Cassiopeia Newsletter – 2016 Summer Solstice d’été


In this issue/Dans ce numéro:

Past-President’s Report
President’s Report
Astronomer Ivan Semeniuk Wins 2016 Sandford Fleming Medal
Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) / Compte rendu de l’agence spatiale canadienne (ASC)
ALMA Matters
BRITE-Constellation News
Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles Canadiennes de Gemini
Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg / NRC Herzberg News
Report from the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee (DIC)
MSE Update
TMT Update
Dissertation: The Inner Gaseous Disk of Herbig Be Stars
Dissertation: Star Formation in the Auriga-California Giant Molecular Cloud and its Circumstellar Disk Population

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.

Update from the Canadian Space Agency / Compte rendu de l’agence spatiale canadienne

From/de Denis Laurin, Senior Program Scientist, Space astronomy, Space Exploration development, CSA,
with contributions from/avec des contributions de Jean Dupuis, Senior mission scientist

(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

La version française suit

Congratulations to John Hutchings

Figure 1 - Left to right: Sylvain Laporte (CSA President); John Hutchings (NRC); David St-Jacques (CSA astronaut).

Figure 1 – Left to right: Sylvain Laporte (CSA President); John Hutchings (NRC); David St-Jacques (CSA astronaut).

In recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Canadian Space Program, Dr. John B. Hutchings was presented with the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence during a ceremony at the 17th Conference on Astronautics of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI ASTRO 2016) in Ottawa, Ontario.

The Chapman Award is a tribute to the distinguished career and achievements of an extraordinary individual, whose vision and contributions have shaped Canada’s space program.

JAXA Hitomi

Despite the unfortunate premature end of the Hitomi X-ray observatory on March 26, JAXA did collect valuable scientific data (during the commissioning phase). A report published on the JAXA website describes the event (Hitomi report). The science team is analysing the available data (mainly SXS instrument) and significant science results will soon be published. Furthermore, the Canadian contribution of the laser metrology system (CAMS) built by Neptec demonstrated excellent performance.


Contributed by Jean Dupuis, Senior Mission Scientist, CSA

Figure 2 - UVIT FUV image of the central region (~3 arcmin) of the globular cluster NGC 1851 (FUV CaF2 filter, exposure time of 10 minutes, provided by John Hutchings, NRC-Herzberg)

Figure 2 – UVIT FUV image of the central region (~3 arcmin) of the globular cluster NGC 1851 (FUV CaF2 filter, exposure time of 10 minutes, provided by John Hutchings, NRC-Herzberg)

The first call for proposals for the ASTROSAT Canadian open time (5%) has been issued with a deadline of July 29th (see recent e-mail by John Hutchings to CASCA mailing list). Support to Canadian proposers is to be provided by Joe Postma of the University of Calgary ( UVIT is reportedly performing well and commissioning activities are mostly completed and the observatory has initiated its science programme. The Figure below shows one such science verification image obtained with UVIT’s Far-UV channel of the globular cluster NGC 1851. This work is done in collaboration with the UVIT team at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA).

CSA MOST Archive

Described in more detail in the spring issue of e-Cass, the MOST mission data archive is essentially completed, thanks to the effort of Dr Vinothini Sangaralingam, Visiting Fellow (CSA / NSERC) in close collaboration with CADC (David Bohlender, for implementation and maintenance) and MOST science team members. For further information on the MOST mission and data availability, please contact the MOST Mission Scientist, Jaymie Matthews:

CSA JWST Science Support

Contributed by Jean Dupuis, Senior Mission Scientist, CSA

CSA is working on a plan to provide science support for data analysis during the JWST mission where 5% of the open observation time will be available to Canadian astronomers. We encourage the community to contact us and the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy (JCSA) with their ideas on how CSA could optimally support science activities during the JWST operations.


CSA continues to define potential Canadian contributions to the WFIRST mission, a dark energy and exoplanet mission ranked high priority in the CASCA LRP for space astronomy. A Phase 0 contract was awarded in May to Honeywell Space (COMDEV) for a duration of 12 months. The result will provide information needed by CSA (technology assessment, feasibility, costs, and schedule for development phases) for decision towards the next phase.

CSA Topical Teams in Space Astronomy

CSA Topical Teams in Space Astronomy
The purpose, membership and support for Topical Teams were described in the spring issue of e-Cass. The teams held a lunch time session at CASCA in Winnipeg that was well attended. The teams’ goal is a set of draft reports to be discussed at the next CSA Space Exploration Workshop which is planned for mid-November 2016 in Montreal. (An announcement of the workshop will be sent to the communities once it is confirmed.)

Wishing everyone a great summer!
Denis Laurin

Félicitations à John Hutchings

Figure 1 - Gauche à droite: Sylvain Laporte (Président ASC); John Hutchings (CNRC); David St-Jacques (astronaute ASC).

Figure 1 – Gauche à droite: Sylvain Laporte (Président ASC); John Hutchings (CNRC); David St-Jacques (astronaute ASC).

En reconnaissance de sa contribution exceptionnelle au Programme spatial canadien, John B. Hutchings s’est vu remettre le prix d’excellence John H. Chapman au cours d’une cérémonie qui s’est déroulée à l’occasion de la 17e Conférence de l’Institut aéronautique et spatial du Canada sur l’astronautique à Ottawa, en Ontario.

