President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2019)

Dear CASCA Members, 

This fall has been a busy few months! I hope you have had a chance to recover from the efforts of proposal writing on top of detailed LRP consultations.

Since I last communicated, we have a welcomed the new CASCA Administrator, Jessica Marsano, and I’d like to encourage you to both welcome Jessica and say a big thank you to Susan Di Francesco who officially steps down on December 31st. On the administrative side we have finally solved the headache that PayPal was presenting, and I’m glad to say as of late November we are again able to accept payments via that route. I encourage anyone to take a read of a Kafka novel and then to send an email to PayPal, as that seems appropriate preparation for dealing with them.

The awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for work in astronomy was especially exciting, albeit with the caveats of the known issues with the Nobel awards. After much discussion within the CASCA Board we have the following to say:

The CASCA Board was delighted to see that astronomy and cosmology were the focus of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics. The work of Jim Peebles (who was born in Manitoba) played a foundational role in many areas of cosmological physics (including the large-scale structure of galaxies and the cosmic microwave background radiation). The other laureates also richly deserve their prizes: the discovery of 51 Pegasi b by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz opened up the field of exoplanet observations and helped turn it into the spectacularly vibrant area of astrophysics that it is today. We wholeheartedly congratulate Drs Peebles, Mayor and Queloz for their exceptional accomplishments.

Following the awarding of the prize, there has been a number of questions about which particular exoplanet should be acknowledged as the most key discovery. The existence of pulsar planets (e.g.
Wolszczan & Frail, Nature, 355, 145, 1992) and particularly large gas giants/brown dwarfs (Latham et al., Nature, 339, 38, 1989) were known prior to the 51 Pegasi announcement.

In the midst of this, the CASCA Board thought it appropriate to remind members of the work of Bruce
Campbell, Gordon Walker, and Stephenson Yang (ApJ, 331, 902, 1988) which also played an important
role in founding the field of exoplanet research. In particular, we would like to highlight their work on gamma Cephei b. Their long-term monitoring program on the CFHT from 1981 to 1993 had sufficient sensitivity to discover Jupiter-like planets, and with modern statistical methods the 1995 follow-up work of Walker et al. (Icarus, 116, 359, 1995), which included a new analysis of gamma Cephei b data, would be considered a strong detection. The estimated period of 2.52 yrs in that work is very close to the now accepted value of 2.47 yrs.

However, following the 1992 analysis which speculated that the gamma Cephei b signal was close to a
possible pulsation mode, the 1995 work was treated with some skepticism. There is no argument that
the work of Drs Mayor & Queloz, as well as their collaborators, created an unexpected and important avenue of exoplanet research, and while celebrating Mayor and Queloz, we think it appropriate to also celebrate the pioneering work of Campbell, Walker and Yang.

CASCA “Seeds” Program

I’d like to highlight the CASCA “Seeds” program that was announced at the AGM this summer: each year, the CASCA Board will allocate up to $5K of seed funding to activities spearheaded by CASCA
members that benefit the Society. All initiatives and/or events that are consistent with CASCA’s Mission Statement are eligible to receive CASCA Seed funding, though an emphasis will be placed on activities that are difficult to fund via other mechanisms. The intent of the CASCA Seeds program is to support new and/or unique opportunities for CASCA members; the same initiative is therefore unlikely to be funded more than once. 

Full details of the program and application process are available here (English) and here (Francais). We hope that some great new initiatives can grow out of this program!


Anyone who has read through the tremendous list of white papers submitted to the LRP process cannot
have failed to have noticed a very significant number of recommendations put squarely in the hands of CASCA as an organization. On one hand I feel buoyed by the great faith in CASCA that you are showing by making these recommendations, although on the other hand I confess that the entire suite comes across as somewhat daunting. The Board is currently working on determining what to do about these many recommendations, especially given that these recommendations are input into the LRP process, and we need to let that process take its course.

Many very important issues have been brought up, especially around ethical considerations for our field, but one concern stood out for immediate action in the view of several Board members, specifically that of sustainability. I am thus happy to notify the community that the Board has struck an ad hoc committee on sustainability and we are in the process of filling that committee as I write. We have agreed to run this committee in an ad hoc form for one year, with a view to reviewing its progress at the end of 2020.

