CASCA Position Statement on Satellite Constellations

The Canadian Astronomical Society/Société Canadienne d’Astronomie (CASCA) was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers. The society is devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. In this capacity, CASCA is compelled to voice concerns over upcoming satellite constellations, both in terms of their potential impact on astronomy but also in relation to the wider picture of cooperation in the use of space.

We appreciate that many of the technologies now being deployed in orbit have potential benefits to humanity such as providing communication to areas that are underserved by current infrastructure. However, proposed plans have rapidly moved beyond those originally outlined and within a few years constellations may exceed current satellite numbers by 10-fold or higher. With no international oversight over the public commons that is Earth orbit, a likely outcome is that competition between multiple actors will push collision risks higher. The European Space Agency has already had to move a satellite to reduce the collision risk with a constellation currently under deployment.

Beyond this fundamental concern about the use of the Earth’s orbital resources, current analysis suggests tens of thousands of satellites deployed in orbit could pose an acute threat to wide-field, transient and radio astronomy. While arguably many aspects of astronomy are better undertaken from space, the costs associated with that approach make it unfeasible as a general solution.

Posing this debate as either astronomy or a global service of one form or another is a false dichotomy. Working together and having cooperative agreements in place can ensure that orbital resources are used safely and to their best effectiveness for economic, social and scientific purposes. CASCA is resolutely behind achieving this goal through collaboration with the private sector, government and other scientific communities.

Professor Robert Thacker
President CASCA, on behalf of the CASCA Board of Directors

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!

Sustainability

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!

Rob

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.

LRP2020

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!

Rob

President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2019)

Dear CASCA Members,

I hope the new Year is treating you well! With LRP2020 getting underway and the release of the Space Strategy it seems like things never slow down. This message comes with both good and some not quite so good news but let us begin with some great news!

LRP2020

While it feels like yesterday since I wrote my last President’s message, not only have we announced the appointment of Pauline Barmby and Bryan Gaensler as Co-Chairs of LRP2020, we have also put in place the additional panel members, consisting of Matt Dobbs, Jeremy Heyl, Natasha Ivanova, David Lafreniere, Brenda Matthews and Alice Shapley as the external member. I’m sure you will all join me in thanking everyone for taking this important and challenging task on – as we all know, there is much hard work ahead for the panel!

With the white paper call going out, LRP2020 is truly underway and I want to strongly encourage everyone in the community to participate in the LRP process. Having been through two reports I know that some of the most difficult writing assignments are actually those for which there has been limited input. Pauline and Bryan are doing their utmost to ensure as many channels of input as possible are available and everyone in the community should feel that their voice will be heard.

The LRP process is a marathon not a sprint. We’ll likely all feel exhausted by the end – so spare a thought for the panelists! But only after we have explored every avenue, considered and debated as many possibilities as we can muster, can we be confident in setting a plan for the next ten years. Equally importantly, the LRP Implementation Committee carries much responsibility to respond to the challenges that cannot be foreseen. So, the next time you voice some concerns about the decision one of these groups may have made, just ponder for second what they’ve likely been going through, and then of course, speak your mind!

Coalition Activities

I cannot discuss Coalition activities without again thanking my Co-Chairs, Don Brooks as the Executive Director of ACURA, and Guy Nelson CEO of Empire Dynamic structures. As always Duncan Rayner of Temple Scott and Associates continues to provide advice. The past few months have been particularly active and challenging as we have tried to move forward awareness of astronomy’s funding concerns while, as everyone is aware, the Government made significant new investments in science through the 2018 Budget.

Following on from a successful fall visit, the Coalition again visited Parliament in February. As I mentioned in my winter report, we have taken an approach of meeting as many stakeholders as possible to build as much awareness of astronomy in Ottawa as we can. This time around we were fortunate to have a meeting with representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as some key members of the Standing Committee on Finance. One interesting development is that some of the MPs chose to request to speak to constituents, so we had fun building “Team Coalition”. So, without further ado, I pass on my most sincere thanks to my teammates René Doyon (Université de Montréal), Judith Irwin (Queen’s University), Laura Parker (McMaster University) and Nathalie Ouellette (Université de Montréal) for giving up their time in support of this important exercise!