Le prix Chapman souligne la carrière distinguée et les réalisations d’un individu extraordinaire dont la vision et le dévouement hors pair ont contribué à l’avancement du Programme spatial canadien.

JAXA Hitomi

Malgré la fin prématurée malheureuse de l’observatoire en rayons-X Hitomi le 26 mars, la JAXA a quand même recueilli des données scientifiques importantes (lors de la phase de mise en service). Un rapport publié sur le site de JAXA décrit la série d’évènements . L’équipe scientifique analyse les données disponibles (principalement de l’instrument SXS) et des résultats scientifiques significatifs seront bientôt publiés. En outre, la contribution canadienne du système de métrologie laser (CAMS) construite par Neptec, a démontré d’excellentes performances.


Contribué par Jean Dupuis, Scientifique principal de missions, ASC.

Figure 2 - Image UVIT FUV de la région centrale (environ 3 minutes d’arc) de l’amas globulaire  NGC 1851 (filtre FUV CaF2, temps d’exposition de 10 minutes;, fourni par John Hutchings, Herzberg-CNRC)

Figure 2 – Image UVIT FUV de la région centrale (environ 3 minutes d’arc) de l’amas globulaire NGC 1851 (filtre FUV CaF2, temps d’exposition de 10 minutes;, fourni par John Hutchings, Herzberg-CNRC)

La première demande propositions pour le temps ouvert canadien sur ASTROSAT (5%) a été émise avec une date limite du 29 juillet (voir le récent envoi de message par John Hutchings à la liste de diffusion de CASCA). Un soutien aux proposants canadiens sera fournis par Joe Postma à l’Université de Calgary ( L’instrument UVIT démontre de bons résultats et les activités de mise en service sont pour la plupart terminées et l’observatoire a lancé son programme scientifique. L’image ci-dessous montre un exemple d’une telle image de vérification scientifique dans l’UV lointain par UVIT de l’amas globulaire NGC 1851. Ce travail est fait en collaboration avec l’équipe UVIT à l’Institut Indien d’Astrophysique.

ASC archive des données MOST

Décrit plus en détail dans le numéro du printemps de l’e-Cass, l’archive de données de la mission MOST est essentiellement complétée, grâce à l’effort du Dr Vinothini Sangaralingam, boursière postdoc (CSA / CRSNG) en étroite collaboration avec le CADC (David Bohlender, pour la mise en œuvre et la maintenance des pages web) et plusieurs membres de l’équipe scientifique. Pour de plus amples informations sur la mission MOST et la disponibilité des données, s’il vous plait contacter le scientifique de la mission MOST, Jaymie Matthews:

ASC JWST support scientifique

Contribué par Jean Dupuis, Scientifique principal de missions, ASC.

CSA prépare un plan de soutien scientifique pour les analyses de données au cours de la mission JWST où 5% du temps d’observation ouverte sera disponible aux astronomes canadiens. Nous encourageons la communauté à communiquer à l’ASC ou à notre Comité consultatif (JCSA) leurs idées sur la façon optimale de soutenir les activités scientifiques au cours des opérations JWST.


L’ASC continue de déterminer les contributions potentielles du Canada à la mission WFIRST, une mission pour explorer l’énergie sombre et les exoplanètes; la mission demeure haute priorité dans le plan à long terme de la CASCA pour l’astronomie spatiale. Un contrat de phase 0 a été attribué en mai à Honeywell Space (COMDEV) pour une durée de 12 mois. Le résultat servira à fournir les informations nécessaires par l’ASC (tel que l’évaluation de la technologie, la faisabilité, les couts et le calendrier pour les phases de développement) pour la prise de décision vers la phase ultérieure.

En vous souhaitant à tous et à toutes un été agréable!
Denis Laurin

TMT Update: Site Physics, Permits, Parameters and Science

By/par Ray Carlberg
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

Some of the background of the loss of the site permit in Hawaii was discussed in the Vernal Equinox edition of Cassiopeia. TMT has announced that it plans to resume construction in April 2018 or sooner, but of course it needs a site on which to build. Since the project was scientifically, technically and financially built around Hawaii we would all like to build there, and, it is not that easy to simply transport an entire multi-national project someplace else. Doubly so when significant decisions need to be made over the short time left this calendar year.

Hawaii continues to provide an impressive flow of news stories about TMT. There is a laudable local effort to create a more positive environment, but that is a long term effort that seems very unlikely to overcome a deeply entrenched opposition in a short time. The legal process required to grant a permit is itself clouded. It took about 5 months to appoint a hearing officer to oversee the process. The opponents pointed out at least one significant appearance of bias. Their case is strong enough that all parties, pro and con, have petitioned for a new hearing officer. In TMT’s case we do not want to go through a long permit process knowing that there is already a substantial basis for a court to rule the entire effort to be invalid. Somewhat astonishingly, Hawaii has recently reaffirmed the hearing officer’s appointment.

