President’s Message

By / par Sara Ellison (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2020)

The Long Range Plan is out! This final report represents two years of effort in our community to examine the state of our professional activities and ambitions from both a scientific and societal perspective. Hundreds of people in our community have contributed in a variety of ways to the generation of this finished product, ranging from co-authoring white papers, attending town hall meetings and dedicated AGM sessions, to providing feedback to the panel along the journey. A broad message of gratitude is therefore due to the entire community for your engagement and collaboration. As a Society, we owe our greatest thanks to the LRP panel for the immense undertaking of leading this process: Pauline Barmby, Matt Dobbs, Bryan Gaensler, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David Lafreniere, Brenda Matthews and Alice Shapley. The French version of the LRP, as well as the typeset version with full figures and design and hard copies, are expected early in the new year.

As alluded to in my last President’s message, the next challenge in the LRP process is its implementation, and the Board (with input from the current LRPIC, as well as LRP co-chairs) has been laying out the strategy for this next step. Oversight and monitoring of both existing and future facilities will remain in the remit of our current CASCA committees: the Ground-based Astronomy Committee (GAC, currently chaired by Stefi Baum) and the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy (JCSA, currently chaired by Locke Spencer). In order to tackle the broad ranging community-based LRP recommendations, CASCA will create a new committee, the LRP Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC), whose portfolio will encompass the societal-level aspects of the plan, including equity, indigenous matters, outreach and sustainability. The LCRIC will work to generate an actionable implementation plan from the LRP’s recommendations, working with existing CASCA committees and striking new working groups as needed to convert the recommendations into reality over the next decade. We are just beginning the first steps in establishing this new LCRIC, but I am delighted to announce that Christine Wilson (McMaster University) has agreed to be the inaugural Chair. Given their remit, the new LCRIC, in partnership with the GAC and JCSA, will replace the previous LRPIC – I thank John Hutchings and his team for their wisdom and tireless efforts over many years.

The top (unfunded) large facilities in the LRP are the SKA and CASTOR. As discussed in my September message, the SKA is reaching a critical point with the IGO expected to take over the project imminently. Securing membership and funding for Canada has been at the top of CASCA’s agenda of effort over the last few months. I have been working closely with Kristine Spekkens (Canadian SKA Science Director) and Gilles Joncas (AACS Chair) to prepare the ground for the Coalition’s lobbying activities. These activities are now well underway with a positive first meeting with officials from ISED, and more in the planning stages. In collaboration with ACURA, the AACS has also mobilized its university connections, with several VPR briefings already completed across the country. I encourage you to look at the Canadian SKA webpage, which hosts a wealth of material on the project, its science aspirations, industry connections and societal impacts. In particular, I point you to a handy 4-page summary of the project in the Canadian context, in case you have the opportunity to discuss the project in your broader networks.

With an anticipated launch in the late 2020s, there is also significant on-going progress on planning for the CASTOR space telescope. A more complete report is provided by Pat Côté in this Edition, but the long-awaited CSA technical study request for proposals (STDP RFP) has now been issued (and, by the time you read this, closed), representing a significant step in the preparatory process. CASTOR is one of seven “Priority Technologies” in this call, and there are five different work packages within the CASTOR study. The CSA has also started working a mission development plan for CASTOR: i.e., a summary of timelines, budget requirements, milestones and action items that mark the path towards launch later this decade. CASTOR represents a truly unique and exciting component in Canada’s astronomy portfolio – the potential for a Canada-led UV-optical space telescope will not only bring terrific science returns, as well as showcasing and supporting our national expertise in several technology domains, but it will generate tremendous excitement and pride in the general public, inspiring the next generation of budding scientists and engineers.

