Cassiopeia Newsletter – Vernal equinox/équinoxe du printemps 2018


In this issue/Dans ce numéro:

President’s Report
ALMA Matters
BRITE-Constellation Mission Update
Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
CASCA 2018 Reminder
CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope
Colibri Notice
Rapport d’À la découverte de l’univers / Report from Discover the Universe
Report from LRPIC
Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update
Cher OMM, c’est à ton tour…
Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update
A Note from Your Editor

Editor: 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. I 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.

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By/par Bryan Gaensler, Canadian SKA Science Director
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

For more information on the SKA, subscribe to the Canadian SKA email list by sending a blank email to, and visit the Canadian SKA WWW site.

International SKA Update

Canada is one of 10 member countries of the SKA Organisation, and is represented on the SKA Board of Directors by Greg Fahlman (NRC) and Bryan Gaensler (University of Toronto). The SKA Board met most recently in October 2017 via videoconference, and in November 2017 in Bologna. The SKA Board’s Executive Committee (of which Bryan Gaensler is a member) meets monthly.

Notable outcomes from these meetings have included:

  • Appointment of Dr Catherine Cesarky (former Director General of ESO) as the new chair of the SKA Board.
  • Assessment of the “Deployment Baseline” for SKA1, which corresponds to the telescopes currently deliverable at a funding level of €674M (2016 euros). The SKA Board has expressed confidence that the current Deployment Baseline will provide transformational science capabilities. Furthermore, re-instatement of the omitted capabilities, up to the full restoration of the Design Baseline, is planned, either during or after the construction phase, should additional funding become available. Ongoing cost oversight will take place within the SKA Office’s regular activities. The Board now looks to the science community, and particularly to the SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) to regularly review the Deployment Baseline and to confirm its ability to deliver transformational science. Prof Kristine Spekkens from the Royal Military College of Canada is a member of the SEAC.
  • Review of the upcoming suite of critical design reviews (CDRs) and subsequent CDR closures, which will take place from April 2018 to March 2019.
  • Reports on site activity in South Africa and Australia. In South Africa, a major milestone has been reached with the completion of land acquisition in the SKA core in the Karoo. The MeerKAT project remains on track to have a 64-antenna array ready to commence large survey project science at the beginning of April 2018. In Australia, the Heritage Agreement with the Wajarri Yamatji traditional owners, which will allow land surveys and low impact activities to proceed, is expected to be signed soon. The Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory’s solar/battery power station is now operational.
  • Discussion of planning for SKA Science Processing Centres and science archives.
  • The issuance of a non-binding “request for information” (RfI), distributed to parties interested in participating in SKA procurement.
  • Planning for transition of the SKA Organisation into an Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO), including plans to establish a Transition Oversight Committee, to co-ordinate transition activities between the Board and the Convention Preparatory Task Force (CPTF). The CPTF will be formally established after the signing of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory Convention and will represent the interests of the IGO until the SKA Observatory Council is formed. Currently, the Convention is expected to be signed in September 2018.
  • Discussion on plans for SKA1 construction.
  • Ongoing updates from France, Germany, Portugal, Japan, Korea, Spain and Switzerland on their SKA-related activities and on their potential interest in participating in the SKA project.
  • Discussion with NRAO on the relationship between the SKA and planning for future US Radio Astronomy facilities.
  • Approval of an SKA Code of Ethics and Whistleblowing Policy.
  • Ongoing discussion of finances, engineering reports, business development, communications, governance, operations, and construction of the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank.

Upcoming SKA Board meetings will be in April 2018 (Sweden), July 2018 (South Africa) and November 2018 (United Kingdom). Meetings of the SKA Members (i.e., the funding agencies; currently Greg Fahlman represents NRC) will take place immediately preceding each of these Board meetings.

For further information on international SKA activities, see the latest SKA Newsletter and the bi-monthly SKA Organisation Bulletin.

Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy

The Canada Foundation for Innovation has awarded $9.4M (including provincial and other matches) to the project “Unlocking the Radio Sky with Next-Generation Survey Astronomy”, led by Bryan Gaensler. This has led to the creation of the Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA), a program to develop the tools and infrastructure needed to support a Canadian SKA Data Centre, with direct application to the VLA, CHIME and ASKAP. Technical staff are already being appointed to CIRADA, and the project will formally commence in April 2018.

