Cassiopeia Newsletter – Vernal Equinox / équinoxe du printemps 2024


In this issue / Dans ce numéro:

ALMA Matters
Update on CASTOR
Gemini News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
Indigenous Engagement Committee Report
ngVLA Update

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 by the due date (usually 2 weeks in advance of publication) 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.

Indigenous Engagement Committee Report

By / par Samantha Lawler (University of Regina)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)

On February 13, the CASCA Indigenous Engagement Committee held its first workshop. The topic was “How to invite a local Indigenous knowledge-keeper to your astronomy class”. We discussed what documents were available for helping employees to fruitfully engage with local Indigenous groups, and compiled a list of these. A couple of institutions did not have a document at all, and several have really fantastic, comprehensive documents. A list of links to documents appears at the end of this article.

Many resources were highlighted during the workshop, but the committee wanted to specifically share a very complete document provided by the Calgary Board of Education that can be found here. This document is a complete elder protocol developed in partnership with many community members, the Native Counseling Services of Alberta and the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund.

The main take-aways from the workshop are summarized in the bullet points below:

  • Seek the help of a Cultural Mediator provided (or not) by your institution.
  • Be aware of the burden of requests Indigenous people sometimes receive.
  • Clearly communicate the “shared purpose” of a meeting with the elder/knowledge-keeper.
  • Build a relationship before your event/activity.
  • Story telling takes time, it has a purpose to help you, and it is up to you to extract the tools you need from that story. Structured agendas may not be useful in some settings and Elders especially tend to not like time constraints.
  • Elders have to be accompanied with respect over their whole visit to your institution.
  • Gifts and honoraria must be given with care and respect.
  • Ask what is the best way to reach out, it might not be emails.
  • Prepare your participants in advance. Develop and use a code of conduct.

The IEC thanks all the participants for an excellent discussion, and we plan for future workshops with the CASCA community.

List of Indigenous engagement documents from individual institutions:

Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By / par Eric Steinbring with translation by / avec traduction par Stéphanie Côté (Canadian Gemini Office, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre / Office Gemini Canadien, Centre de Recherches Herzberg en Astronomie & Astrophysique du CNRC)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)
La version française suit

Upcoming Deadlines

There are three important Call for Proposal (CfP) application deadlines coming up – all back-to-back-to-back – providing Canadians competitive access to Gemini. So just to help keep these straight:

  • First is the monthly CfP for Fast Turnaround (FT) time, at noon Hawai’i Standard Time (HST) on 31 March. For the FT Call see here. These are short proposals that can put a small, but important dataset in your hands quickly;
  • Next, on 1 April is the deadline for full proposals to the Large and Long Program (LLP) 2024 Call. These are big proposals, asking for either significantly more time than a Regular proposal, or spread over many semesters – or both;
  • And then, finally, is the 2024B semester CfP, at 4 PM (PDT) / 7 PM (EDT) on 2 April. This is for Regular semesterly proposals. Look here for the Canadian-specific information about that Call.

Good luck.

New Modes and Instruments

Something new in the North is the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) low-resolution Integral Field Unit (IFU); this has coverage from 1 to 2.5 microns over a 3.15″ x 4.80″ Field of View (FoV) with 0.15″ pixels. A second high-resolution IFU (using the 0.05″-pixel-sampling camera) is also now available on a shared-risk basis in the upcoming 2024B CfP. They can be used along with Altair adaptive optics, and together are meant to replace the venerable Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) – which has been retired. Incidentally, the Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) is also retired, but GNIRS has got your back, allowing imaging using its direct “keyhole” FoV. And, coming soon to the North is the new Immersion GRating INfrared Spectrograph-2 (IGRINS-2), which is essentially a clone of the visiting instrument IGRINS, which will soon leave Gemini South. IGRINS-2 is an efficient, high-resolution (R~40,000; 1.49-2.46 micron) spectrograph, which will undergo a Science Verification phase in the May/June timescale. Keep on the lookout for that!

