LRP2020 Final Report

Dear Colleagues:

On behalf of Matt Dobbs, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David  Lafrenière, Brenda Matthews and Alice Shapley, we are pleased to  present the final report of the CASCA 2020 Long Range Plan for  Canadian Astronomy (LRP2020).  The unformatted version of the report  is now available on the CASCA website at  https://casca.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/LRP2020_December2020-1.pdf. A  professionally-designed version and a French translation are in  progress and are expected to be available early in 2021.

We thank everyone who contributed to the LRP process by writing a  white paper, attending a town hall, participating in consultations, or  answering our many requests for information. We would especially like  to recognize the very hard work of the LRP2020 panel members over the  past twenty months.

The LRP2020 section on the CASCA website (https://casca.ca/lrp2020)  contains links to all of the submitted white papers and reports as  well as a summary of the process. The designed and translated versions  of the report will be available there once complete.

Pauline Barmby & Bryan Gaensler
LRP2020 Co-Chairs
chairs@lrp2020.groups.io

LRP2020 final report

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of Matt Dobbs, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David Lafrenière, Brenda Matthews and Alice Shapley, we are pleased to present the final report of the CASCA 2020 Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy (LRP2020). The unformatted version of the report is now available on the CASCA website. A professionally-designed version and a French translation are in progress and are expected to be available early in 2021.

We thank everyone who contributed to the LRP process by writing a white paper, attending a town hall, participating in consultations, or answering our many requests for information. We would especially like to recognize the very hard work of the LRP2020 panel members over the past twenty months.
The LRP2020 section on the CASCA website contains links to all of the submitted white papers and reports as well as a summary of the process. The designed and translated versions of the report will be available there once complete.

Pauline Barmby & Bryan Gaensler
LRP2020 Co-Chairs
chairs@lrp2020.groups.io

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing discussions with all stakeholders about site access continue to delay the start of TMT construction, and in mid-July the TMT International Observatory announced that no on-site construction activity would take place this year. However, progress continues to be made on technical components, including development of instrumentation. A notable milestone was the interim Conceptual Design Review of the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph, held in July. This review provided important guidance on the work and planning needed to bring it to a full Conceptual Design level. In addition, over the summer several critical systems completed their Preliminary Design phases and are now ready to move into Final Design. These include the Engineering Sensors System, the Instrumentation Cryogenic Cooling System, and the Optical Cleaning System.

The US-Extremely Large Telescope Project (ELTP) is a collaboration between NSF’s NOIRLab, TMT and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). Its mission is to “strengthen scientific leadership by the US community-at-large through access to extremely large telescopes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres with coverage of 100 percent of the night sky”. Over the summer, this group has submitted several proposals to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) for the design and planning of the ELTP. In response to one of these proposals, NSF recently issued a three year award to AURA and NOIRLab for the “development of detailed requirements and planning documents for user support services”. See the update here.

The TMT project will face several critical milestones in the next year or so. These will be important for defining the future of the project and addressing some of the questions and concerns that are on the minds of the TMT partners, including Canada. These milestones include:

  • The release of the US Decadal Survey recommendations, expected in the first half of 2021
  • Initial findings from any Environmental Impact Survey (EIS) conducted by the NSF as a result of its engagement in the project
  • The full cost and schedule review that is currently being undertaken by the Project Office

Success at each of these stages is necessary, though not sufficient, for the project to proceed as envisioned.

The alternative site at ORM remains under consideration. CATAC has seen a draft of a report by the Japanese partners on the scientific quality of ORM, which largely comes to the same conclusions we did in our 2017 report. For the time being, we expect the focus to remain on Maunakea until the outcome of the federal EIS is known.

Due to the ongoing discussions and assessments of building on Maunakea, and the processes needed to secure NSF as a new partner, construction may not start until 2023 or later. With a reasonable estimate that first light may not come until about ten years after that (seven years construction plus three years commissioning), science operations with TMT could commence in the mid 2030s. This schedule is not likely to be significantly different if the alternative site is selected. Currently, Canada’s share of the construction costs is estimated to be about 15%, but this will be reevaluated once the Cost Review and negotiations with the NSF are completed.