So, TMT is looking for an alternate site. the list of really good sites is not all that long. The physics of an astronomical site is interesting in itself and reasonably simple. The air needs to have as little turbulence as possible and be as dry as possible. Turbulence in the air has three components. Mountains are always windy and the aerodynamics of wind over the surface gives rise to a ground shear layer that becomes turbulent. Getting above the local ground layer is the reason that CFHT has a 44m high dome for a 3.57m telescope. TMT has a 60m high dome so gets a little further into good air. Ground heating of the air on the way to the mountain generates thermal convection between the ground and the cloud layer at around 3000m. The development of turbulent convection is minimized for steep mountains near coastlines, high enough to get above cumulus clouds. Good seeing needs to start with higher altitude airflow that is as laminar as possible, which occurs in the trade winds. These originate in the Hadley cell airflow in which the thermal energy of air near the equator causes it to rise high in the atmosphere, descending at +/- 20 degrees as extremely dry air with remarkably steady wind. It also generally means relatively cloud free skies (and often deserts on the ground). The outcome is that at a good site there is mainly a ground layer, which good design can minimize, and, a shear layer near the tropopause around 10km altitude, which airplane passengers frequently experience. The beauty of having a single dominant turbulent layer distorting light is that it means that relatively simple adaptive optics systems can focus (conjugate) on and provide remarkable correction, although better correction and wider fields of view does require 3D correction.

The other major factor in a good site is simply height. A higher mountain increases UV transparency and reduces the water in the atmosphere which has such a dense spectrum of lines that both reduce transparency and emit radiation. Chile has the advantage of a very cold current from Antarctica off the coast rather than the tropical water of Hawaii which leads to more water column at the same height. For some observations, water is simply a nuisance, but for those interested in exoplanets, water is an important molecule to detect. And of course physics of molecular lines means that lots of interesting molecules have their lines in the infrared and mid-infrared. A non-scientific issue is that costs tend to go up with height as well, but ALMA and other telescopes (including the ACT built by Empire Dynamic Structures) have greatly developed high altitude construction techniques. Another non-scientific factor is that people have been climbing mountains for a long time and nobody in TMT wants to go to another mountain with cultural artefacts and native population connections.

All that doesn’t leave a long list of viable mountains. The best are Mauna Kea in the north and in the south the mountains of the northern Atacama Desert of Chile. Polar sites are also very good, but have additional technical challenges and high costs. To help make a comparative scientific assessment manageable, TMT developed the “Nelson-Cohen” site merit function, with an estimate of the speed of acquiring a given scientific goal in the optical in natural seeing, near-infrared with AO and mid-infrared with AO. These are representative science uses, and specific ones will give somewhat different outcomes. The sites currently under consideration are Mauna Kea (13N at 4050m), Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM) in the Canaries (2250m), San Pedro Martir (SPM) in Baja Mexico (2830m), Vicuna Mackenna (3100m) near Paranal and Honar (5400m) south of the ALMA site. For optical band natural seeing observations Mackenna is best with Honar, Mauna Kea and ORM being about 15-18% less desirable although transparency is a larger issue at ORM. SPM is about 28% less effective than Mackenna. In the NIR Honar is best with MK 13N and Mackenna down 14-18% and SPM, ORM down 34-42%. In the mid-IR Honar truly stands out, with MK13N and Mackenna down 40-43% and SPM and ORM down 53-56%. In the south, the choice between Honar and Mackenna depends on how important mid-IR is for your science. By any assessment AO assisted observations and NIR and mid-IR are becoming more important uses as both science interests move to redder bands and as IR technology improves. If only a small fraction of the time was required for mid-IR, a poor site does give that from time to time, which a queue system (not in the TMT baseline) could give. However, for time critical observations (such as planet transits and all sorts of LSST followup) a small queue fraction is not likely to be satisfactory.

The E-ELT is being built on a site essentially identical to Mackenna although Mackenna does have room for more telescopes in the future. Clearly TMT on Hawaii would give us a competitive telescope with complementary sky access. Other sites in the North would give us a smaller telescope on a worse site, which would be hard to justify. A high site in Chile would give us an advantage over E-ELT for a range of interesting science. Canadians are of course familiar with the advantages of dealing with the difficulties and long term payoff of pioneering a high, remote site, which Hawaii once was.

The TMT fund is not money that astronomers can move around at will which is true for all members of TMT, which is where the complications begin. The Canadian SAC members have so far mainly pointed out the increased scientific return of the Chilean sites, particular relevant to scientific observations (exoplanets) which are likely to become a major use of ELTs. It would be sad to leave the North but we may have no choice. We in Canada have built our case on the century of tradition of “second to none” which has important implications for the TMT site choice for Canadian astronomers.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By/par Michael Balogh, on behalf of Pat Hall, chair of the MSE Advisory Group
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

Conceptual design work continues for the MSE! The call for bids for the telescope structure conceptual design has been issued, with a closing date of 5 July. Scientists and engineers from five Canadian universities, along with industry partners, are preparing a CFI application for construction of a prototype high-resolution spectrograph and design and development of integrated observational and operational databases and software.

Detailed Science Case on arXiv

The 210-page MSE Detailed Science Case has been finalized and published online here. A ten-page concise overview is also available here. Detailed Science Case white papers and other background science and technical documents are now posted here.
The Detailed Science Case illustrates the breadth of scientific areas in which MSE will have a transformative impact. To name just a few: the in-situ chemical tagging of the distant Galaxy using high-resolution (R~40,000) stellar spectra, measuring the dark matter density profiles of Milky Way dwarf galaxies using repeat spectra of thousands of stars in those galaxies, and reverberation mapping of supermassive black holes in quasars.