SKA Science and Science Engagement

The meeting “Canadian Radio Astronomy: Surveying the Present and Shaping the Future” was held in Montreal in September 2017. See here for copies of presentations from the meeting, and here for a summary of the meeting published in Nature Astronomy.

Canadian astronomers continue to participate in almost all SKA science working groups. The working groups on transients, pulsars, the Milky Way and the cradle of life are all currently chaired by Canadians (Michael Rupen, Ingrid Stairs, Erik Rosolowsky and Doug Johnstone, respectively). An SKA lunch event will be held on May 24, 2018 at the CASCA annual meeting in Victoria. The next SKA General Science Meeting and Key Science Project Workshop will take place at the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank over September 3–7, 2018.

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is the precursor of SKA-Low and is a powerful science facility in its own right (see MWA for details). MWA phase 2, which improves the sensitivity of the array by an order of magnitude, is now operating. Canada, through the University of Toronto, is a full member of the MWA project, with representation on the MWA Board. Any Canadian astronomers wishing to join the MWA Consortium and to consequently gain access to MWA data, software tools and science collaborations should contact Bryan Gaensler.

The SKA project maintains 11 international science working groups and another 2 focus groups. Membership of science working groups and focus groups is open to all qualified astronomers. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, please contact Bryan Gaensler.

ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA

The Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) coordinates activities and discussion on the SKA through the ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA (AACS); see here for a listing of AACS membership. AACS meets several times per year, with its next meeting on April 26, 2018. For further information or to propose AACS agenda items, please contact the AACS Chair, Bryan Gaensler.

SKA Technology Development

NRC Herzberg continues to be a major participant in pre-construction efforts for the SKA, principally through NRC leadership of the Central Signal Processing consortium and their contractor MDA, and also through NRC participation in the DISH and Telescope Manager design work.

A new frequency slice architecture has also been developed for the Mid-Frequency Correlator/Beamformer (MID.CBF). This has now been formally accepted as the MID.CBF reference design, and has resulted in €20M in cost reductions. The overall CSP design is highly scalable, with a plan for a technology refresh and addition of enhanced capabilities within the first 5-10 years of operations. Detailed design documents have now been submitted for review, and preparations are now taking place for the CSP critical design review. The five sub-elements of the CSP program are now undergoing critical design reviews, and the element review for the overall CSP program will occur in June 2018. Discussion has commended on plans for beyond CDR, including a bridging plan and then construction.

Report from LRPIC

From/de John Hutchings
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

The LRPIC continues to confer regularly, and follow new developments. Some of these are reported separately in this issue. Of particular interest in the federal budget, we noted the increased funding to discovery-based research is very welcome and an important element of our LRP. However, like many, we are disappointed in the lack of mention of CSA and its lack of a viable space science budget. We have sent a memo to the Space Advisory Board urging that they continue to press this issue. We also note the Globe and Mail article that reflects this well.

The issue of the future of WFIRST and possible Canadian participation remains in flux, and we are working to see that the best interests of Canadian astronomers are served.

ALMA Matters


From/de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

Cycle 6 Call for Proposals

The Call for Proposals for ALMA Cycle 6 (Oct 2018 through Sept 2019) was issued on 20 March. The deadline for proposals will be 15:00UT on Thursday 19 April. A few new capabilities include circular polarization, stand-alone projects using the Norita ALMA Compact Array (ACA) at Bands 3 through 8, and more time available for science. See the Proposer’s Guide on the ALMA science portal for a full list of the Cycle 6 capabilities. The Millimetre Astronomy Group at NRC Herzberg, which acts as the Canadian node of the North American Regional Center, is available to provide assistance with proposing as well as data reduction. Contact Gerald Schieven for more information.

BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By/par Gregg Wade, Canadian PI for BRITE
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)


BRITE-Constellation is an international space astronomy mission consisting of a fleet of 20x20x20 cm nanosatellites dedicated to precision optical photometry of bright stars in two photometric colours. The mission continues in full science operations, with 22 data releases to BRITE target PIs having already taken place, and many datasets available in the public domain from the BRITE public archive.

