ngVLA Update

By / par Erik Rosolowsky (U Alberta), Joan Wrobel (NRAO)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

Recommendations from the U.S. decadal survey Astro2020. Full science operations for the ngVLA would begin in the 2030s. The ngVLA would advance all three of the priority scientific areas identified by Astro2020. Credit: National Academy of Sciences

ngVLA Funded to Enter the MREFC Review Process

In July, the U.S. National Science Foundation approved the ngVLA project for entry into the Major Research Equipment & Facilities Construction (MREFC) review process. MREFC queue entry is not a commitment to construct the ngVLA, but does signal strong scientific and technical promise, and growing project readiness. Three MREFC reviews (Conceptual, Preliminary, Final) will be completed over the coming years. Those reviews will provide the Foundation with the critical information needed to consider adding ngVLA construction to a budget request later this decade. This would pave the way to begin full ngVLA science operations in the 2030s, as recommended by the U.S. decadal survey Astro2020.

In September, the Foundation released funds to continue the project’s design efforts through 2026. That the ngVLA has been funded to enter the MREFC queue is a testament to the research community’s strong support for the project. The ngVLA project is very grateful for that support!

Special Session: Space Weather on Other Worlds

The NRAO and the ngVLA project will convene a Special Session titled “Space Weather on Other Worlds” in January 2024 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.

The session will highlight recent scientific breakthroughs in characterizing space weather on other worlds with current facilities; describe planned near- and long-term improvements for ground- and space-based facilities; discuss major scientific leaps likely to result from next-generation facilities across the electromagnetic spectrum; and review the highest-priority themes in this area for the state-of-the-art observatories to be commissioned in the next decade.

Invited presentations by Bin Chen (NJIT), Lia Corrales (University of Michigan), Cynthia Froning (Southwest Research Institute), Melodie Kao (University of California, Santa Cruz), Sebastian Pineda (University of Colorado), and Jackie Villadsen (Bucknell College) will be featured. Contributed iPoster presentations are welcomed. Abstracts are due September 29, 2023.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

Funding Proposals

Disappointingly, the $6.5M Canada Foundation for Innovation funding request for wide-field spectroscopic telescope design and development work was not funded.

Based on the comments received, a significantly different approach would have to be taken for a future proposal to be successful. For instance, the Expert Committee reviewers wrote “Although the long-term science that will be enabled by the planned technology development activities is important, the proposal does not clearly articulate their innovation. As described, the endeavors are not novel or pushing the state-of-the-art.” And: “The nature of this project is too specialized to have concrete benefits on the population. As such, its impact remains unclear.” While the lack of direct and immediate return to the community is inherent to all astronomy projects, these comments imply that CFI is unlikely to be right path to fund proven components for MSE but could support more innovative (and potentially high risk) technologies.

More encouragingly, a $0.5M NSF ATI (Advanced Technology & Instrumentation) grant proposal led by Sam Barden at the MSE Project Office at CFHT was approved. The proposal will fund critical technology development for MSE spectrographs (wavelength splitting and pupil slicing).

A $4M NSF MRI (Major Research Instrumentation) will be revised and resubmitted in November.

An NSF Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure-1 (MSRI1, $6M-$20M range) proposal for MSE design work or Pathfinder construction will be submitted Jan 2024. A similar previous proposal was well received (recommended by a review panel to go forward to the next review phase, but the panel was overruled).

If an NSF Mid-Scale Innovations Program in Astronomical Sciences (MSIP, $4M-$30M) call is made this year, a proposal to advance the MSE Pathfinder will be submitted.

MSE and MSE Pathfinder Instrument at CFHT

Information on the MSE Pathfinder instrument has been circulated as part of the Upcoming Ten Years of CFHT discussions, as circulated to CASCA members and available at this link. Discussions also continue with four groups who expressed interest in MSE Pathfinder and three in MSE design study work in the recent CFHT call for partners in those initiatives.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

Background Summary of the TMT Project

Recognizing that the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) is a project spanning multiple decades, many people new to the astronomy community will be unfamiliar with its history. Following is a short summary of the project’s background, with links to more information. Current updates detailing developments since our last report follow this background.

current news follows summary

The TMT is a proposed 30-m diameter, optical telescope with a state-of-the-art adaptive optics system that will achieve unprecedented sensitivity and resolution. It will enable transformative discoveries in a wide range of disciplines including exoplanets and the search for biomarkers, cosmology and the formation of the Universe, galaxies and stars, and much more, as described in the Detailed Science Case. TMT is one of only three planned telescopes of this type. The others are the 25-m Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and the 42-m European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

