ALMA Matters

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From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

New ALMA Director

After a competitive selection process that began in January 2017, the international governing board of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has selected Dr. Sean Dougherty as the new ALMA Director for a 5-year term beginning in late February 2018. Dougherty is currently the director of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, Canada’s national radio astronomy facility, run by NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics. He has served as a member of the ALMA Board representing North America for four years and was the chair of the ALMA Budget Committee for the last two years.

SPICA Status Report

By/par David Naylor, SPICA Canadian HoN and Co-I and Doug Johnstone, SPICA Science Team
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

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This SPICA Status Report is a revised version of a note that was sent to the Canadian SPICA community e-mail distribution list in early November. Since that time we have learned that the ESO M5 selection process has been delayed by a few months and is now expected to take place in February 2018. We remain very optimistic that SPICA will be selected at that time! Canadian astronomers interested in following the developments of SPICA and not already on the SPICA e-mail distribution list should contact David Naylor or Doug Johnstone.
 
As you may recall, one year ago, 5 October 2016, the SPICA proposal for a mechanically cryo-cooled infrared space telescope was submitted to ESA’s M5 Cosmic Vision call. In total, thirty-five proposals were submitted to that call. We learned on 7 June 2017 that thirteen proposals, including SPICA, made it through the technical and programmatic review, a hurdle designed to ensure that the required technology was feasible and within the M5 budget envelope.  Since that time, these remaining mission concepts have been undergoing rigorous scientific review.
 
As part of the review process, on 20 October the ESA review committee sent out a list of written questions to each mission team with responses due by 31 October. The questions which the SPICA project received were well posed, but all relatively easily addressed. The final step in the review process was a face to face meeting that took place on in Paris on 8 November. The SPICA PI, Peter Roelfsema, was allowed to take two scientists with him to face the review panel. Accompanied by Takashi Onaka (JAXA) and Martin Girard (CNES), the SPICA team appeared before the ESA panel. Peter Roelfsema reports that the review panel “posed solid/direct questions, mostly for deeper clarification on the answers we had already given, that in my opinion we could address really well. From our side there was no insecurity, no hesitation and we stayed to the point and direct at all times.” Further, “I can safely say that both in the written answers earlier this month as well is in today’s interview we did exactly what was needed – bring across that we have a well-conceived mission, with solid and well-founded science goals, with an open mind as to necessary work and/or adaptations that will need to be done as we learn more in the next years, and all that backed by a very knowledgeable and motivated consortium. I am sure we, again, significantly reinforced our path towards the M5 shortlist.”
 
According to the ESA M5 review schedule, ESA was to have announced the winning proposals selected for mission studies in December. However, we have recently learned that complications with the M4 decision process have led to a delay in the M5 decision, which is now expected in February 2018. Assuming that SPICA is selected at that time, an outcome for which we remain optimistic, what will follow will be an intense and active three year phase of instrument development to ensure that the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of the various subsystems are at the required level (TRL5/6) before the final mission selection, which is due to take place in February 2021.
 
There is considerable optimism and excitement about the SPICA mission. At the recent consortium meeting in Rome, attended by myself and Doug Johnstone, many of us were taken off guard by the outright confidence of our PI. Furthermore, these recent SPICA team interactions with ESA have all been very positive. Canada was a founding member of the SPICA team, and although it has been a long journey, dating back to our first meeting (also) in Rome in 2009, it appears that very exciting news is imminent.
 
You may recall that under the current work package breakdown Canada has been assigned the critical high resolution spectrometer (a Martin-Puplett polarizing Fourier transform spectrometer). This builds on Canadian excellence both in academia and industry. The return from this investment to Canadian scientists like yourselves will be more than four times that awarded to the Canadian Herschel SPIRE team. Herschel was, of course, an amazing success, in part due to the great Canadian scientists involved. Indeed, it is most definitely the success of the Herschel mission that has spurred on the SPICA consortium in making its case to ESA.
 