Student and Outreach Initiatives

A couple things might be of interest, especially to students anticipating making use of Gemini – or, if you’re just curious. One is the Shadow the Scientists program which provides live, interactive sessions with honest-to-goodness astronomers doing astronomy from the big telescopes, and has lately had several sessions at Gemini North (with another coming up soon, on 27 March). It’s worth noting that “eavesdropping”, i.e. remote viewing during a night, is already an option which Gemini invites for successful Regular programs. Another new idea is the Student Visitor Program, which can fund selected graduate students attached to a successful Regular-semester program to visit Gemini (North or South) and, ideally, coordinate the visit to correspond with observations for the program itself. There’s more info here. The general intent of this is for a few students each semester to meet Gemini staff, give a talk, and learn about the observatory operations onsite: the telescope, instruments and data reduction, etc. It proved very popular for the first semester offered, in 2024A.

Echéances à venir

Il y a trois dates limites importantes pour les appels de demandes (AdD) qui s’approchent – et qui sont toutes consécutives – offrant aux Canadien.nes un accès compétitif à Gemini. Alors juste pour vous aider à y voir clair:

  • Le premier est l’appel de demandes mensuel pour le programme Retour Rapide (FT), à midi, heure normale d’Hawaï (HST), le 31 mars. Pour l’appel FT, voir ici. Il s’agit de demandes courtes qui peuvent rapidement vous apporter un ensemble de données restreint mais important;
  • Le 1er avril prochain sera la date limite pour les demandes complètes à l’appel 2024 du Programme Long et Large (LLP). Il s’agit de demandes de temps importantes, qui demandent soit beaucoup plus de temps qu’une demande régulière, soit s’étalent sur plusieurs semestres – ou les deux;
  • Et puis, enfin, l’appel de demandes du semestre 2024B, à 16h (HAP) / 19h (HAE) le 2 avril. Ceci concerne les demandes semestrielles régulières. Recherchez ici les informations spécifiques au Canada pour cet appel.

Bonne chance!

Nouveaux modes et instruments

L’unité de champ intégrale (=IFU) à basse résolution du spectrographe Gemini en proche infrarouge (GNIRS) est une nouveauté dans le Nord; il couvre de 1 à 2,5 microns sur un champ de vision (FoV) de 3,15″ x 4,80″ avec des pixels de 0,15″. Un deuxième IFU de haute résolution (utilisant la caméra à échantillonnage de pixels de 0,05″) est également désormais disponible en mode risques-partagés pour le prochain AdD 2024B. Ils peuvent être utilisés en mode optique adaptative avec Altair et, ensemble, sont destinés à remplacer le vénérable spectrographe de champ intégral dans le proche infrarouge (NIFS), qui a été retiré. Soit dit en passant, l’imageur proche infrarouge (NIRI) a également été retiré, mais GNIRS peut vous être utile, permettant l’imagerie en utilisant directement son champ en « trou de serrure ». Et bientôt dans le Nord nous aurons le nouveau spectrographe infrarouge à réseau en immersion (IGRINS-2), qui est essentiellement un clone de l’instrument visiteur IGRINS, qui quittera bientôt Gemini Sud. IGRINS-2 est un spectrographe efficace à haute résolution (R ~ 40 000 ; 1,49-2,46 microns), qui passera une phase de vérification scientifique en mai/juin. Restez à l’affût pour cela!

Initiatives pour é et pour la sensibilisation

Nous avons quelques nouvelles intéressantes en particulier pour les é qui envisagent d’utiliser Gemini prochainement- ou même si vous êtes simplement La première est le programme Shadow the Scientists qui propose des sessions interactives en direct avec de vrais astronomes faisant de la science sur des grands télescopes. Ce programme a récemment organisé plusieurs sessions à Gemini Nord (avec une autre à venir, le 27 mars). Il convient de noter que ce mode de «eavesdropping», c’est-à-dire la connection et visualisation à distance pendant une nuit, est déjà une option que Gemini offre à tous ses programmes réguliers cédulés dans la queue d’observation. Une autre nouvelle initiative est le programme d’É, qui paye pour qu’une sélection d’é gradué.es qui ont un programme accepté dans le semestre régulier puissent venir visiter Gemini (Nord ou Sud au choix); idéalement, la visite est coordonnée pour qu’elle corresponde à la prise d’observations de leur programme. Veuillez trouver toutes les informations ici. L’objectif général est de permettre à quelques étudiants chaque semestre de rencontrer le personnel de Gemini, donner une conférence et se familiariser avec les opérations de l’observatoire sur place: le télescope, les instruments et aussi la réduction des données, etc. Cela s’est avéré très populaire pour le premier semestre pour lequel le programme était offert, en 2024A.

ngVLA Update

By / par Erik Rosolowsky (U Alberta), Joan Wrobel (NRAO)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)

ngVLA development is continuing apace with ongoing science plan and technology planning in Canada and other engaged nations including Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan. There are two upcoming conferences that could be of interest to the Canadian ngVLA community.