CATAC membership:
Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Sara Ellison (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Canadian Astronomy, Racism, and the Environment – Part 1

By / par Martine Lokken, Chris Matzner, Joel Roediger, Mubdi Rahman, Dennis Crabtree, Pamela Freeman, Vincent Henault-Brunet (The CASCA Sustainability Committee, The CASCA Equity & Inclusivity Committee)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2020)

Part 1: An Introduction to Environmental Racism

This year’s widespread protests in support of Wetʼsuwetʼen sovereignty, and in support of Black lives in the face of police brutality, have brought heightened attention to the racism and systemic racial inequalities that have long threatened Indigenous and Black people in North America. The astronomy community has been coming to terms with its own systemic racism [1], and it is important that we examine our field’s environmental impacts [2] through the same lens. In this moment, we in CASCA’s Sustainability Committee reflect on the many ways in which environmentalism and racism interact. Here we present some background on how these issues are intertwined with the climate crisis and environmental damage both globally and within Canada. In a later article with the Equity & Inclusivity Committee we will ask how we as astronomers have benefitted from and perpetuated racism, environmental or otherwise, and what we can do to change this.

The climate crisis is projected to deal a sequence of crushing blows to peoples of the arctic, equatorial, and oceanic regions of the world. Of those affected, the UN warns that Indigenous peoples face the most climate-based disruption because of their strong cultural and economic connections to the land on which they live [3]. Indeed, this has already begun [4]. Drought now affects a quarter of the world’s population, mainly in equatorial regions [5], leading to food insecurity and mass migration [6, 7]. Heat waves are on the rise, some now surpassing what humans can naturally survive [8]. Last year, massive fires decimated the Australian landscape, damaging perhaps thousands of Indigenous cultural sites [9], while deliberate fires ate away at the home of the Amazon’s Indigenous people. This year’s Amazon fires could be even worse [10], and record heat waves are intensifying annual wildfires in Siberia [11]. Vast floods have covered a quarter of Bangladesh [12], while rising seas are swallowing island nations [13]. The distribution of global wealth plays a major role in deciding who can best survive these extreme events: while wealthy areas of developed nations are able to adapt to some of the effects of climate change through investment in infrastructure, the world’s poorest are disproportionately losing their homes, livelihoods, and even lives [14]. Meanwhile, the worst per-capita contributors to the climate crisis are primarily located in the northern hemisphere [15] and led by wealthy nations such as Canada, the U.S., Australia, Saudi Arabia, and other major oil-producing countries. The disparities between the worst perpetrators of the climate crisis versus those who suffer the greatest impacts correlate with inequalities of wealth, power, and territory that have been sown over the long history of European colonialism, and are reinforced by systemic racism.

Canada is no exception to this. Our country has a tragic history of slavery, anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, and attempted erasure of Indigenous cultures. Much of our wealth is based on the exploits of land which often was cheated or taken by force from Indigenous nations [16, 17]. We are currently the fourth largest producer and exporter of oil [18], and the average Canadian’s contribution to the climate crisis is among the world’s greatest [19]. However, unsurprisingly, systemic racism plays a major role in who has benefitted from this wealth versus who is most impacted by the environmental damage.

Many rural Indigenous communities in Canada are disproportionately feeling the effects of climate change. Ice roads, which in the winter enable goods to reach northern communities, become unavailable or unsafe as temperatures rise [20]. Melting ice and extreme weather is cutting Inuit people off from traditional hunting lands, severely threatening people’s physical and mental health [21]. In Eastern Indigenous communities, rising sea levels have negatively impacted traditional medicines and food supplies by increasing the salination of freshwater [22]. In addition to the unintentional impacts from climate change, there are also many situations in which racist planning for polluting sites such as factories, mills, and pipelines have caused environmental harm to rural Indigenous communities. For example, for 53 years the Northern Pulp mill in Nova Scotia treated its effluent in Boat Harbour (A’se’k), a tidal estuary upon which the Pictou Landing First Nation depended for food, livelihoods, and culture. Only this year, after years of community activism, has the provincial government ended the pollution of Boat Harbour, allowing its restoration to begin [23]. These various stresses to rural communities can spur an exodus to urban centers, leading to the loss of languages and cultures that are often deeply connected to the local environment [22, 20].