The BRITE mission is a collaboration between Canadian, Austrian and Polish astronomers and space scientists. The Canadian partners represent University of Toronto, Université de Montréal, Bishop’s University, and Royal Military College of Canada. The mission was built, and the Canadian satellites operated by, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab (UTIAS-SFL). The Canadian Space Agency funded the construction of the Canadian satellites. Recent approval of continued operations funding of BRITE-Toronto by CSA will ensure the Canadian mission until at least January 2019.


There are five operating BRITE satellites in the Constellation, collecting data on various sky fields in a coordinated programme to obtain well-sampled, longterm continuous (~6 months) light curves in both red and blue bandpasses.

As this issue of Cassiopeia went to press, here was the status of the sky assignments for the BRITE cubesats:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): Toronto observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Carina II field. As implied by the numeral ‘II’, the current campaign on Carina represents a revisit of a previously-observed field.
  • BRITE Lem (Poland): Lem observes with a blue filter. It is observing the Centaurus II field.
  • BRITE Heweliusz (Poland): Heweliusz observes with a red filter. This satellite is observing Vela/Pictoris III field.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a blue filter. It is observing the Vela/Puppis IV and the Centaurus II fields, switching between the two fields each orbit.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): UniBRITE observes with a red filter. This satellite is also currently observing the Vela/Puppis IV and the Centaurus II fields.

The BRITE Constellation observing programme from early 2017 through early 2019 has been planned by the BRITE Executive Science Team (BEST), and details are available on the BRITE photometry Wiki page.

Recent Science Results

Light curves of η Car observed by BRITE in 2016 (left) and 2017 (right). The data points are solid circles (•; BTr), plus signs (+; UBr), and open diamonds (♦; BHr) with the two-frequency fit shown in red. Each panel shows 180 d of time on the abscissa, with nearly 180 d between the two panels. A typical 2 mmag error bar (2σ) are shown in the lower left part of the panels. From Richardson et al. (2018).

Light curves of η Car observed by BRITE in 2016 (left) and 2017 (right). The data points are solid circles (•; BTr), plus signs (+; UBr), and open diamonds (♦; BHr) with the two-frequency fit shown in red. Each panel shows 180 d of time on the abscissa, with nearly 180 d between the two panels. A typical 2 mmag error bar (2σ) are shown in the lower left part of the panels. From Richardson et al. (2018).

BRITE-Constellation reveals evidence for pulsations in the enigmatic binary η Carinae” (Richardson et al. 2018, MNRAS 475, 5417):
η Car is a massive, eccentric binary with a rich observational history. Richardson et al. report the first high-cadence, high-precision light curves obtained with the BRITE-Constellation nanosatellites over 6 months in 2016 and 6 months in 2017. The light curve is contaminated by several sources including the Homunculus nebula and neighbouring stars, including the eclipsing binary CPD -59°2628. However, they find two coherent oscillations in the light curve. These may represent pulsations that are not yet understood but they postulate are related to tidally excited oscillations of η Car’s primary star, and would be similar to those detected in lower mass eccentric binaries. In particular, one frequency was previously detected by van Genderen et al. and Sterken et al. through the time period of 1974-1995 via timing measurements of photometric maxima. Thus, this frequency seems to have been detected for nearly four decades, indicating that it has been stable in frequency over this time span. These pulsations could help provide the first direct constraints on the fundamental parameters of the primary star if confirmed and refined with future observations.

Conferences, Resources and Social Media


The proceedings of the second BRITE Science Conference – held in Innsbruck, Austria in 2016 – are available in printed form and online.


The BRITE Public Data Archive, based in Warsaw, Poland, at the Nikolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre, can be accessed at

The mission Wiki (including information on past, current and future fields) can be accessed at

BRITE Constellation is now on Facebook, at @briteconstellation.