On the digital infrastructure side, the New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization (NDRIO) is ramping up to eventually replace Compute Canada. Unlike Compute Canada, NDRIO is funded directly by ISED, and CASCA is an Associate Member (as is CADC). NDRIO held its first AGM at the end of September, at which the inaugural Researcher Council (RC) was announced. Erik Rosolowsky (U of A) was one of approximately 20 appointees on the new RC. Despite this success, it is the responsibility of our broader community to engage with NDRIO and communicate our needs. Notably, astronomy represents ~5% of Compute Canada users but uses ~20% of its resources. Our success as a field therefore critically relies on effective and appropriate DRI. NDRIO has outlined several steps in its initial consultation process on needs assessment within the broader community. Several white papers are under preparation within our astronomy community in response to the first step in this call. A user survey is also expected in the near future – please take the time to complete this survey when it comes your way!

Preparations for the CASCA 2021 AGM (May 10-14) continue apace – since CASCA was founded in 1971, this will be our 50th birthday party! The SOC and OOC have developed an exciting scientific and social program for CASCA 2021. With the release of the LRP, and the broad reaching issues it has assessed, the SOC has chosen a theme that will align with the LRP2020’s goals: « Canadian Astronomy: Dialing It Up To 11 ». The SOC has selected a roster of invited speakers and the invitations will have been sent by the time you read this. The organizing committees have scored quite the coup with securing recent Nobel laureate Professor Andrea Ghez to present the Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture. Two other ‘evening’ events have been planned. There will be a games night featuring the popular game ‘Among Us’ and the CASCA Banquet will feature « CASCA Has Talent » – a chance for CASCA members to demonstrate their non-astronomy skills. The OOC is also working on integrating daily social interactions; it won’t be quite the same as being together in Penticton, but it sounds like it will be a lot of fun nonetheless! Watch this space in the new year for more details and registration.

President’s Message

By / par Sara Ellison (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2020)

It’s back to school time – and for a semester the like of which we have never seen before! First of all, a warm welcome to all of the new members of our community – graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and professors alike. It is not an easy time to be starting a new position of any kind, or moving to a new place. Although we are fortunate that our profession is largely conducive to remote working, activities such as collaboration meetings, classroom interactions and student-supervisor exchanges all play a critical role in our daily work lives. Engaging our new community members will be critical in the months ahead. I encourage every one of us to think about how we can reach out to the new people in our departments (and beyond!) to make them feel welcome and included. I also want to take this opportunity to remind you that new graduate students can join CASCA for free for their first year, so please encourage your new peers/students to take advantage of this.

The Long Range Planning (LRP) process is reaching its crescendo. The main facility recommendations have now been released ahead of the full report, in order that they can be a ready tool for lobbying and funding efforts that will start to ramp up through the Fall. The full report content is expected to be released in mid-November (a reminder that there is a dedicated set of LRP web pages hosted on casca.ca, including the schedule for the next six months). Although the release of the LRP’s report represents the final lap of an (ultra?) marathon for the LRP panel, it is just the start of our work as a community. Converting the LRP’s recommendations into reality (whether that be funding new facilities, or improving astronomy’s professional climate) should be an effort in which we all engage. The CASCA Board will, of course, be reviewing the implementation process once the full report comes out. This will certainly include coordination with our Society’s committees, for example to discuss recommendations specific to topics such as equity, diversity, public outreach and sustainability. There has also already been discussion with (and within) the current LRP Implementation Committee (LRPIC, Chaired by John Hutchings), who have overseen the last decade of progress, on how we can most effectively monitor, support and facilitate recommendations. Beyond these official structures, the actions and voices of individual community members (i.e. you!) will be equally vital in converting the LRP’s recommendations into a reality. Every one of us can enact recommendations concerning our professional climate.