Coming away from the day of meetings we all felt things had been successful. Importantly, we received an update on space-science funding and were told that it was a significant priority. Overall, we came away feeling a strong sense the message was getting home, and indeed we now have an open offer to host a reception on the Hill in May. Stay tuned for more details.

Canada’s Space Strategy

Less than a month after our visit to Parliament came the announcement by Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada’s new Space Strategy. I invite everyone to go and read the document, but remember it is high-level policy.

As I write this, the precise implications of the space strategy on astronomy are not yet clear. However, we do know that the vast majority of the $2B announcement, over 20 years, is focused on the Lunar Gateway. There are smaller supplementary programs in technology development for lunar exploration (LEAP) as well as a young astronaut program. Of course, new investment in space is always welcome and I’m sure you will all join me in thanking the Government for moving this important part of Canada’s innovation platform forward. This is clearly good news for our colleagues at the Canadian Space Agency.

But I am sure many of you have quickly realized that this announcement does not signal any new investments in space-based astronomy. It’s worth remembering we have not had any commitment to a new space astronomy mission since 2009 (the Hitomi replacement XRISM being excluded) and other than the immensely anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, our direct involvement in missions in the 2020s is currently nonexistent. While we have been able to leverage involvement in Euclid, we cannot hope to have a strong space-based astronomy portfolio if our only route to involvement is secondary support by ground imaging. If we truly wish to build on the expertise and ideas that we have in Canada, ideally to step forward and lead a significant international mission, we are going to need investments to match. Our concerns are also shared by the planetary exploration community. Having been in touch with some of the senior members of that community, it is clear that several important missions in space exploration (whether by massive or massless particles) have very pressing funding needs that the new strategy does not appear to be addressing, at least right now.

That said, I sincerely hope my current skepticism is misplaced. The Joint Committee on Space Astronomy is going to be updated post-Budget on the precise ramifications of the space strategy, and I look forward to talking with my colleagues at the CSA more about the future of Canada in space. It is always possible that the new space strategy investments could lead to reallocation of funds to space-based astronomy.

Needless to say, the Coalition will continue to make our community’s concerns heard.

Thank you!

In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who contributes their time voluntarily in support of CASCA, and of course our staff as well! Being a volunteer can be a thankless task, so I would like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to everyone that donates their time, particularly our committee members and, as always, e-Cassiopeia editor Joanne Rosvick!

Our community would not be where it is without you!

Happy Vernal Equinox!

Rob

President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

Dear CASCA members,

As you’ve no doubt seen, it’s been a busy few months for CASCA on many different fronts! Firstly, I want to thank James Di Francesco, Jennifer West and Susan Di Francesco for their extensive work on not only changing over our hosting servers, but also working to improve our membership tracking and payment routines. While there have been a few small teething problems, I’m pleased to say the switch over is now complete. For a number of reasons our server hosting arrangement had to change, but the biggest step forward is we now have (voluntarily provided) demographic data on our membership that can be used as part of LRP2020, and for other reporting mechanisms. If you happen to see James or Jennifer please join me in passing on your thanks for their work!

The CASCA Board has also moved to holding meetings on a monthly basis rather than quarterly as was the tradition for many years. Our hope is that this will help speed-up actioning important issues. As many of you can no doubt guess, the struggle with administering CASCA as an organization is the comparatively uneven nature of the workload over the year, with some periods of intense activity and other periods of comparative calm. Thus far, I’m pleased to say that moving to monthly meetings seems to be helping on a number of fronts.

I’ve received a few requests over the past few months for CASCA to move towards a more project and process-oriented framework, reflecting its growth in size to the over 500 members that we have now. The short answer is: we’re moving in that direction. However, I’d like to re-emphasize that CASCA is largely a volunteer organization with many very busy members and there are limits to what can be achieved within an organization of this nature. As always, I pass on my most sincere thanks to all members and staff of CASCA for their efforts in helping the Society operate and continuing to move our goals forward. We simply can’t function without your efforts!