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team (BIAST), which consists of BRITE scientific PIs, technical authorities, amateur astronomers, and mission fans, advises the mission executive on scientific and outreach aspects of the mission. If you’re interested to join BIAST, contact Canadian BRITE PI Gregg Wade:

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By/par Patrick Hall, MSE Management Group Chair
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

Successful Systems Conceptual Design Review

The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer project completed a very successful Systems Conceptual Design Review in January 2018. An external review panel chaired by Michael Strauss (Princeton) delivered a report which stated, in part: “the bottom line is that this project is in very good shape, and at an appropriate level of maturity for the end of the Conceptual Design phase. We have been very impressed by the level of sophistication that the MSE project team has brought to this project, and the tremendous amount of hard work that has been carried out thus far. This level of professionalism bodes well for the project as it enters the preliminary design phase.” For more details, see this link.

Into the Preliminary Design Phase

To publicize the upcoming preliminary design phase of MSE to existing and potential new partners, the Project Office has produced a four-page MSE brochure and a twenty-page MSE Prospectus. Hardcopies are available by contacting Mary Beth Laychak.

Development is also underway on a 100-page MSE Project Book describing the detailed technical development of the MSE observatory. The Project Book is intended to be a companion of the Prospectus to provide technical information of MSE to those who want to know more regarding potential engineering contributions. The Management Group is actively discussing the distribution of preliminary design phase work packages among existing and potential new partners in the 2019-2020 time frame.

To bring MSE opportunities to the attention of potential new partners, meetings related to wide-field spectroscopy and US decadal survey planning are being attended by Project Office staff including Kei Szeto (Project Manager) and Alan McConnachie (Project Scientist), as well as by MG Chair Pat Hall.

In particular, many members of the US community present at the just-concluded SnowPAC conference ‘Big Questions, Big Surveys, Big Data: Astronomy & Cosmology in the 2020s’ expressed great interest in the science that the MSE project will enable by the late 2020s. Six talks on various aspects of the current status of the MSE project were presented at SnowPAC; they can be viewed in PDF form via the Contributed Talks button on the SnowPAC website.

Project Office staff will also be visiting China in May, and will have a strong presence at the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation meeting in Austin in June.

As the preliminary design phase ramps up, Kei Szeto is succeeding Rick Murowinski as Project Manager, allowing Rick to focus on engineering work for the Project Office. The MSE collaboration is grateful to Rick for his invaluable contributions during conceptual design.

Science Team Membership for the Design Reference Survey

As you may have seen on the CASCA E-mail exploder, a major science development phase for MSE will occur in 2018. The international MSE science team will develop the first phase of the MSE Design Reference Survey (DRS). The DRS is planned as a 2 year observing campaign that will demonstrate the science impact of MSE in a broad range of science areas and will provide an excellent dataset for community science. It will describe and simulate an executable survey plan that addresses the key science described in the Detailed Science Case. The DRS will naturally undergo several iterations between now and first light of MSE: this first phase (nicknamed DRS1) will set the foundation for its future development.

DRS1 will be supported by the Project Office and will use various simulation tools, including Integration Time Calculators, fiber-assigning software, and a telescope scheduler. It is anticipated that a future iteration of the DRS will become the first observing program on MSE come first light of the facility, and the DRS will be used by the Project Office going forward to understand the consequences for science for all decisions relating to the engineering and operational development of MSE.

To join the Science Team, please contact your MSE Science Advisory Group representatives, Kim Venn or Sarah Gallagher. More information about the development of the DRS and how to participate will be circulated to the members of the MSE Science Team in April/May 2018.

CASCA 2018

There will be an informal face-to-face MSE gathering at CASCA in Victoria in May; details to follow. Hope to see you there!

The MSE website is Questions or comments about MSE governance can be directed to your MSE Management Group Members, Greg Fahlman and Pat Hall. Scientific questions or comments can be directed to your MSE Science Advisory Group Members, Sarah Gallagher and Kim Venn.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh, CATAC Chair
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

The Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) first-light instrument on TMT is expected to be a workhorse instrument that will appeal broadly to many in the Canadian community. This has proven to be a challenging instrument to design to requirements, and in the coming few weeks three different designs will be undergoing a technical and cost review process. CATAC has been working to understand these designs and gather input so we can present advice that reflects the needs of Canadian astronomers.

