CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2019)

TMT Instrumentation Beyond First Light

Instrumentation for large telescopes takes a long time to develop, typically 7-10 years between start of conceptual design to first light. Work must start now if TMT is to realize its goal of introducing a new capability every two years after first light, and to remain competitive with ELT.

The Science Requirements Document (SRD) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) describes a range of capabilities (instruments and facility systems), and their requirements. The TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC) last presented a preferred phasing of these capabilities in March 2011, and it is certainly time to revisit this. It is important that we in Canada give careful consideration to our own priorities so these can be clearly communicated to the SAC. US planning, for example, is being done in the context of possible access to both TMT and GMT, while Canadians and other partners will not have direct GMT access.

In late 2017 the SAC solicited, reviewed and ranked white papers from the TMT community. These rankings have not been made public, but the concepts under consideration are available here. This list represents a mild evolution of the original descriptions in the SRD.

A summary of the instruments under consideration for all three extremely large telescopes is given in the following table, with first light capabilities in boldface:

CATAC is preparing a review of these concepts and their phasing, with the aim of making recommendations that reflect Canada’s priorities. Your input is needed for this process! A draft for comment has been made available on our web page. Our March 26 CATAC Zoom meeting (3-4pm EDT) will be open to the public for discussion of this draft report. We encourage you to participate in that meeting, and/or send your feedback directly to

Wide Field Optical Spectrograph Progress

If you’d like to keep informed about the progress of WFOS, consider signing up to the mailing list here. The instrument team will be sending out occasional updates as the instrument’s specifications and science capabilities become increasingly defined.

Recent and Upcoming Meetings and Events

  • The next TMT Science Forum will be early November 2019, in China. The theme will likely be around multimessenger astronomy, and/or synergies with other facilities. Please consider attending! CATAC expects some funding will be available to help subsidize travel costs; stay tuned for a future announcement.
  • The CATAC meeting at 3pm EDT on March 26 will be open to CASCA members. We will discuss our draft recommendations on TMT instrumentation.
  • Extremely Big Eyes on the Early Universe, Sept 9-13, 2019 in Rome, Italy. This is the last of a three-part international conference series. Abstract submission deadline is April 15, and registration deadline is June 15.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

TMT Science Forum

The sixth TMT Science Forum was held in Pasadena, Dec 10-12. The agenda and participant list are available here. It was great to see so many Canadian researchers attending, and actively participating in the discussions. It was especially encouraging to see all the excellent science being done by our postdocs and graduate students, and their ambitions for more great things with TMT. Some of them also participated in the TMT Early Career Workshop the week before the Forum, where they were immersed in a start-to-finish instrument design experience.

A major focus of discussion was the US preparation for a preconstruction proposal to the NSF, largely to support instrumentation development, and preparation for the US Decadal survey Astro2020. Much of this work involves developing Key Science Programs, designed to make use of potential US access to both TMT and GMT. While this is a US-focused exercise, many of these Key Science Programs build on work that has already been done within the TMT community, by the International Science Definition Teams.

Compelling science cases were presented for several future instrument concepts, including multi-object NIR spectroscopy, high-contrast imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy. Discussion of the relative priorities of these concepts was an important agenda item for the SAC meeting that immediately followed the forum. Early in January, CATAC will be engaging with the Canadian community to develop a clear picture of where our priorities lie.

While this was the last Forum funded through the cooperative agreement with NSF that sparked the meetings, many people expressed the opinion that they should continue. While it is likely the next meeting will be held in China, I hope that we will consider hosting one in Canada perhaps the year after that.


The big news in the past months has been the positive ruling in both contested cases before the Hawai’i Supreme Court. First, in August, the Court ruled unanimously in favour of TMT on the issue of the sublease. Then, at the end of October, the Court delivered a 4-1 decision to uphold the Conservation District Use Permit issued to TMT by the Land Board. This is welcome news, that now gives TMT the legal right to restart construction. While it is expected that there will still be protests, the latest polls show strong support for TMT among Hawaiians. We are therefore hopeful that construction can begin soon, amid a welcoming environment in Hawai’i.