I would also like to note two non-CASCA items. Firstly, the appointment of Sarah Gallagher to the Science Advisor position within the Canadian Space Agency. This is an enormous step forward for science advice in Canada. I would – somewhat cheekily – ask you all to be nice to Sarah and not flood her with advice on what she needs to do! More seriously, I’m really looking forward to working with Sarah in her new capacity and if recently released recommendations from the Standing Committee on Finance are any indication, policy is moving in the right direction. Secondly, I’d like to mention the appointment of Luc Simard as the new Director General of Herzberg. Having worked with Luc over the years I am sure he will throw himself wholeheartedly into this role and bring his trademark energy and expertise – Herzberg is in great hands moving forward! Plus, I also have to thank Greg Fahlman not only for his many years of service that were recognized with the Executive Award this year, but also for him continuing to support Herzberg in a consultant capacity. Combined with the newly reformed Herzberg Advisory Board I’m looking forward to the connection between Herzberg and the wider Canadian astronomy community going from strength to strength. It is a key part of our community’s success!

2019 AGM and Beyond

Plans for the meeting in Montreal are moving ahead well and CASCA Vice President Sara Ellison is in regular contact with the LOC spearheaded by Daryl Haggard & Nick Cowan as Co-Chairs. I’m looking forward to an exciting and vibrant meeting in June (17th-21st)! Sara is also keen to start pinning down potential locations for CASCA 2021 and 2022. Having co organized an AGM myself, I’d say there are considerable advantages to volunteering to host early, so if your department has some interest in hosting in either of those years, please help make Sara’s job easier and send her an email!

LRP2020

LRP2020 has been consuming a fair amount of time, both for myself and the CASCA Board, over the past few months. I’m pleased to say that the Co-Chairs of LRP2020 are set and hopefully by the time this newsletter is released we will have made an announcement through the exploder. The decision to use Co-Chairs in LRP2020 mirrors the US Astro2020 announcement of Fiona Harrison and Rob Kennicutt as their Co-Chairs, although both decisions to use this structure were formed independently.

Setting up the appropriate framework for LRP2020 is a surprisingly delicate task. We’ve learned much from previous LRPs and I know a few people would like to see a more structured document with different funding scenarios and strategies associated with those scenarios. I’m sympathetic to that idea, but there are challenges in Canada that make that approach difficult. Firstly, the LRP has no official status within Government although we are very pleased that the NRC continues to use it to set the roadmap of priorities for HAA, and the agencies pay close attention to its recommendations. Secondly, we do not have resources available for detailed costing efforts. Budgets are always a challenging part of our LRP. Lastly, following LRP2010 we put the LRP Implementation Committee in place to handle issues arising post-release. My own view is this has been an effective strategy, although perhaps the name “Implementation Committee” is somewhat misleading since the committee has no mandate to implement anything, it can only recommend.

The above issues, and a number of others, have been carefully considered during the preparation of the Terms of Reference for LRP2020. After consultation with the Co-Chairs we have kept a similar form to LRP2010, that the essence of the LRP is a review followed by a prioritization exercise, but with updates to account for some key changes. The revised version is currently being reviewed by the CASCA Board and once that is complete our announcement of the Co-Chairs along with the Terms of Reference will be made. Time-wise the final release date is planned for late 2020, a few months after Astro2020.

Some of you may not be aware that the overall cost of producing the LRP runs into the six-figure range once teaching buyouts, travel and report preparation are included. I am pleased to thank ACURA for again being prepared to support the LRP with a pair of teaching buyouts. These buyouts are a vital part of helping the Co-Chairs give their utmost to the process. I am also pleased to say that I have had preliminary discussions with the NRC, NSERC, and CSA about support for LRP2020 and I am completely confident that we will receive the necessary support again.

Coalition Activities

The Coalition for Canadian Astronomy has been very active over the past few months as well. As always, I’d like to thank the Coalition Co-Chairs, Don Brooks (ACURA) and Guy Nelson (Empire Dynamic Structures) for their continued commitment to moving Canadian astronomy forward, and our consultant Duncan Rayner for his expertise. Duncan also took part in the Montreal space astronomy workshop, and gave a presentation on the operation of Government to help our community better understand communication and lobby strategies.