There are currently three compelling designs being considered:

  1. Fiber-WFOS: A fiber spectrograph that achieves a multiplicity of ~700 targets with R=5000 and full wavelength coverage, over a 79 square arcminute field of view. The challenge here is in achieving the necessary precision in sky subtraction and calibration, especially for faint objects at wavelengths redward of ~0.7 microns. There is no direct imaging mode, and the spectral resolution and angular sampling of each fiber is fixed. However, fibers can be bundled together to form multiple deployable IFUs. System throughput may be compromised in the near-UV and at wavelengths longward of ~0.9 microns.
  2. Slicer-WFOS: This design is an imaging spectrograph that uses image slicers to reduce the physical slit width to achieve R=5000, maintaining full spectral coverage from 310nm to 1000nm, but with a lower multiplicity of 33 over a 25 square arcminute field of view. The notional design for this option does not include imaging, although it likely could be added. The deployment of the slicer modules has been identified as a challenging operational issue.
  3. Xchange-WFOS: This is an imaging spectrograph with an object multiplicity of about 100 at resolution of R=5000, again over a 25 square arcminute field of view. Simultaneous coverage of the full wavelength range is not possible, but there is flexibility in using multiple gratings to achieve different resolutions. In terms of operational use, this design is most similar to multi-object spectrographs such as GMOS. Objects are placed on slits, using masks that are designed and cut for individual fields. Xchange-WFOS has an imaging capability. Like GMOS, there is also the option of adding an IFU.

All three designs have strong advantages and are exciting concepts; there are also technical and scientific trade-offs to be considered. The technical risks associated with all designs are being assessed by a committee that will advise the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) over the next couple of weeks. The SAC itself will meet April 9-10, 2018, and one of their tasks at that meeting will likely be to recommend proceeding with one or more of these three designs.

Scientifically, at a high level we might consider fiber-WFOS as best suited for “survey science”, where large samples of targets with a high density on the sky are gathered over large areas. On the other hand, the slicer- and Xchange-WFOS designs may be better suited for diagnostic spectroscopy: smaller samples of precision spectroscopy. But even this is an overly reductive description of capabilities.

CATAC needs to hear from you to provide appropriate advice. Some specific questions are:

  • How do you imagine you (or your immediate descendants!) using WFOS in 2028? Are the sample sizes, target densities, and S/N or resolution requirements better achievable with one design or another? Are there science programs where you feel that MOS with slits would be advantageous compared to fibers?
  • What spectral resolution or resolutions do you need for your science? If you could choose only one resolution, what would it be? Would it be acceptable to trade resolution against spectral coverage if the former were user-selectable?
  • What wavelength coverage is most important for your science? Is there a need for coverage with maximum throughput between 0.3 – 0.4 microns, or at wavelengths longer than 0.9 microns? Is there an advantage of simultaneous coverage, or is it sufficient to use multiple settings?
  • Is there a scientific need for seeing-limited (perhaps GLAO-assisted) imaging at visible – near-infrared wavelengths?

To help answer these questions we will be holding a public Webex meeting in advance of the April SAC meeting. Additional documentation describing the three instrument concepts will be made available, as possible, in the coming days via our website. We hope many of you will be able to attend, and/or send us your comments by email.

In other news, we await decision of the site selection. Disappointingly, the site permit for the ORM site in the Canary Islands has not yet been approved. There does not appear to be any fundamental obstacle to this permit, it is just taking longer than expected. In Hawai’i the political situation continues to change in a direction that is favourable to TMT construction. There are still two appeals in front of the Hawaii Supreme Court. One of them is being heard right now, and decisions on both are expected later this year. The good news is that the project continues to move forward in construction and design, with about 15 percent of the construction of components complete.

Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By/par Stéphanie Côté and Eric Steinbring (CGO, NRC Herzberg / OGC, CNRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

La version française suit

New Lasers for Gemini GeMS and Altair

Figure 1: Close-up view of the propagation of the laser guide-star system from behind the secondary mirror of the Gemini-South Telescope  (Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

Figure 1: Close-up view of the propagation of the laser guide-star system from behind the secondary mirror of the Gemini-South Telescope (Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

Upgrades to the Gemini facility adaptive optics (AO) systems in both the North and South will provide improved operation. Chief among these changes is the replacement of older, previous-generation laser systems. The replacements are the same TOPTICA models used on Keck and Subaru, and give robust, trouble-free performance. Returned power in the laser spots is not actually the primary reason for this; the real challenge of previous operations was laser reliability, which hurt on-sky efficiency. The improved GeMS (Gemini Multiconjugate-AO System) Laser Guide-Star Facility (LGSF) in the South was already commissioned last October, and is now offered in 2018B. In the North, the Altair LGSF is scheduled to have its new laser installed in April, and it too is offered (with shared risk) in the coming semester. Further improvements are coming to GeMS as well: expected delivery of a more sensitive natural guide-star sensor (NGS2), and testing of a replacement third deformable mirror this year. Users are encouraged to send proposals for either Gemini-North or South to take advantage of the improved AO observing performances thanks to these new lasers.

Gemini Science conference: “Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory”

Early registration for this Gemini Science meeting is now open. Register now for the special early registration rate.

The Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory 2018 conference will be held from July 22nd to July 26th, with San Francisco’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf as a backdrop. This meeting invites the Gemini community to review recent science highlights, identify needs in the context of Gemini’s evolving capabilities, and develop strategies for the future. Mark your calendar now and plan to join us for user and staff presentations featuring science highlights, instrumentation, observing modes, and informal discussions.

Early Registration: until March 31, 2018
Abstract Submission: until May 15, 2018

See you in San Francisco!

Join the thousands and thousands of Gemini Observatory followers on Facebook: @GeminiObservatory and Twitter: @GeminiObs

Nouveaux lasers pour GeMS et Altair

Figure 1: Gros plan de la propagation du système d`étoile-guide laser depuis l'arrière du miroir secondaire du télescope Gemini-Sud (Crédit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

Figure 1: Gros plan de la propagation du système d`étoile-guide laser depuis l’arrière du miroir secondaire du télescope Gemini-Sud (Crédit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

Les mises à niveau des systèmes d’optique adaptative (OA) de Gemini-Nord et Sud permettront d’améliorer grandement leur fonctionnement. Le principal changement est le remplacement des anciens systèmes laser de génération précédente. Les nouveaux lasers sont les mêmes modèles TOPTICA utilisés au Keck et Subaru, et donnent une performance robuste et sans problème. La puissance retournée dans les points laser n’est pas réellement la principale raison de cela; le vrai défi des opérations précédentes était la fiabilité du laser, qui nuisait à l’efficacité sur le ciel. Le système d’étoile-guide par laser (LGSF) de GeMS (Gemini Multiconjugate-AO System) amélioré dans le Sud a déjà été mis en service en octobre dernier et est maintenant offert en 2018B. Dans le Nord, le LGSF d’Altair devrait avoir son nouveau laser installé en avril, et il est également offert (en mode risque partagé) au cours du prochain semestre. D’autres améliorations seront également apportées à GeMS: livraison attendue d’un senseur d’étoile-guide naturel plus sensible (NGS2) et test d’un troisième miroir déformable de remplacement cette année.
Les usagers sont encouragés à soumettre des demandes pour Gemini-Nord et Sud afin de profiter des meilleures performances d’observation OA grâce à ces nouveaux lasers.

Conférence Gemini “Science et Évolution de l’Observatoire Gemini »

L’inscription à tarif préférentiel pour cette conférence scientifique Gemini est maintenant ouverte. Inscrivez-vous maintenant pour le tarif spécial.

La conférence «Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory» 2018 se tiendra du 22 juillet au 26 juillet, avec l’historique Fisherman’s Wharf de San Francisco en toile de fond. Cette conférence invite la communauté Gemini à examiner les progrès scientifiques récents, à identifier les besoins dans le contexte des capacités évolutives de Gemini et à développer des stratégies pour l’avenir. Marquez votre calendrier maintenant et prévoyez vous joindre à nous pour des présentations d’usagers et d’employés sur leurs résultats scientifiques, les instruments, les modes d’observation et pour des discussions informelles.

