2020 Executive Award: Michael Balogh

In alternate years, the CASCA Board has the honour to bestow the Executive Award for Outstanding Service “to an individual who has made sustained contributions in service that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact regionally, nationally and/or internationally.” Dr. Michael Balogh, of the University of Waterloo, is the recipient of the 2020 Executive Award.

Dr Balogh’s exceptional commitment to the Canadian astronomy community was highlighted early following his return to Canada to take up a faculty position at the University of Waterloo in 2004. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Optical and Infrared Astronomy Committee and was rapidly promoted to its Chairship in 2006. Over the next decade he would serve on CASCA’s Awards committee and the Long Range Plan Implementation Committee, often concurrently in these capacities.

Building on both his international reputation for research excellence as well as his prodigious committee skills, he was appointed to the Board of the Gemini International Observatory in 2010. After only two years on the Board he was appointed Board Chair at a particularly difficult time for the observatory as it coped with the UK’s departure from the consortium. Nonetheless, during his 2-year tenure as Board Chair, the observatory would bring in new approaches to large surveys as well as innovative instrumentation programs.

By 2015, his expertise was further recognized by him being asked to serve as one of the members of the 2015 Mid-Term Review Panel. He embraced this role with great enthusiasm, attending all the town-hall meetings and being an engaged, active and connected contributor during the writing of the report.

Most recently, Professor Balogh has shown exceptional leadership as the inaugural – and, so far, the only – Chair of the CASCA/ACURA Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Advisory Committee (CATAC). Dr Balogh has shown a staunch commitment to open, frank and inclusive discussion from the beginning of his appointment. His preparedness to listen and discuss difficult issues, as well as a sharp focus on key scientific issues, has led to CATAC being held up by other partners as an example of how to collegially make recommendations.

For almost two decades, Dr. Michael Balogh has been a committed advocate and international ambassador for astronomy in Canada. In bestowing this Executive Award on behalf of the Canadian astronomical community, the CASCA Board recognizes his exceptional contributions to our, and the international, professional community and extends our utmost thanks.

2020 Qilak Award: Julie Bolduc-Duval

CASCA is pleased to announce Ms. Julie Bolduc-Duval as the recipient of the 2020 Qilak Award. Ms. Bolduc-Duval serves as the Executive Director of Discover the Universe, a Canadian astronomy training program. For over a decade, Ms. Bolduc-Duval has developed Discover the Universe into an oustandingly effective program for training educators in astronomy. The program has reached thousands of educators from elementary school through university via both in-person workshops and online seminars. Importantly, training is offered in both French and English, thus reaching a bilingual community worldwide (including, for example, participants from Europe and Africa). With trained educators now able to effectively disseminate astronomy material, Discover the Universe’s impact has a multiplicative effect on the community, thanks to the outstanding work of Ms. Bolduc-Duval.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Ms. Bolduc-Duval’s efforts with this award.

2020 Dunlap Award: René Doyon

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. René Doyon as the recipient of the 2020 Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools. Dr. Doyon obtained his PhD from Imperial College London. He is currently a Professor of Physics at the University of Montreal, the Director of the Institut de recherche sur les exoplanètes, and the Director of the Mont Mégantic Observatory. Among his many honours and awards are the 2009 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, the 2009 CASCA Peter G. Martin Prize, the 2010 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the 2011 Medal of Honour of the National Assembly of Quebec, and a 2018 Killam Research Fellowship. Dr. Doyon has a long track record of providing both the Canadian and the international astronomical communities with access to first-class research tools. These include instruments on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (SPectropolarimètre InfraROUge, SPIRou; Wide-field InfraRed Camera, WIRCam; Kilo-InfraRed imager, KIR), in Chile (Near-Infrared Planet Searcher, NIRPS, on the La Silla 3.6m; Gemini Planet Imager, GPI, on the Gemini 8m; Caméra PAnoramique Proche-InfraRouge, CPAPIR, on the CTIO 1.5m), and at the Observatoire du Mont Mégantic (MONtreal Infrared CAmera, MONICA; CPAPIR; Spectrographe Imageur de MONtreal, SIMON). Dr. Doyon also leads the flagship Canadian contribution to the James Webb Space Telescope, the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS)

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Doyon’s efforts with this award.