Canada has been engaged in the TMT project since 2003, with a significant scientific and technical leadership role. Canada joined the TMT International Observatory (TIO) corporation as a full member in 2015, following a $243M commitment from the federal government. These funds primarily support construction of the enclosure by Canadian industry, and the adaptive optics system, NFIRAOS, by Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics (HAA). Participation in the TMT has been strongly endorsed by the Long Range Planning exercise, starting with the midterm review in 2005. Canada has three seats on the TMT Board: the ACURA Executive Director (Gilles Joncas), the HAA Director General (Luc Simard); and a Science Governor (currently vacant). Canada also has three voting seats on the Science Advisory Committee, and one non-voting position usually occupied by the Science Governor. Canada’s share of observing time is expected to be in the range of 10-15%, though this depends on the outcome of negotiations for NSF partnership, and the final project cost.

TMT is a technically mature project, but construction requires both significant additional funding, and the support of the local community. Protests against TMT construction in 2014 and 2019 have prevented construction from proceeding. The position of CASCA and ACURA, endorsed by CATAC, is that unless the TMT project has consent from the Native Hawaiians, Canada’s astronomical community cannot support its construction on Maunakea. Several important changes have taken place since 2019, including the establishment of the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (MKSOA). The formation of this body was recommended by a Working Group initiated by the State Governor, and signed into law on July 7, 2022. This Authority began work on July 1, 2023, and will take over management of the mountain from the University of Hawaii after a transition period of no more than five years. This Authority includes Native Hawaiian representatives and cultural practitioners, giving them a direct role in the management of these lands, including the issuing of leases to astronomy facilities.

The US Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP) is a partnership between TMT, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and NOIRLab, to advance US access to 30-m class telescopes in both hemispheres. A proposal to the NSF has led to a formal review of the project by that body, under the MREFC process. Following a recommendation by the US Astro2020 review, the NSF is considering a significant share of at least 25% in each of TMT and GMT. The review process includes federal environmental and cultural reviews, under the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

TMT does have legal right to construct on an alternative site, on La Palma, Canary Islands. There are still associated environmental, political and social complications, including motivated environmental groups opposing construction. The NSF review process is currently limited to Maunakea as a potential site.

Construction cannot begin until the NSF Final Design Phase is completed – a necessary but not sufficient condition. This phase nominally takes 1.5 years, and has not started yet. Assuming seven years for construction, the earliest possible first light date for TMT is 2033. Technical first light for the European ELT is planned for 2027, with the first four instruments commissioned and ready for science by 2030. It is disappointing to be behind the ELT, when at one point (in 2014) TMT was so far ahead. However, CATAC is mindful that these facilities have anticipated lifetimes of >40 years, serve very large communities and that current anticipated first light dates are subject to change.

Further information can be found on the TMT website. Previous CATAC reports and eCass articles can be found here.

Project Status

Earlier this year, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) completed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the US Extremely Large Telescope Program (US-ELTP). The report was positive, and it is expected that a recommendation will be made to the National Science Board (NSB) to move into the Final Design Review (FDR) stage. The next meeting of the NSB is Nov 29-30, 2023.

The NSF Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Section 106 process continues, with updates and FAQ provided here. This process continues to move slowly, due in part to the large volume of comments submitted during the scoping process.

While the NSF process takes place, the corresponding delay to TMT construction is of concern, as the potential for a large gap between E-ELT and TMT first light dates grows. LRP recommendation #16 reads:

We recommend that NRC address any lack of access to a VLOT due to delays in TMT construction through arrangements that give Canadians access to other VLOT facilities.

CATAC looks forward to participating in future discussions with HAA and the astronomy community about this recommendation.

As part of the NSF review process, the TMT Detailed Science Case is being updated, led by the International Science Development Teams (ISDTs). All chapter editors have now been identified. The plan is to deliver a complete draft by the end of 2023 for review and comments.


The Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority (MKSOA) began their work on July 1, 2023, and are in the process of hiring staff. Full transfer of authority from the University of Hawaii to MKSOA will happen within five years; no new leases or subleases may be signed before then. It is still too early to know if there will be a process for lease negotiation in the interim.

The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) is on path to be decommissioned this year, with the telescope itself being removed this month. Detailed, up to date information about the process is available at the CSO website.

On July 14, a petition was filed to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), requesting a decision under the Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures (EWUAP). The request is a joint submission from three petitioners: KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, (2) Ziibiing Lab: Global Indigenous Politics Research Collaboratory, and (3) the Transnational Law and Racial Justice Network (TLRJN). Among other things, the petition requests that CERD urge Canada to divest support from TMT. This petition is now before CERD and the process, which can take several years, is a closed one between the committee and the Canadian government. ACURA’s response to this petition, and the petition itself, can be found here.