Engineering and Science Collaboration Meeting

More than 40 members of the MSE international science, and engineering, teams met for the first integrated Engineering and Science collaboration meeting, in Madrid on 27-29 April. The Univesidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM) hosted a delightful event; one that provided a venue for a wholesome exchange over the science ambition versus the engineering realities of complex systems such as MSE. Spanish and Australian teams demonstrated unique fiber positioning robotic technology (the third team from NAIOT in China was unable to attend). MSE’s Project Manager comments: “It was a thoroughly successful meeting, fully achieving its objectives, and was very enjoyable as well!”

ALMA Matters

From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

ALMA Band 1 Goes into Production

Figure 1 - the prototype Band 1 (35-52 GHz (8.5-5.7 mm)) cartridge

Figure 1 – the prototype Band 1 (35-52 GHz (8.5-5.7 mm)) cartridge

Band 1 is the lowest frequency band for ALMA and covers the 35 to 52 GHz region of the millimetre-wave spectrum. Science drivers for this band include dust continuum studies of protoplanetary disks, red-shifted molecular lines from galaxies at high redshift, the Sunyaev-Zel’ovich effect, and much more (Di Francesco et al. 2013).

Band 1 development for ALMA is being led by ASIAA in Taiwan in collaboration with NAOJ, the University of Chile, NRAO, and NRC Herzberg. A successful Critical Design Review was held in Taipei in January 2016, and the ALMA Board has now approved the Band 1 project team to go into production of the 73 Band receiver cartridges needed to equip all ALMA antennas in Chile. The production schedule proposed by ASIAA would see all Band 1 cartridges delivered to the JAO by the end of 2019.

Figure 2 - the prototype orthomode transducer (OMT), designed and produced by NRC Herzberg

Figure 2 – the prototype orthomode transducer (OMT), designed and produced by NRC Herzberg

The NRC Herzberg technical contribution to Band 1 is the design, production, and testing of the orthomode transducers (OMTs), precision passive millimetre-wave devices which separate the incoming radiation into its two orthogonal linearly polarized components. This permits ALMA to make observations of the polarization of continuum and spectral line sources in Band 1. NRC Herzberg will be producing the production OMTs (one per receiver cartridge) in-house using the precision machining facilities provided by NRC’s Design and Fabrications Services workshop in Victoria, and will verify the performance of each unit through cryogenic testing in its millimetre-wave instrumentation laboratory.

Face-to-face Visits

If you wish to travel to Victoria for face-to-face assistance with ALMA data reduction and analysis, please contact Brenda Matthews.

Report from the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee (DIC)

From/de Brenda Matthews
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

The program of the 2016 CASCA annual meeting in Winnipeg included the society’s first session on Diversity & Inclusivity. The very well-attended session was hosted by the recently formed Diversity and Inclusivity Committee (DIC).

The committee is charged with the following:

  • Taking a critical look at CASCA’s ethics statement and making suggestions.
  • Preparing a section on the CASCA web page summarizing best practices for hiring and for inclusivity in the workplace.
  • Moderating an open discussion session on inclusivity at the CASCA Annual General Meeting.
  • Compiling national statistics on women and minorities in Astrophysics and making these publicly available on the CASCA website.
  • Acting as points of contact for people in the community who feel harassed or need advice on issues related to harassment.
  • Ensuring that CASCA meetings are welcoming for all members.

The ultimate goal of improved awareness of diversity and inclusivity is to foster a respectful workplace. To that end, the committee has adopted the following mission statement:

“The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee will undertake initiatives that will encourage members of CASCA (and their organizations) to foster diversity among participants in astronomical research. Our goal is for CASCA to serve as an example of inclusiveness to the broader scientific community.”

and provided a Code of Conduct for CASCA meetings that was adopted for the in Winnipeg meeting. The DIC welcomes comments on the Code of Conduct and suggestions for its improvement and can be contacted at

Why Should we Care about Diversity?

If we exclude minorities, we exclude the bright minds that could make a significant contribution to the field. Research suggests that in general, diversity is an important tool – many of the major discoveries in science (or even the advancement of society in general) often came from the intersection of unexpected roads, where people from different backgrounds offered new ideas. In other words, diversity stimulates new ideas.

Coming to Grips with Unconscious Bias

There have been many studies both inside and outside academia that establish that “implicit” or “unconscious” bias is real and at play in hiring, job performance evaluation and other aspects of advancement. We discussed several of these in our presentation (which will be made available to the community). In particular, we highlighted the findings of Neill Reid (2014), who has analyzed the results of 11 cycles of HST time allocations and has found that in every cycle, proposals with female PIs are less successful than those with male PIs. Sometimes, the difference is a very small number of proposals, but the fact that the trend is always the same suggests the effect is real. Furthermore, it is not mitigated by a higher ratio of female to male reviewers, substantiating the fact that unconscious bias is exhibited by men and women alike. Similar studies have been done for two early cycles of ALMA allocation where a deficit of allocations to female PIs has also been identified. The ALMA/NRAO report is not yet public.