Systemic racism has also resulted in various environmental disparities for racialized communities in urban areas. The Canadian government warns of the dangers of urban heat islands, areas which amplify warm temperatures due to an excess of paved surfaces and lack of green space [24]. Populations more at risk for heat-related illness include Indigenous people, newcomers to Canada, and poor people [24]. The systemic effects which cause higher poverty rates among racialized people [25] and a lack of heat-protecting infrastructure in poor neighborhoods combine to make racialized Canadians more vulnerable to rising heat waves. (Because of Canadian astronomy’s connections to the U.S., it is also worth noting that the long-lasting effects of racist redlining in many U.S. cities have resulted in heat islands being centered on predominantly Black neighborhoods there [26, 27].) In addition to heat, pollution is another major health issue in urban centers. Similar to Pictou Landing, there are many cases of polluting sites being built near Indigenous or Black communities in urban areas (e.g. “Chemical Valley”, ON [28] and Africville, Nova Scotia [29]). These compounding environmental effects can cause serious health problems in marginalized communities, such as higher cancer rates and respiratory issues [28, 30], increased heat-related illnesses [30], poisoning from high levels of dangerous materials in water sources (e.g. Grassy Narrows, ON [31]), and worse pregnancy outcomes faced by Black mothers [U.S. data, 32]1.

The disproportionate effect of the climate crisis on racialized communities is exacerbated by the casual and systemic racism often present in predominantly-white environmental circles and the policies put forth by them. An important example of this is the centrality of the overpopulation argument to many Western approaches to the climate crisis, including in scientific circles [33]. While regularly debunked by public health scholars with the topical expertise in this area [34,35,36], racist origins and implications have been used to advance racist policies in the name of environmental sustainability [37,38]. This interplay has acted to shift the blame from the consumption of the Global North and casts the blame on the Global South, including some of the very populations that are most susceptible to the effects of the climate crisis.

Therefore, although the climate crisis will affect everyone to some extent, it is important that we recognize how global and local histories of racism and colonialism factor into the equation. Those of us with the privilege to be relatively insulated from environmental damage — at least for now — must especially examine our environmental impact and our complicity in systems of oppression. In doing so, it is essential that we learn from the BIPOC leaders who have historically spearheaded the movement for environmental justice like Dr. Robert Bullard and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis [39] and listen to the young voices, such as Makasá Looking Horse, who are taking the reins [40]). In our next article, we will examine how Canadian astronomy has benefitted from and continues to partake in white supremacist systems while also contributing to environmental injustice. We will discuss how to change the status quo, considering issues such as respect for Indigenous land rights and frequency of academic flights.


1Canada doesn’t require collection of race-based health data, an issue which has gained awareness during the Covid-19 pandemic (https://globalnews.ca/news/7180914/canada-race-based-data-covid-19/).
The general taboos around studying the effects of race in Canada partially explain why there are fewer available resources on environmental racism here than in the US.

References

  1. https://www.particlesforjustice.org/letter
  2. https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.01272
  3. https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/climate-change.html
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/06/climate/climate-change-inequality-heat.html
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/06/climate/world-water-stress.html?action=click&module=News&pgtype=Homepage
  6. https://features.propublica.org/climate-migration/model-how-climate-refugees-move-across-continents/
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/climate/kenya-drought.html
  8. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/19/eaaw1838
  9. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00164-8
  10. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/17/dramatic-footage-fuels-fears-amazon-fires-could-be-worse-than-last-year
  11. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/wildfires-sibera-russia-burned-area-larger-than-greece-heat-wave/
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/climate/bangladesh-floods.html
  13. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/small-islands-rising-seas
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/13/climate/manila-san-francisco-sea-level-rise.html
  15. https://ourworldindata.org/per-capita-co2
  16. https://www.ubcpress.ca/asset/9296/1/9780774821018.pdf
  17. http://fnn.criaw-icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/LWM3_ColonialismImpacts.pdf
  18. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/crude-oil-facts/20064
  19. https://ourworldindata.org/per-capita-co2
  20. https://bifrostonline.org/how-is-climate-change-impacting-indigenous-communities-in-remote-regions-of-canada/
  21. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/30/canada-inuits-climate-change-impact-global-warming-melting-ice
  22. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2019/11/28/indigenous-communities-forefront-climate-resilience/
  23. https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/pictou-landing-first-nation-northern-pulp-1.5447179
  24. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/health/publications/healthy-living/reducing-urban-heat-islands-protect-health-canada.html
  25. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/esdc-edsc/migration/documents/eng/communities/reports/poverty_profile/snapshot.pdf
  26. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/09/climate/city-heat-islands.html
  27. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jan/13/racist-housing-policies-us-deadly-heatwaves-exposure-study
  28. https://ecojustice.ca/exposing-canadas-toxic-secret/
  29. https://humanrights.ca/story/the-story-of-africville
  30. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/08/12/science.aay4497/tab-pdf
  31. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/grassy-narrows-framework-1.5520501
  32. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/18/climate/climate-change-pregnancy-study.html
  33. https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/12/12/16766872/overpopulation-exaggerated-concern-climate-change-world-population
  34. Rosling, H., Rosling Rönnlund, A. and Rosling, O., 2019. Factfulness. Paris: Flammarion.
  35. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/27/what-goes-up-population-crisis-wrong-fertility-rates-decline
  36. https://www.nhpr.org/post/outsidein-problem-concerns-about-over-population-part-one#stream/0
  37. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/environmentalisms-racist-history
  38. https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229
  39. https://www.nrdc.org/stories/environmental-justice-movement
  40. https://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/making-waves/2018/11/six-nations-youth-leads-protest-against-nestl%C3%A9-water-operation

