CASCA’s New Sustainability Committee

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

  

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

Sincerely yours, 

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

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Events

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

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

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

Long Range Plan 2020

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.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

In late December, 2019, the law enforcement presence on Maunakea was removed, and the access road reopened. This came together with an agreement from TMT that there would be no attempt to restart construction until the end of February at the earliest, a loose deadline which has since been extended. These developments were an important step forward, as they have given the time and space needed for stakeholders in the dispute to engage in dialogue with less outside attention and pressure. No one knows for sure what the future holds for TMT, for Maunakea or for astronomy in Hawaii.

The alternative site identified for TMT is the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), Canary Islands. This is a good quality site, scientifically. A decision to select this site rests with the TMT International Observatory Members1 and the dominant factors here are not scientific but rather political, financial and environmental. There are significant challenges to be overcome on all fronts; ORM is not an easy choice even in light of the difficulties faced on Maunakea.

Both the US Decadal and Canada’s LRP processes are proceeding and the fate of TMT is intertwined with them. CATAC is providing up to date information to our LRP panel when requested.

Steady progress on the instrumentation is being made, with the advances in the design of WFOS and refinement of MODHIS specifications. Construction is underway at HAA for the building in which NFIRAOS will be assembled, and the India TMT Optical Fabrication Facility (ITOFF) at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics campus near Bengaluru recently completed construction.

Upcoming Events:

The following events are all subject to further developments with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

  • TMT SAC meeting – March 25
  • CATAC will host a lunch session at CASCA at York University, Tuesday May 26, 2020
  • The TMT Early Careers Workshop will be held at HAA, May 26-June 1, 2020
  • Canada is planning to host the next TMT Science forum, May 15-19 (TBC) 2021, in Vancouver

1Canada is represented at the TIO Membership level by Iain Stewart, President of NRC. He is advised by the HAA Director, Luc Simard, who in turn takes advice from the TMT Board, SAC, CATAC and the broader community.

CATAC membership:

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

Report from the LRPIC

By / par John Hutchings (Chair, LRPIC)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

LRPIC and observers continue to meet regularly. We follow ongoing LRP issues, and keep in touch with the LRP2020 panel, ACURA, and Coalition activities. Our invited report submitted in September reviews the decade, and we have provided more detailed feedback to the LRP2020 panel. It this context, we note LRP2010 and MTR2015 priorities still face significant challenges that will extend well into the next decade. These include:

  1. TMT and MaunaKea site issues.
  2. CFHT and MSE futures.
  3. CFI requests for several future projects (MSE, CCAT-prime, EELT instrument, LSST)
  4. SKA membership and construction funding.
  5. CSA failure to commit to new missions, despite years of studies. Lack of space science policy and process.
  6. Overall lack of coherent funding process for major science.
  7. Ways to participate in ngVLA

We note significant evolution over the decade in:

Facilities
ngVLA, Hitomi, XRISM, Athena
MSE and partnership, CCAT -> CCAT-prime
CASTOR partnerships, LiteBIRD
CSA studies and proposals SPICA, Colibri, EPPE, POEP
Operating NEOSSAT for astronomy
CFHT, Subaru, Gemini, LSST partnerships

Science
Exoplanet science; FRBs and Pulsars (CHIME); GW events

The table below summarizes the status of current LRP facilities.

Long Range Plan 2020 / Plan à long terme 2020

By / par Pauline Barmby and / et Bryan Gaensler (LRP2020 Co-Chairs / co-présidents PLT2020)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

La version française suit

The LRP panel co-chairs attended the January AAS meeting to present a poster on LRP2020, hear about the current situation on Maunakea, and get updates on the current state of the US Astro2020 decadal survey. Results from Astro2020 are not expected to be released before January 2021. This has implications for Canada, since many of the projects being considered by LRP2020 are also being considered by Astro2020; after careful consideration we decided not to delay the LRP2020 report.

The panel has completed discussions of the projects, facilities and recommendations contained in the white papers, and decided on a set of priorities. Report-writing is underway. The panel met at NRC-Herzberg in February for an in-person writing retreat and continues to meet regularly online. We are still on schedule to present the draft recommendations in May at the CASCA AGM in Toronto.

The LRP webpage is a little more up-to-date than it was a few months ago and we hope to make the individual LRP2020 white papers and reports more easily accessible soon. The latest news on LRP2020 is available from the Slack workspace and our Twitter handle @LRP2020. The panel can be contacted at panel@lrp2020.groups.io and the co-chairs at chairs@lrp2020.groups.io.