After an initial presentation about the mandate of the committee, some results of relevant surveys on diversity and why we all should embrace increasing diversity in our community, the community then engaged in an interactive discussion about how to handle certain situations that can arise relating to issues of diversity and inclusivity. The fact is that these “fictitious” scenarios in fact are representative of experiences of many of those in our community. When we are confronted with the scenarios below, it can be difficult to decide how best to intercede. Many of us may feel that it is not our business to inject ourselves into discussions or situations, challenge the behaviour of others, or know how to follow up with either party.

Each time a scenario was posed, groups took time to discuss the scenario and come up with suggestions as to how each should be handled. What follows are the questions that were asked and the suggestions that were made.

Fictitious situation #1

You are interviewing for an academic position and the person asks, “The project is at a turning point and I want to hire a committed person. Do you think you will have a child during your graduate degree/postdoc/faculty appointment? ”

Similar questions that can be asked during an interview: “Are you married? What does your partner do? Do you think you will be fully committed considering your family responsibilities?”

Make no mistake. This question is wholly inappropriate and is often expressly illegal in some jurisdictions, but commonly justified as a way of assessing someone’s “seriousness” about their career. It also has at its base an unjustified assumption that if one has or will ever procreate (or has any family commitments outside their work), they are therefore less able to do scientific research.

Several respondents recommended a “vague” approach and either saying something like “not in the immediate future” or just ignoring the personal aspect of the question and talking up one’s sense of commitment. Another suggestion was to turn the question around, for example by asking “Is this question legal?” or “Do you ask this of all your candidates?” or by asking your own questions regarding the root of the questioner’s intent. Still another suggestion was not to answer at all, but to just sit and shuffle your papers until they move onto the next question. A final suggestion was to state that you would be willing to discuss this issue once an offer has been made.

The recommendation for those questioning job applicants is to have questions reviewed by HR before interviewing anyone. The job applicant is also interviewing YOU and these questions can very negatively impact the applicant’s perception of the interviewer/department.

Did you know?

NSERC now funds parental leave grants! NSERC offers family and medical leave grants for students that have scholarships AND students who are paid with an NSERC grant (i.e., not their own!) valid for up to 6 months. Check out the following link for more information.

Fictitious Question #2

You are at a conference poster session. You notice that someone is behaving in a way toward a colleague that you think he/she might later regret.


One of your friends exhibits inappropriate behaviour during the welcome reception at an international conference.

Many respondents emphasized the need to both immediately diffuse the situation for the benefit of the object of the potentially unwanted attention and also the need to deal with the person behaving in an inappropriate way. The best thing to do if you suspect someone is uneasy but aren’t sure is just to inject yourself into the situation. By adding a third party in the dynamic (and a potential witness), you may give the person on the receiving end of the attention a chance to leave or bolster their confidence. If you’ve misread the situation, there is no harm done. It was noted that afterward, you can offer yourself as a witness to both parties, noting what you saw and, depending on your degree of comfort with the “aggressor”, you can confront them about their behaviour. At the AAS, they now identify “Allies” who can be sought out if assistance is needed (for example if a junior person doesn’t feel able to insert themselves into a situation where they feel assistance is needed). At CASCA meetings, you should now report such incidents to the LOC or members of the CDI.

Fictitious Situation #3

A co-worker puts a calendar of provocative women/men on the wall of your common office. What do you do?


You notice that one of your colleagues has posted a cartoon of questionable taste on the door of your common office. What do you do?

Several people noted that provincial human rights guidelines are likely violated in the first case of this example, so the university (or a local departmental representative) should step in to remove such material. Several other people said that all departments should take care to inform ALL employees (including students) of the policies that are in place. In the US, harassment/sensitivity training is common for all faculty and staff; Ontario universities will likely have something similar soon. In the case of the calendar at one Canadian institution, female grad students made paper clothes and covered up the calendar until it was taken down.

Fictitious Situation #4

You have just been offered your dream job. Your colleague, who also applied for the position, says that you were probably offered the job simply because you are part of an underrepresented minority group. How do you respond?

One suggestion was to insult the person right back, or take an assertive position and state that “I got the job because I’m better”. It was also pointed out, however, it is not often possible to just throw back an insult since the person(s) involved may be junior and such language is most easily thrown around by those who are well established (for whom blowback will be minimal/non-existent). It was also suggested that you state the more reasonable version of “people get jobs for all kinds of reasons.” If this person is a friend, you could note that such statements make you uncomfortable, acknowledging that you realize they may be upset at the news that they did not get the offer.

Fictitious Situation #5

You are explaining at a social event that you are a physicist and that you study the Universe. The person next to you looks surprised and says “you don’t look like a physicist”. How do you respond?

Similar questions: “You are smart for an African-American. Aren’t all Asians good at math and physics?”

We ran out of time in the session, so this scenario is left for your own consideration.

We thank all the members of CASCA who attended the session and participated with such enthusiasm. The committee welcomes input from the community and will be undertaking a Climate Survey in the near future.

The DIC members are:
Pauline Barmby
Bryan Gaensler
Lauren Hetherington
Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo
Brenda Matthews (chair)

BRITE-Constellation News

From/de Gregg Wade
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)


BRITE-Constellation (where BRITE stands for BRIght Target Explorer) is a network of five nanosatellites operating in low Earth orbit, designed to explore the properties of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Figure 1 - The mission patch of the BRITE-Constellation mission.