First Light Instrumentation

The SAC met in October to recommend a design choice for the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph, one of two first light instruments on the TMT. CATAC’s public report on the three designs under consideration was made available to SAC members. The SAC recommended that the project pursue the multi-slit imaging spectrograph design (Xchange), which was also the design preferred by CATAC. This concept will be the baseline for further development.

A conceptual design review of an adaptive secondary mirror (AM2) was held in October, and no show-stoppers were identified. However, there are risks associated with deploying an AM2 at first light, and it complicates commissioning. While an AM2 could have a big impact on future instruments, simplifying their design, it will not significantly affect WFOS or IRIS. Therefore, while there is interest in this being an early capability, it may not be necessary to push for it to be ready at first light.

Recent and Upcoming Meetings and Events

  • US-ELTP Splinter session at AAS, Seattle on Monday Jan 7, 2019
  • Conference, “Extremely Big Eyes on the Early Universe”, UCLA Jan 28-Feb 1, 2019

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

Science Forum

Registration has now opened for the next TMT Science Forum, to be held December 10-12 in Pasadena, California. Please note that registration is free for students and members of the International Science Development Teams (ISDTs). In addition, ACURA has agreed to provide some travel support for University-based researchers who wish to attend this meeting, given its importance to the future success of TMT. To apply for this funding, please email with a short description of your involvement in TMT, and your need for funding support.

Among other things, the Science Forum is an excellent opportunity for ISDT members to meet face to face. With Canada recently stepping up to join these ISDTs at an appropriate level, this is the time to take advantage of that membership to ensure your science interests are represented as TMT develops.


The TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC) is meeting Sept 12-13, and one of their main agenda items is to discuss progress with the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) design. The instrument team continues to work on advancing two possible designs: one using traditional slitmasks (Xchange) and another using optical fibers, over a wider field of view. At a recent, independent cost review, both instruments were found to significantly exceed the $50M cost cap when appropriate contingency is included. A subcommittee has been evaluating the scientific implications of proposed descope options for both designs, and will be reporting to the SAC at this meeting.

The other item before the SAC is a report from a subcommittee that has been considering white paper submissions for the next instrument to be constructed, after WFOS and IRIS. The SAC is in the process of reviewing and prioritizing the submissions, with a goal of identifying one or more studies for possible design funding.

Of likely relevance to future instrumentation discussion will be the Exoplanet Science Strategy report recently released by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The full report is available here. In particular, it recognizes the pivotal role that both TMT and GMT will play in the study of planet formation, and recommends that the National Science Foundation (NSF) invest in both the GMT and TMT and their exoplanet instrumentation to provide all-sky access to the U.S. community.

Funding and Construction Developments

In August, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled in favour of TMT regarding the case of the sublease. The issue at stake here was a possible requirement to conduct a contested case hearing for the granting of the sublease, as was done earlier this year for the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP). The court ruled, unanimously, that a contested case hearing is not required for the sublease.

The remaining case before the Supreme Court is the appeal of the Land Board’s decision to award the CDUP itself. A decision is expected in the coming weeks, hopefully before the Board meeting in October. Coincidentally, the permitting process for the alternative site in the Canary Islands (ORM) is expected to conclude, following unanticipated bureaucratic delays.

As recently announced, the US community is now working under the leadership of NOAO to prepare a proposal for US participation in both TMT and GMT. If this is well received by the US Decadal planning process, it may pave the way for substantial (25%) NSF involvement in the project. A potential complication is that NSF participation will likely trigger the need for a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Depending on how this is staged, it could lead to further delays. No such EIS would likely be required for construction on ORM, La Palma. The Board is expected to make a site recommendation this October. CATAC will be revisiting our site selection report and recommendations from May 2017 to identify anything that might have changed or need more research, so that we can reaffirm or modify our recommendations as necessary. Continued input to CATAC on this important issue is still welcome.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh, CATAC Chair
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2018)


In April, CATAC submitted recommendations on the three design choices for the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS), the result of a five month period of information gathering and community consultation. As one of only two first light instruments, the success of WFOS is critically important to the success of TMT. Our recommendation was that, while all three designs are exciting and capable of delivering excellent science, the Xchange design provides the best match to the top-level specifications. Moreover, the flexibility of this design, relative to the survey-oriented fibre design, is preferred. The final report is available on our web page.