One of the LRP-recommended facilities which demands our immediate efforts is the Square Kilometre Array (SKA; see the latest newsletter update here), in which Canada has been a key player since its inception. The SKA is currently going through a major transformation into an inter-governmental organization (IGO) with partner countries signing a convention for membership. This process is already well underway, with 7 countries having already signed the convention, with 3 of them fully ratified. The convention will come into full force when five countries (including the 3 hosts: Australia, South Africa and the UK) have ratified, which is expected by mid-2021. Canada is not currently amongst these signatories. In order that Canada can continue to play a major leadership role in the SKA project, our membership status, and a funding commitment, are urgently needed. For example, Canada has recently been awarded a conditional contract for the mid-frequency central signal processor, one of the largest contracts awarded to date. However, this contract is conditional on our future commitment to the project, and needs to be finalized by the middle of next year. We should all be taking the opportunity to talk about the importance of SKA and other future facilities, both within our universities and to our broader contacts. Without awareness, there can be no action.

There has been much discussion about whether it is a lost cause to consider lobbying for new facility funding in the midst of the world’s current crisis. However, I see reasons to be hopeful. Our federal government, and funding agencies, have already shown willingness to dig into their rainy day coffers. The return to Parliament will be kicked off with a Speech from the Throne on September 23 and is expected to focus on a roadmap out of the pandemic. Word from Ottawa is that the Liberals are in Big Thinking (and spending!) mode, seeking to lay out a new vision to transform Canada in a post-pandemic world, without any immediate concerns for the fiscal deficit. Several of the highly ranked LRP facilities may offer appeal in this regard, both for their scientific and economic benefits. For example, The Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and ultraviolet Research (CASTOR; see the updates from Pat Côté in the 2020 Summer Solstice newsletter as well as this one) mission offers excellent opportunities for industrial partnership and technology development. As a telescope that is envisioned to be Canadian-led, CASTOR will have a field of view 100 times that of Hubble and provide the best ever view of the UV universe, and will therefore be both a cutting edge astronomical facility, as well as a source of national pride and inspiration.

In the last newsletter, Taylor Kutra, Martine Lokken and Hilding Neilson reported their positive experiences in taking/offering a mini-course on astronomy and colonization in Canada. I am delighted to hear that, this coming Fall, Hilding will be offering this course to our CASCA membership on a virtual platform. It behooves all of us to recognize and be educated on the issue of colonization, both in the context of astronomy and in Canada in general. Hilding’s course is a (currently) unique opportunity within our profession to learn from a First Nation professional astronomer with first hand understanding of the challenges and issues. As noted in the afore-mentioned newsletter article, such a course is long overdue. Now, thanks to Hilding’s community offering, one more step is being taken to disseminate this education. An announcement will be forthcoming on the CASCA exploder with more details, including the registration process.

Finally, an update on the AGM. As you all know, the original plan for 2021 was to host the CASCA AGM in Penticton, BC. However, upon discussion with the Penticton LOC (Chaired by Michael Rupen), due to on-going uncertainty over COVID-19 restrictions, we have decided that the 2021 AGM should be planned to be virtual. Since the 2022 AGM has already been confirmed to be hosted by Waterloo, Penticton aims to welcome us eventually in 2023. The online organizing committee (OOC) for CASCA 2021 is being led enthusiastically by Dennis Crabtree, and is planned for the week that had been originally identified for the Penticton meeting (May 10-14). In news from south of the border, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is also offering its winter meeting virtually and has offered CASCA members the opportunity to attend at AAS member registration fee level. If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity, keep an eye out for the announcement on the CASCA email exploder in the near future, where we will be providing instructions on how to obtain the relevant discount code that can be used for web registration.

Graduate Student Highlights

par Carter Rhea (Chair, CASCA Graduate Student Committee)
(Cassiopeia – été 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

Les éruptions solaires sont des tempêtes de rayonnement provoquées par la libération d’énergie magnétique provenant de la couronne solaire. Ces éruptions posent un danger pour les astronautes et peuvent causer des perturbations importantes sur les communications satellites (incluant les systèmes GPS). Il a été proposé par E.T Lu et ses collaborateurs que les éruptions solaires sont le produit d’une réaction en chaîne inobservable de reconnexions magnétiques à petite échelle. Cette cascade de petits évènements peut être simulée avec un simple modèle sur réseau, appelé « modèle d’avalanche ». Le but de mon projet de maîtrise est d’évaluer le potentiel de ces modèles à faire des prédictions à court terme des éruptions solaires. Nous avons tout d’abord étudié le comportement stochastique de plusieurs modèles d’avalanche, et sommes maintenant en train d’intégrer l’assimilation de données sur des observations de rayon X (GOES) des éruptions solaires pour améliorer nos prédictions.