I’d like to end by again thanking all of you – again – for your efforts in supporting CASCA and the
astronomy community. With a couple of exceptions for our staff members, we are a Society of volunteers and depend entirely on your efforts to make our activities possible.

Happy Holidays, and all the best for 2020!


Rappel: CASCA-Westar Conférences 2020

Invitation for Submissions (Deadline: 22 Nov)

Chers collègues,

La date limite de la CWL approche, merci de rappeler à tous ceux qui pourraient souhaiter être hôte d’une conférence CASCA-Westar en 2020 de s’inscrire avant le vendredi 22 novembre. Voir le message original ci-dessous.


Rob Cockcroft
au nom de la commission CASCA-ESP

Chers collègues,

Le comité CASCA-EPO espère s’appuyer sur le succès de la CWL pour la période 2016-2019 afin de connaître de nouveaux succès en 2020. Afin de nous aider à cet égard, nous demandons à nouveau à tous les membres de la CASCA de copier-coller l’invitation ci-dessous et de la transmettre tous ceux
ou celles qui pourraient être intéressé.e.s à être l’hôte d’une CWL en 2020. Nous demandons aux communautés de compléter leur dossier de candidature avant le 22 novembre 2019.


Rob Cockcroft
au nom de la commission CASCA-ESP

La Société canadienne d’astronomie (CASCA) aimerait offrir à votre communauté ou à votre organisation la possibilité d’accueillir une conférence Westar. Dans le cadre de son engagement à partager la science avec le grand public, la CASCA s’engage à fournir le financement nécessaire afin qu’un(e) astronome canadien(ne) distingué(e) se rende dans votre communauté pour un séjour de deux jours où il/elle donnera une conférence publique gratuite et interagira avec les membres de votre communauté. De plus, en fonction de vos besoins et de leur expertise, le/la conférencier(ère) pourrait également offrir d’autres activités gratuites telles que l’observation au télescope, des visites en classe ou une formation en astronomie pour les enseignants. La conférence Westar met en vedette nos incroyables chercheurs canadiens en astronomie afin de susciter l’enthousiasme et l’intérêt pour l’astronomie et la science, et d’offrir des possibilités d’éducation pour le grand public et les enseignants de sciences.
Si vous souhaitez qu’un conférencier Westar visite votre communauté, nous vous encourageons à visiter notre site web et à remplir le formulaire d’application. Les candidats retenus seront avisés le plus rapidement possible. Veuillez répondre aux questions aussi précisément que possible, car elles sont conçues pour nous aider à optimiser le processus de planification.

The Canadian Astronomy Society (CASCA) would like to offer your community or organization the opportunity to host a Westar Lecture. As part of its commitment to share science with the public, CASCA will provide the necessary funding for a distinguished Canadian astronomer to visit your community for a two-day stay. He or she will give a free public lecture and interact with members of your community. In addition, depending on your needs and expertise, the speaker may also offer other free activities such as telescope observation, classroom visits, or astronomy training for teachers. The Westar Lecture showcases our incredible Canadian astronomers, inspires enthusiasm and interest in astronomy and science, and provides educational opportunities for the general public and science teachers. If you would like a Westar speaker to visit your community, we encourage you to visit our website and fill out the application form. Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible. Please answer questions as specifically as possible as they are designed to help us optimize the planning process.

Bourse Plaskett 2020

Attaché ou attachée de recherches (bourse Plasket)
Conseil national de recherches du Canada
Ville: Victoria
Unité organisationnelle: Herzberg, Astronomie et Astrophysique
Classification: AR
Durée de l’emploi: Durée déterminée
Durée: 2 ans avec possibilité d’extension
Exigences linguistiques: Anglais