Figure 1 – The mission patch of the BRITE-Constellation mission.

The BRITE mission is supported by three countries — Canada, Austria and Poland — where Canadian funding comes mainly from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the prime contractor is the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies – Spaceflight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL). The mission was planned to have 6 BRITE nanosats, a pair from each partner country, but one of the Canadian nanosats did not detach from the third stage of its launch vehicle. Each BRITE nanosat (mass = 7 kg; dimensions 20 × 20 × 20 cm) has a 3-cm optical telescope feeding a CCD detector. The Constellation was designed to monitor photometrically through blue and red filters the brightness and temperature variations of stars generally brighter than V ~ 4 with precision, cadence and time coverage not possible from the ground. Each BRITE instrument has an enormous field-of-view: 24° square, large enough to encompass the entire constellation of Orion (but at a resolution of only about half an arcminute per pixel). That means BRITE-Constellation can collect data on several dozens of stars simultaneously.

Figure 2 - Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of the stars of brightest  apparent magnitude, V<4.5. These ∼ 600 stars are the primary BRITE targets.

Figure 2 – Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of the stars of brightest apparent magnitude, V<4.5. These ∼ 600 stars are the primary BRITE targets.

The sample of the apparently brightest stars in the night sky is a sample dominated by the most intrinsically luminous stars in the Galaxy: hot massive stars at all evolutionary stages, and evolved intermediate-mass stars at the very end of their nuclear-burning phases. The main goals of BRITE-Constellation are to (1) measure the frequencies of pulsations (both acoustic and gravity modes) to probe the interiors and ages of stars through asteroseismology; (2) measure the rotational modulation of stars due to star spots carried across their disks; (3) search for exoplanets through transits; and (4) obtain light curves of massive eclipsing binaries. While goal (2) is often associated with cool solar-type stars, spots in the photospheres of luminous stars could be the sources of co-rotating interaction regions in the winds, possibly arising from magnetic subsurface convection in hot, massive stars.

A detailed overview of the scientific motivation of the mission, and technical aspects of the system, are provided by Weiss et al. (2015, PASP 126, 573).

Mission Status and Data Releases

Five of the planned six BRITE nanosats are currently operating nominally in low-altitude (600-800 km) orbits. (One satellite currently remains unusable in a higher elliptical orbit due to a malfunction in the release mechanism of the Russian rocket third stage.)

Figure 3 - The two Canadian BRITE nanosatellites (named "BRITE-Montreal", blue filter and "BRITE-Toronto", red filter), at UTIAS-SFL prior to shipment in 2014.

Figure 3 – The two Canadian BRITE nanosatellites (named “BRITE-Montreal”, blue filter and “BRITE-Toronto”, red filter), at UTIAS-SFL prior to shipment in 2014.

Eleven fields have been observed so far, and ten data releases to BRITE Target PIs have occurred. The first was a set of science commissioning data, including about 5 months of quasi-continuous observation of 15 stars in Orion. Subsequent releases were 6-month campaigns of fields in Centaurus and Lupus (30 stars), Sagittarius (18 stars), Cygnus (37 stars), and Perseus (31 stars). Orion was observed again, as were fields in Vela and Puppis (20 stars), Scorpius (26 stars), Cygnus-II (34 stars) and Cassiopeia/Cepheus (25 stars). The distribution of the third Orion field and the second Vela and Puppis field data will begin shortly. Reduction of the recently-observed Canis Majoris and Puppis field images is ongoing and shall be completed by the end of June. Currently, the Crucis and Carina field is being observed (and will remain visible until July), as are the second Sagittarius and the Cygnus and Lyra fields (which will continue to be visible until September/October 2016).

The first BRITE science results have been accepted in refereed journals: Three science papers by Weiss et al. on the pulsating magnetic star α Cir, by Baade et al. on the short-term variability and mass loss of the Be stars μ and η Cen, and by Pigulski et al. on the triple system β Cen (a complex system containing at least one β Cep pulsator) have been published together in issue 588 of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

A new paper describing the characteristics of the BRITE hardware and technical problem-solving on the ground and after launch led by Dr. Bert Pablo (Université de Montréal) has been submitted to PASP.

The first BRITE science conference, “Science with BRITE Constellation: Initial Results” took place during 14 – 18 September 2015 in Gdansk Sobieszewo, Poland. The next BRITE science workshop is planned from 22-26 August in Innsbruck, Austria. Registration is now available at this link.

Figure 4 - Light curves of the eclipsing binary V Pup, observed as part of the BRITE Vela/Puppis field. Shown here is a 5-day interval of the BRITE-Austria (blue) and BRITE-Toronto (red) observations.

Figure 4 – Light curves of the eclipsing binary V Pup, observed as part of the BRITE Vela/Puppis field. Shown here is a 5-day interval of the BRITE-Austria (blue) and BRITE-Toronto (red) observations.

Mission Management and Contact

Executive decisions about the mission are made by the BEST (BRITE Executive Science Team), consisting of representatives from all three partner nations. The Canadian BEST members are Jaymie Matthews (UBC), Tony Moffat (Université de Montréal), Slavek Rucinski (University of Toronto), and Gregg Wade (BEST Vice-Chair and Canadian PI, Royal Military College), with Jason Rowe (Université de Montréal) and Stefan Mochnacki (University of Toronto) serving as non-voting BEST members.