Upcoming Workshops

There will be three ELT-JWST synergy workshops: one in North America, one in Asia, and one in Europe. Registration is open for the first, to be held at UCLA Dec 11-15, 2023: “The Landscape for ELTs after the launch of JWST.” Canadians are strongly encouraged to attend. Some travel support may be available – please contact for more information. The European and Asian meetings are anticipated to be held in 2024.

The last TMT Science Forum was in China in 2019. Plans to hold one in Canada in 2021 were postponed due to COVID and then finally cancelled in 2022. It is now anticipated that the next forum will be held in Washington, D.C., in late 2024.

CATAC Membership Changes

After six years of excellent service, inaugural CATAC member Harvey Richer has come to the end of his term. We are grateful for his work on this committee, and in particular for leading the effort to host the Science Forum in Vancouver, unfortunately thwarted by the pandemic. ACURA has nominated Suresh Sivanandam (U Toronto) to take Harvey’s place on CATAC.

Gilles Joncas has replaced Don Brooks as ACURA Executive Director and serves on CATAC in a non-voting, ex-officio role. Similarly, as CASCA President, Sarah Gallagher takes over from Chris Wilson.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair,
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
Suresh Sivanandam (University of Toronto)
Jason Rowe (Bishop’s)
Stan Metchev (Western University; TIO SAC Canadian co-chair)
Gilles Joncas (ACURA Executive Director, non-voting, ex-officio)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Sarah Gallagher (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC; NRC, observer)

ALMA Matters

By / par Brenda Matthews and Gerald Schieven (NRC)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

Cycle 10 Proposal Statistics

Researchers from Canadian institutions were allocated over 16% of the North American portion of ALMA time (including both the 12m-array and the ACA). This is significantly more than Canada’s nominal 7.125% share of North American time.

ALMA Ambassadors Applications Due 13 October

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, in February 2024 on topics including interferometry basics, ALMA science capabilities, proposal writing, and guidance on speaking on these topics. Ambassadors will then host a workshop at their home institution to prepare their local community for the Cycle 11 call for proposals. The deadline for applying for this program is 13 October. For more information and to apply for the program, go to the NRAO website.

Cycle 10 to Start 30 September

Cycle 10 is now scheduled to start on the afternoon of Saturday 30 September.

ALMA Announces Observatory Projects for Configurations 8 and 9

The ALMA Observatory announces five filler programs that have been approved on the main array. The programs are designed to fill the gaps in the 12-m Array observing schedule at low frequencies in Configurations 8 and 9, based on input from scientists at the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) and the ALMA Regional Centers (ARCs). The proposed programs were reviewed by the Observatory Scientist and the Department of Science Operations head, and approved by the ALMA Director.

The data from the proposals will be quality assessed by the JAO and released through the ALMA Archive with no proprietary period. Observing priority will be given to any remaining PI science projects and activities to commission new capabilities on the array. The release of data in Band 1 will be dependent on the progress of the ongoing commissioning activities. The release of any Observatory Project data will be preceded by an announcement on the Science Portal.

The approved projects are:

  • 2022.A.00032.S: 12CO and Band 3 continuum 5-pc-scale imaging of molecular clouds in the Antennae galaxies
  • 2022.A.00034.S: Band 3 observations of a super-deep 1’x1′ field in Hubble Deep Field South
  • 2022.A.00036.S: Band 3 high-spectral resolution survey of HL Tau
  • 2022.A.00035.S: Band 1 Continuum and CS line observations of HD 163296
  • 2022.A.00037.S: Band 1 Continuum and CS line observations of HL Tau

For more information, see the ALMA website.

Update on CASTOR

By / par John Hutchings, Patrick Côté (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

The CASTOR mission continues to work towards flight approval and funding on several fronts.