2020 Beals Award: Howard Yee

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Howard K. C. Yee as the recipient of the 2020 Beals Award. Dr. Yee obtained his PhD from the California Institute of Technology, and is currently a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and previously held a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Observational Cosmology. For almost three decades, Dr. Yee has been a leader of optical/infrared collaborations in Canada and internationally. He spearheaded the Canadian Network for Observational Cosmology Surveys, and with his students, pioneered the Cluster Red-Sequence algorithm for galaxy cluster identification that has revolutionized the use of galaxy clusters as cosmological probes. Dr. Yee has additionally served in multiple leadership positions in the community, serving on various boards, steering committees, and time-allocation committees for the Canada France Hawaii Telescope and the Gemini Observatory, and has provided much of the early leadership for the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics Institute in Taiwan.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Yee’s efforts with this award.

2020 Plaskett Medal: Simon Blouin

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Simon Blouin as the recipient of the 2020 J. S. Plaskett Medal for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in astronomy or astrophysics. Dr. Blouin received his PhD thesis in 2019 under the supervision of Prof. Patrick Dufour, and is currently a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. His thesis, titled “Modeling of high-density effects at the photosphere of cool white dwarf stars”, resolves a longstanding problem in the theory of white dwarf atmospheres, which could not reproduce the emergent flux from cool helium-rich white dwarfs, casting doubt on the foundations of the theory and reliability of its predictions, with implications for the study of galactic stellar populations using white dwarf dating. Dr. Blouin re-worked these atmospheric calculations from first principles, using a variety of techniques, extending the validity of atmospheric models and successfully accounting for cool white dwarf observations, thereby filling a crucial need in the community.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Blouin’s efforts with this award.

CASCA Position Statement on Satellite Constellations

The Canadian Astronomical Society/Société Canadienne d’Astronomie (CASCA) was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers. The society is devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. In this capacity, CASCA is compelled to voice concerns over upcoming satellite constellations, both in terms of their potential impact on astronomy but also in relation to the wider picture of cooperation in the use of space.

We appreciate that many of the technologies now being deployed in orbit have potential benefits to humanity such as providing communication to areas that are underserved by current infrastructure. However, proposed plans have rapidly moved beyond those originally outlined and within a few years constellations may exceed current satellite numbers by 10-fold or higher. With no international oversight over the public commons that is Earth orbit, a likely outcome is that competition between multiple actors will push collision risks higher. The European Space Agency has already had to move a satellite to reduce the collision risk with a constellation currently under deployment.

Beyond this fundamental concern about the use of the Earth’s orbital resources, current analysis suggests tens of thousands of satellites deployed in orbit could pose an acute threat to wide-field, transient and radio astronomy. While arguably many aspects of astronomy are better undertaken from space, the costs associated with that approach make it unfeasible as a general solution.

Posing this debate as either astronomy or a global service of one form or another is a false dichotomy. Working together and having cooperative agreements in place can ensure that orbital resources are used safely and to their best effectiveness for economic, social and scientific purposes. CASCA is resolutely behind achieving this goal through collaboration with the private sector, government and other scientific communities.

Professor Robert Thacker
President CASCA, on behalf of the CASCA Board of Directors

John Hutchings wins CSA’s John H. Chapman Award of Excellence

In recognition of his exceptional contribution to the Canadian Space Program, Dr. John B. Hutchings was presented with the John H. Chapman Award of Excellence during a ceremony at the 17th Conference on Astronautics of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI ASTRO 2016) in Ottawa, Ontario.

Dr. Hutchings has led Canada’s participation in landmark missions, like the James Webb Space Telescope, the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on India’s ASTROSAT. These missions are helping make significant advances in space science and new technologies. The fact that he was able to lead so many major projects to fruition while maintaining excellent relations with international partners and a highly productive research career, is testimony to his skills, passion and perseverance.