Figure 1 – Représentation imagée de l’interprétation physique d’une boucle coronale qui accumule de l’énergie par rotation de sa base. (Strugarek et al. 2014)

Mallory Thorp — University of Victoria

Comme une chercheuse en Astronomie, elle enquête comment changent-ils les galaxies au cause d’une fusion majeure galactique — ça se passe quand deux galaxies d’au peu près la même taille s’interagissent y se fusionnent en une unique galaxie. Pour meilleure comprendre ces changements d’un ordre de grandeur de quelques kiloparsecs, elle utilise les measures de la Spectroscopie de Champs Intégral (IFS – Integral Field Spectroscopy en anglais) d’enquête La Cartographie des Galaxies Proches à l’Observatoire d’Apache Point (MaNGA – Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory en anglais). L’IFS lui fournit une spectre pour chaque pixel d’une image d’une galaxie qui nous permet d’examiner comment les produits-de-données spectrales — comme le taux de formation stellaire (SFR — Stellar Formation Rate en anglais) — se changent à travers une galaxie.

On peut voir dans le figure 2 trois exemples de galaxies post-fusion de MaNGA (première colonne) et leurs cartes de densité surfacique de SFR (deuxième colonne). En comparant les cartes de SFR de galaxies post-fusion avec les galaxies isolées, nous pouvons quantifier le changement en SFR à la suite de fusion. La troisième colonne montre l’augmentation de SFR causée par une fusion en bleue, tandis qu’un déficit est visualisé en rouge. En moyenne, les galaxies post-fusion éprouvent une augmentation à travers la galaxie entière en SFR (voir les deuxième et troisième fusions). Les variations de ça, comme l’étouffement de SFR en les régions lointaines de la première galaxie post-fusion, peut-être indiquer comment les qualités progénitures distinctes et orientations modifient l’efficacité de la formation des étoiles.

Cette travaille-là était complétée par moi-même sous la direction de Sara Ellison (Nous deux sommes les membres de CASCA!)

Figure 2

Lingjian Chen — Saint Mary’s University

Dans ma recherche, j’étudie l’environnement galactique. Les environnements denses, tels que les groupes et les amas de galaxies, sont formés, en partie, par les fusions hiérarchiques. La distribution de galaxies satellites nous indique comment les galaxies dans cet environnement évoluent.

Nous étudions la distribution radiale des satellites autour de galaxies centrales en utilisant les données de Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) Subaru Strategic Program (HSC-SSP) et le télescope de Canada-France-Hawaii (CFHT) Large Area U-band Deep Survey (CLAUDS). Grâce à cette région étendue, la photométrie de 6-bandes et la profondeur du survey, nous pouvons identifier plus que 5000 centres dans un décalage vers le rouge entre 0,3 et 0,9. En plus, nous pouvons identifier les satellites qui sont en orbite autour de galaxies centrales.

Nos résultats nous indiquent que la distribution de densité de satellites est bien décrite par un profil NFW (Navarro-Frenk-White 1995, qui est normalement utilisé pour décrire le profil de densité de matière sombre) en une échelle plus grande que 100 kiloparsec à un décalage vers le rouge bas (e.g. Tal +2012). Nous avons enquêté en plus la dépendance de la distribution entre les satellites et les propriétés de la galaxie centrale. Nous trouvons que le mécanisme qui forme la distribution de satellites est relié fortement au frottement dynamique et le décapage des étoiles. Cependant, on a besoin de faire plus de simulations détaillées.