Following this report, the instrument underwent a cost and risk review. At this review it was decided that the slicer design would not be pursued any further. Both the Xchange and fibre designs were found to significantly exceed the cost cap, and the instrument team has been charged with looking at how the designs can be altered to reduce cost. Neither design has a significant technical advantage or disadvantage; both have risks that will require some work.

The design work is expected to be completed by early July, to allow the SAC to make a recommendation by their July 26 meeting. In addition, a sub-committee of the TMT SAC has been formed to re-visit the science specifications that were originally defined for WFOS over a decade ago. The recommendations made by the sub-committee will also be discussed by the full SAC at that next meeting. The other TMT communities are undergoing a consultation process similar to the one held in Canada, and this information will be considered as well. There is still time for your voice to be heard, and if you have comments or concerns about WFOS please contact any CATAC member.

Work is also underway to select the third instrument to be built for TMT. Eight white papers have been submitted to the SAC, and these are currently being reviewed by a SAC subcommittee that includes representation from all the partners.

Science Forum

At the CASCA meeting in Victoria, it was announced that the next TMT Science Forum will be held December 10-12 in Pasadena, California. This will be an important meeting, likely coming after the pending legal decisions in Hawai’i have been resolved. We hope that many Canadians will consider attending this meeting. It is likely that some funding will be made available to help those who need it; an announcement will be made in the coming months.

Funding and Construction Developments

Gary Sanders (Project Manager) and Christophe Dumas (Observatory Scientist) summarized the current state of the project very well in their presentations at the CASCA AGM. There is lots of design and construction activity underway as we await the outcome of the permitting processes on both Maunakea and the alternate site in the Canary Islands.

As announced earlier this year, the US National Science Foundation (NSF), NOAO, TMT International Observatory and GMT Organization are working together to develop Key Science Programs that will be presented to the Decadal Review process in the US. If this is ranked highly by the Decadal Review Panel, NSF has communicated that they will be prepared to support a significant share (at least 25%) of both GMT and TMT, to provide access for the US community. This is a welcome development that provides a path to full construction. There remain issues to be resolved, including the timing of any funding and the Canadian share in the project. CATAC will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops; in the meantime, feel free to contact any CATAC member if you have questions or concerns.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh, CATAC Chair
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

The Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) first-light instrument on TMT is expected to be a workhorse instrument that will appeal broadly to many in the Canadian community. This has proven to be a challenging instrument to design to requirements, and in the coming few weeks three different designs will be undergoing a technical and cost review process. CATAC has been working to understand these designs and gather input so we can present advice that reflects the needs of Canadian astronomers.

There are currently three compelling designs being considered:

  1. Fiber-WFOS: A fiber spectrograph that achieves a multiplicity of ~700 targets with R=5000 and full wavelength coverage, over a 79 square arcminute field of view. The challenge here is in achieving the necessary precision in sky subtraction and calibration, especially for faint objects at wavelengths redward of ~0.7 microns. There is no direct imaging mode, and the spectral resolution and angular sampling of each fiber is fixed. However, fibers can be bundled together to form multiple deployable IFUs. System throughput may be compromised in the near-UV and at wavelengths longward of ~0.9 microns.
  2. Slicer-WFOS: This design is an imaging spectrograph that uses image slicers to reduce the physical slit width to achieve R=5000, maintaining full spectral coverage from 310nm to 1000nm, but with a lower multiplicity of 33 over a 25 square arcminute field of view. The notional design for this option does not include imaging, although it likely could be added. The deployment of the slicer modules has been identified as a challenging operational issue.
  3. Xchange-WFOS: This is an imaging spectrograph with an object multiplicity of about 100 at resolution of R=5000, again over a 25 square arcminute field of view. Simultaneous coverage of the full wavelength range is not possible, but there is flexibility in using multiple gratings to achieve different resolutions. In terms of operational use, this design is most similar to multi-object spectrographs such as GMOS. Objects are placed on slits, using masks that are designed and cut for individual fields. Xchange-WFOS has an imaging capability. Like GMOS, there is also the option of adding an IFU.