Finally, as with all missions, CSA funding will depend upon strong support from the scientific community. Missions must be identified in the Long Range Plan (LRP) and must have a strong cadre of scientists who can exploit the scientific return on what will be a significant investment. Your role in this regard is essential.  Toward this end, a series of refereed SPICA science papers have been published (see below) and the next SPICA consortium meeting, Groningen in March 2018, will devote an entire day to science talks. Finally, an open international conference dedicated to SPICA science is being planned for February/March 2019; Doug Johnstone is part of the SOC. 
 
Clearly these are exciting times for SPICA. On behalf of the mission thank you for your continued support!
 
SPICA Canada
SPICA Science
 

CRAQ Summer School Announcement / Annonce d’École d’Été

By/par Robert La Montagne
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

La version française suit

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ) is announcing its annual Summer School, which will be held on June 19-21, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec.

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This year’s topic will be “Large-Scale Astrophysics: galaxies and beyond”. This 3-day school will focus on our understanding of galaxies, including galaxy dynamics and populations, their environments and the use of galaxies as cosmological probes. The summer school will include formal lectures from local and international experts in the field.

The CRAQ Summer School is principally aimed at graduate students in the field of physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, although students who have completed an undergraduate program in physics will also be accepted.

There is no registration fee. However, we cannot offer traveling funds or cover lodging expenses. Lodging at a reasonable cost will be made available to the participants on the university campus.

Additional information about the program, registration and accommodation will be available soon on this site.

Email contact: Summer.School@craq-astro.ca.



Le Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ) annonce son école d’été annuelle, qui aura lieu du 19 au 21 juin 2018 à Montréal, Québec.

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Le thème de cette année portera sur « L’astrophysique à grande échelle : les galaxies et au-delà ». Cette école d’une durée de 3 jours, se concentrera sur notre compréhension des galaxies, incluant la dynamique et les populations de galaxies, leur environnement et l’utilisation des galaxies comme sondes cosmologiques. Cette école d’été comprendra des présentations formelles offertes en anglais par des experts locaux et internationaux dans le domaine.

L’école d’été du CRAQ s’adresse principalement à des étudiants aux cycles supérieurs dans le domaine de la physique, de l’astronomie et de l’astrophysique. Les étudiants ayant complété un programme de premier cycle en physique seront également acceptés.

Il n’y a aucun frais d’inscription. Cependant, nous ne pouvons offrir de subside pour couvrir les frais de déplacement ou d’hébergement. Des chambres à coût abordable sur le campus universitaire seront disponibles pour les participants.

Les informations additionnelles à propos du programme, de l’inscription et de l’hébergement seront disponibles bientôt sur le site.

Courriel: Summer.School@craq-astro.ca.

A Call to Action for Canadian Astronomy in Space

By/par Jeremy Heyl
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

Over the next few months, the federal government is developing a new long-term plan for the Canadian Space Agency. We believe that the government wants to make a major and possibly transformational investment in space exploration. However, they want to see broad support from the community before they will act.

We developed “A Vision for Canadian Space Exploration” that calls for a sustained, competitive and comprehensive program of science in space over the next decade (see document here) to keep Canada competitive economically, technologically and scientifically. We have presented this vision to members of parliament, the Canadian Space Agency and the responsible ministers.

Now is your chance to drive major change in how astronomy is done in Canada. Canadian astronomers have led globally through partnering in and building the best ground-based facilities. Now astronomy from space plays a larger and larger role in the latest discoveries. Please reach out to your member of parliament to let them know that Canada should invest in space exploration with a sustained program of competitively chosen missions. Let them know how space astronomy can inspire our communities, develop new technologies and train the next generation of innovators for Canada.

Ilaria Caiazzo
Sarah Gallagher
Jeremy Heyl

JCMT Update

By/par Chris Wilson
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

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Anyone on Maunakea in December 2017 will have a chance to see an unusual sight: the JCMT operating without its iconic membrane. (A fantastic picture of the JCMT under “normal” conditions by William Montgomerie is included in this article.) The observatory is planning a month-long observing campaign to see if they can commission the POL-2 polarimeter to operate at 450 microns. If anyone gets a good picture, I would love to see it!