Le figure 3 démontre les galaxies de type satellite. La galaxie centrale est indiquée par un cercle jaune, les galaxies de type satellite potentielles sont indiquées par un cercle vert, et le rayonnement de sélection est indiqué en rouge (700 kpc). Les galaxies centrales étaient identifiées par leur masse et les critère d’isolation. En utilisant la différence en photo-z et une région circulaire, on a choisi les galaxies de type satellite. Le numéro des galaxies de type satellite montré ici était corrigé par les objets de fond.

Figure 3

Le figure 4 montre la densité superficielle des galaxies de type satellites (la moyenne) autour une galaxie centrale après la correction pour les objets de fond. La ligne solid démarque la meilleur ajustement et peut être séparée en deux composantes: la composante NFW au grandes échelles et la composante Sersic au petites échelles.

Figure 4

Farbod Jahandar — L’Université de Montréal

Farbod Jahandar travaille à débrouiller les mystères chimiques de nos étoiles voisines. Pour faire ça, il étudie les observations à haute résolution des naines étoiles de type spectral M qui sont les étoiles les plus nombreuses dans notre galaxie et sont les étoiles les plus petites et les plus froides sur la séquence principale. Cette analyse a un impact puissant sur plusieurs domaines en astronomie; en particulier, ça nous permet de déterminer le rayon d’une exoplanète. Le rayon d’une exoplanète dépend sur le rayon de l’étoile hôte qui est une fonction de ses propriétés chimiques! Pour réussir, Farbod utilise les données à haute résolution proviennent de l’instrument SPIROU qui est situé sur le télescope Canada-France-Hawaii.

Puis, Farbod utilise les techniques diverses de la spectroscopie chimique sur les données obtenues pour calculer les abondances chimiques des éléments différents dans l’atmosphère des naines étoiles de type spectral M. Cela est important pour comprendre l’évolution chimique de ces étoiles. En plus, cette étude va contribuer fortement à améliorer les modèles synthétiques stellaires qui existent.

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

Long Range Plan 2020

de Pauline Barmby, Bryan Gaensler (LRP2020 co-présidents PLT2020)
(Cassiopeia – été 2020)

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 co-présidents à chairs@lrp2020.groups.io.

President’s Report

By / par Sara Ellison (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

At the time of writing, I have been CASCA President for exactly one week! It is a role that I am meeting with both excitement and humility – the outgoing President, Rob Thacker, carried out his role with the utmost dedication, tirelessly working for our community and expertly navigating us through some choppy waters. So, whilst I am excited to receive the Presidential baton and continue the good work, Rob has left some rather big shoes to fill. Thank you Rob, on behalf of the Society, the Board and myself for your hard work to make the very best of our community.

The Board has some other new faces as well – we welcome Laura Parker (McMaster) and Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo (Montreal) as Directors, replacing Suresh Sivanandam and Rene Doyon. Thank you to Suresh and Rene for your valued service. The new Vice-President is Samar Safi-Harb (Manitoba), with whom I have worked in several capacities in recent years and am delighted to have as my wing-(wo)man. [As an aside, our Board is now 6/9 female!]. And finally, Bob Abraham completes his six year marathon on the Executive, having rotated through the Vice-President’s position, then to President and then to past-President. Bob – you have been an inspiration in the community, bringing wit and wisdom wherever you go. Thank you.

Since the last Newsletter in March, I think that there is not a one amongst us who hasn’t had their personal and professional lives turned upside-down by COVID-19. However, in times of crisis, our true natures rise to the fore and I am proud and inspired to live and work in a society (and Society!) that is characterized by compassion, community-mindedness and creativity. Across Canada, nightly serenades to front line workers, hearts in windows, poetry on lampposts and neighbourhood `caremongering’ have become the norm. We can be very proud that astronomers are amongst those in Canada who are seeking ways to support both professionals and the public alike in these challenging times. I wanted to highlight two examples of this, whose target audiences differ, but whose goals are united in serving communities whose regular ways of engaging have been interrupted by COVID.