Building upon visits to Ottawa conducted over the summer, I’m very pleased to inform everyone that our visit to Ottawa in late November to meet with members of the Government was a great success!

For this visit we reverted to a format of meeting as many members of Government as possible, which meant simultaneous meetings on a single day. A similar approach was used over a decade ago by the Coalition to improve awareness of the LRP. To put as many sets of impressive feet on the ground as possible, we were joined on our visit by Emily Deibert (University of Toronto), René Doyon (Université de Montréal), Renée Hložek (University of Toronto), Laura Parker (McMaster University), Nathalie Ouellette (Université de Montréal). I’d like to thank all of them for taking a day out of their busy schedules to help in this important part of our awareness efforts. Presenting the diverse nature of our community had a significant impact and we learned a number of important details ahead of the upcoming budget.

We took time to talk about TMT and its progress. As many of you are aware CATAC has played a highly active and internationally recognized role in discussions of the project, and following the Hawai’i Supreme Court rulings this fall, Michael Balogh was again called upon by the international press for statements. Government representatives had questions about how the project was moving forward and Don Brooks, as a TMT Board member, was able to give some important updates.

We also spoke extensively about space astronomy and the future of space-based science in general. Many of you will have seen the #DontLetGoCanada campaign advertisements on social media (funded primarily by MDA). The consortium of companies and organizations involved are calling on Canada to produce a new long-term space plan for Canada (LTSP), much like plans developed by Liberal governments in the 1990s. CASCA is a supporter of #DontLetGoCanada, and we have added our logo to their website. We strongly support the campaign’s primary goal, namely the creation of a new LTSP. On the back of an extensive advertising campaign in Ottawa (including advertisements on over 250 buses there!) investment in space is now recognized as an issue by the Government and we are quietly hopeful that we will see a significant policy shift on space funding in 2019.

The Coalition also communicated to Government during their pre-budget consultation process. Our message remains the same as in previous years, namely that Canada needs a formal process that avoids the unnecessary lobbying required for “Big Science” projects. We were pleased to hear insight on this concern from Government and an agreement that processes could be put in place to improve this issue. As always, we will have to wait and see what happens, the large cost of major infrastructure means any fund addressing these concerns would require significant monetary resources. Our second recommendation was on funding for space-based science, and we reiterated the funding request outlined in the space exploration white paper (Caiazzo et al 2017).

Other Community Planning Activities

The two community workshops held this fall, the Wide Field Astronomy in Canada meeting in Waterloo, and the Future of Space Astronomy meeting in Montreal were both a great success and you can find reports on them in this newsletter. Moving forward it is clear that these meetings serve not only to highlight opportunities, they also make key policy or organizational blocks more obvious as well. On a personal note, I was also pleased to be able to help the community, especially graduate students and new faculty, appreciate issues from previous LRPs that we should learn from. Another big thank you to all the organizers and attendees for making these important events happen and we hope to build on them during the LRP process!

To close, I would again like to thank our editor Joanne Rosvick for her continued commitment to producing Cassiopeia! And I’d like to wish you all the best for the holiday season and a productive and exciting 2019!

Rob

President’s Message

By / par Rob Thacker, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2018)

I can’t begin this President’s message without first acknowledging the important and amazing work done by all the officers, committee members and staff of the Society. Thank you all so much. Whether it is volunteer work or paid, your service to the Society is absolutely fundamental to making us move forward on numerous important issues! While I would not normally single out an individual, I am compelled to thank the now Past-President Bob Abraham for setting an incredibly high bar for activity in the President’s capacity! Thank you Bob!

My first few days in the Presidency have been something of a whirlwind and it has been hard not to feel overwhelmed! As many of you are aware, especially following this year’s town hall meeting at CASCA, our space astronomy portfolio is in a dire situation with no official major commitment to new missions since 2009, other than the replacement for Hitomi, XARM, following the unfortunate events of 2016. The recent dropping of Canadian participation in WFIRST has been a major concern for our community and is particularly disconcerting as we consider moving towards missions with significant Canadian leadership, such as CASTOR.