Graduate Student Highlights

By Carter Rhea (Chair, CASCA Graduate Student Committee)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2020)

Each month, the GSC highlights the work of an outstanding Canadian graduate student by sharing their work with our members. Since the launch in February of 2020, we have highlighted four students from around the country.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under the handle casca_gsc.

Christian Thibeault — L’Université de Montréal

Solar flares are sudden and intense releases of magnetic energy stored in the corona, causing the plasma to heat up to 10 million degrees Kelvin. The radiation and highly energetic particles emitted from these events can damage our satellite communication network and pose a health threat to astronauts. It has been suggested since the early 1990s, by E.T. Lu and collaborators, that solar flares are a manifestation of unobservable small scale magnetic reconnection processes that can be simulated by simple lattice models, called “avalanche models”. The goal of my master’s research project is to evaluate the predictive capabilities of these models in making solar flare forecasting. We first studied the stochastic behaviour of many avalanche models, and now are integrating data assimilation using X-ray observations of flares to improve our prediction methods.

Figure 1 – Cartoon of a physical interpretation of a coronal loop accumulating energy through the twisting of its footprints. (Strugarek et al. 2014)

Mallory Thorp — University of Victoria

Mallory’s research investigates how galaxies change as the result of a major galaxy merger, when two galaxies of comparable size interact and merge to form a single galaxy. To understand the kpc-scale changes resulting from a merger event, she uses Integral Field Spectroscopy (IFS) measurements from the Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (MaNGA) survey. IFS provides a spectrum for every pixel on an image of a galaxy, allowing her to examine how spectral dataproducts like star-formation rate (SFR) vary across a galaxy.

Figure 2 contains 3 examples of post-merger galaxies from MaNGA (1st column), along with maps of their SFR surface density (2nd column). By comparing the maps of SFR from post-merger galaxies to those of isolated galaxies, she can quantify the change in SFR as the result of the merger event.

The 3rd column shows enhancements in SFR as a result of the merger in blue, whereas a deficit in SFR compared to an isolated galaxy are shown in red. On average post-mergers experience a galaxy-wide enhancement in SFR, like the 2nd and 3rd post-mergers. Variations from this, like the notable suppression of SFR in the outer regions of 1st post-merger, could indicate different progenitor qualities and orientations can alter how effectively star-formation is enhanced.

This work was completed by myself, under the supervision of Sara Ellison (both of us CASCA members!).

Figure 2

Lingjian Chen — Saint Mary’s University

My research is a galactic environment study. Dense galactic environments, such as galaxy groups and clusters, are thought to be formed through hierarchical mergers. Spatial distribution of satellite galaxies can be a good indicator for galaxy evolution in such environments.

We study the radial distribution of satellites around isolated massive central galaxies using data from the Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) Subaru Strategic Program (HSC-SSP) and the CFHT Large Area U-band Deep Survey (CLAUDS). Thanks to the large area, 6-band photometry and good depth of the combined survey, we were able to identify ~5000 centrals in a redshift range of 0.3<z<0.9 and also identify satellites around them down to stellar mass of 109.5 solar mass.

