The Qilak award was developed jointly by the Beyond International Year of Astronomy group (a collaboration of CASCA, the FAAQ and the RASC).
Established in 2011, these Awards are given, one by each of the sponsoring organizations, with a common purpose and evaluation criteria. The sponsoring organizations of the Awards are CASCA, FAAQ and the RASC.
The Qilak Award recognizes individual Canadian residents, or teams of residents, who have made an outstanding contribution either to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy in Canada, or to informal astronomy education in Canada. One goal the award is to promote such activities among the members of the sponsoring organizations. The recipient of the CASCA Qilak award will write an invited article for the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC), and will be offered the opportunity to address the membership at the Annual General Meeting of the Society.
The nomination package must consist of a joint letter of nomination by at least two members of CASCA. No letter should exceed three pages in length. A letter of nomination should highlight how the nominee, or team of nominees, have distinguished themselves in astronomy outreach or communication, and/or cite exceptional achievements. Additional material such as examples of a nominees work is allowed. Letters of nomination and any supporting materials must be received by the chair of the Awards Committee and the CASCA Business Office, by January 15, 2014.
CASCA is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2013 Qilak Award is Dr. James E. Hesser of the National Research Council.
Dr. Hesser has been a prominent figure in Canadian and international astronomy for many years. The director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory since 1986, Dr. Hesser is a past president of both CASCA (2004-2006) and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1987-1989), and a former vice-president of the American Astronomical Society (1991-1994). In 1997, Dr. Hesser was one of the first recipients of the prestigious Michael Smith Award, given through NSERC Canada to “honour people and groups that are inspirational in the way that they promote science to the general public”. He received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 in recognition of his services to the National Research Council and to all aspects of astronomy. In 2004, he received the CASCA Executive Award for exceptional service to CASCA, and he holds the title of Honorary President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).
With a career-long commitment to astronomy education and public outreach, Dr. Hesser has led by example to forge an effective, efficient partnership between the main organizations of professional and amateur astronomy in Canada: CASCA, RASC, and the Fédération des astronomes amateurs du Québec (FAAQ). In collaboration with others, he worked diligently to establish respectful partnerships with Canada’s Aboriginal communities to preserve and celebrate indigenous knowledge of astronomy, and to illustrate pathways by which Aboriginal youth can aspire to and enter careers in science and technology. A longtime supporter of community outreach programmes, he often gives enthusiastic talks at astronomy conferences and other venues across Canada to encourage, motivate, and inspire his professional and amateur colleagues to participate in EPO activities.
Perhaps most significantly, Dr Hesser worked tirelessly to lead International Year of Astronomy (IYA) efforts within Canada. From 2005 to well beyond 2009, he led and guided this highly visible international project by serving as Canada’s “single point of contact” and as chair of the Executive Committee and Advisory Board for IYA within Canada. Under his direction, the IYA provided a “Galileo Moment” (i.e., “an engaging astronomy experience”) to more than two million people in Canada through more than 3600 separate events, from coast to coast to coast, and in both official languages. Always mindful of the need to cultivate lasting partnerships that sustain public interest in astronomy, Dr. Hesser has been a driving force behind “Beyond IYA” efforts within Canada.