All three designs have strong advantages and are exciting concepts; there are also technical and scientific trade-offs to be considered. The technical risks associated with all designs are being assessed by a committee that will advise the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) over the next couple of weeks. The SAC itself will meet April 9-10, 2018, and one of their tasks at that meeting will likely be to recommend proceeding with one or more of these three designs.

Scientifically, at a high level we might consider fiber-WFOS as best suited for “survey science”, where large samples of targets with a high density on the sky are gathered over large areas. On the other hand, the slicer- and Xchange-WFOS designs may be better suited for diagnostic spectroscopy: smaller samples of precision spectroscopy. But even this is an overly reductive description of capabilities.

CATAC needs to hear from you to provide appropriate advice. Some specific questions are:

  • How do you imagine you (or your immediate descendants!) using WFOS in 2028? Are the sample sizes, target densities, and S/N or resolution requirements better achievable with one design or another? Are there science programs where you feel that MOS with slits would be advantageous compared to fibers?
  • What spectral resolution or resolutions do you need for your science? If you could choose only one resolution, what would it be? Would it be acceptable to trade resolution against spectral coverage if the former were user-selectable?
  • What wavelength coverage is most important for your science? Is there a need for coverage with maximum throughput between 0.3 – 0.4 microns, or at wavelengths longer than 0.9 microns? Is there an advantage of simultaneous coverage, or is it sufficient to use multiple settings?
  • Is there a scientific need for seeing-limited (perhaps GLAO-assisted) imaging at visible – near-infrared wavelengths?

To help answer these questions we will be holding a public Webex meeting in advance of the April SAC meeting. Additional documentation describing the three instrument concepts will be made available, as possible, in the coming days via our website. We hope many of you will be able to attend, and/or send us your comments by email.

In other news, we await decision of the site selection. Disappointingly, the site permit for the ORM site in the Canary Islands has not yet been approved. There does not appear to be any fundamental obstacle to this permit, it is just taking longer than expected. In Hawai’i the political situation continues to change in a direction that is favourable to TMT construction. There are still two appeals in front of the Hawaii Supreme Court. One of them is being heard right now, and decisions on both are expected later this year. The good news is that the project continues to move forward in construction and design, with about 15 percent of the construction of components complete.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

The TMT Science Forum was held in Mysore, India on November 7-10. This is the first time one of these meetings took place in India, and it again proved a very effective venue for helping the partner communities become engaged with the project. The focus this year was on TMT instrumentation beyond first light. As announced in the last issue of e-Cass, TMT has issued a call for White Papers due March 21, 2018. These will be reviewed by the SAC, who will make recommendations for the next instrument(s) after first light. The Science Forum provided an opportunity to kick off some of the discussion. Talks are available here. There were also supporting workshops, held on November 6, for discussing three capabilities: a Planetary Science Imager, high resolution spectroscopy, and the first-light instrument WFOS.

At the last SAC meeting, some important updates were provided on both first light instruments for TMT: the infrared imaging spectrograph (IRIS) and the wide-field optical spectrograph (WFOS). In both cases there are decisions being made now, described below, that should be important to the Canadian community. CATAC is therefore following these developments closely.

IRIS successfully completed the second part of its Preliminary Design Review in September; reviews were very positive. The review focused on IRIS observing modes, its interaction with the AO system (NFIRAOS) and the data reduction system. As a result of the review, the IRIS science team is now discussing details of how observations will be taken, and how data will be reduced. NIRIS coupled with NFIRAOS is a very powerful, but complex, instrument that we expect to be of great interest to the Canadian community. If you are interested in knowing more, or would like to get involved, you are strongly encouraged to get in touch with one of the Canadian science team members: Tim Davidge, Pat Coté, or Christian Marois.