This series of events has reinforced the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy’s view that moving our space astronomy needs forward with government is a major priority. Hence the Coalition, represented by Guy Nelson (Empire Dynamic Structures), Don Brooks (UBC), Sarah Gallagher (Western) and myself, made a visit to Ottawa on June 12th to discuss space astronomy in detail with the NRC, CSA and Ministry for Innovation, Science & Economic Development. Since the Coalition maintains a non-partisan position we also met with Conservative Science Critic Matt Jeneroux. The tone of the meetings was constructive, and we repeatedly emphasized the need for long term and sustained funding of space. But ahead of the upcoming Budget consultation process it was equally important for us to listen for what was being asked. Perhaps as might be expected, we need to outline the benefits we provide to society and economics to garner the major investment we need. It is also worth remembering that there are many other fields of space-based science that face similar funding problems to us.

At the same time we are seeing concern growing about how we develop and maintain our ground-based projects. I have already been involved in ACURA discussions about MSE, while writing letters of support for Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic as it, yet again, faces the threat of closure. As we build towards LRP2020 there are a great many issues to think about. TMT continues to evolve towards a site decision, the outcome of which will have ramifications across many areas. The SKA is moving towards some key decision points on Phase 1, while the precise level of Canada’s participation still needs to be negotiated. Plus I’m sure we can all appreciate that Dr Greg Fahlman’s replacement at Herzberg will enter the position at a highly critical time, so it is no surprise the community is strongly interested to see who is eventually chosen for this key position in Canadian astronomy.

In terms of action, over the next two months, the Coalition for Canadian astronomy will submit our response to the pre-Budget consultation process as well as exploring some new avenues of communication with important policy makers. The members of the Coalition are cautiously hopeful we can move things forward, but as many of you know following the length of time it took to gain funding for TMT participation, persistence and a coherent and uniform message will be needed. We anticipate we may well end up asking the community to help with the lobbying effort – stay tuned!

Despite these uncertainties over funding, our community continues to make strides on many fronts. Having worked closely with the Equity and Inclusivity Committee over the past 18 months, I am incredibly impressed by the work they are doing to provide information to help us improve our working environment. As emphasized in numerous workshops on equity issues, improving participation and working climate is a benefit for everyone.

I am truly honoured and frankly very proud to serve the CASCA community. I really look forward to meeting and working with you all over the coming two years. As always, there’s a lot to get done!

President’s Report

By Bob Abraham, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Spring/printemps 2018)

Budget 2018: Mostly good news

The Federal Budget came out on February 27, and it appears to be favourable to Canadian researchers working in basic science. Funding for academic institutions for research-related activities is set to rise by $340-million in fiscal year 2018-19. By 2023, scientists can count on about $446-million more annually from the funding councils, including direct money for grants, research chairs and a new program to support interdisciplinary science and international collaboration.

The increased support for science was precipitated by last year’s Fundamental Science Review, led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor. While the increase in the budget falls well short of the $1.3-billion a year increase that the report called for, a 25-per-cent increase in funding basic research is hugely welcome. Over the past year, individual scientists and organizations such as CASCA have voiced support for the Naylor report, and support for the report has been a theme of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy’s periodic visits to Ottawa. On the whole, I think that all this advocacy appears to have paid off.

Another notable aspect of the Federal Budget is the way it calls for a return to a basic research role for the National Research Council. This comes after years of re-purposing NRC to focus strongly on industrial applications. Details remain sketchy at the time of this writing, but as far as I can tell, these changes at NRC are likely to be good news for both CASCA members affiliated with NRC and for Canadian astrophysics as a whole. In particular, I can see many ways that NRC being directed to place greater emphasis on basic research (and on research excellence) would benefit our community. I’d like to understand the plan in detail before commenting on specifics, but perhaps it is worth emphasizing a basic point made in our Long-Range Plans: the success of astrophysics in Canada relies heavily on the partnership between Universities and the NRC. For that reason, all astronomers in Canada should keep a close eye on developments at NRC.

Budget 2018: Some bad news

While the Federal Budget appears to provide mostly good news for astrophysics, many of us were disappointed to see an absence of a strong commitment to the Canadian Space Agency in the document. The implications of a dwindling commitment to Space by Canada were the focus of a recent newspaper article by Ivan Semeniuk. I think this article makes for some interesting reading:

Lost in space: Why Canada’s diminishing role in the heavens is a problem – The Globe and Mail.