Les avantages du CNRC
Au Conseil national de recherches du Canada (CNRC) — le plus grand organisme de recherche du gouvernement du Canada —, nous stimulons l’innovation industrielle, l’avancement du savoir et le développement technologique. Chaque année, nous collaborons avec quelque 70 collèges, universités et hôpitaux, contribuons aux projets de plus de 800 entreprises et offrons un soutien financier et des conseils à plus de 8 000 petites et moyennes entreprises (PME).
Nous réunissons les esprits les plus brillants afin d’avoir une incidence tangible sur la vie des gens du Canada et d’ailleurs. Il ne nous manque que vous. Créez des retombées percutantes en mettant à profit vos compétences et votre talent créateur.
Au CNRC, nous savons que la diversité favorise l’excellence en recherche et en innovation. Nous sommes déterminés à avoir un effectif diversifié et représentatif ainsi qu’un milieu de travail ouvert et inclusif, et nous souhaitons contribuer à faire en sorte que le système d’innovation canadien abonde dans le même sens.
Le CNRC invite toutes les personnes qualifiées à poser leur candidature et encourage celles-ci à s’auto-déclarer (s’il y a lieu) comme appartenant à l’un ou l’autre des groupes désignés d’équité en matière d’emploi : femmes, minorités visibles, Autochtones et personnes handicapées.
Veuillez nous faire part de toute mesure d’adaptation nécessaire à une évaluation juste et équitable. Ces mesures seront mises à votre disposition si votre candidature est retenue pour une évaluation subséquente. Sachez que les renseignements que vous nous fournirez à cet égard seront traités de façon confidentielle.

Votre défi
Nous sommes à la recherche d’une personne dynamique qui partage nos valeurs fondamentales d’intégrité, d’excellence, de respect et de créativité pour pourvoir un poste d’attaché de recherches postdoctorales en vue d’appuyer l’un ou plusieurs des multiples domaines de recherche en astronomie au Centre de recherche Herzberg en astronomie et en astrophysique (HAA) du Conseil national de recherches Canada.
La personne recherchée est une étudiante hors du commun, qui a terminé depuis peu un doctorat en astrophysique ou dans une discipline connexe, qui est très motivée à participer à des projets scientifiques menés à HAA. Une personne titulaire de la bourse Plaskett entreprend des activités de recherche de pointe en astronomie et en astrophysique, y compris les activités suivantes :
•Mener des travaux de recherche inédits de façon indépendante et en collaboration avec le personnel de HAA.
•Contribuer à l’exploitation scientifique des ressources de HAA, en particulier, l’expertise du personnel scientifique et technique, ainsi que les installations et l’infrastructure astronomiques administrées par HAA, à savoir l’observatoire ALMA, le Télescope Canada-France-Hawaï (TCFH), les télescopes Gemini, le Centre canadien de données astronomiques (CCDA) et les laboratoires d’instrumentation.
•Collaborer avec la communauté astronomique à l’avancement des objectifs du mandat du Centre de recherche, qui consistent à fournir des installations et des services astronomiques aux chercheurs canadiens. Ce centre de recherche est un chef de file dans la conception d’instruments pour les télescopes terrestres et spatiaux actuels et à venir comme ALMA, le TCFH, Gemini, le télescope spatial James Webb (JWST), l’explorateur spectroscopique du Mauna Kea (MSE), le réseau d’un kilomètre carré (SKA) et le Télescope de trente mètres (TMT). Il abrite également le CCDA, qui fournit à la communauté des services de conservation, de distribution et d’analyse de données scientifiques. Le CCDA abrite également l’Observatoire virtuel canadien, le réseau d’informatique en nuage CANFAR ainsi que d’importantes archives de données, dont les archives du TCFH, de l’Étude canadienne du plan galactique (ECPG), du télescope spatial Hubble (HST) et du télescope James Clerk Maxwell (JCMT).
•Partager avec d’autres attachés de recherches postdoctorales l’organisation des séminaires hebdomadaires du Centre de recherche, qui sont tenus de septembre à avril.
Pour obtenir des renseignements généraux sur le programme de bourses Plaskett, veuillez consulter :
Des renseignements sur le personnel et ses intérêts de recherche sont disponibles à l’adresse