  1. The phase 0 science study report has been submitted to CSA, and shared with other stakeholders such as NRC and our international colleagues. It is an extensive document that updates the facility capabilities with a nominal mission schedule and observing plan that covers a broad range of frontier science investigations. The capabilities of high-resolution wide-field UV-blue imaging, spectroscopy, precision photometry, and wide-field astrometry makes the mission entirely unique within the international landscape.
  2. The Coalition for Astronomy (ACURA, CASCA, and Industry) has prepared a plan of engagement with government, already under way, and set for the coming months. They are making use of updated mission digests. Statements of support and interest are also being received from ACURA (and other) universities endorsing the importance of moving ahead with CASTOR, noting that it forms an important, major component of the 2020 LRP plan for astronomy.
  3. International partnerships continue to develop, with formal meetings held recently between CSA and counterparts in Spain and Korea. The UK space agency has further formalized their wish to join CASTOR, and a group in France is also developing a plan for participation. We expect continued discussions with NASA as their plans evolve throughout this year. CSA continue to formalize the details of sharing technical information with all these groups.
  4. The JPL-processed CMOS detectors have been packaged by Te2v in UK and shipped to Canada. Control electronics are being delivered to the UV vacuum facility at the University of Calgary where final preparations are made for the testing program agreed on with JPL. This will be an important step in the proposed partnership with them, and potentially for future NASA missions, like the Habitable Worlds Observatory.
  5. Several NRC funding opportunities for CASTOR-related work are being pursued, with proposals submitted both in August and in the coming weeks. The team at HAA and the University of Manitoba is continuing their work with students who are leading several projects in science planning and mission operations.

For more information on the mission, see the CASTOR mission website.

Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By / par Eric Steinbring (Canadian Gemini Office, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre / Office Gemini Canadien, Centre de Recherches Herzberg en Astronomie & Astrophysique du CNRC)

(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2023)

La version française suit

Observatory Status

Since 1 August 2023 both telescopes have been in shutdown. That morning NSF’s NOIRLab detected a cyber incident in its computer systems, which forced the suspension of astronomical observations at Gemini North, in Hawai’i. Out of an abundance of caution, they also decided to isolate the Gemini Observatory computer systems by shutting those down. Likewise, operations were suspended from Gemini South, in Chile, which happened to be in a scheduled shutdown at the time. NOIRLab currently reports that the recovery process of the affected facilities and telescopes is ongoing, and although the Observing Tool (OT) does not yet allow connection to the database, the website is now back online. The Archive and Phase I tools (PIT) are working, as is the Helpdesk-ticketing system. Further updates will appear here. Know that the CGO is monitoring this situation, and when operations are expected to start again there will also be an announcement to the CASCA-membership e-mail exploder.

Calls for Proposals

Thankfully the cyberincident has had no effect on planning for the Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST) Special shared-risk Call for Proposals, nor the upcoming semester of 2024A. So, in fact, two CfPs are out right now:

  • A special shared-risk GHOST CfP for Gemini-South only, through the Fast Turnaround program. The 2023B PIT (v2.2.0) will be required for this CfP, and the deadline is Saturday September 30, at 12PM (noon) Hawai’i Standard Time,
  • and also the regular 2024A semester CfP for both Gemini North and South, plus Subaru Exchange Time. The new 2024A PIT is required for this CfP, and the deadline (for Canadian applications) is Tuesday October 3, at 4PM (PDT) / 7PM (EDT).

Statut de l’Observatoire

Depuis le 1er août 2023, les deux télescopes sont à l’arrêt. Ce matin-là, le NOIRLab du NSF a détecté un cyber-incident dans ses systèmes informatiques, qui a forcé l’arrêt des observations astronomiques à Gemini Nord, à Hawaï. Par prudence, ils ont également décidé d’isoler les systèmes informatiques de l’Observatoire Gemini en les fermant tous. De même, les opérations ont été suspendues à Gemini Sud, au Chili, qui se trouvait alors en arrêt programmé. NOIRLab rapporte actuellement que le processus de récupération des installations et des télescopes concernés est en cours, et bien que l’outil d’observation (OT) ne permette pas encore la connexion à la base de données, le site Web est désormais de nouveau en ligne. Les Archives de Gemini et l’outil de Phase I (PIT) fonctionnent, tout comme le système de tickets du Helpdesk. D’autres mises à jour apparaîtront ici. Sachez que le CGO surveille la situation et que lorsque les opérations reprendront nous en ferons l’annonce par courriel aux membres de la CASCA.

Appels de demandes

Heureusement, le cyberincident n’a eu aucun effet sur la planification de l’appel de demandes spécial à risques partagés pour le Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST), ni sur le prochain semestre 2024A. Donc, en fait, deux appels de demandes sont actuellement en cours:

  • Un appel de demandes spécial à risques partagés pour GHOST à Gemini-Sud uniquement, via le programme Retour Rapide (Fast Turnaround). Le PIT 2023B (v2.2.0) est requis pour cet appel de demandes, et la date limite est le samedi 30 septembre à 12 heures (midi), heure normale d’Hawaï,
  • et aussi l’appel de demandes régulier du semestre 2024A pour Gemini Nord et Sud, avec le temps d’échange Subaru. Le nouveau PIT 2024A est requis pour cet appel de demandes, et la date limite (pour les candidatures canadiennes) est le mardi 3 octobre à 16h (PDT)/19h (EDT).