Follow the Monarchs: A Journey to Explore the Cosmos at (Sub)milliarcsecond Scales with the ngVLA

Conference poster for “Follow the Monarchs: A Journey to Explore the Cosmos at (Sub)milliarcsecond Scales with the ngVLA” (credit: IRyA/NRAO/AUI/NSF)

This ngVLA international science conference will be held November 11-14 in person in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Morelia, Mexico. The conference will highlight and explore the novel scientific opportunities that will unfold with the unprecedented angular resolution and sensitivity capabilities offered by this new flagship facility. The conference will coincide with the Monarch butterflies completing their migration journey from Canada and the US to the mountains surrounding Morelia. Registration and abstract submission will open on April 1.

A variety of oral presentations and posters will be featured, with a special focus on the new science that will be possible at high angular resolution. The ngVLA will allow, for the first time, the detection of thermal emission at 1 mas angular scales, as well as unprecedented high fidelity imaging of non-thermal emission on scales less than 1 mas. Researchers within and beyond radio astronomy expertise are invited to engage in discussions, share insights, and start to plan the groundbreaking science that the ngVLA will make possible. We particularly encourage the participation of early career scientists, who will be the major users of this observatory.

A Coherent View of Atomic and Molecular Gas from Infrared to Radio Wavelengths

This IAU Focus Meeting 2 will be held August 6-7 in person in Cape Town, South Africa. The meeting will explore how the work taking place at existing facilities is shaping our understanding of the interstellar medium structure and feedback in our own Milky Way and external galaxies, and how this work is re-framing the science that will be addressed by the remarkable capabilities of future radio observatories. Contributed speakers will be announced on April 8.

ALMA Matters


By / par Brenda Matthews and Gerald Schieven (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)

Cycle 10 Resumes

Cycle 10 observing resumed on schedule after the February shutdown. Band 1 PI observations started last week (with ~40 antennas). ALMA is currently in Configuration 1 and will change to Configuration 2 on 25 March 2024. ALMA will remain in Configuration 2 until 19 April.

Cycle 11 Call for Proposals

On 21 March, the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) will issue the call for proposals for Cycle 11, which will run October 2024 through September 2025.  The proposal deadline is expected to be 25 April 2024 at 15h UT.

Some of the new capabilities being offered in Cycle 11 include:

  • Band 1 (35 GHz to 50 GHz) full polarization on all antennas of the 12-m Array with the same capability and accuracy as Bands 3-7
  • Band 1 Stokes I on the 7-m Array
  • Full range of configurations (C-1 through C-10) in all bands (Bands 1, 3-10) on the 12-m Array
  • For a full list of capabilities, refer to the ALMA Proposer’s Guide on the documents and tools page

For complete information on the call for proposals, see the documents and tools page.

Cycle 11 ALMA Ambassadors

The selected Cycle 11 ALMA Ambassadors include two Canadians: Jess Speedie of the University of Victoria and Hamid Hassani of the University of Alberta.  Both will be hosting workshops on data reduction in fall 2024 at their home institutions. Jess Speedie intends to host a hybrid workshop to enable participation beyond local participants. Watch this space for more information on these workshops in the next eCass.

The ALMA Ambassador Program provides training and an up to $10,000 research grant to postdoctoral researchers, senior graduate students, and early career researchers interested in expanding their ALMA/interferometry expertise and sharing that knowledge with their home institutions.  The selected Ambassadors receive training at the NRAO headquarters in Charlottesville, VA on topics including interferometry basics, ALMA science capabilities, proposal writing, and guidance on speaking on these topics.  For more information and to apply for the program, see here.