Dr. Hutchings is indeed an enormously productive scientist who has made several major scientific discoveries. Authoring over 450 publications, he is in the top 0.5% of most cited astrophysicists worldwide. This is truly a remarkable personal achievement that reflects on Canadian science and innovation. As a true leader, he also generously shared his knowledge and served as a mentor to a generation of brilliant minds.

The Chapman Award is a tribute to the distinguished career and achievements of an extraordinary individual, whose vision and contributions have shaped Canada’s space program.

2015 Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach

CASCA is pleased to announce Mr. Paul Delaney from York University as the recipient of the 2015 Qilak award.

Mr. Delaney was an active member of the Canberra Astronomical Society in his native Australia before obtaining his MSc in Astronomy at the University of Victoria in 1981. He became the Observatory Coordinator at York University in 1986, where he has also been the Director of the Division of Natural Science since 2002.

For Mr. Delaney’s infectious enthusiasm and tireless advocacy for astronomical outreach has spanned several decades. Charged with ensuring access for York physics students in his role as observatory coordinator, Mr. Delaney went one step further and built a thriving public outreach program that welcomes over 5,000 visitors to the observatory annually and a weekly YorkUniverse global radio audience of 30,000. Mr. Delaney’s face and name are also ubiquitous on Canadian media when there is a major sky event, with near-weekly appearances with major news outlets. Mr. Delaney has been an active member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) throughout his long career, and is currently the second vice-president of the RASC Toronto Centre. Mr. Delaney has received several awards for his sustained and enthusiastic service promoting astronomy, including the 2010 Sandford Fleming Medal, a Top-10 lecturer in TV Ontario’s 2005 “Best Lecture” competition, and both Faculty of Science and University-wide teaching awards at York.

Please join CASCA in thanking Mr. Delaney for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.

2015 Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Anne Archibald as the 2015 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Archibald completed her doctoral studies at McGill University in 2013 under the supervision of Dr. Vicki Kaspi. Her thesis, entitled “The End of Accretion: The X-ray Binary/Millisecond Pulsar Transition Object PSR  J1023+0038”, reports the discovery and detailed study of an eclipsing binary radio pulsar. Using several different telescopes at a variety of wavelengths, Dr. Archibald established the transitional nature of the system from low-mass X-ray binary to millisecond radio pulsar, the first such object discovered and a key “missing link” in our understanding of neutron star binary evolution.

Dr. Archibald is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), where she is continuing her pulsar research and working on the LOFAR radio telescope.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Archibald on the receipt of the 2015 J.S. Plaskett  medal.

CASCA Executive Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Ralph Pudritz, from McMaster University, is the 2016 recipient of the CASCA Executive Award.

In 1998 Dr. Pudritz was appointed the chair of the original Long Range Planning panel, the outcome of which was the highly influential LRP2000 report (“The Origins of Structure in the Universe”). Prior to this report, individual leaders and panels in various sub-disciplines had succeeded in developing Canadian involvement in a range of facilities and institutes, but LRP2000 was the first long-range plan that the Canadian astronomical community itself generated through a process of broad consultation, debate, and, ultimately, consensus. Dr. Pudritz drove this process forward with vision and energy. LRP2000 not only succeeded in cementing Canadian involvement in ALMA, TMT and the SKA (remarkable in the face of the very challenging funding climate), it also succeeded in transforming the process by which our community communicates our aspirations to the federal and provincial governments and other funding partners. The LRP2000 report became the model for future decadal plans that
have succeeded in developing a unified vision for Canadian astrophysics, and this success is in no small measurable attributable to the efforts of Ralph Pudritz and to his colleagues on the LRP2000 panel. Dr. Pudritz has subsequently gone on to develop the Origins Institute at McMaster University, a visionary research and teaching institute with a multidisciplinary focus on biology, mathematics, physics and astrophysics. This is another achievement well worthy of recognition by the Executive Award.

The Board of Directors of CASCA congratulates Dr. Pudritz on his distinguished career of scientific achievement, thanks him for his outstanding record of service to the community, and is honoured to award him the 2016 CASCA Executive Award.