Les coprésidents du panel PLT ont assisté à la réunion de janvier de l'AAS pour présenter une affiche sur PLT2020, entendre parler de la situation actuelle sur Maunakea et obtenir des mises à jour sur l'état actuel de l'enquête décennale américaine Astro2020. Les résultats d'Astro2020 ne devraient pas être publiés avant janvier 2021. Cela a des implications pour le Canada, car de nombreux projets envisagés par PLT2020 le sont également par Astro2020; après mûre réflexion, nous avons décidé de ne pas retarder le rapport PLT2020.

Le panel a achevé les discussions sur les projets, les installations et les recommandations contenues dans les livres blancs, et a décidé d'un ensemble de priorités. La rédaction du rapport est en cours. Le panel s'est réuni au CNRC-Herzberg en février pour une retraite d'écriture en personne et continue de se rencontrer régulièrement en ligne. Nous sommes toujours dans les délais pour présenter l'ébauche des recommandations en mai à l'AGA de la CASCA à Toronto.

La page Web du PLT est un peu plus à jour qu'il y a quelques mois et nous espérons rendre les livres blancs et rapports PLT2020 individuels plus facilement accessibles bientôt. 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.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2019)

There has been no attempt to restart construction of the TMT since protestors blocked the Mauna Kea access road in mid-July. The protests, and the responses to them, have remained non-violent, as stakeholders work to find a solution to the conflict. Meanwhile, TMT opponents have been effectively disseminating their message, tapping into broader issues related to indigenous rights in Hawai’i and around the world. Parallels have been drawn with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation committee here in Canada. This has mobilized some in Canada to express strong support for the view that the TMT project must do more to achieve the consent from Native Hawaiians before proceeding.

There is a long history of astronomy on Maunakea, including many stories of discovery and inclusiveness, but also a history of conflict that predates TMT. TMT itself has been part of the Canadian conversation since 2000, and the present site on Mauankea was selected (and supported by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a public agency responsible for improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians) ten years ago. This context is important, as are the efforts of the TMT project over the past decade to gain the consent and support of the Hawaiian population. To this end, CATAC prepared a document about the history and current status of the project, with several important references and links to factual information. To quote from that report:

All evidence is that the project followed procedures that were believed to be appropriate for obtaining consent from Hawaiians, and that construction halted in the face of protests. We see nothing shameful in trying to find a peaceful solution for a project that has been nearly twenty years in development, and that promises economic benefits to Hawaiians and scientific benefit to the world.

There appears to be a good understanding now, at least among most Canadian astronomers, University and political leaders, that Canada should not directly interfere in the process happening in Hawai’i. Mayor Harry Kim has been charged with negotiating a solution, and he released a report in late September titled The Heart of Aloha. While this short report is a good start, it is likely that additional, new ideas will be needed to resolve the conflict. We understand that there is still a lot of activity going on within the Hawaiian community to find a solution. Thus, we continue to wait to see if a path forward will emerge.

In the meantime, progress on obtaining two building permits at the alternative site in the Canary Islands continued, and both were in place by mid-November. Decisions on the next steps will be made by the TMT International Observatory (TIO) Members, who have been meeting regularly since August. The site at ORM presents its own significant challenges, scientifically, socially, financially and politically.

TMT and the LRP

CATAC provided a comprehensive report to LRP2020, which is meant to also serve many of the purposes of a white paper. TMT has been a topic of discussion at Town Halls across the country. At the moment there is uncertainty about the project, and much of this is likely to be resolved, one way or the other, well before the LRP report is published. Should a fundamental change (e.g. in site, scope, timescale etc) be announced, there will be a need for consultation and further input to the LRP process. CATAC is prepared to lead this process.

Instrumentation

Following discussion at the CASCA meeting in May, CATAC revised and finalized our recommendations for post-first light instrumentation. Those recommendations are summarized here for convenience:

  1. We recommend that Canadian SAC members support a transparent and effective instrumentation development plan, similar to the one presented by Luc Simard to the TMT SAC in November, 2010.
  2. Instrument teams require time and funding to develop ideas to the level that allows them to compete for significant external construction funds. We recommend that Canadian Board and SAC members emphasize the importance that the TIO provide funding for early design work (e.g. mini-studies) as well as for Conceptual Design Phases. Despite the budget challenges facing the project, this work must begin immediately if we are to have a competitive instrument suite on the telescope.
  3. We recommend that Canadians interested in the scientific or technical capabilities of an instrument contact other TMT partners and begin work on these ideas now, to the extent possible.
  4. The TMT Science Forums have proven to be fertile environments for building relationships between partners for instrument development. Forums have now been held in all partner countries except Canada. Canada should host the next TMT Science Forum.