Critères de présélection
Dans votre demande, vous devez démontrer que vous répondez à tous les critères de présélection suivants :
Dans le cadre du Programme des attachés de recherches, vous devez avoir obtenu votre doctorat en astronomie ou en astrophysique au cours des cinq dernières années, ou prévoir de le recevoir au cours des six prochains mois.
Pour plus de renseignements sur les certificats et diplômes obtenus à l’étranger, veuillez consulter
•Cinq années ou moins d’expérience en recherches postdoctorales en astronomie ou en astrophysique.
•Expérience de la réduction, de l’analyse et de la modélisation de données astronomiques dans l’une ou plusieurs des bandes d’ondes UV, optiques, infrarouges et millimétriques/submillimétriques provenant d’observatoires terrestres et spatiaux ou d’archives de données astronomiques.
•Expérience de la publication de rapports de recherche en astronomie de calibre international et revus par un comité de lecture.
Condition d’emploi
Cote de fiabilité

Exigences linguistiques
Critères d’évaluation
Les candidat(e)s seront évalué(e)s selon les critères suivants :
Compétences techniques
•Connaissance spécialisée dans un ou plusieurs domaines de recherche de pointe en astronomie ou en astrophysique.
•Aptitude de niveau expert en planification et en exécution d’observations astronomiques au moyen de télescopes terrestres ou spatiaux.
•Connaissance avancée de l’exploitation des données astronomiques, y compris des techniques et des logiciels de réduction ainsi que de l’analyse et de l’interprétation de ces données.
•Connaissance avancée de la modélisation physique ou statistique perfectionnée d’ensembles de données astronomiques complexes.
•Aptitude à concevoir, à organiser, à mener et à publier des recherches indépendantes en astrophysique de calibre international.
Compétences comportementales
•Recherche – Communication (Niveau 2)
•Recherche – Pensée créatrice (Niveau 3)
•Recherche – Travail en équipe (Niveau 2)
Profil(s) des compétences
En ce qui concerne ce poste, le CNRC évaluera les candidat(e)s selon le profil des compétences suivant : Recherche
Tous les profils de compétences:

Pour postuler
Pour être admissible au programme, vous devez joindre à votre demande tous les documents requis énumérés dans la liste ci-dessous. Autrement, votre candidature sera rejetée.
•Curriculum vitæ (CV);
•lettre d’accompagnement;
•liste des publications;
•une proposition de recherche de trois pages, au plus. La proposition devrait mettre en évidence les domaines qui sont pertinents pour un ou plusieurs des groupes ou installations du Centre de recherche;
•deux lettres de recommandation*.
*Vous prendre les dispositions nécessaires pour faire parvenir deux lettres de recommandation à avec la mention suivante dans la ligne d’objet :
7348_ [Nom de famille du demandeur] [Prénom du demandeur]
Uniquement dans le cadre du présent concours de recrutement d’un attaché de recherches postdoctorales, les relevés de notes et les copies des diplômes ne seront exigés qu’à l’étape de l’offre.
Dans votre demande, vous pouvez joindre les documents requis dans n’importe quel champ de fichiers à joindre, comme « Résultats d’évaluation de langue seconde » ou « Autres pièces jointes ».

L’aide à la réinstallation sera déterminée conformément à la directive sur la réinstallation du CNRC.

Échelle de traitement
De 55 541$ à 157 009$ par année.
Le programme de stagiaires de recherche postdoctorale du CNRC (AR) est unique au CNRC. Cela entre dans le système de classification des AR/ACR, qui utilise un système de classification fondé sur la personne plutôt que le système de classification plus commun axé sur les tâches. Les candidats sont rémunérés en fonction de leur expertise, de leur compétence, de leurs résultats et de l’incidence de leur expérience de travail antérieure.
À titre indicatif, le salaire de base versé aux détenteurs de doctorat est de 72 052$.

•Les employés du CNRC bénéficient d’une vaste gamme d’avantages qui incluent des régimes complets d’assurance médicale et dentaire, de pension et d’assurance ainsi que des congés annuels et autres.
•Bien que la préférence soit accordée aux citoyens canadiens et aux résidents permanents, les bourses des stagiaires de recherche postdoctorale sont également disponibles aux ressortissants de tous les pays. Veuillez inclure des renseignements à cet égard dans votre demande.
•Le ou la titulaire doit en tout temps respecter les mesures de sécurité au travail.