Cassiopeia Newsletter – Autumnal Equinox / equinoxe d’automne 2023


In this issue:

ALMA Matters
Update on CASTOR
CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope
Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update
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 specified due date 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.

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 Toutes les soumissions doivent être reçues avant la date limite spécifiée pour être publiées dans la prochaine édition. J’accepte 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 (CSA)


Foreword and Farewell

Ongoing Missions


Future Missions


Preparing the Future

Topical Teams in Space Astronomy
Space Technology Development Program (STDP)
Science Readiness Levels

Community Support

Co-Investigator (Co-I) Grants (now ROSS)
FAST Grants AO
NSERC PDF Supplements
Canadian Student Participation in Space Conferences


CSEW 2022
The JCSA Consultation Committee

Forward and Farewell

As I prepared this update, I realized that it has been over a year since my last contribution to Cassiopeia. There have been considerable developments at the CSA in the last year.  The news media covered well the announcements of the exploration and lunar program, with its specific funding in the federal budget of March 2023. It included:  an extension of Canada’s participation in the ISS until 2030 ($1.1 billion); developments for a robotic lunar utility vehicle ($1.2 billion over 13 years) and funding for the Lunar Exploration Acceleration Program (LEAP), supporting Canada’s space industry to accelerate the development of new technologies ($150 million over five years), as well as support of Canadian science on the Lunar Gateway (station) ($76.5 million over 8 years).

On April 3, 2023, as part of the NASA lunar mission crew announcement, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister responsible for the CSA, announced that Jeremy Hansen will be the first CSA astronaut to fly around the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis II mission.

In planetary news, an important milestone will occur when the OSIRIS-Rex mission will return the sample from asteroid Bennu on 24 September 2023.  Canada will receive a portion of the sample in return of our contribution of the Laser Altimeter that mapped the surface of the asteroid.

In astronomy news, we look forward to the launch of ESA’s Euclid mission in early July.  Although CSA did not contribute to the mission, many Canadian astronomers are part of the science consortium and CSA provides support to some for their participation through the Co-Investigator grants program.

And not to forget the release of the CSA’s new logo!

And finally, I need to mention that this will be my last contribution to Cassiopeia since I will retire at the end of August.  Working at the CSA supporting the space astronomy program for almost 20 years has always been exciting and rewarding.  The Canadian astronomical community is strong, well organized, well represented with CASCA, and maintains excellence in research, as demonstrated by its involvement on the international scene and contribution to major space observatories.  Canadian astronomers, students, and industry members can be very proud of their accomplishments over the last decades, and the future continues to look very promising thanks to the perseverance of many dynamic members of the community. I had the privilege to meet many great researchers through the CSA programs and as co-Chair of the JCSA for over a decade.

Ongoing Missions and Programs

JWST (J. Dupuis)

Everyone remembers the flawless launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on Christmas Day 2021, and the release of the spectacular first images getting major media attention.

Canada provided the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), a critical element of the observatory used for precise pointing of the telescope, and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) providing superb science.  Science operations are going well with cycle 1 nearly completed.  There has been good response and success from Canadian astronomers for cycles 1 and 2, although the allocated 5% observation time is not used fully yet. There are currently 24 ongoing grants for ERS and cycle 1 investigators, in addition to the 2 ongoing GTO grants extended until completion of the program.  The CSA commits to support researchers receiving observation time, with cycle 2 CSA grant funding AO expected to be released this summer.  NASA / STScI cycle 3 is approaching with a call for proposals on 15 August 2023, and a deadline in October.

The CSA continues to support JWST operations in collaboration with the NRC HAA, the Université de Montréal, as well as technical contract support with Honeywell.

ASTROSAT (J. Dupuis)

The CSA will continue to support the Astrosat mission, operating since 2015; an extension has been approved to 2025.  Astrosat (ISRO) provides Canadians up to 5% of observation time, in return to CSA’s contribution of the UV detector readout system (UVIT). As mentioned in a previous newsletter, the NUV detector of UVIT remains unavailable, but the FUV and VIS channels are performing well.

Several Canadian researchers having obtained observing time in earlier cycles have been awarded grant support from the CSA.  There have been over 138 UVIT publications since the beginning of the mission.  We encourage Astrosat grant recipients to inform CSA of their resulting or upcoming publications, as well as any related media releases.  ISRO continues to announce regular AOs, with cycle 13 results recently announced to the applicants.

The Contribution Agreement with the University of Calgary for science support has been extended.  Users can contact Joe Postma, University of Calgary, for details on UVIT data processing and analysis issues or for assistance in preparation of proposals.


