousie). Dennis Crabtree continues to serve as the technical secretary.

There were two one-term members (Bohlender and Steinbring) for this semester as two future CanTAC members were not available until the next meeting. The full list of CanTAC members for the May meeting is:

Galactic Extragalactic
David Bohlender (Herzberg) Arif Babul (Victoria)
Andrew Cumming (McGill) Peter Capak (Caltech)
Laurent Drissen (Laval) Scott Chapman (Dalhousie)
Stanimir Metchev (Western) Alan McConnachie (NRC Herzberg)
Leslie Rogers (Caltech) Kristine Spekkens (RMC)
Ingrid Stairs (UBC) Eric Steinbring (Herzberg)
Peter Stetson (Herzberg)

For Semester 2015B CanTAC received 22 CFHT proposals (6 Galactic and 6 Extragalactic) and 34 Gemini proposals (21 Galactic and 13 Extragalactic). There was a total of 315 hours requested on CFHT and 384 hours on Gemini. The subscription rates were 1.34 for CFHT, 1.30 for Gemini North and 1.00 for Gemini South.

The extragalactic pressure on CFHT has declined over the past 3 or 4 semesters, possibly due to the increase in the amount of time available for large programs. The low demand on the Gemini size may also be related to the beginning of large programs. However, another factor for Gemini is the small amount of time that is requested on average. The average request on CFHT is for 15.5 hours while the average request on Gemini is for 11.3 hours.

The bottom line is that both telescopes are lightly oversubscribed and researchers should not be hesitant to submit their proposals for the full amount of time required for their project.

Space Astronomy


Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center test procedures for JWST mirror cleaning using carbon dioxide snow.

Engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center test procedures for JWST mirror cleaning using carbon dioxide snow. (Picture credit: NASA)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a joint project of NASA, ESA and the CSA. Construction, integration and testing of JWST continue to make excellent progress, as per the rebaselined schedule set in 2011. With an expected launch date just over 3 years from now, there is a great deal of activity to make sure that all aspects of the observatory will be functional at the end of the six-month commissioning period. The first call for proposals is expected to be released around November 2017, so it is not too soon for the community to start planning how they will use the revolutionary new capabilities of JWST to solve their science puzzles.

Canada is providing the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and Near-InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) to JWST. These instruments have been reinstalled into the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) after replacement of detectors, grisms and filter wheel motors. The entire ISIM is now undergoing vibe and acoustic testing to be followed by the final phase of cryo-vacuum verification, performance and characterisation testing this coming fall. After that the ISIM will be integrated onto the telescope structure.

CASCA 2015 at a Glance

By Magdalen Normandeau with assistance from Gwen Eadie and contributions from all who submitted abstracts for CASCA 2015
(Cassiopeia – Summer/Été 2015)

Thanks to the hard work by Alison Sills, Laura Parker, Gwen Eadie and the rest of the organizing team, CASCA-2015 was an excellent conference. Here’s a taste of what happened. / Grâce à l’excellent travail d’Alison Sills, Laura Parker, Gwen Eadie et le reste de l’équipe organisatrice, CASCA-2015 fut un grand succès. Voici un aperçu de ce qui s’est passé.

Word cloud of all contributed talk titles and abstracts.

Contributed talks – titles and abstracts

Word cloud of all poster titles and abstracts.

Posters – titles and abstracts.

TMT cupcakes (Photo by Aaron Springford)

Not 30 meters across but still a lot of cupcakes! (Photo by Aaron Springford)

CASCA Annual General Meeting 2015

Bill Harris being thanked by CASCA members (Photo by Aaron Springford)

Bill Harris being thanked by CASCA members (Photo by Aaron Springford)

By Laura Parker & Alison Sills, CASCA 2015 Co-chairs
(Cassiopeia – Summer/Été 2015)

On May 24-28, McMaster hosted the 44th Annual General Meeting of CASCA at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Hamilton. The meeting opened with the formal announcement of the William and Caroline Herschel Fellowship. This new funding opportunity for postdoctoral fellows in astronomy at McMaster is made possible thanks to a generous gift from Bill Harris.

Lively discussions at CASCA

Lively discussions at CASCA 2015 (Photo by Aaron Springford)

The conference was packed with engaging prize, invited and contributed science talks as well as an extended poster session. It was noted by many that the quality of the student talks and posters was incredibly high making the job of judging the student presentation prizes extremely difficult! The Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture, delivered by Roberto Abraham from the University of Toronto, was well attended by an enthusiastic audience of both professional and amateur astronomers.

Angus Mok with a TMT cupcake (Photo by Aaron Springford)

Angus Mok with a TMT cupcake (Photo by Aaron Springford)

There were many highlights during the week, but a few things merit specific mention. The education and public outreach session featured a special guest talk by Globe & Mail journalist Ivan Semeniuk on how astronomers can get their science onto the front page of the newspaper. There was also a special mid-term review (MTR) session where panel chair Rob Thacker and representatives from the MTR panel presented their preliminary recommendations. Finally, Canada’s commitment to the TMT project was celebrated at the conference banquet with speeches from many of the important figures involved and complete with TMT mirror-segment cupcakes for all to enjoy. [crowd photo, cake photo, grad student with cupcake photo]

Thanks to all who helped with the smooth running of the conference and to all who joined us in Hamilton last month. We’re looking forward to CASCA 2016 in Winnipeg.

CASCA 2015 co-chairs Laura Parker and Alison Sills (Photo by Bill Harris)

CASCA 2015 co-chairs Laura Parker and Alison Sills (Photo by Aaron Springford)