ALMA Primer Video Series

The ALMA Primer Instructional Video series, which can be found on the Science Portal here, is designed to provide a basic introduction to radio interferometry, calibration, imaging, and other topics in short (5-10 minute), easy-to-digest segments.  As a work in progress, new videos are released periodically.  A new video, an Introduction to Self-Calibration, was recently released.  In this ~8 minute video, we look at Self-Calibration, how it works, and how and when to use this powerful technique that can significantly improve the dynamic range of your images.  A new video on Sidebands, Basebands and Spectral Windows will be released soon.

Other videos in the series include an Introduction to Radio Interferometry, Calibration, CLEAN, and much more.  Subscribe to the ALMA Primer Video Series youTube channel to be alerted to new videos as they are released.

We are always looking for ideas for new videos, and especially looking for people who would like to help with script generation, animation, and narration.  If you have an idea or would like to join the Primer Video Working Group (at any level of effort), please contact

Update on CASTOR

By / par John Hutchings, Patrick Côté (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)

CASTOR continues to progress towards approval and flight contracts. An extended (three-year) industrial technical (STDP) contract will wrap up this month, with the final review meeting scheduled on March 21. The work packages are being defined in detail for Phase A, with a subset prioritized in the event flight approval is delayed.

While delayed due to personnel and supply issues, the detector testing to be done at the University of Calgary vacuum facility is planned in detail. In discussions with JPL and Teledyne-e2v, the performance specifications and expectations for the flight arrays are being defined. Significant resources are being devoted by HAA to support this effort.

Our international partners also await funding, to be triggered by a formal approval in Canada, and subsequent agreements. Informal interchange of details continues as official export licences allow. The UK Space agency has approved their initial CASTOR funding to begin this spring. The Coalition for Astronomy has continued a program of meetings and mailings to alert government MPs, the PMO and related ministries to the CASTOR opportunity and international interest. They have also instigated significant media coverage. CASTOR will be represented in several upcoming conferences, including the CASCA AGM in Toronto where a Town Hall meeting is planned.

The recent MIDEX selection of UVEX by NASA offers further, anticipated, opportunity for collaboration and follow-up, similar to the CASTOR surveys coordinated with Roman, Euclid, and Rubin. The delayed launch date of 2030 for UVEX is also compatible with the CASTOR flight schedule.

For more information on the mission, see here.

Cassiopeia Newsletter – Winter Solstice / solstice d’hiver 2023


In this issue / Dans ce numéro:

President’s Message
Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
2024 CASCA Awards: Call for Nominations / Prix CASCA 2024: appel de candidatures
Update on CASTOR
ngVLA Update
Optical-Infrared Review Committee
SKA Update
Dissertation: Studies of evolved stellar populations: from giants to remnants

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 by the due date (usually 2 weeks in advance of publication) 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.

President’s Message

By / par Sarah Gallagher (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2023)

Dear CASCA Community,

It has been my great pleasure to work with the CASCA Board and CASCA committees and members since the 2023 AGM to connect our society and advance our priorities as articulated in the 2020 Long Range Plan (LRP). Below, I’ll highlight some key activities to that end.

The Coalition for Canadian Astronomy has been active this fall lobbying the federal government in support of the CASTOR mission (, our top priority for space astronomy. We have had in-person or virtual meetings with ISED, Finance, the Office of the Chief Science Advisor, and Prime Minister’s Office. In general, the reception was encouraging, but this is a tough budget year. The CASTOR team has put together an impressive portfolio of letters of support from 13 university Vice Presidents of Research, 3 Canadian aerospace companies, and 2 international space agencies that we have submitted as follow up to the meetings. featured the CASTOR mission in a glowing profile. The 2024 budget is expected in March/April timeframe, and we’ll continue our efforts in the new year.

In an effort to increase coordination and communication with ACURA, Gilles Joncas (Executive Director) and I have been meeting monthly. I have also been meeting monthly with Bill Whelan, President of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP), to coordinate efforts with our sister society. We are exploring potential ways to partner as well as sharing information about what we are doing on several fronts, including lobbying, outreach, and communications. CAP sent a letter of support for CASTOR that was included with our portfolio. We have endorsed their pre-budget submission as well.