First, under the ever-energetic leadership of Julie Bolduc-Duval, Discover the Universe (DU) launched a daily podcast (“astro-at-home”) aimed at children aged 8-12, delivered in both English and French, covering subjects as diverse as space robotics and the search for alien life. Many of us have school-aged children who have been home for months, adding another full time job to our lives (oh, the fun of having to retreat to a closet for a telecon!). Initiatives such as astro-at-home have not only been vital in keeping our young ones stimulated and educated, but is also a shining example of creating an opportunity out of a crisis. The astro-at-home podcasts are being delivered by a diverse crew of passionate communicators, who will surely be role models for the thousands of viewers that astro-at-home has attracted. My daughter and I were certainly amongst those so inspired.

A complementary initiative is CANVAS – the CANadian Virtual Astronomy Seminars. For researchers, the summer months normally mark the peak of the conference season, as we make our international pilgrimages to share the latest astronomical discoveries. Conference attendance is particularly important for our junior researchers, not only to advertise their work, but also to learn from others. Current travel bans obviously erase this opportunity. Spear-headed by Dennis Crabtree (NRC Herzberg), CANVAS aims to bring research talks to our home offices, by coordinating a national seminar program. By recording these presentations, which will have contributions from graduate students through professors alike, CANVAS will also provide a lasting legacy and enable research communication across the country, benefitting in particular smaller or more geographically remote centres of research. I hope that in the future CANVAS will be even more ambitious and recruit speakers from around the world – what a wonderful way to maximize scientific communication at low carbon cost.

As a society, we experienced a major milestone with this year’s AGM, the first to be hosted entirely virtually. Under the chairmanship of Michael De Robertis, some two years-worth of planning and hard work had already been invested by the York University team to host CASCA 2020. The decision to move the AGM online was made in mid-March, leaving the organizing committee a scant two months to overhaul the meeting. The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) was quickly re-shuffled to an Online Organizing Committee (OOC): Elaina Hyde, Paul Delaney, Michael De Robertis, June Parsons, Sharon Morsink, Carter Rhea, Dennis Crabtree, Chris Matzner, Maan Hani, James Taylor and Rob Thacker. It was truly a mammoth task to bring everything together on such a short timescale, but their Herculean efforts led to an AGM to be proud of – an extremely well attended meeting offered at low cost, with low carbon footprint and featuring several novel components such as iPosters, a Youtube channel for all of the prize talks and conference photos via Zoom. It may also be the only time you will get to see astronomers doing back-flips on the beach. Although CASCA 2020 was a virtual meeting by necessity, it was an excellent opportunity to experiment with technologies that might be blended with future meetings. Exploring such options is one of the primary mandates of CASCA’s newly minted Sustainability Committee (chaired by Chris Matzner). Whether it be virtual, or in person, I look forward to seeing you all next May in Penticton, where CASCA 2021 will be co-hosted by DRAO and UBC.

Despite all the upheaval of the past months, one effort that is seemingly unperturbed in its forward progress is the development of our Long Range Plan (LRP). Under the deft and indefatigable leadership of co-chairs Pauline Barmby (Western) and Bryan Gaensler (Toronto/Dunlap) a draft of the principal content was circulated to the Society in mid-May and discussed at a well-attended AGM session. The scope of the LRP is impressive, tackling not only research-driven topics, such as observatory facilities, supercomputing and data-management, but with a holistic perspective of our professional landscape. Equity and diversity, education and public outreach, funding and governance are all tackled, as well as recommendations pertaining to ethics, sustainability and indigenous matters. A reminder that the CASCA committee reports submitted for the AGM are publicly available here, and cover many of these topics, including the latest updates from facilities such as TMT and SKA. For now, Coalition lobbying activities are dormant, and a return to such activities is likely to be staged and require both flexibility and opportunism. But with the LRP on track for completion in the Fall, I am confident that whenever the opportunities do re-open, we will be ready for them.