Our results show that satellite number density distribution can be described by an NFW profile (Navarro+1995, usually for mass density profile in dark matter halos) on scales greater than 100 kpc but deviates from it within that scale. This feature is seen out to z=0.9, it was previously found in studies at low redshift (e.g. Tal+2012). We have also investigated the dependence of the distribution on satellite and central properties such as mass and star-forming level. We concluded that the mechanism of shaping satellite distribution can probably be related to a combination of dynamic friction and tidal stripping when they are orbiting in the dark matter halo, but more detailed simulation or modelling are needed to understand better the physical process.

Figure 3 shows our satellite galaxy selection. Central galaxy is indicated by the yellow circle, potential satellites are circled in green, and red circle indicates our selection radius for satellites (700 kpc). Central galaxies were identified by mass and isolation criteria. Satellites were selected by photo-z difference and a circular aperture (basically a cylindrical selection centred on central galaxy). Number of satellites selected here were then corrected for contaminating background objects.

Figure 3

Figure 4 shows surface number density of satellite galaxies (averaged) around one central galaxy, after correction for background objects. The solid line is the best fit curve and can be separated into NFW component on large scale and Sersic component on small scale (dotted and dashed lines).

Figure 4

Farbod Jahandar — L’Université de Montréal

The main quest of Farbod’s work is unravelling the chemistry of our nearest stellar neighbours. This includes high-resolution observation and examination of M dwarfs as the most numerous type of star in our Galaxy and the smallest and coolest kind of star on the main sequence. Such an analysis impacts many fields of astrophysics, in particular, the determination of exoplanet radius that depends on a reliable estimate of the host radius that in turn depends on its chemical characteristics.

To achieve this goal, Farbod uses high-resolution data from the SPIRou instrument, which is one of the world-leading instruments at the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope. Then he uses chemical spectroscopy methods on the obtained data for the determination of the chemical abundance of different elements in the outer atmosphere of M dwarfs. This will be a critical component for a better understanding of the chemical evolution of M dwarfs and also can heavily contribute to chemical and dynamical improvements of the current synthetic stellar models.

Figure 5

Conferences and Carbon Footprints

By / par Sharon Morsink (University of Alberta)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

Authors: CASCA’s Sustainability Committee and Associates:
Sharon Morsink, Nicolas Cowan, Dennis Crabtree, Michael De Robertis, René Doyon, Vincent Henault-Brunet, Roland Kothes, David Lafrenière, Martine Lokken, Peter Martin, Christopher Matzner, Magdalen Normandeau, Nathalie Ouellette, Mubdi Rahman, Michael Reid, Joel Roediger, James Taylor, Robert Thacker, Marten van Kerkwijk

Canadians are responsible for CO2 emissions that are more than three times the annual global average of 4.8 tonnes per capita [1]. Most Canadian astronomers’ professional carbon footprint is dominated by air travel, and unlike telescope construction or rocket launches, flights — especially to conferences — are the immediate product of our individual choices. To reduce the environmental costs of our profession, we need real and desirable alternatives to jetting around to distant conferences.

Back in February, CASCA’s new Sustainability Committee was planning a virtual session for this year’s Annual General Meeting. But when the York meeting was cancelled due to the pandemic, an Online Organizing Committee was quickly assembled to plan a fully virtual conference. May’s online AGM, which was based around electronic posters and pre-recorded prize talks and community updates, drew 336 participants. We estimate that if everyone who participated from outside Ontario had flown in, the equivalent CO2 emissions would have been about 130 tonnes. (This may be an overestimate, as 43 respondents indicated on an exit survey that they would not have attended the in-person conference.)

The 2020 AGM was an interesting experiment, but how do we move forward? We aren’t advocating that all future conferences be completely virtual; we too would miss interacting with colleagues in person from time to time! Instead we would like to see the virtual options enhanced. We envision a future in which one would travel only to nearby conferences, and join remotely in most other cases. In the AGM exit survey (40% participation), about 60% of respondents reported missing the interactions that occur in person. Clearly, there is much work to be done to find effective and enjoyable ways to interact online with colleagues, but with improving text, video, and virtual reality options we believe this is possible. For instance, one could consider simultaneous physical meeting `hubs’ connected by a virtual link. Taking these points into consideration, the 2021 AGM organizers are already planning both in-person and remote ways to participate.