Setting priorities on BRITE targets and science goals was overseen by BEST, with input from the BRITE International Science Advisory Team (BIAST), consisting of 130 astronomers around the globe. Interested in joining BIAST, to participate in data analysis, and receive monthly mission updates? Please contact BEST through Gregg Wade (

Baade, D.; Rivinius, Th.; Pigulski, A.; Carciofi, A. C.; Martayan, Ch.; Moffat, A. F. J.; Wade, G. A.; Weiss, W. W.; Grunhut, J.; Handler, G.; Kuschnig, R.; Mehner, A.; Pablo, H.; Popowicz, A.; Rucinski, S.; Whittaker, G., 2016, “Short-term variability and mass loss in Be stars. I. BRITE satellite photometry of η and μ Centauri”, A&A, 588, 56

“The BRITE Constellation cubesat mission: Testing, commissioning and operations”, B. Pablo and 28 co-authors, under review for publication in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific

Pigulski, A.; Cugier, H.; Popowicz, A.; Kuschnig, R.; Moffat, A. F. J.; Rucinski, S. M.; Schwarzenberg-Czerny, A.; Weiss, W. W.; Handler, G.; Wade, G. A.; Koudelka, O.; Matthews, J. M.; Mochnacki, St.; Orleański, P.; Pablo, H.; Ramiaramanantsoa, T.; Whittaker, G.; Zocłońska, E.; Zwintz, K.; 2016, “Massive pulsating stars observed by BRITE-Constellation. I. The triple system beta Centauri (Agena)”, A&A, 588, 55

Weiss, W.W.; Rucinski, S.M.; Moffat, A.F.J.; Schwarzenberg-Czerny, A.; Koudelka, O.F.; Grant, C.C.; Zee, R.E.; Kuschnig, R.; Mochnacki, St.; Matthews, J.M.; Orleanski, P.; Pamyatnykh, A.; Pigulski, A.; Alves, J.; Guedel, M.; Handler, G.; Wade, G.A.; Zwintz, K., 2014, “BRITE-Constellation: Nanosatellites for Precision Photometry of Bright Stars”, PASP 126, 573.

Weiss, W.W.; Frohlich, H.-E.; Pigulski, A.; Popowicz, A.; Huber, D.; Kuschnig, R.; Moffat, A.F.J.; Matthews, J.M.;, Saio, H.; Schwarzenberg-Czerny, A.; Grant, C; Koudelka, O.; Lueftinger, T.; Rucinski, S.; Wade, G.A.; Alves, J.; Guedel, M.; Handler, G.; Mochnacki, S.; Orleanski, P.;, Pablo, B.; Pamyatnykh, A.; Ramiaramanantsoa, T; Rowe, J.; Whittaker, G.; Zawistowski, T.; Zoconska, E.; Zwintz, K., 2016, “The roAp star alpha Cir seen by BRITE-Constellation”, A&A, 588, 54

Astronomer Ivan Semeniuk Wins 2016 Sandford Fleming Medal

From/de John Percy
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2016)

Ivan Semeniuk

Ivan Semeniuk

I’m pleased to report that astronomer Ivan Semeniuk is the 2016 recipient of the Sandford Fleming Medal and Citation, awarded since 1982 by the Royal Canadian Institute for Science (RCIS). RCIS is Canada’s oldest scientific society. For 167 years, it has worked towards the goal of an informed public that embraces science to build a stronger Canada. Ivan Semeniuk has contributed significantly to that goal in ways which are remarkable for their quality, quantity, and variety.

Ivan received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Toronto, and his MS in Science Journalism from Boston University. He was an instructor/researcher at the Ontario Science Centre from 1986 to 1999 (and a go-to person for print and electronic media interviews), a columnist and summer host and producer at Discovery Channel Canada from 1995 to 2005, a bureau chief for New Scientist and subsequently a chief of correspondents for Nature. He created numerous TV, radio, and print works on a freelance basis including the 30-episode TV series Cosmic Vistas. In 2013, he joined the Globe and Mail (“Canada’s national newspaper”) as science reporter. In the words of Globe and Mail editor-in-chief David Walmsley, “In Ivan Semeniuk, the Globe and Mail has a world-class science correspondent who travels the world and outer space with his pen and his mind. His clarity of writing across a broad range of scientific topics from biology, to astronomy, to chemistry creates an accessable understanding of our planet and our galaxy”. His many fellowships and awards include a Gemini nomination, and two other film awards.

Ivan was Science Journalist-in-Residence at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics from 2008 to 2010. He continues to give short courses and workshops, for science graduate students, in science communication and journalism, and invited lectures to groups such as CASCA, as well as to the public. In this way, he is helping to produce the next generation of science communicators in Canada, as well as to promote science literacy himself.

The Sandford Fleming Medal and Citation is named for RCIS co-founder Sir Sandford Fleming, engineer, surveyor, and successful proponent of Standard Time. It will be presented at a special ceremony in November.