WFOS remains a very exciting and challenging instrument. Having earlier abandoned the original concept (MOBIE), the project is now currently considering two very different designs. One would use image slicers, robotically mounted onto masks, to enable multiobject spectroscopy up to high resolution (R~10,000) with narrow slits. The other is a fibre-based design that would allow patrol of the full field, but also bundling to make integral field units. Both designs have advantages and limitations. CATAC will be meeting with the PI of WFOS, Kevin Bundy, on Dec 19 to learn more about the risks and advantages offered by each approach, and the science input driving the specifications. We anticipate that early in 2018 we will be engaging you, the community, to ensure our Science team and SAC members are best able to represent Canadian interests at the time of this important decision.

In addition to these exciting developments, TMT has recently contracted a design study for a secondary adaptive mirror. Studies are underway to predict the improvement in performance as a function of wavelength, natural seeing and field of view. New simulation results will be presented at the next SAC meeting, in Feb 2018. Though this is unlikely to be a first light capability, it could be a priority for an upgrade not long after commissioning.

The political and legal situation in Hawai’i remains generally positive. Legal challenges remain. These are out of our hands and are being dealt with in the courts. The critical issue now is the time it takes to resolve these cases, but the Project remains optimistic that a site decision will be made in April 2018.

To help inform the community on the funding situation facing TMT, on Sept 26 CATAC hosted a public Webex with Ed Stone (Executive Director) and Gary Sanders (Project Manager). Over thirty CASCA members attended. We were presented with a frank and open description of the TMT budget and construction plans. One important takeaway from that meeting was how much impressive work is currently being done, by all partners, despite the delays. About 70% of the items are under contract right now, and roughly 10% of the project is complete. We also got a detailed description of how the project is costed, and how those costs are being revised. There is of course a significant funding gap, that is understood, and the plan submitted to the NSF included a set of options for staging the project. Further discussions with NSF, however, await a site decision.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2017)

In July, the hearing officer considering the contested case hearing regarding TMT’s site permit on Mauna Kea issued her decision, that the permit should be granted under a number of conditions. The full report is available at This was welcome news. The next step is for the Board of Land and Natural Resources to receive written and oral responses to these recommendations, and finally issue a decision on whether or not to approve the permit. This decision is expected in October. The decision may be appealed directly to the Hawaii Supreme Court within a 30-day window; if the Court decides to hear the case, they must give the matter priority and issue a decision within one year.

The only other pending legal issue is an appeal related to the vacating of consent for the UH-TIO sublease. A ruling on the appeal could come before the end of the year.

There is a generally optimistic sense that the prospects for construction in Hawai’i have greatly improved. There are still remaining issues, but the climate for resolving them has become much more constructive. The election of Harry Kim as mayor of Hawai’i County has changed the political dynamic. His vision of Maunakea as a “World Peace Park” is providing an opportunity for all interested parties to come together.

With the Project expected to obtain all necessary approvals for construction on ORM, as a backup site in the case Maunakea construction proves impossible, the site selection seems likely to be settled by early 2018. It remains true that the Project does not yet have sufficient committed funds to complete construction, a situation that has not been helped by the delay in the start of construction. At the CASCA meeting in May 2017, several people expressed a desire to learn more about the Project’s plans for managing this shortfall, and what the implications are for completion of construction. In response to this, we have invited Ed Stone (TIO Executive Director) and Gary Sanders (Project Manager) to address the CASCA community directly, via a 2 hour Webex session. This will take place at 3:30- 5:30pm, EDT, on September 26. All CASCA members are invited to participate. If you have previously participated in a CATAC Webex session, you will automatically receive an invitation to this discussion. If you would like to be added to the list of participants, please email Slides will be made available to registered participants prior to the meeting; the presentation itself will be limited to ~30 minutes to leave plenty of time for your questions.

CATAC would like to remind you of the TMT Science Forum happening in Mysore, India Nov 7-9, 2017. The main purpose of this meeting is to discuss concepts for the next instrument to be built for TMT, after the first light instruments. The International Science Development Teams (ISDTs) will be leading these discussions, and we would like to thank ACURA for making funds available to help offset travel costs for Canadian University-based ISDT members and invited speakers. This activity is expected to continue after the Forum, culminating in a series of white papers that will be presented to the SAC, who will make a recommendation for funding studies of the next TMT instrument. The white papers will focus on the science aspects of possible capabilities, and will be due in March of next year. CATAC hopes to play a role here in consulting with the community to present our SAC members with a Canadian perspective. This is a critical activity for Canada and we welcome community engagement. Please contact CATAC (, your SAC representatives (Tim Davidge, Bob Abraham, Stan Metchev, Doug Welch) or any of the ISDT members for more information.