S.V.P. envoyez vos questions en incluant le numéro de la demande (7348) à :
Courriel :
Téléphone : 613-991-1125
Date de fermeture: 18 Novembre 2019 – 23h59 heure de l’Est
Pour plus de renseignements sur les ressources et outils professionnels, consultez
*Si vous occupez actuellement un poste d’une durée déterminée ou indéterminée au CNRC, veuillez poser votre candidature par l’entremise du module Carrières SuccessFactors à partir de votre ordinateur de travail.
Date de modification: 2019-09-27

Instructions spéciales : Pour postuler en ligne, veuillez-vous rendre à la page :

President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2019)

Dear CASCA Members,

I sincerely hope the Fall term has begun well for you. A new academic year can often bring new and unanticipated challenges. Most of the messages I’ve sent so far have been ones of acknowledgement and/or updates. In this message I thought I’d discuss some difficult issues we face as a scientific community.

I’m reasonably sure that many of us see astronomy as something that should bring people together, be it families, communities, even nations. My grandfather “Dadger” taught me some of the constellations and was the first person to show me a lunar eclipse (my roots are from a small fishing village). But going broader, every culture has their own sky lore and stories. Sharing them is potentially a way to build bridges and a starting point for wider discussions.

Yet that is really a modern viewpoint reflecting astronomy’s wider perception in western societies of having philosophical impacts that outweigh the practical. Of course, astronomy does have practical value today, but it is not immediately self-evident to many. Indeed, I visit Ottawa regularly to make astronomy’s practical implications more widely understood. But go back 100+ years and western astronomy played a very distinct role in ensuring security through timekeeping and the associated surveying. Its practical significance overshadowed its philosophical implications, and in many ways, it can be seen as a tool that furthered colonial agendas.

Therein lies a significant difference between our internal perception of our field vs that held by many scholars outside it. Astronomy is not measured solely by its current research outputs, as spectacular and awe-inspiring as they may be. As the facilities we build get larger, the nature of our field and the perceptions of it change. The term “astronomy industry” may garner a rueful smile when we read it, knowing as we do that our “product” is largely knowledge, and yet outside the field it is a term often used. Once projects reach the billion-dollar level that kind of language is not surprising.

Much of what I’m going to discuss finds genesis in the current TMT situation, but I’d like to take a step back and consider astronomy’s impact elsewhere. Having visited South Africa in 2016, I have found discussions of astronomy’s role within the country to offer several distinct and thought-provoking perspectives. See [1] and references therein for a detailed discussion social and political developments related to the SKA and astronomy within South Africa.

After years of apartheid, the Mandela and later governments sought to establish a “less militaristic” path forward and astronomy was chosen as one of the key science areas. The enormous internal changes going on in the country were also set against an increasingly global perspective, and a desire to position South Africa as an active and deserving member of the global knowledge economy. To this end, South Africa’s 1996 White Paper on Science and Technology includes the following passage:

“scientific endeavour is not purely utilitarian in its objectives and has important associated cultural and social values. It is also important to maintain a basic competence in ‘flagship’ sciences such as physics and astronomy for cultural reasons. Not to offer them would be to take a negative view of our future – the view that we are a second class nation, chained forever to the treadmill of feeding and clothing ourselves.”

In [1] the funding that resulted for astronomy is argued as being a result of “canny marketing of astronomy as a national ‘feel-good’ story.” This is not so much a criticism of the intentions of scientists, but rather an acknowledgement of political aspirations in a global context, and the endeavours of a number of key actors within the government.

Hidden in the above, is one of the greatest challenges astronomy faces. The international “mega-project” nature of many projects positions the field at a policy/social interface where global aspirations conflict against local. For optical astronomy the concerns can be localized to the site and local light ordinances. These can be highly complex of course, potentially having both environmental and human (land) rights concerns. However, for radio astronomy the need for low backgrounds can create severe constraints on local communication infrastructure across large areas. For the often economically disadvantaged communities in the Karoo that desire modern communication infrastructure, is it reasonable to tell them that they must forfeit a cellphone?

The South African government has decreed that areas of land can be set aside for astronomy projects. The “Astronomy Advantage Areas” are regions of land controlled for the purposes of scientific progress, while several key areas were also directly purchased. These decisions might seem a reasonable step to us as international collaborators, and indeed were done in consultation with the San Council and other groups representing interests in the Karoo. Numerous public consultations were held by the SKA. Yet we are very distant from the local concerns and aspirations of the Karoo communities who feel their voices were not heard.