The JCMT continues to perform well and to produce exciting new science results. A recent press release highlights an exciting discovery from one of the large programs, the JCMT Transient Survey of an 18-month recurring twinkle in the submillimetre emission from a young star, which suggests the presence of an unseen planet. The variation was discovered by Hyunju Yoo, graduate student at Chungnam National University and advisor Jeong-Eun Lee, Professor at Kyung Hee University (South Korea) during their analysis of monthly observations of the Serpens Main star-forming region. Their paper was published in ApJ November 1, 2017.

Three of the original seven Large Programs on the JCMT have finished collecting all their data: SCOPE, a continuum survey of pre-stellar evolution focusing on Planck cold cores; MALATANG, a survey of spectral lines (HCN and HCO+) tracing highly excited dense gas in 19 nearby galaxies; and S2COSMOS, a sensitive 2-degree square map of the COSMOS field at 850 microns. The remaining four programs are progressing well. All programs passed their mid-term review last spring.

Observing for some of the nine new large programs began in August 2017 at the start of semester 17A. One of these programs, “HASHTAG”, a deep map of M31 at 850 microns with CO J=3-2 maps in selected regions, has already completed all its CO observing, while other programs (such as JINGLE-II, an extension of the JINGLE nearby galaxy survey to starburst and green valley galaxies) are waiting for their sources to become available in the winter semester. The remaining four programs from the initial large program call have first priority on the telescope during large program nights, which make up 50% of the observing time on the telescope. Summaries and more details on all programs can be found here.

Just as a reminder, all JCMT data (PI and large programs) become public one year after the end of the semester in which the data were taken. Also, although the original call for new members in the large programs has closed, many of the teams continue to accept students and postdocs as new members.

The Board of the East Asian Observatories (EAO) struck a Mid-Term Review Committee to discuss the future of the JCMT. The committee met in July and delivered their report to the Board in October 2017. This report will provide useful input to the EAO Board as they consider whether to renew their contract to operate the JCMT for a second 5-year term. The current JCMT agreement extends until early 2020. The UK university consortium was successful in obtaining a second round of funding to contribute to JCMT operations for an additional three years (taking them to 2021). The current round of Canadian funding from NSERC lasts until March 2019.

The next call for PI proposals for JCMT semester 18B will be issued in mid-February with proposals due in mid-March. Depending on whether or not we can identify new sources of funding in Canada, this call for proposals could be the last call that is open to Canadians PIs.

The DAO 100 Project

By/par James di Francesco
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

Next year, 2018, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Several celebratory events are being planned to commemorate this historic event. One planned event, the DAO100 Project, will greatly benefit from your contribution. Thank you to all those who have very kindly sent us contributions already!

We wish to celebrate the 100th anniversary by collecting vivid accounts of life at the observatory from its current and former staff, postdocs, students, and visitors over the past several decades. We are looking for your best stories here and invite you to kindly contribute to this ambitious enterprise. Highlights of the collected material will be shared as part of other events planned for the 100th anniversary, and woven into an article to be published in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

To stimulate ideas about your contribution, please consider the following about your DAO experiences:

  • When were you at DAO and what role did you play while here?
  • What was the most memorable interaction you had with others at DAO?
  • What was your favourite project?
  • What contribution (e.g., scientific discovery, instrumentation development, computational project, technical or administrative activity) from your time at DAO do you remember most fondly?
  • What was the funniest thing that happened to you during your time here?
  • Was there anything special about DAO you’d like to impart?
  • What significance did DAO play in your life?

Of course, these are just suggestions, and anyone is free to submit any anecdote or particularly meaningful pictures they’d like to share. All contributions will be properly credited to the submitters. (Some light editing may be required, but we will strive to preserve the spirit of all comments and consult with you where necessary to ensure clarity.)

Submissions of any length are welcome but we ask that you focus your recollections to avoid an intended submission from becoming too ambitious to complete. Please send any and all submissions to DomAstObs100@gmail.com by 7 January 2018. Also, please share this invitation with your colleagues so we can get the widest possible distribution.