Finally, CATAC member Christine Wilson (McMaster) has resigned from CATAC to make best use of the research time afforded by her recent Killam fellowship. We are grateful for her dedicated service and advice during her term on CATAC. We expect to appoint a replacement in short order.

Michael Balogh
Chair, CATAC

Report from the CASCA/ACURA TMT Advisory Committee

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer/été 2017)

CATAC’s first report to ACURA and CASCA has been made publicly available, at This report is the result of broad consultation with the community, members of the TMT project office, experts in adaptive optics, site testing and computational fluid dynamics, and Directors and users of telescopes on the Canary Islands. The report includes a quantitative comparison of the capabilities of TMT on its preferred site on Maunakea (MK13N), relative to the alternative site (Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos, ORM) and the other 30-m class facilities under development: ELT and GMT. In summary we find that TMT is most capable and competitive if it can be constructed as planned on MK13N. However, if it proves necessary to move to ORM, TMT will still deliver transformative science that will meet the needs of the majority of the Canadian community. We made the following specific recommendations, which are worth repeating here:

  1. Given that ELT will be located at a better site, with a substantial aperture advantage, competitiveness now and in the future for TMT will require extracting the maximum from instrumentation and operations. Innovation will be of fundamental importance. A robust development budget with stable funding commitments is also essential. Operations must include an adaptive queue, and should allow observing flexibility. Canadian participation in a VLOT that fails to meet these basic national facility requirements should not be considered.

  2. TMT@MK13N offers significant competitive advantages relative to ELT. In particular it is expected to outperform ELT in the UV and MIR, while remaining competitive for visible and NIR observations. Therefore the site on MK should not be given up prematurely. The decision to move to ORM should only be made once it is clear that construction on MK will delay the project significantly relative to ELT, or fail to attract the necessary funding. As both the realistic timeline for ELT and the funding opportunities for TMT remain uncertain, we should proceed with caution.

  3. The broader Canadian community should be engaged in a project to which we are dedicating so many resources. We should aim to have ~5 Canadians on each science team. They should be representative in terms of geography, institution, gender, and career stage. While all Canadian researchers are encouraged to apply, CATAC (or LRPIC) should also develop a list of specific individuals to approach to apply for ISDT membership well before the next call (January 2018). LRPIC should investigate whether there exist mechanisms within the Canadian funding ecosystem to support ISDT activities, or whether a new allocation should be sought, perhaps by ACURA.

We presented a summary of our findings at this year’s CASCA meeting in Edmonton. From the ensuing discussions (during both the CATAC lunch meeting and the LRPIC/CATAC meeting the following morning) we took away the following:

  • The community remains strongly supportive of TMT on Maunakea. A move to ORM would generally be disappointing. However, when asked directly, no one stated that they would be unable to achieve significant scientific progress with TMT if it were located on ORM. This is strong affirmation that the alternative site will be acceptable to the Canadian community.
  • The community is dissatisfied with the TMT project’s transparency regarding its financial planning and overall viability. Little or no information about how the Board is dealing with the financial shortfall is available, and this lack of communication has resulted in some skepticism in the community regarding the project’s ability to complete construction.
  • The Canadian astronomical community is aware of the conflicting interests on Maunakea, and respects the legal process that is being undertaken in Hawai’i. There is an understandable desire to act ethically.

CATAC agrees that the TMT project office and Board need to be more forthright in their communications with the community. To encourage this, we would like to hold our next public Webex meeting on the financial status of the project, and we will invite one or more representatives of the project to lead with a presentation and be available for following discussion.

Finally, we would like to thank and congratulate those of you who answered our call to participate in the International Science Development Teams. As of this writing, 18 individuals have responded to fill 23 positions (with five individuals serving on more than one ISDT). Including those already participating, we anticipate at least 35 ISDT positions filled by 28 Canadians. This is a great improvement and a better reflection of what this telescope means to our community.