Regarding the final recommendation, the SAC has expressed support for this proposal and it is expected that the next Science Forum will be held in Canada sometime in 2021.

The main new development is that the high-contrast, high-dispersion spectrograph MODHIS has been endorsed by the SAC as a first-light instrument, though its exact nature is still a topic of discussion. MODHIS will be effective for finding and characterizing massive exoplanets. Several Canadians are part of a CFI application that includes funding to participate in the development of this instrument.

Upcoming Events

The TMT Early Career Workshop will be held at HAA, May 26-June 1, 2020.

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

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2019)

There has been no TMT construction activity since protestors blocked the access road on July 17. The situation remains peaceful, as described in our recent CASCA circular. We continue to welcome your feedback and questions. A good place for factual information about the work TMT has done to engage the Hawaiian community and more is the website www.maunakeaandtmt.org.

CATAC remains strongly supportive of the TMT, and of the activities the Project has undertaken over the past decade to consult with and engage the Hawaiian community. It has become increasingly clear in recent weeks that the most prominent voices heard during the first days following the anticipated restart of construction are not representative of most Hawaiians, including the Native population. There is significant support for TMT on the Big Island of Hawaii, and more and more people are coming forward to say so. Furthermore, many of the concerns expressed by the protestors have little to do with TMT itself, leaving hope that there is a way to address those concerns and build TMT at the same time.

As CATAC reported previously, the alternative site, in the Canary Islands, would allow TMT to realize most of its exciting potential. In particular, the site characteristics for adaptive optics in the near infrared are very competitive with those of Maunakea. However, the lower altitude and higher humidity of the ORM site severely compromise observations in the ultraviolet and mid-infrared. These wavelength regimes enable some compelling science cases, including the search for biosignatures on exoplanets. There is no doubt that Maunakea is superior to ORM for science observations, and for this reason we hope that, following some further work and negotiation, it will be possible to undertake TMT construction with broad Hawaiian support.

As we wait for these events to unfold, we are conscious of the potential additional delay to a project that is already five years behind schedule. The consequences of this should be considered deeply as we move into the process for LRP2020. TMT will hopefully have a long and productive lifetime – 40 years or more – and will shape many future generations of Canadian astronomers. It is CATAC’s opinion that the impact of this delay must be considered within this broader context: we must not risk or sacrifice the long-term benefits of having access to the best possible observatory for future Canadians.

It is important also to not lose focus on the long term development of this project, and with that in mind we remind you that the next TMT Science Forum will be November 4—6 2019, in Xiamen, China. This forum is a great opportunity to participate in, and influence, teams developing the future instrumentation suite for TMT. ACURA will again be providing some travel support for University-based researchers to attend this meeting. Requests can be directed to mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca.

We have proposed that the next Science Forum, sometime in 2020, be held in Canada, and this proposal has been welcomed by the Science Advisory Committee. Stay tuned for details.

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

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2019)

CATAC has submitted a committee report to the LRP2020 panel. This report summarizes the recent history of Canada’s involvement with TMT, including issues related to construction and funding. It is a useful overview of our position in this important project, and is available both from the LRP panel report directory, and on our own webpage.

While the TMT International Observatory (TIO) now has the legal right to begin construction on Maunakea, there is still preparation work to be done. This includes applying for various permits which have expired and, importantly, coordinating with stakeholders including other Observatory Directors, the local police force, politicians, and residents. We expect that construction will restart sometime this northern summer.

In April CATAC published a revised draft of its recommendations on TMT instrumentation after first light. This was presented during the ACURA lunch session on Wed June 19, at this year’s annual CASCA meeting at McGill. A discussion was started at that session, but it is not too late to send us your feedback. CATAC needs to hear your ideas and ambitions so we can help ensure Canadian interests are well represented at the Board and SAC.

The next TMT Science Forum will be November 4-6 2019, in Xiamen, China. Please consider attending! ACURA will again be providing some travel support for University-based researchers to attend this meeting. Requests can be directed to mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca.

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