Inscription à tarif préférentiel: jusqu’au 31 mars 2018
Soumission des résumés: jusqu’au 15 mai 2018

C`est un rendez-vous à San Francisco!

Rejoignez les milliers et milliers de suiveurs de l’Observatoire Gemini sur Facebook: @GeminiObservatory et Twitter: @GeminiObs.

Colibri Notice

From/de Jeremy Heyl (UBC)
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

Colibri: Canadian High-Time-Resolution High-Energy-Resolution X-ray Telescope

We propose to develop a concept for a high-time-resolution, high-energy-resolution x-ray telescope using transition-edge sensors (TES) for the x-ray detectors and collector optics to direct the x-rays onto the focal plane to give a large effective area in a small satellite. The key science driver of the instrument would be to study neutron stars and accreting black holes. Our concept study will provide a preliminary costing for the mission including the definition of the science requirements and its influence on design choices such as the form of the optics and focal plane, total effective area, mirror complexity, choice of orbit, mission duration and telemetry requirements.

Please contact Jeremy Heyl if you would like to participate in this study and help with the CSA Bid due 19 April.

President’s Report

By Bob Abraham, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

Budget 2018: Mostly good news

The Federal Budget came out on February 27, and it appears to be favourable to Canadian researchers working in basic science. Funding for academic institutions for research-related activities is set to rise by $340-million in fiscal year 2018-19. By 2023, scientists can count on about $446-million more annually from the funding councils, including direct money for grants, research chairs and a new program to support interdisciplinary science and international collaboration.

The increased support for science was precipitated by last year’s Fundamental Science Review, led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor. While the increase in the budget falls well short of the $1.3-billion a year increase that the report called for, a 25-per-cent increase in funding basic research is hugely welcome. Over the past year, individual scientists and organizations such as CASCA have voiced support for the Naylor report, and support for the report has been a theme of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy’s periodic visits to Ottawa. On the whole, I think that all this advocacy appears to have paid off.

Another notable aspect of the Federal Budget is the way it calls for a return to a basic research role for the National Research Council. This comes after years of re-purposing NRC to focus strongly on industrial applications. Details remain sketchy at the time of this writing, but as far as I can tell, these changes at NRC are likely to be good news for both CASCA members affiliated with NRC and for Canadian astrophysics as a whole. In particular, I can see many ways that NRC being directed to place greater emphasis on basic research (and on research excellence) would benefit our community. I’d like to understand the plan in detail before commenting on specifics, but perhaps it is worth emphasizing a basic point made in our Long-Range Plans: the success of astrophysics in Canada relies heavily on the partnership between Universities and the NRC. For that reason, all astronomers in Canada should keep a close eye on developments at NRC.

Budget 2018: Some bad news

While the Federal Budget appears to provide mostly good news for astrophysics, many of us were disappointed to see an absence of a strong commitment to the Canadian Space Agency in the document. The implications of a dwindling commitment to Space by Canada were the focus of a recent newspaper article by Ivan Semeniuk. I think this article makes for some interesting reading:

Lost in space: Why Canada’s diminishing role in the heavens is a problem – The Globe and Mail.

There are several reasonable interpretations of the lack of a specific call-out to the Canadian Space Agency in the Federal Budget. My personal interpretation is that the government is simply not ready to commit to a rejuvenation of the CSA because it is still formulating its space policy. The situation is laid out in the following article:

New space policy not ready.

I was particularly struck by one portion of this article, which makes the following points:

  • There is at least one external factor that appears to have contributed to a delay: the ongoing uncertainty in the U.S. space program. Like it or not, right or wrong, the government is taking a wait-and-see approach to what happens in the U.S.
  • NASA has been rudderless, without an approved Administrator since the election of the Trump government in November 2016. And now, Acting Administrator Lightfoot is retiring at the end of the month. Yes, there is a new Space Council in place led by Vice-President Pence, but the dynamics between the White House, the Council and Congress are mired in backroom politicking with no cohesive strategy forthcoming.
  • Does Canada need to wait for the U.S. picture to clear up before making any plans? Are we that dependent on their strategy?
  • I wonder the same thing. Canadian astronomy has benefited hugely from our participation in multi-billion dollar flagship missions, in which we can play a relatively small but highly significant role. I personally believe that we need to contribute significantly to international flagship missions in the future. (Our participation in the James Webb Space Telescope is a great example of Canadian academia operating synergistically with Industry in this capacity, as is our small but important contributions to the success of the Herschel and Planck missions). But, in my opinion, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by international flagship missions should only be a component of a broader Canadian space astronomy ecosystem. We can (and should) aspire to a greater degree of independence and leadership in smaller impactful missions (the proposed CASTOR mission being one good example).