A priority for the coming year is to develop drafts of an updated CASCA mission statement, and new code of conduct and ethics and values statements in time for a vote at the AGM in June 2024. These drafts will be developed in coordination between the Board, the Equity and Inclusivity Committee, and the LRP Community Recommendations Implementation Committee, and circulated well in advance of a vote to get feedback from the community. We consider these documents to be necessary to help us prioritize CASCA activities given our limited human and financial resources.

CASCA has endorsed NSERC’s Dimensions Charter to indicate our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (LRP Recommendation 37).

My initial commitment to CASCA was to serve for one year, but I have decided to extend this commitment to the full two year term. Working on behalf of the society with our excellent team has been rewarding so far, and I would like another year to advance more of the important work that we have underway.

I wish all CASCA members a restorative holiday break and a happy 2024!

Best wishes, Sarah

Dissertation: Studies of evolved stellar populations: from giants to remnants

(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2023)
by / par Dr. Paul Ripoche
Thesis defended on August 8, 2023
University of British Columbia
Thesis advisor: Prof. Jeremy Heyl

Studying galaxies helps scientists understand better the structure and history of the Universe. The properties of galaxies, such as their dynamics and evolution, can be inferred through studying the age, composition, and distribution of the different stellar populations (from young stars to their remnants) that constitute them, using multi-wavelength observations. In this thesis, we focus on the study of old stellar populations and their remnants, from X-rays to the near infrared. Superconducting transition-edge sensors carried by X-ray telescopes, such as Colibrì, are powerful tools for the study of neutron stars’ and black holes’ fundamental properties. We develop a low-computational-cost technique that optimizes energy and time resolution to levels of about 1 eV and 100 ns, respectively, over a wide range of energies (0–30 keV). Such sensitivities will give new insights on the physics of dense matter and extreme magnetic fields. Using 2MASS near-infrared photometry and the Gaia Data Release 2, we identify carbon stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud, Small Magellanic Cloud and Milky Way (MW), and we derive the corresponding carbon-star luminosity function (CSLF). Due to its limited dispersion in the J band, the CSLF is a promising rung in the cosmic distance ladder (up to 50–60 Mpc). Thanks to the next generation of telescopes (e.g. James Webb Space Telescope), the CSLF could replace the Cepheid–Type-Ia supernova pair rung, thus enabling the derivation of an independent measurement of the Hubble constant. We identify galactic white dwarfs (WDs) thanks to their colours, in the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope Large Area U-band Deep Survey, at unprecedented faint magnitudes (27 mag). The U-band and optical photometry allows us to fit for the physical properties of the white dwarfs, such as surface temperature, mass, surface gravity, cooling age, and distance. We find a main mass peak consistent with globular-cluster studies, making our sample the largest and deepest old stellar-halo WD population. Finally, we derive a typical age of the MW stellar halo consistent with previous studies, as well as the typical age of the oldest WDs in the MW, putting further constraints on the history of our Galaxy.

ngVLA Update

By /par Erik Rosolowsky (U Alberta), Joan Wrobel (NRAO)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2023)

A portion of the 18m prototype ngVLA antenna, next to the mtex antenna technology facility in Saxony, Germany. Credit: mtex

Looking Back and Looking Forward

In 2023, the ngVLA project reached many important milestones. Community successes included domestic and international science conferences. An industry highlight was the unveiling of portions of the 18m prototype antenna by Germany’s mtex antenna technology. At the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the ngVLA project entered into the design process for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction. The NSF’s National Science Board was also briefed on the ngVLA.

The year 2024 promises to be as productive for the ngVLA project. Focus areas will include preparing for the prototype antenna’s arrival on the Plains of San Agustin, continuing system design work, supporting science conferences, and engaging international and interagency communities to solidify partnerships.

A Coherent View of Atomic and Molecular Gas from Infrared to Radio Wavelengths

An IAU General Assembly Focus Meeting (FM2) will take place August 6-7, 2024 at Cape Town, South Africa. It will explore how the work taking place at existing facilities is shaping our understanding of the interstellar medium structure and feedback in our own Milky Way and external galaxies, and how this work is re-framing the science that will be addressed by the remarkable capabilities of future radio observatories. This will be a forward-looking meeting: speakers will articulate the impact of the newly gained knowledge from JWST, ALMA, MeerKAT, and ASKAP data on the science that SKA and ngVLA will address. Register through the GA website.