Juin 10 journée d’action

Nous exprimons fermement notre soutien au mouvement Black Lives Matter et à l’élimination du racisme systémique subi par les Canadiens noirs et autochtones. Nous sommes indignés par la mort de tant de personnes, dont les plus récentes sont George Floyd, Chantel Moore, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Jason Collins, Eishia Hudson et D’Andre Campbell, ainsi que de tous les Noirs et les autochtones du Canada, des États-Unis et d’ailleurs, qui n’ont pas survécu à leurs interactions avec la police.

Le racisme systémique existe au Canada, et notre société a encore un long chemin à parcourir pour mettre en place un environnement équitable pour tous les Canadiens. Nous sommes aux côtés de nos membres noirs et autochtones et de leurs communautés. La communauté canadienne appelle au changement et à l’action, et nous offrons notre soutien à ceux qui luttent pour mettre fin au racisme systémique, à la suprématie blanche, au colonialisme et à la brutalité policière. Pour créer le changement que nous voulons voir, il incombe à chacun d’entre nous de s’éduquer, de promouvoir la lutte contre le racisme au Canada et de comprendre l’impact de nos recherches et de nos installations astronomiques. Nous devons agir pour démanteler les barrières et de participer à la justice sociale.

Nous nous engageons à améliorer la vie professionnelle des membres de la Société Canadienne d’Astronomie. Nous savons que le langage et les comportements racistes existent dans la vie professionnelle de plusieurs de nos membres, et que nous devons nous engager en permanence à trouver des moyens d’améliorer la représentation, l’inclusion et l’équité.

Comme beaucoup d’entre vous le savent déjà, le mercredi 10 juin a été désigné comme une journée d’action où les membres du milieu académique sont invités à concentrer leur attention sur l’éducation et l’action en vue d’éliminer le racisme systémique et de reconnaître que les vies noires sont importantes (Black Lives Matter).

Nous avons compilé ci-dessous quelques liens et ressources que les membres de la CASCA peuvent consulter lors de cette journée d’action. Nous encourageons tous nos membres à prendre position contre le racisme anti-noirs ce mercredi et à poursuivre cette position dans le futur. Vous pouvez nous aider de plusieurs façons. Tous les voyages commencent par un premier pas.

Sara Ellison, Présidente du CASCA
Brenda Matthews, Présidente du Comité sur l’équité et l’inclusion du CASCA

Rejoignez un mouvement :
https://blacklivesmatter.carrd.co
https://www.particlesforjustice.org
https://www.shutdownstem.com

Faites des recherches et informez-vous:
Justice in June
CBC Radio
17 Years of Police Violence In Canada
A US/Canadian Race/Racism Reading List

Desmond Cole: ‘Canada insists on being surprised by its own racism’

Letters to America from Black Canadians

2020 Executive Award: Michael Balogh

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Qilak Award: Julie Bolduc-Duval

CASCA a le plaisir d’attribuer le Prix 2020 Qilak à Mme Julie Bolduc-Duval. Mme Bolduc-Duval est directrice exécutive de « À la Découverte de l’Univers », un programme canadien de formation en Astronomie. Depuis plus d’une décennie, Mme Bolduc-Duval a développé « À la Découverte de l’Univers » en un programme exceptionnellement efficace pour former des éducateurs et éducatrices en astronomie. Le programme a rejoint des milliers d’éducateurs et éducatrices de l’école primaire à l’université à travers des ateliers en classe et des séminaires en lignes. De plus, les formations sont offertes en français et en anglais allant ainsi atteindre une communauté bilingue internationale (incluant ainsi, par exemple, des participants en Europe et en Afrique). Avec des éducateurs et éducatrices formés maintenant capables de propager les connaissances en astronomie, l’impact sur la communauté du programme « À la Découverte de l’Univers » est multiple grâce au travail exceptionnel de Mme Bolduc-Duval.

CASCA est ravi de récompenser les efforts de Mme Bolduc-Duval avec ce prix.