CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jonathan Gagné as the 2016 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.
Dr. Gagné completed his doctoral studies at l’Université de Montréal under the supervision of Dr. David Lafrenière and Dr. René Doyon. His thesis, entitled “La recherche de naines brunes et étoiles de faible masse dans les associations cinématiques jeunes du voisinage solaire”, identifies and characterizes new substellar mass objects that belong to nearby young associations of stars. Dr. Gagné developed a powerful new algorithm to select highly probable substellar objects in young associations that is now widely used by the community. He also carried out an all-sky survey to identify, follow-up and characterize actual candidates, more than doubling the number of confirmed brown dwarfs.
Dr. Gagné is now widely recognized as a leading figure in the study of nearby young substellar objects.
Dr. Gagné is currently a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science, where he will work to identify and characterize young brown dwarfs with only a few times the mass of Jupiter.
CASCA congratulates Dr. Gagné on the receipt of the 2016 J.S. Plaskett Medal.
CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Peter Stetson, from NRC-Herzberg, as the 2016 recipient of the Dunlap Award.
Dr. Stetson obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy at Yale in 1979. After a short research fellowship at Yale he took a Carnegie Fellowship at the Mount Wilson and Las Campanas Observatories, subsequently moving to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) of NRC-Herzberg in 1983.
Dr. Stetson has been the principal research officer at DAO since 2003.
He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2006, and was awarded the George van Biesbroeck Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 2008.
To address the problem of measuring the properties of stars in digital images from the earliest CCDs, Dr. Stetson developed and released the DAOPHOT program in 1986. He has single-handedly maintained, improved, and supported it since then. Countless investigators have used DAOPHOT; the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to measure the size of the Universe and the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of dark energy are but two transformational scientific results that exploit its photometry. Dr. Stetson’s more recent spectral line measurement code, DAOSPEC, has been adopted by many of the world’s largest optical facilities. Additionally, Dr. Stetson’s carefully calibrated, freely available photometric standard star catalog now exceeds 114,000 objects, and underpins the majority of photometric observations carried out today. Dr. Stetson has also long served as an image structure expert for senior National Research Council engineers, impacting the design of instruments for the nex
t generation of large facilities such as the Thirty Meter Telescope.
CASCA congratulates Dr. Stetson on the receipt of the 2016 Dunlap Award.
CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jaymie Matthews, from the University of British Columbia, as the 2016 recipient of the Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach.
After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1987, Dr. Matthews held positions at Western and l’Université de Montréal before moving to the University of British Columbia as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in 1988. He obtained tenure at UBC in 2000, and has been a full professor there since 2008.
Dr. Matthews’ dedication and boundless enthusiasm for communicating with the public about astronomy are illustrated by the dozens of outreach activities in which he participates annually, ranging from public presentations, to radio interviews, to campus tours, to TV show consultations. Beyond his legendary teaching reputation at UBC, he has given courses aimed at younger children as well as special lectures in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the First Nations Summer Science Programme, and the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) undergraduate lecture series, among many others. In recognition of these efforts, Dr. Matthews received the CAP Education Medal in 2002, was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Please join CASCA in thanking Dr. Matthews for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.
CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Chris Pritchet, from the University of Victoria, as the 2016 recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award.
Dr. Pritchet obtained his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Toronto in 1975. After holding positions at the University of British Columbia, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Calgary, Dr. Pritchet has been on faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria since 1982. He was Department Chair from 1995-1998, and the chair of the 2010-2020 Long Range Plan Committee for Canadian Astronomy. Dr. Pritchet is currently an associate fellow of the CIfAR Cosmology and Gravity program as well as the principal investigator of CANFAR, which coordinates astronomical computing resources across Canada.
Dr. Pritchet’s research in observational cosmology combines the best available technology with sophisticated analysis techniques. His discovery, along with Sidney van den Bergh, of RR Lyrae variable stars in the Andromeda galaxy is recognized as a vital contribution to fixing distance scales in the Local Group. He is a leader of the Supernova Legacy Survey that has provided precise measurements of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe, and he initiated the close galaxy pair study in the Canadian Network for Observational Cosmology redshift survey. He has also produced important results on galaxy mass profiles, globular cluster distributions, and stellar populations of galaxies in the local universe. Dr. Pritchet has mentored over three dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and has also made important contributions to astronomy education and outreach as a Galileo lecturer of the International Year of Astronomy and the initiator and primary organizer of Vict
oria’s Café Scientifique.
CASCA congratulates Dr. Pritchet on a distinguished career of scientific achievement and community service.
It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the awarding by the Canadian Association of Physicists of the 2016 CAP Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Physics to Gilles Fontaine, Université de Montréal, for his pioneering, world-renowned work in theoretical and observational studies of white dwarf stars and the late stages of stellar evolution, including major contributions to the equation of state for white dwarfs and investigations of pulsating compact stars, as well as the discovery of a new class of subdwarf pulsators. His leadership has built what is arguably the preeminent group in the world in this field.
(From the CAP press release:) A true follower of the tradition of excellence in the field of astrophysics in Canada, Professor Fontaine has distinguished himself internationally for the exceptional quality of his research in stellar astrophysics, especially for his study on the final phases of stellar evolution (white dwarfs and subdwarfs, the final products of stellar evolution for most stars). Not only did he build the foundations for an actual theory on the evolution of white dwarfs, he is also one of the pioneers who first used them as cosmochronometers independent from the other components of our galaxy. He also became a true leader in the field of astroseismology, the unique method by which we can examine the internal structure of stars by studying their “starquakes”, using observations and numerical modeling. His work in science, popular worldwide, has earned him multiples prizes and awards.