There are several reasonable interpretations of the lack of a specific call-out to the Canadian Space Agency in the Federal Budget. My personal interpretation is that the government is simply not ready to commit to a rejuvenation of the CSA because it is still formulating its space policy. The situation is laid out in the following article:

New space policy not ready.

I was particularly struck by one portion of this article, which makes the following points:

  • There is at least one external factor that appears to have contributed to a delay: the ongoing uncertainty in the U.S. space program. Like it or not, right or wrong, the government is taking a wait-and-see approach to what happens in the U.S.
  • NASA has been rudderless, without an approved Administrator since the election of the Trump government in November 2016. And now, Acting Administrator Lightfoot is retiring at the end of the month. Yes, there is a new Space Council in place led by Vice-President Pence, but the dynamics between the White House, the Council and Congress are mired in backroom politicking with no cohesive strategy forthcoming.
  • Does Canada need to wait for the U.S. picture to clear up before making any plans? Are we that dependent on their strategy?
  • I wonder the same thing. Canadian astronomy has benefited hugely from our participation in multi-billion dollar flagship missions, in which we can play a relatively small but highly significant role. I personally believe that we need to contribute significantly to international flagship missions in the future. (Our participation in the James Webb Space Telescope is a great example of Canadian academia operating synergistically with Industry in this capacity, as is our small but important contributions to the success of the Herschel and Planck missions). But, in my opinion, taking advantage of the opportunities presented by international flagship missions should only be a component of a broader Canadian space astronomy ecosystem. We can (and should) aspire to a greater degree of independence and leadership in smaller impactful missions (the proposed CASTOR mission being one good example).

    Gearing up for the next LRP

    These are my opinions, but what are yours? The Coalition’s trips to Ottawa are input-output exercises. In terms of output, we describe what our community does, provide status reports, and explain our need for additional resources. But in terms of input, we take the opportunity to really listen to what the ministry and our elected representatives are saying. One of the most clear messages conveyed to us is that a major strength of our community is its cohesion. This cohesion is manifested by our Long Range Plan, which provides a strong central focus for our community’s activity. In less than a year we will kick off the planning for LRP2020, and the topics above will no doubt be the subject of considerable discussion. Your opinions matter. When the time arrives, please take the opportunity to fully engage in the LRP process, by talking with your colleagues, contributing to a white paper, and participating in the Town Hall meetings, both locally and at the CASCA AGM.

    JWST

    While our community has significant concerns about the long term future of Canadian Space Astronomy, this should not blind us to the fact that the very near-term future is looking pretty damn good. The James Webb Space Telescope Cycle 1 proposal deadline is April 6! After being involved in this project for well over a decade, I can hardly believe that the day we can apply to use this spectacular facility is almost here. The Canadian Space Agency, working in partnership with astronomers led by René Doyon at the University of Montréal, have really delivered the goods for the present generation of astronomers, and they deserve our thanks. I can’t wait to see what gets discovered. If, like me, you find yourself a little overwhelmed by the proposal process, I recommend you make yourself a cup of tea and sit down in front of YouTube and watch the video recordings of the U de M JWST community preparation webinars.

    TMT

    Michael Balogh (chair of CATAC, the Canadian TMT Advisory Committee) has prepared an excellent summary of the progress being made with the TMT project in this issue of Cassiopeia. You should definitely take a look at it, because a key instrument, the Wide Field Optical Spectrometer (WFOS), is being redesigned and this is an excellent opportunity for you to provide the instrument team with feedback on the specifications of the instrument that would best enable your science.

    Diversity and Inclusivity

    The Diversity and Inclusivity Committee (chaired by Brenda Matthews) is preparing a summary of the results from the recent Professional Climate Survey, and the committee has also been given a draft of a proposed CASCA Values Statement to mull over. I expect we will see discussion of both items at the upcoming CASCA Annual General Meeting in Victoria.