The TMT Science Forum is being held in Mysore, India on November 7-9, 2017. We would like to encourage especially those participating in the ISDTs to consider attending. We are still working on identifying sources of partial financial support, but now recognize that may not be possible before this meeting. We hope many of you will still be able to attend.

As always, CATAC is happy to hear from you at any time. Please email if you have questions for us, opinions or advice relevant to our mandate, or indeed information that you think might be useful to CATAC. Our website is now hosted on the CASCA site and we will keep this updated with upcoming meetings, events and documents.

CATAC Members:

  • Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo) Chair
  • Sarah Gallagher (Western University), Vice-Chair
  • Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
  • Chris Wilson (McMaster University)
  • David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
  • Harvey Richer (UBC)


  • Greg Fahlman (General Manager of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Bob Abraham (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Doug Welch, (Science Governor for Canada on TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Tim Davidge (NRC)
  • Luc Simard (NRC)

The CASCA/ACURA TMT Advisory Committee (CATAC) Is Up and Running

From/de Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2017)

In early 2017, the CASCA/ACURA TMT Advisory Committee (CATAC) was formed to provide advice and a forum for communication regarding the TMT project. Specifically, the ACURA/CASCA mandate to the committee is to:

  • Provide advice to CASCA and ACURA on the current state of the TMT project.
  • Act as a conduit for consulting with and informing the Canadian Astronomical community about the state of the TMT project;
  • Advocate and advance Canadian participation in the TMT project;
  • Encourage Canadian scientific participation and leadership in the TMT;
  • Advise on strategic development of technology for the TMT in Canadian Industry;
  • Provide technical assistance to the 2020 (and subsequent) CASCA Long-range Plan Committees.

The full terms of reference can be found on the CATAC website.

The committee is in complete agreement with earlier advice that TMT will be most competitive and desirable if it is constructed on Maunakea as planned. Every effort should be made to make this happen. However, should this prove impossible, the TIO Board has decided that TMT would move to an alternative site, at Observatorio Roque de los Muchachos (ORM, La Palma). This decision is currently expected in October of 2017. The immediate and urgent objective of CATAC is to obtain a deep understanding of the implications, should TMT need to relocate to ORM. To this end, we have been holding weekly meetings via telecon or webex, many of which are open to CASCA members. The schedule of meetings is given on our website, and meetings open to the public are announced on the CASCA email exploder. Any CASCA member wishing to attend these meetings should send email to Luc Simard ( to be added to the list. Minutes and other documentation are also made available on the CATAC website.

One of CATAC’s most important roles is to keep the community informed as the project progresses, and to ensure that your voice is heard. We are consulting widely and inviting experts to our meetings to advise on technical issues. As well as attending meetings, you are encouraged to contact the Chair at at any time.

CATAC is using information from these meetings to prepare a report that will be delivered to CASCA and ACURA. This report will consist of a factual narrative, with Findings and Recommendations. We will present a draft of this report at the CASCA meeting in Edmonton, May 30-June 1. Together with the LRPIC we are planning an extended discussion session which will, among other things, consider the implications of these recommendations in the broader context. We look forward to working with and for you to secure a bright future for the Canadian astronomical community.

CATAC Members:

  • Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo) Chair
  • Sarah Gallagher (Western University), Vice-Chair
  • Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
  • Chris Wilson (McMaster University)
  • Ray Carlberg (University of Toronto)
  • David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
  • Harvey Richer (UBC)


  • Greg Fahlman (General Manager of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Bob Abraham (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Doug Welch, (Science Governor for Canada on TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
  • Tim Davidge (NRC, observer)
  • Luc Simard (NRC, observer)

EPO Reporting Tool

By/par Phil Langill
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2016)

The CASCA-EPO committee would like to remind everyone to please submit via the new reporting tool some simple data about your outreach efforts in 2016. The form is here:

and is very simple to use. Of course the more detailed your info the better, but if your time is short please just enter the total number of people you reached this year and a line or two describing what you did.

Thank you very much for your assistance, and for your time and energy engaging Canadians in astronomy and science in 2016!