The full CAP press release is available here
It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the selection of Dr. Victoria M Kaspi of McGill University in Montreal, Canada to receive the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Dr. Victoria M. Kaspi is one of the world’s leading experts on neutron stars, the ancient remnants of the most massive stars in the Milky Way. The most massive stars end their lives as black holes. Less massive stars, however, leave behind celestial objects no bigger than the city of Montreal, yet so dense that just one teaspoon would weigh 100 million metric tonnes.
Dr Kaspi uses the largest and most powerful radio and X-ray telescopes in the world to study the physical behaviour of neutron stars, pulsars and magnetars (neutron stars with very strong magnetic fields). Her seminal research sheds light on how stars evolve, how they die and, ultimately, the very nature of matter under extreme conditions.
Dr Kaspi’s research group has had major impacts in the field of astrophysics, including unique tests confirming Einstein’s long-held theory of general relativity and discovering the fastest rotating star. Her team’s landmark discovery of powerful X-ray bursts from an enigmatic class of stars (a finding that essentially doubles the number of known magnetars in our galaxy) was published in Nature in 2013.
Dr Kaspi received her PhD from Princeton University in 1993. She has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including the Hubble Fellowship, the Annie Jump Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society, and has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London, and the US National Academy of Sciences.
CASCA congratulates Dr. Kaspi for this well earned recognition of her outstanding contributions to cosmology and to Canadian scientific excellence.
The Board of Directors of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) is appalled by the recent news that Dr. Geoffrey Marcy, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been found to have violated the university’s Sexual Harassment Policy over a period of many years. Such behaviour has no place in our professional academic and working environment. We wish to express our concern for the women whose lives, both professional and personal, have been affected adversely by Dr. Marcy’s actions. We also feel that the sanctions that were originally levied by the University of California, Berkeley, against Dr. Marcy were inadequate compared to the damage he has caused to others.
CASCA has an Ethics Statement that states “All people encountered in one’s professional life must be treated with respect and dignity. Discrimination, harassment and abusive behaviours, be it against colleagues, students, or members of the media or the public, are never acceptable.” We have also implemented a code of conduct at our annual scientific meeting, which includes identifying one or more persons in authority and present at the meeting with whom concerns about inappropriate behavior during the meeting may be raised. We will be reviewing our own policies and procedures to identify additional measures that should be taken to protect our members.
Christine Wilson, President, CASCA
Launched January 19 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft is now getting very close to Pluto with a predicted closest approach on Tuesday July 14 at 11:49:57 UTC, 01:00 HST. This will be the first human encounter with the Plutonian world. New Horizons will get there relying on CFHT data.
New Horizons is roughly 2.5 meters (8 feet) across and weighed approximately 480 kilograms (1,050 pounds) – about half a ton – when first fueled. It travels a the tremendous Earth-relative speed of about 16.26 kilometers per seconds (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). At this speed however, New Horizons will only be able to make a flyby close to Pluto and will not be able to enter orbit. Entering orbit would mean that operators would have to reduce the craft speed by over 90%, which would require more than 1,000 times the fuel that New Horizons can carry.
Nevertheless, a series of maneuvers are needed for a collisionless approach to Pluto so an accurate mapping of the objects close to or in the Plutonian system is crucial. In order to achieve this, the New Horizons team performed several images scans for smaller objects, for both intrinsic scientific interest, and as potential collision hazards. However, in order to enable the hazard search, New Horizons required a high-precision flux/position reference system.
CFHT discretionary time awarded to JJ Kavelaars at the CADC in 2014 turned out to be the best dataset to do just that. During the 2014A semester, Kavelaars and collaborators used MegaCam to refine Pluto’s astrometric system, improving our knowledge of Pluto’s orbit and aiding the New Horizons pre-encounter hazard search team. The catalog resulting from these observations allows more precise calibration than any other wide field imager currently in operation due to the decade long use of MegaPrime on CFHT and the precise calibration system developed for this camera by Stephen Gwyn at the CADC. CFHT/MegaPrime astrometric reference catalogue is now being fed directly into the navigation process for guiding New Horizons into it’s final encounter with the Pluto system.
CFHT press release
New Horizons website
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics
Canadian Astronomical Data Center
Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics
CASCA is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. David Crampton, from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA), as the recipient of the 2012 Carlyle S. Beals Award.
Following the completion of his doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, Dr. Crampton joined the scientific staff at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in 1967. A leading scientific and technical figure in the Canadian astronomical community for more than 40 years, Dr. Crampton has authored more 250 refereed papers spanning a wide range of topics, including the properties of young stars, the structure of the Milky Way, X-ray binaries and black holes, quasars, the evolution of galaxies, and the history of cosmic star formation. Dr. Crampton’s past honours and distinctions include the BC Science Council Gold Medal (1983), the Astronomical Society of the Pacific Muhlmann Award (1991), and the Commemorative Medal of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2002).
From 1986 to 2006, Dr. Crampton led the astronomy technology research group at HIA. During this period, he was the PI or Co-PI, on a series of the ground-breaking instruments for Canadian telescopes, including the CFHT Herzberg Spectrograph, MOS/SIS spectrograph and its OSIS near-IR upgrades, MOCAM, Adaptive Optics Bonnette, and MegaPrime, as well as the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS). Literally hundreds of astronomers have used the DAO, CFHT, and Gemini telescopes to publish thousands of articles based on data collected with these instruments. From 2004 to 2009, he was the leader of the TMT Science Instruments Group, a project in which he remains actively involved. Since 2010, he has been a leading figure in efforts to redevelop CFHT.