Cassiopeia Newsletter – 2015 Autumnal Equinox


In this issue:

President’s Report
NRC Herzberg News / Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg
Gemini News / Nouvelles de Gemini
ALMA Matters
BRITE-Constellation News
MSE Update
SKA Update
CHIME Progress Report
CFHT Thesis List
Dissertation: The Structure and Evolution of Unbound Star-Forming Molecular Clouds
Dissertation: The Evolution of Star Clusters in Tidal Fields
Dissertation: Molecular Gas Properties in Local Luminous Infrared Galaxies

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.

Tenure-Track Position in Observational Astrophysics at York University

Department of Physics and Astronomy, Faculty of Science

The Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University in Toronto, Canada, invites applications for a tenure-track appointment at the Assistant Professor level in the field of observational astrophysics, to commence July 1, 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter. Candidates with a proven research record of planning, obtaining and analyzing observations to investigate profound questions about our Universe (enabled by facilities to which Canada is contributing, including the TMT, the JWST, and the SKA, and many wide-field survey facilities at all electromagnetic wavelengths) are invited to apply. The successful candidate will be positioned to participate in the scientific design and use of next-generation instrumentation and the planning of proposed future astronomical facilities, as well as to play a significant role in large national and international research projects and collaborations.

The successful candidate will develop a strong, externally funded research program, show excellence or promise of excellence in teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and play an active role in York’s highly successful astronomy outreach initiatives. Applicants must have a PhD in Physics or Astronomy along with relevant postdoctoral experience and be eligible for prompt appointment to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Observational astronomers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy focus on active galactic nuclei, supernovae, exoplanets, and the evolution of galaxies and their constituents. Theoreticians focus on dark matter, early Universe cosmology, general relativity, and the analysis of measurements of the cosmic microwave background and large scale structure. The development of synergies between theory and observation is highly valued in the Department. Further information about the Department and the University can be found at

All York University positions are subject to budgetary approval. To guarantee full consideration, applications should be received before Dec. 1, 2015. Applicants should submit a CV, a three-page summary of key research contributions and outline of research plans, and a one-page statement of teaching philosophy, and should arrange for three signed letters of recommendation to be sent on their behalf. All materials should be submitted electronically through

York University is an Affirmative Action (AA) employer and strongly values diversity, including gender and sexual diversity, within its community. The AA Program, which applies to Aboriginal people, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and women, can be found at or by calling the AA office at 416-736-5713. All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however, Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be given priority.

Questions about the application process can be directed to Marlene Caplan (

President’s Report


By Chris Wilson, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/Automne 2015)

Hi, everyone,

As usual, the start of term crush has worked its usual “magic” and so this will again be a short report noting a few key highlights.

The IAU held its General Assembly in Honolulu in August. Canadians were well represented among the participants and invited speakers. Approximately 40 Canadian researchers became new members of the IAU at this meeting. Two Canadians were elected to high-level IAU committees: Bill Harris from McMaster University to the Membership Committee and JJ Kavelaars from NRC Herzberg to the Finance Committee.

I am sure many of you are following the latest news on the TMT from Hawai`i. As I write this, construction is still on hold and protesters continue to be present on the summit access road much of the time. The situation makes the news periodically, in Canada most recently on the CBC news program “As it happens”. The situation remains difficult for people on both sides of the issue and we need to be patient and let the parties closer to the situation try to work out a solution.

The Mid Term Review panel has continued working over the summer. They held a face-to-face meeting in Montreal in July, which included a meeting with staff at the Canadian Space Agency, and are beginning to draft up their report. The final report is scheduled to be released in late fall 2015.

The ACURA Advisory Committee on the SKA has also been active over the summer. There will be a meeting “Canada and the SKA” held in Toronto December 10-11, 2015. This meeting will be an opportunity for the Canadian community to assess its main interests and activities for the SKA, and to identify areas for synergy and coordination. The meeting will be held in conjunction with a meeting on the Murchison Widefield Array December 7-9, 2015. Registration is now open at

Coming up this fall, expect to see a call for nominations for CASCA’s various awards to appear soon with a deadline likely late November or early December. This will be an earlier deadline than in previous years with the aim of allowing award winners to be identified early enough that it is more likely that they will be able to attend the CASCA AGM to be held in Winnipeg in 2016. The CASCA Board is also moving to establish a new Diversity Committee and will be looking for members for this new committee soon. The Board has also committed some funding from the Westar Fund to support a new application to the NSERC PromoScience program by Discover the Universe and the Dunlap Institute.

To close, I want to note four of our society’s members who have been honoured this past month. Roberto Abraham from the University of Toronto has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Julio Navarro from the University of Victoria has been awarded the Henry Marshall Tory Medal from the Royal Society of Canada. This medal is for outstanding research in any branch of astronomy chemistry, mathematics, physics, or an allied science. Matt Dobbs from McGill University and Sara Ellison from the University of Victoria have been named to The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. Congratulations to Sara, Matt, Julio, and Bob on these well-deserved awards.

First Discovery for a New Planet Finder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dunlap Institute contacts:

Dr. Jeffrey Chilcote

p: 416-946-5432


Dr. Jérôme Maire

p: 416-978-6569


Max Millar-Blanchaer

p: 416-978-3146


Chris Sasaki

Communications Coordinator

p: 416-978-6613