Astronomy is firmly in an era where the “costs” involved go beyond just monetary, into the social, political and legal (human rights). Of course, there remain some places without human habitation, but for most of the remote places astronomy seeks to build infrastructure, there are indigenous peoples or local residents and questions we must face. While issues surrounding a given project/region are always distinct, they can span the spectrum of development concerns from too little to too much.

For all the challenges outlined here, I remain resolutely behind the scientific goals and the value of the knowledge being sought. I have conducted hundreds of interviews in support of the amazing research we do. But the routes to gaining this knowledge are becoming ever more layered and can have impacts that we may not anticipate. Precisely how the global to local interface is approached may become the defining factor in the future success of our field.

Ultimately, it is astronomy’s very nature to seek pristine and frequently remote lands for facilities. That means the issues we see being raised in Hawai’i, South Africa and other places are likely to become bigger concerns in the future. While we might look to political routes to solve these problems for us, the harsh reality is we are the individuals that develop and propose facility concepts. Engineers take ethics courses, have ethics committees review projects and undergo community consultations, but this is not a route to avoiding conflict or demonstrations. Just consider the many hydroelectric dam projects or oil pipelines that are contested. And to make matters even more complex, no society whether western or indigenous, is always uniform in its viewpoints. That said, I appreciate the issue of differences of viewpoints can be highly nuanced for indigenous peoples and profoundly influenced by colonial legacies.

Awareness and respect of local/cultural issues combined with truly active engagement and learning is something that we must continue to build. It’s one thing to say that knowledge from astronomy benefits everyone, but there’s a growing onus on astronomers to make connections that fulfil that promise.

[1] Cherryl Walker, Davide Chinigò & Saul Dubow (2019) Karoo Futures: Astronomy in Place and Space – Introduction, Journal of Southern African Studies, 45:4, 627-639

President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2019)

Dear CASCA Members,

Summer is upon us and by the time you read this the Annual General Meeting in Montreal will be over. So I think it fitting to begin this President’s Message with a huge thank you to the McGill organizers, beginning with the Co-Chairs Nicolas Cowan and Daryl Haggard, as well as the local organizing committee members, Carolina Cruz-Vinaccia, Emmanuel Fonseca, Louise Decelles, Émilie Parent, Taylor Bell, and the scientific organizing committee members, Vicky Kaspi, Andrew Cumming, Tracy Webb, Jonathan Sievers and Kelly Lepo. And I have to put in a thanks to CASCA Vice-President Sara Ellison for acting as the Board contact. The conference program is chock full of some great science and the theme of “Emerging fields in Astrophysics” is particularly apropos as LRP2020 moves ahead.


The LRP process is in full swing, and I will pass on thanks to the Co-Chairs Pauline Barmby and Bryan Gaensler, as well as the panelists Matt Dobbs, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David Lafrenière, Brenda Matthews, and Alice Shapley, for taking on this immense effort. By the time you read this we will have had the initial discussion sessions at CASCA, and I can’t wait to see what kind of input we’ll get. While I can’t say there is ever a good time to write a Long Range Plan, as research is always in flux, it feels like there are an enormous number of projects looking to get started at the moment. As part of LRP2010 we reviewed over 50 different possible experiments/facilities/projects but it is clear that LRP2020 is going to eclipse that!

The response to the expression of interest for white papers was truly exceptional. With over 80 titles, and growing by the minute, the Panel is going to have its work cut out reviewing everything. I’d also like to encourage the whole community to work together as much as possible. We’re not particularly large and there is much to gain by working together on things as opposed to replicating effort.

Coalition Activities

Some of you may recall that following the Coalition visit in February we were approached by MP Hélène Laverdière about holding a reception for Canadian astronomy on ‘the Hill.’ Big thanks go to Nathalie Ouellette and René Doyon for stepping-up to interface with Madame Laverdière’s office, as well as Kristina Proulx and Duncan Rayner at Temple Scott and Associates who also helped arrange the reception. Events like this are primarily about awareness, it’s important to remember that there are many different interest groups lobbying the government, so we need to get out there and make some noise!