    CASCA 2018 and 2019

    As I’m sure you are aware, the 49th annual general meeting of CASCA is being held at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, BC from 22 May to 26 May 2018. The meeting is co-hosted by the University of Victoria, NRC-Herzberg, and the Astronomy Research Centre. It promises to be a spectacular CASCA AGM! You can check out the program on the CASCA 2018 website here.

    CASCA 2019 will be hosted by McGill University in Montréal, which is exciting news, as Montréal is such an amazingly fun city (my favourite, by miles).

    Signing Off

    The CASCA Presidency is a two-year term, and my time as your President is now winding to a close. The next President’s Message will appear in the Summer Cassiopeia and will be written by my successor (Rob Thacker from St. Mary’s University). It has been a privilege to serve you for the last couple of years, and I thank you for putting up with me (not to mention with putting up with these overly-long President’s messages – if you think it’s bad for you, think of poor Joanne Rosvick and Magdalene Normandeau, who had to edit them in spite of them always being late). Leading CASCA for a while has provided me with many opportunities to talk to you all and to share in your adventures, which in turn has shown me how great it is to be an astronomer in Canada. We are part of a community dedicated to excellence in science, and to making our profession better. We are joined together by many things, not least of which is our shared passion to learn more about the Universe and to share its wonders.

    Roberto Abraham
    University of Toronto
    #CASCA

President’s Message

2014-06-27-Prof. Roberto Abraham

By/par Roberto Abraham, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Winter/hivers 2017)

Professional Climate Survey

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan gave a speech at the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa on November 2 in which she touched on many topics of interest to CASCA, including some preliminary thoughts on The Fundamental Science review (a.k.a. the Naylor Report), the launch of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee and the recent appointment of Dr. Mona Nemer as the Government’s Chief Science Advisor. As will be described below, CASCA is communicating directly with the government on all these subjects. Another important topic highlighted in her speech was the need for greater representation in the sciences. In her speech, Minister Duncan noted the following:

This issue has a deep personal significance to me as someone who spent the bulk of her career as a woman in science.

During my science career, I was told the reason I was getting paid in the bottom 10th percentile was because I was a woman.

I was asked by a fellow faculty member during a staff meeting when I planned on getting pregnant.

I was asked to choose how I wanted to be treated: as a woman or as a scientist.

My travels across Canada have made it very clear to me that addressing the inequities in the research community must remain a top priority for all of us.

Minister Duncan concludes:

We must work together to right the gender, equity and diversity scales in the sciences. And when we do, science will be that much stronger for it.

I say ‘amen’ to that. In fact, I think we as a society do too. And when it comes to issues of greater inclusiveness and fairness in representation, CASCA as a professional society can have real agency in effecting changes in our own professional climate. We have taken some important steps already (e.g. by forming the Equity and Inclusivity Committee, led by Brenda Matthews), but it would be incredibly helpful to have a clearer understanding of the scope of the problem. For that reason the Equity & Inclusivity Committee put together a climate survey (available in both French and English. All CASCA members should already have received news about the survey via the society’s email exploder, but allow me to reiterate how hugely important this survey is to the health of our profession in Canada. If you don’t believe me, believe the Minister of Science. If you haven’t already completed the survey, please, please, find the time to do it.

Coalition Activities

Since the last time I wrote to you, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy has continued its dialogue with the federal government, focusing on the priorities set out in the Long Range Plan. On November 28, the co-chairs1 of the Coalition and two invited guests visited Ottawa with this purpose in mind. We had two specific goal for this trip. The first was to provide updates on some key priorities which we have been invited to comment further on during our last visit (progress on the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Square Kilometre Array). The second was to advocate for greater support of the Canadian Space Agency. We met with Dr. Nipun Vats (Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development) and Michael Rosenblatt (Director, Federal Science and Technology Policy, Science Policy Branch, Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development). We also met with Katharine Wright at the Office of the Chief Science Advisor, and with Kate Young (M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Science).