The Ariel mission is ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme medium-class (M4) mission expected for launch in 2029. Ariel is a 4-year mission dedicated to study exoplanet composition, with a 1-m telescope observing in visible and NIR photometric and spectroscopic bands.

Ariel should be of great interest to the exoplanet research community. Canada was invited by the mission Consortium to make a hardware contribution to the spacecraft.  This opportunity requires delivery of a cryo-harness, space-qualified data cables from the instruments to the spacecraft bus that can operate over a range of cryogenic temperatures.  Such a contribution will offer in return exciting scientific research opportunities to the community, consistent with the recommendations of the LRP2020 and the JCSA.

Significant progress has been made, through discussion with Ariel Consortium Project Management, the mission PI and with ESA directly.  A formal Agreement with ESA is drafted and expected to be signed soon.  The scientific return would be the invitation of a co-PI to the Ariel Science Board and allowing several other Canadian collaborators on the Ariel consortium.

NEOSSat Guest Observer (GO) Program

Cycle 6 of the GO program was recently started, with 7 proposals retained.  Since the start of the program, all the data is public, with no proprietary period and quickly uploaded to CADC.  There is no grant funding associated with the GO program.  A description of the NEOSSat space telescope mission (that celebrated its 10th year of operations last February), and information about previous cycles are available here including the list of approved guest observers and projects.


XRISM is the JAXA X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, expected to launch in August 2023.  CSA contributed to support calibration tests of the Resolve instrument, the latter being an important contribution to the payload by NASA.  With CSA grant support, Dr Luigi Gallo at St Mary’s University and Dr Brian McNamara (Resolve team) at the University of Waterloo are members of the teams.  In return for the Resolve calibration efforts, with a CSA/NASA MOU, Canadian astronomers can compete for (US) observation time through the competitive NASA solicitations.  There is already one successful applicant to the early XGS (commissioning phase) program, Dr J. Hlavacek-Larrondo, Univ. de Montreal. The CSA will support future successful applicants to the NASA GO cycles 1 and 2 solicitations; details will be provided shortly after launch.


On 14 March 2023 BRITE celebrated its 10th anniversary, quite an exceptional accomplishment for a set of nanosatellites originally designed for 1 or 2 years of operations. BRITE was a Canadian concept, following the success of MOST and attracted international partners (Austria and Poland).  Through a decade of science, it generated over 200 papers.

The CSA helped BRITE development since 2010 and has been supporting the operations and science of since its launch in 2013. The last fiscal year 2022-2023 was the last year of support.  CSA greatly appreciated the services of the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) for the operations of the nanosatellite and to Prof. Gregg Wade at RMC for his leadership of the BRITE science coordination throughout these years.

Future Missions


CASTOR is recognized as the top priority in the LRP2020 for a very large space astronomy mission.  This initiative gathered momentum after a comprehensive technical and science study completed in 2019 that defined a mission baseline and refined the science objectives with instrument requirements, documented in comprehensive technical and science reports.

CASTOR investments continue today with an important technology development since early 2021 to be completed in Dec 2023.  This $2.25M investment includes work on telescope optical and structure design, focal plane and large area detectors, a fine steering mirror, a UVMOS and a photometer for exoplanet transits.

A Phase 0 study with industry is almost completed to confirm the baseline design of the mission including the cost estimation and a development plan.  Further mission science developments continue in parallel under the leadership of NRC HAA.  The science lead (Pat Côté) manages 8 Science Working Groups, addressing different science objectives, which further demonstrates the capabilities and versatility of the observatory.  (See Pat Côté’s contribution to this issue of Cassiopeia on CASTOR.)

Such a large mission will require a special budget request from the government as it is beyond the operational budget of the CSA.  Continued and broadly expressed community support (academia, industry, public and other organizations) will be essential to realize these ambitious objectives.

The CSA is in close collaboration with NRC HAA to define a plan forward as well as explore the interests of potential international partners to join and contribute to the mission.


JAXA selected LiteBIRD as their next large-class mission and considerable developments are ongoing with international partners, with a targeted launch date in early 2030s.  Canada was welcomed as potential contributor several years ago to provide the warm readout electronics for the large array of cryogenic bolometers needed for this CMB Pol mission.  CSA has invested technology developments (STDP) over several years, starting in 2012 with McGill University, and more recently with another STDP until end of 2023 to advance this unique technology.  These investments are aligned with the LRP2020 priorities that marked a LiteBIRD contribution the top priority for a large-scale contribution in this decade.

CSA recently signed an Agreement with JAXA to better coordinate efforts during the pre-mission phase.  CSA supports a Phase 0 until end of 2023 with McGill University to define the interfaces, costing and science support needs.