We encourage all astronomers to carefully consider how to minimize the impact of their research-related travel. In addition to being more selective about which conferences and meetings to attend in person, we recommend purchasing carbon offsets for those times when travel is needed. Not all institutions allow offsets to be reimbursed, and current NSERC spending rules for Discovery grants do not. Persistent advocacy is needed to change these policies, something which the Sustainability Committee will pursue. It is time for us to consider the environmental impact of our research, take stock of our own emissions, and plan a professional carbon budget in the same way that we plan a financial budget when managing our research grants.

[1] Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2017) – “CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org.

CASCA’s New Sustainability Committee

By / par Chris Matzner (University of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

Canada declared a national climate emergency a year ago and astronomy, like every profession, is beginning to face the challenge posed by the global climate crisis.  The problem is both an ethical and a practical one.  Ethically, we must recognize that the impacts of global heating – to which our professional activities contribute – will be the worst for those who have contributed the least to the problem:  the poor and marginalized in our own society, the Global South, and future generations worldwide.  Practically, we must find ways to live up to the commitments set out in the Paris Agreement: to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 in order to avert irreversible and catastrophic climate change (ipcc).  

As members of CASCA’s new ad-hoc Sustainability Committee, our mandate is to encourage all Canadian astronomers to evaluate the environmental impacts of the practices of astronomy; to work with you on reducing them; and to provide sustainability-related resources for those engaged in teaching and outreach.  The Committee was created by the CASCA Board in early 2020, in response to the LRP white paper Astronomy in a Low-Carbon Future.  Its membership was drawn initially from that paper’s authors, with those involved in organizing the online version of the 2020 Annual General Meeting joining shortly thereafter. 

Now that the online AGM is over, we will work to: 

  • Plan and promote a virtual component to the 2021 AGM and other meetings to help members reduce their travel-related emissions;
  •  


  • Encourage and assist our fellow astronomers, and their institutions, to consider, track, review, and reduce their environmental impacts;
  •   


  • Build relationships with cognate committees in other fields and elsewhere in the world;
  •   


  • Advocate for changes in granting rules to acknowledge the environmental costs of doing research and permit climate-related costs like carbon offsets as eligible research expenses; and

  • Collect resources for effective astronomy teaching and outreach on topics related to sustainability and climate change.

  

We’re looking forward to engaging with you!  If you would like to get involved and join our roughly bi-monthly virtual meetings, please contact the committee chair, Chris Matzner.  

Sincerely yours, 

CASCA’s Sustainability Committee and Associates: Christopher Matzner, Nicolas Cowan, Dennis Crabtree, Michael De Robertis, René Doyon, Vincent Henault-Brunet, Roland Kothes, David Lafrenière, Martine Lokken, Peter Martin, Sharon Morsink, Magdalen Normandeau, Nathalie Ouellette, Mubdi Rahman, Michael Reid, Joel Roediger, James Taylor, Robert Thacker, Marten van Kerkwijk

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

CATAC is very pleased to see that the exposure draft of the Long Range Plan (LRP), presented at the virtual CASCA meeting at the end of May, recognizes the importance of access to a Very Large Optical Telescope capability, ranking it first among large, ground-based projects. The Thirty Meter Telescope project remains Canada’s best opportunity to retain a leadership role and significant scientific share within such a facility. The continued delays to the project are disappointing for all, but we remain fully committed to TMT and to doing our part to help it succeed. Indeed, there are reasons to be optimistic for a successful and competitive completion of the project, as many people are working hard to find solutions to the current challenges. The project will be undergoing full Schedule and Cost Reviews in late summer / early fall. Until this process is complete, it is premature to speculate on the final cost of the project, or the effect of any revisions to previous estimates on Canada’s share.

Steady progress on the instrumentation suite is being made, notably with advances in the design of WFOS and refinement of MODHIS specifications. The India TMT Optical Fabrication Facility (ITOFF) at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics campus near Bengaluru recently completed construction. Construction is also underway at HAA in Victoria on a new instrumentation integration and testing facility. The first occupant of this building will be NFIRAOS, where it will be coupled with IRIS. The structure is large enough to accommodate the largest instruments envisioned for ELT-class telescopes. Some of these future instrument concepts are nearly as large as an 8-m class telescope.