Dissertation: The Inner Gaseous Disk of Herbig Be Stars


By Parshati Patel
Thesis defended on April 25, 2016
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Western University
Thesis advisors: Dr. Aaron Sigut and Dr. John Landstreet
Thesis link:


Herbig Ae/Be stars are intermediate mass (~2 to 20 Msun) pre-main sequence stars that inherit a circumstellar disk of dust and gas from their formation phase. The region of this disk closest to the star is entirely gaseous because dust evaporates at the high temperatures there, and this gaseous region is currently poorly understood. Using non-LTE circumstellar disk codes to model the optical and near-infrared spectra of five, early-type (B0Ve to B2Ve) Herbig Be stars obtained with the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope ESPaDOnS instrument, the density structure of each inner gaseous disks was determined and estimates of the disk masses and sizes were obtained. In the modeling, the photoionizing radiation of the central B star was assumed to be disk’s sole source of energy input.

For the four Herbig B2e stars, BD+65 1637, HD 76534, HD 114981 and HD 21669, reasonable matches were found for all emission line profiles considered individually; however, for each star, no disk density model based on a single power law for the equatorial density was able to simultaneously fit all of the observed emission lines in the spectrum. For BD+65 1637, the equatorial disk density law was estimated to fall as 10-10(R*/R)3 g cm-3 in a 50 R* disk, and this model provided a reasonable match to the overall line shapes and strengths. The stars HD 76534, HD 114981 and HD 216629 required a similar density model to that of BD+65 1637, but in a smaller, 25 R* disk. The overall implied masses of these inner gaseous disks are in the range of ~5.7 x 10-8 to 1.2 x 10-9 M*.

For BD+65 1637, the metal lines, Fe II and especially the Ca II IR triplet lines, required higher disk densities than implied by the hydrogen Balmer lines, with the disk density falling more slowly as 10-10(R*/R)2 g cm-3. In general, for all stars, the metal lines of Ca II and Fe II required higher disk densities than the Balmer lines to match the observed line profiles. A more complex disk density distribution is likely required to reconcile this difference and refine the match to the spectra of these stars.

The spectrum of the Herbig B0e star MWC 137 is dominated by very strong emission lines in comparison to the Herbig B2e stars. Preliminary results show that the models require extended disks to reproduce the observed Ca II and Fe II metal emission line profiles. For hydrogen Balmer lines, no disk models extending up to 200 R* were capable of reproducing the observed line strengths, indicating that even larger disks are required and/or the observed hydrogen lines are contaminated by hydrogen recombination emission from the surrounding H II region.

Taken as a whole, the analysis of these five, early-type HBe stars suggest that the optical and near-IR emission lines in their spectra can be adequately accounted for by an inner, entirely gaseous, disk in Keplerian rotation, heated solely by the photoionizing energy input of the central star, and requiring only a tiny fraction ~10-7 of the central star’s mass.

Dissertation: Star Formation in the Auriga-California Giant Molecular Cloud and its Circumstellar Disk Population

20160414_162443 copy 2

By Hannah Broekhoven-Fiene
Thesis defended on April 14, 2016
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Victoria
Thesis advisor: Dr. Brenda Matthews


This thesis presents a multiwavelength analysis, from the infrared to the microwave, of the young, forming stars in the Auriga-California Molecular Cloud and a first look at the disks they host and their potential for forming planetary systems. At the beginning of this thesis, Auriga-Cal had only recently been identified as one contiguous cloud with its distance placing it within the Gould Belt of nearby star-forming regions (Lada et al., 2009). This thesis presents the largest body of work to date on Auriga-Cal’s star formation and disk population. Auriga-Cal is one of two nearby giant molecular clouds (GMCs) in the Gould Belt, the other being the Orion A molecular cloud. These two GMCs have similar mass (~105 solar masses), spatial scale (~80 pc), distance (~450 pc), and filamentary morphology, yet the two clouds present very different star formation qualities and quantities. Namely, Auriga-Cal is forming far fewer stars and does not exhibit the high-mass star formation seen in Orion A. In this thesis, I present a census of the star forming objects in the infrared with the Spitzer Space Telescope showing that Auriga-Cal contains at least 166 young stellar objects (YSOs), 15–20 times fewer stars than Orion A, the majority of which are located in the cluster around LkHalpha 101, NGC 1529, and the filament extending from it. I find the submillimetre census with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, sensitive to the youngest objects, arrives at a similar result showing the disparity between the two clouds observed in the infrared continues to the submillimetre. Therefore the relative star formation rate between the two clouds has remained constant in recent times. The final chapter introduces the first study targeted at the disk population to measure the formation potential of planetary systems around the young stars in Auriga-Cal. The dust thermal emission at cm wavelengths is observed to measure the relative amounts of cm-sized grains, indicative of the grain growth processes that take place in disks and are necessary for planet formation. For a subsample of our targets, we are able to measure the spectral slope in the cm to confirm the thermal nature of the observed emission that we detect and characterize the signature of grain growth. The sensitivity of our observations probes masses greater than the minimum mass solar nebula (MMSN), the disk mass required to form the Solar System. We detect 19 disks, representing almost a third of our sample, comparable to the numbers of disks in other nearby star-forming regions with disks masses exceeding the MMSN, suggesting that the disk population in Auriga-Cal possesses similar planet formation potential as populations in other clouds. Confirmation of this result requires future observations with mm interferometry, the wavelength regime where the majority of statistics of disks has been measured.