The reception was held on May 27th and we had representation of several LRP projects at the event, including some virtual reality demos which were a big hit! Big thanks go out to Stéphane Courteau, Matt Dobbs, Maria Drout, Kristine Spekkens and Maclean Rouble for contributing their time and talents! I had some time to give a short speech emphasizing how many world firsts Canadian astronomy has achieved, and importantly for government, the deep innovation that we contribute through our collaborations with industry. At one point we had over 40 people in the reception, and as a measure of its effectiveness we got to talk with more MPs at the event that we normally do in a couple of days of meetings.

In addition to the reception, Nathalie, Rene and I also made some of the more regular visits to MPs offices. We are continuing in the vein of ensuring our message is heard in as many different places and in as many different contexts as possible. We made a special effort to be clear on the fact that while recent investments in the CSA were most welcome, we still need a space strategy that provides clear funding avenues and opportunities for Canadian space astronomy.

With the federal election looming on October 21 we have an interesting time for lobbying ahead. In some ways it is good, those looking to get elected have reasons to listen, but in other ways bad as the focus is on electoral votes and not strategies. However, the Coalition is toying with a couple of potential awareness campaigns that might use this to our advantage. Stay tuned!

Society and Board

The Board is just about to undergo a significant change in its composition. Firstly, I have to pass on huge and heartfelt thanks, I’m sure on behalf of everyone in the society, to James Di Francesco (Secretary), Nicole St-Louis (Treasurer) for their work in these positions over six years! CASCA continues to grow as an organization and both James and Nicole have undertaken exceptionally important roles in that change. The more committees we create and the more awards we have, the more challenging these two roles have become.

In addition to James and Nicole departing, so will Erik Rosolowsky, Samar Safi-Harb and Kristine Spekkens. Great thanks to each of you for all your efforts on behalf of the society and moving forward a number of key portfolios.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge all the tremendous work being done by the various CASCA committees. Your reports and advice are central to our moving our society’s mandate forward, and I know you’re all working harder than ever as the number of pages in committee reports has risen from 34 in 2015 to 92 for the ones submitted this year! The Board has a lot of material to review in our next meeting.

I’ll end with a final thank you to all of the other members who volunteer their time to the operation of CASCA and the success of Canadian astronomy, plus our society Administrator Susan Di Francesco, our IT consultant Jennifer West. We simply can’t function without you.

Happy Summer Solstice!


Long Range Plan / Plan à long terme 2020

From / de Pauline Barmby, Bryan Gaensler (LRP2020 co-chairs / co-présidents PLT2020)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2019)

La version française suit

Long Range Plan 2020

LRP2020 is underway! By the time you read this, the first in-person events, at the 2019 CASCA annual meeting in Montreal, will have taken place. These include an overview presentation by the co-chairs and “state of the field” presentations by CASCA standing committees. Over 70 teams submitted expressions of interest for white papers, which are due on September 30, 2019. Following the white paper deadline, a series of town halls, including a special town hall focused on space astronomy, will take place in October and November.

As always, the latest news on LRP2020 is available from the webpage and the Slack workspace. The panel can be contacted at and the co-chairs at

Plan à long terme 2020

Le PLT2020 est en cours! Au moment où vous lisez ceci, les premiers événements en personne, lors de la réunion annuelle de la CASCA en 2019 à Montréal, auront déjà eu lieu. Celles-ci incluent une présentation générale des coprésidents et des présentations sur l’état du terrain par les comités permanents de la CASCA. Plus de 70 équipes ont manifesté leur intérêt aux livres blancs, qui doivent être remis au 30 septembre 2019. Après la date d’échéance pour les livres blancs, une série d’assemblées publiques, notamment une assemblée spéciale sur l’astronomie spatiale, aura lieu en octobre et novembre.