The State of Hawaii has established a Working Group, to engage all the stakeholders in Hawaii in discussions on broad issues such as land use, housing, health and education. This group is actively exploring whether or not a form of reconciliation is possible. Astronomy on Maunakea is part of these discussions, which are following a process well aligned with some of the publicly available whitepapers submitted to the LRP panel, including Canadian Astronomy on Maunakea: On Respecting Indigenous Rights and Indigenizing the next decade of astronomy in Canada. As those involved work to build the trust needed to proceed, it is important that they be allowed to speak freely, frankly and honestly with each other; this is best done, initially, in a confidential setting.

The TMT Science Advisory Committee has struck a subcommittee to consider the latest and most complete information available on site quality at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), Canary Islands, to ensure the TIO Members are fully informed. They are using the previous CATAC report as input, as well as a new report being prepared by the Japanese partner which considers additional (historical) site testing data. As noted in previous reports, there are also significant political, financial, environmental and social challenges associated with building on ORM that mean it is not straightforward to move to this alternate site.

Upcoming Events

We had hoped that the next TMT Science Forum would be held in May, 2021 in Vancouver. However, given the likelihood that travel and gatherings are still likely to be severely restricted at that time, it is probable that this meeting will be postponed until 2022. Unfortunately, this year’s TMT Early Careers Workshop at HAA also had to be cancelled.

The TMT project expects to hold a public webinar in the near future, to report on the findings of the working group investigating the site characteristics of ORM, relative to MK13N. The date for this meeting has not yet been set, but CATAC will make sure this is appropriately advertised via the CASCA email list.

CATAC membership:
Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Sara Ellison (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Long Range Plan 2020 / Plan à long terme 2020

From Pauline Barmby, Bryan Gaensler (LRP2020 co-chairs PLT2020)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

La version française suit

From March to May 2020, the LRP2020 panel completed a series of consultations, culminating in the release of a set of draft recommendations and then a community discussion via Zoom at the 2020 CASCA AGM. We are grateful for all of the thoughtful feedback received both at the discussion session and via the feedback form.

Future plans involve incorporating this feedback, contacting specific individuals or groups for clarifications, and completing the report, including the introductory and concluding sections. The version of the LRP report that we are planning to release in the fall will be near-final; we do not plan a further round of community consultations. So that we can complete the report by the fall, we would like to receive any feedback by June 30, 2020 at the form linked above.

The LRP webpage contains a link to the draft recommendations document – see your CASCA email for the password – as well as a new page with links to all of the LRP2020 white papers and reports. The white papers are now also indexed in ADS.

The latest news on LRP2020 is available from the Slack workspace and our Twitter handle @LRP2020. The panel can be contacted at panel@lrp2020.groups.io and the co-chairs at chairs@lrp2020.groups.io.



De mars à mai 2020, le panel PLT2020 a achevé une série de consultations, aboutissant à la publication d’un ensemble de projets de recommandations puis une discussion communautaire via Zoom lors de l’AGA CASCA 2020. Nous sommes reconnaissants pour tous les commentaires réfléchis reçus à la fois lors de la session de discussion et via le formulaire de commentaires.

Les plans futurs consistent à intégrer ces commentaires, à contacter des individus ou des groupes spécifiques pour obtenir des clarifications et à compléter le rapport, y compris les sections d’introduction et de conclusion. La version du rapport LRP que nous prévoyons publier à l’automne sera presque définitive; nous ne prévoyons pas de nouvelle série de consultations communautaires. La version finale du rapport sera disponible en anglais et en français à la fin de l’année. Afin que nous puissions terminer le rapport d’ici l’automne, nous aimerions recevoir vos commentaires d’ici le 30 juin 2020 au formulaire ci-dessus.

La page Web LRP contient un lien vers l’ébauche du document de recommandations – voir votre courriel CASCA pour le mot de passe – ainsi qu’une nouvelle page avec des liens vers tous les livres blancs et rapports PLT2020. Les livres blancs sont désormais également indexés dans ADS.

Les dernières nouvelles sur PLT2020 sont disponibles sur l’espace de travail Slack et sur Twitter @LRP2020. Le panel peut être contacté à panel@lrp2020.groups.io et les coprésidents à chairs@lrp2020.groups.io..