    Gearing up for the next LRP

    These are my opinions, but what are yours? The Coalition’s trips to Ottawa are input-output exercises. In terms of output, we describe what our community does, provide status reports, and explain our need for additional resources. But in terms of input, we take the opportunity to really listen to what the ministry and our elected representatives are saying. One of the most clear messages conveyed to us is that a major strength of our community is its cohesion. This cohesion is manifested by our Long Range Plan, which provides a strong central focus for our community’s activity. In less than a year we will kick off the planning for LRP2020, and the topics above will no doubt be the subject of considerable discussion. Your opinions matter. When the time arrives, please take the opportunity to fully engage in the LRP process, by talking with your colleagues, contributing to a white paper, and participating in the Town Hall meetings, both locally and at the CASCA AGM.


    While our community has significant concerns about the long term future of Canadian Space Astronomy, this should not blind us to the fact that the very near-term future is looking pretty damn good. The James Webb Space Telescope Cycle 1 proposal deadline is April 6! After being involved in this project for well over a decade, I can hardly believe that the day we can apply to use this spectacular facility is almost here. The Canadian Space Agency, working in partnership with astronomers led by René Doyon at the University of Montréal, have really delivered the goods for the present generation of astronomers, and they deserve our thanks. I can’t wait to see what gets discovered. If, like me, you find yourself a little overwhelmed by the proposal process, I recommend you make yourself a cup of tea and sit down in front of YouTube and watch the video recordings of the U de M JWST community preparation webinars.


    Michael Balogh (chair of CATAC, the Canadian TMT Advisory Committee) has prepared an excellent summary of the progress being made with the TMT project in this issue of Cassiopeia. You should definitely take a look at it, because a key instrument, the Wide Field Optical Spectrometer (WFOS), is being redesigned and this is an excellent opportunity for you to provide the instrument team with feedback on the specifications of the instrument that would best enable your science.

    Diversity and Inclusivity

    The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee (chaired by Brenda Matthews) is preparing a summary of the results from the recent Professional Climate Survey, and the committee has also been given a draft of a proposed CASCA Values Statement to mull over. I expect we will see discussion of both items at the upcoming CASCA Annual General Meeting in Victoria.

    CASCA 2018 and 2019

    As I’m sure you are aware, the 49th annual general meeting of CASCA is being held at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, BC from 22 May to 26 May 2018. The meeting is co-hosted by the University of Victoria, NRC-Herzberg, and the Astronomy Research Centre. It promises to be a spectacular CASCA AGM! You can check out the program on the CASCA 2018 website here.

    CASCA 2019 will be hosted by McGill University in Montréal, which is exciting news, as Montréal is such an amazingly fun city (my favourite, by miles).

    Signing Off

    The CASCA Presidency is a two-year term, and my time as your President is now winding to a close. The next President’s Message will appear in the Summer Cassiopeia and will be written by my successor (Rob Thacker from St. Mary’s University). It has been a privilege to serve you for the last couple of years, and I thank you for putting up with me (not to mention with putting up with these overly-long President’s messages – if you think it’s bad for you, think of poor Joanne Rosvick and Magdalene Normandeau, who had to edit them in spite of them always being late). Leading CASCA for a while has provided me with many opportunities to talk to you all and to share in your adventures, which in turn has shown me how great it is to be an astronomer in Canada. We are part of a community dedicated to excellence in science, and to making our profession better. We are joined together by many things, not least of which is our shared passion to learn more about the Universe and to share its wonders.

    Roberto Abraham
    University of Toronto