Comme toujours, les nouvelles sur PLT2020 peut être trouvé sur la page Web et à Slack. La groupe peut être contacté à et les co-présidents à

2018 Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Gwendolyn Eadie as the 2018 recipient of the J. S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Eadie completed her doctoral studies at McMaster University under the supervision of Dr. William Harris. In her thesis entitled “Lights in Dark Places: Inferring the Milky Way Mass Profile using Galactic Satellites and Hierarchical Bayes”, she developed a high-level statistical method to derive the mass and mass distribution within astrophysical systems. Mass is a fundamental variable driving the evolution of galaxies like our Milky Way, but it is notoriously difficult to measure due to the fact that it is dominated by the dark matter extending well beyond the visible starlight. This challenge is compounded by incomplete data on the positions and velocities of “tracer particles” such as stars, star clusters and dwarf satellites scattered through the galaxy’s halo. Dr. Eadie developed a powerful Bayesian formulation of the problem combined with Markov Chain Monte Carlo calculations of the relevant parameters in the problem and their probability distributions. Her formulation also included a hierarchical treatment of measurement uncertainties for each tracer. She used it to place a new constraint on the mass profile and total mass of the Milky Way, and it will be a very powerful tool in the exploitation of future very large datasets from the Gaia mission and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). .

CASCA congratulates Dr. Eadie on the receipt of the 2018 Plaskett medal for her groundbreaking work to shed light on the dark side of our Milky Way galaxy and other corners of the Universe.

2018 Qilak prize

Dr. Thacker received his PhD in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1999. He is now Professor and Director of the Science Outreach Centre at Saint Mary’s University, following a Canada Research Chair position (2007-17). Dr. Thacker is a passionate communicator of science and a tireless advocate for astronomy research in Canada.

In addition to maintaining an internationally recognized research portfolio, he dedicates his time to science outreach through mass media, and as it relates to the public understanding of science. Since 2009 he has participated in a vast number of outreach activities including promoting science weekly to 30,000+ radio listeners in Halifax and across Canada, participation in media (including TV, radio) interviews & science programmes, authoring popular articles for magazines and websites, co-spearheading the renovation of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, giving public lectures (including prize lectures) and school/student presentations, co-authoring an integrated science textbook for beginning science students and promoting inclusion and accessibility in STEM fields. He has become a well-known subject area expert in the Halifax media earning popular nicknames such as “Dr Rob of the Science Files” and the “Science Ship Pilot”.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Thacker’s tireless efforts for communicating astronomy in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

Prix Qilak 2019 : Jan Cami

La CASCA est heureuse d’annoncer que Dr. Jan Cami, de l’Université Western Ontario, a reçu le prix Qilak 2019.
M. Cami a obtenu son doctorat de l’Université de Amsterdam et est directeur et coordonnateur de l’Observatoire commémoratif historique Hume Cronyn de Western depuis 2010. Son travail de sensibilization s’étend à la fois sur de grands rassemblements publics et des expositions de nature pratique au sein de l’Observatoire. En plus de ce travail à l’Observatoire, M. Cami est directeur associé du Centre des sciences et de l’exploration planétaires de Western (CPSX) et est l’organisateur principal de Western pour le festival Science Rendezvous. Sur la scène nationale, M. Cami a siégé pendant 10 ans sur le Comité de l’éducation et de la sensibilisation du public de la CASCA, période durant laquelle il a soutenu le développement de la plateforme en ligne Découvrir l’Univers. L’enthousiasme du Dr. Cami pour la sensibilisation et sa capacité à demander ‘comment on peut’ plutôt que le ‘si on le peut’ sur n’importe quelle activité fait de lui un récipiendaire Qilak idéal.
La CASCA est ravie de reconnaître les efforts du Dr. Cami avec ce prix.

Prix Richer 2019 : Nicolas Cowan

La CASCA est heureuse d’annoncer que le Dr Nicolas Cowan est le lauréat du prix Harvey B. Richer 2019 en reconnaissance de recherches importantes et soutenues en début de carrière en astronomie. M. Cowan est un leader établi dans le domaine des exoplanètes grâce à ses travaux sur la photométrie infrarouge de haute précision, la détermination de l’équilibre énergétique dans les atmosphères d’exoplanètes, et l’utilisation des exoplanètes comme « laboratoires » de science planétaire. Le Dr. Cowan a publié 80 articles avec un nombre de citations de plus de 4700. En plus de ce niveau d’excellence, M. Cowan a un dossier impressionnant de supervision et de formation, ayant travaillé avec 2 chercheurs postdoctoraux, 9 étudiants aux cycles supérieures et 36 étudiants de premier cycle.

La CASCA est ravie de reconnaître l’excellence du Dr Cowan avec ce prix.