Preparing the Future

Topical Teams in Space Astronomy

The CSA is supporting Topical Teams (TT) in space sciences, similar to the TT in 2016, including four in space astronomy, in order to identify future objectives and opportunities.  Following the publication of the LRP2020, the release of the US Decadal Plan and the ESA Voyage 2050, the CSA Topical Teams refine the future priorities for space sciences.  The TT chairs and team were formed competitively and obtained financial support from the CSA for their activities.  The product will be an important report that reflects the science priorities and needs of the community that will be used as a key reference by CSA for future studies, guide investments (business cases and communications to stakeholders. The report covers space astronomy, planetary science and space health (astronauts).  In space astronomy there are four topics: cosmic origins, stellar and galaxy evolution, HEA and gravitational waves, and exoplanets. Each has a Topical Team Chair with teams of tens of contributors.  A final review meeting was held in May and the final reports from each team are due at the end of June.  CSA will compile the results, prepare a global executive summary and target a release of the final report later this summer or early fall.

Space Technology Development Program (STDP)

The Canadian Space Agency’s Space Technology Development Program (STDP) supports innovation to reduce technological risks for future space missions, with the goal to increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL). An overview of the program can be seen on the CSA webpage.

STDP has been very useful for candidate space astronomy missions.  Currently there are technology development contracts targeting specific (astronomy) missions (reflecting priorities in the LRP): CASTOR, LiteBIRD, POET, EMCCD and a FTS for a far-IR mission (additional details here).

Science Readiness Levels

The CSA has authored a guide for the definition of Science Readiness Levels (SRL).  This guide borrows from the well-known concept of space Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) and Technology Readiness and Risk Assessments (TRRA) to assist cost-effective management of advanced technology Research and Development (R&D) activities.  The SRL guide will help to evaluate the readiness of science objectives and requirements (as criteria) and their evolution from concept studies, science maturation as well as throughout all phases of mission developments.  An earlier version of the SRL document has been used as a reference to various RFPs and AOs in space sciences.  An updated version will soon be available (in both official languages).

Community Support Announcements of Opportunities (AO)

Co-Investigator (Co-I) Grants (now ROSS) – supporting Canadian researchers on international missions

The Co-I program was described in the Sept 2019 Cassiopeia issue.  The program is now merged with the Space Utilisation branch of the CSA and is renamed ROSS (Research Opportunities in Space Science).  The eligible topics for space astronomy are essentially unchanged.  The AO is always open with specific annual due dates.  With the current year’s deadline sooner than in previous years, please check due dates and other details here.  Since its inception in 2018, the CSA has issued 14 grants in astronomy, and 12 in planetary sciences (Space Exploration branch).

FAST Grants AO

The 2021 FAST resulted in one grant in planetary science and 6 grants in space astronomy.  Note that details of all grants issued can be seen in the proactive disclosure government webpage.

FAST opportunities are planned every two years.  The intent is to issue the 2023 AO this summer (tentatively posting July or August for a 3 to 4 month period).  Priorities for astronomy remain open as in prior issues, details will be in the AO.

NSERC PDF Supplements

In the last two years the CSA offered an opportunity to supplement NSERC Postdoctoral Fellows.  The program broadly addresses space research including but is not limited to space astronomy.  The webpage of this opportunity (now closed) on the CSA website offers details. The intent is to repeat this announcement in the coming months.

Canadian Student Participation in Space Conferences

The CSA can support Canadian post-secondary students to attend conferences and training events, including ESA training opportunities, by providing travel grants.  Details on eligibility, eligible conferences and events (the list is updated approximately every six months), and other details are on the AO webpage.


CSEW 2022

The first opportunity for the Topical Teams (described above) to meet and broadly discuss scientific priorities was held at the Canadian Space Exploration Workshop (CSEW) on June 14-16, 2022 (virtual event). This workshop brought together scientific and technical communities from academia, industry and government to discuss Canadian science priorities and Canada’s future in space sciences and exploration.

The JCSA Consultation Committee

The current membership consists of:

  • Locke Spencer, University of Lethbridge (out going co-Chair)
  • Denis Laurin, CSA (co-Chair)
  • Mike Hudson, University of Waterloo
  • Jess McIver, UBC
  • Stan Metchev (new co-Chair)
  • Jeremy Heyl, UBC

The CSA Committees are shown on the CSA webpage including the Terms of Reference.  Members will be rotating off as they end their terms; researchers with space astronomy experience interested in the membership may express their interest to the JCSA members or the co-Chairs or CASCA.


Wishing everyone a wonderful summer!

Denis Laurin

Cassiopeia Newsletter – Summer Solstice / solstice d’été 2023


In this issue/Dans ce numéro:

ALMA Matters
Update on CASTOR
CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope
Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) / Compte rendu de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC)
Report from the LCRIC
Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update
Report from the SKA

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 specified due date 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.

ALMA Matters

By / par Brenda Matthews and Gerald Schieven (NRC)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2023)

ALMA 10 Years Meeting

The conference ALMA at 10 years: Past, Present, and Future will be held in Puerto Varas, Chile from 4-8 December 2023. Abstract submissions for talks and on-site posters have closed, and interest for in-person registration has exceeded the 180-person capacity. The number of abstracts received was very high (279) so the SOC has their work cut out for them to select 45-50 talks from this number.

Virtual attendance, including posters, is still possible. Those interested can register via this site.

Cycle 10 Proposal Statistics

General stats:

  • Number of proposals: 1680
  • Number of proposals with Canadian PI or coPI: 54
    • This is the highest number ever, eight more than the previous record in Cycle 8
  • Total time requested on the 12m-Array: 29,525h
    • This is also a record amount of requested time
  • Time requested by Canadian PIs/coPIs: 1061.2h
    • This is about 200h less than Cycle 8, but still second highest time requested
  • Time requested by proposals with at least one Canadian: 4893.4h
  • Global oversubscription rate: 6.9
  • Canadian PI/coPI oversubscription rate: 10.3
    • (as a fraction of North American time)
  • 44 Large Programs were submitted, requesting nearly 5000h on the 12m-Array

Joint Proposals with other facilities, including the Space Telescope Science Institute’s James Webb Space Telescope, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope were available for Cycle 10. Uptake from the community was strong. Forty-two Joint Proposals were submitted, requesting over 1200h on the 12m-Array. In total, 26 Joint Proposals requested time on the JWST, 10 requested the VLA, and 10 requested the VLT.

ALMA Cycle 10 will start in October 2023. In the main 12-m Array, antenna configurations C-1 to C-8 (with maximum baselines between 0.16 and 8.5 km) will be scheduled.

The ALMA User-Defined Imaging (AUDI) Service

We would like to inform you that an updated ALMA User-Defined Imaging (AUDI) service, including automated self-calibration, was released this month and is available through the NRAO archive. Look for the ‘Reimaging’ button associated with an ALMA dataset. This new capability may be of interest to you and/or your students this summer. As a reminder, you may also download restored measurement sets for ALMA (Cycle 5 and later) and VLA data (2016 and later) through the NRAO archive as well. If you do not see a particular ALMA dataset of interest marked with the blue ‘Restore’ or ‘Reimaging’ button and should be, please send a message to John Tobin and he will investigate.

The imaging pipeline behind the AUDI service attempts phase-only self-calibration using the continuum data. AUDI requests now will attempt phase-only self-calibration by default, and if self-calibration is successful, both the non-self-calibrated and the self-calibrated images will be delivered to users. If self-calibration is unsuccessful, only the non-self-calibrated images are delivered.

The CASA+pipeline package used for AUDI and includes the self-calibration task is available for download and standalone use of the pipeline with self-calibration. Further documentation of the self-calibration task and example pipeline recipes for ALMA and VLA data are provided here.

Need Help with ALMA Data Reduction?

Members of the NAASC, including those at HAA in Victoria, are always available to offer assistance with data processing/reduction questions.

In addition, The North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC) via its ALMA Ambassadors will hold data processing workshops later this year. The schedule is not yet set, but those interested can keep an eye on the workshop schedule.

Canadians are encouraged to apply to be ALMA ambassadors. Cycle 10 had two ALMA Ambassadors at Canadian institutions (Adam Dong and Jiayi Sun), and we hope to see applications submitted for Cycle 11 as well. Those interested can consult the website for the ALMA Ambassadors program. The Cycle 11 information is not yet there, but be aware the deadline is typically around mid-October. Grant money is attached to this program.

ALMA Primer Instructional Videos: reminder!

Radio interferometry, including with ALMA, is a complex and often non-intuitive field. Like the ALMA introductory document, Observing with ALMA – A Primer, the ALMA Primer Instructional Video Series is designed to provide a basic introduction to radio interferometry, calibration, imaging, and other topics in brief (5-15 minutes), bite-size pieces. In addition, short (<1minute) extracts of some of these videos are available to use when teaching or in presentations. The series is a work in progress; new videos are added periodically.

The ALMA Primer Instructional Video Series is now available from the ALMA Science Portal. The videos are also available from the ALMA Primer YouTube Channel here. Subscribe to be alerted whenever new videos are added!