To help us articulate our goals more clearly, on this trip we were joined by Prof. Sarah Gallagher (Western University) and by Deborah Lokhorst (a PhD student at the University of Toronto). Sarah recently co-authored an important white paper on space astronomy funding (together with Jeremy Heyl and Ilaria Caiazzo, both at UBC), and she was able to place Canada’s investments in Space Astronomy into a broad international (and historical) context. Deborah was tasked with explaining why federal support is needed now for priority missions identified in the Long Range Plan (such as WFIRST), in order to secure a bright future for younger generations of Canadian astrophysicists, such as herself, that will be carrying the torch once people like me have ridden off into the sunset. While this visit to Ottawa focused largely on Space Astronomy and support for the Canadian Space Agency, we did not fail to communicate how the plan represents a coherent vision for Canadian astrophysics (agreed upon by the whole community), how astrophysics (the country’s premiere science, in terms of international impact) benefits all Canadians, and how the LRP aligns with the government’s priorities.

On behalf of the CASCA Board of Directors, allow me to conclude this message by wishing you all the best for a happy holiday season, and for a productive and prosperous 2018.

1 The coalition co-chairs are Prof. Don Brooks (UBC), representing ACURA (the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy), Guy Nelson (CEO of Empire Industries), and me (representing CASCA, i.e. you).

President’s Message

2014-06-27-Prof. Roberto Abraham

By/par Roberto Abraham, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Autumn/l’automne 2017)

Dear CASCA Members,

It’s been a busy summer! Here are some activities that have been going on over the past few months:

CHIME First Light

About two weeks ago, Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, installed the final piece of the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), triggering the official First Light for this exciting new radio telescope. Congratulations to the many people involved in CHIME at UBC, McGill, Toronto, and NRC.

CHIME is incredibly innovative and its science is hugely exciting, so it is no surprise to see that its First Light generated a lot of buzz in both the astronomical community and in the media. I can’t wait to see the exciting science it will produce. The process by which CHIME came into existence is also interesting because it is another success story for the CASCA Long-Range Plan process. I was on the LRP2010 committee (chaired by Chris Pritchet at the University of Victoria) and well remember the extensive discussions about CHIME that led to it being declared the top mid-scale priority in the plan. This prioritization evidently played an important role in securing its funding. I’m not a radio astronomer (yet), and I’m no lover of committees (in general), but I must say it is incredibly satisfying watching the CHIME team deliver the goods and knowing that the work the community put into LRP2010 helped make CHIME happen. By being organized, disciplined, and working together, harnessing the many strengths of both Canadian Universities and the NRC, we can build the groundwork for more Canadian success stories in astrophysics. And if you are getting the impression from this buildup that the Canadian community is starting to gear up for LRP2020, well, of course you’re right. Witness (for example) the very successful recent workshop held in Montreal last week on “Canadian Radio Astronomy – Surveying the Present and Shaping the Future”. So, please start thinking about what you want the future to look like, because the planning for LRP2020 will be starting quite soon.

TMT Progress

After nearly five months of hearing evidence, the contested case hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope Project has concluded and State Hearings Officer and former Judge Riki May Amano has recommended that a permit be issued to the University of Hawaii to allow construction of the TMT. In parallel with this progress in the legal domain, support for the TMT has been growing in Hawaii. Oahu public support for TMT construction is now almost 80 percent, and the most recent polling indicates that Hawaii Island residents support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. This is great news! Very serious consideration of the backup site (La Palma) continues but we now have many reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of TMT construction at our first-choice site in Hawaii. Challenges remain but this should not come as as a surprise to anybody. (Beyond a certain scale, essentially all ambitious scientific infrastructure projects have to deal with some combination of logistical, financial, and scheduling hurdles. The trick is to have a robust plan in place to manage the challenges.) CASCA members interested in learning how the TMT project is progressing, and on the plans for future instruments, should participate in the community Webcast with senior TMT management being organized by CATAC (see Michael Balogh’s CATAC report in this issue for details). Future webcasts will organized to help keep the community up to date on the considerable progress being made on the TMT.

Perhaps it is not out of place to remind ourselves that the privilege of observing on Mauna Kea has been a huge benefit to many of us. Let’s be grateful for, and respectful of, this privilege. Over the summer, I sat down with a couple of books and did some reading about the fascinating history of the people of Hawaii. Since I’ve been a regular visitor to the islands for 25 years, I’m truly ashamed that it took me this long to read a book on this subject. As the legal process winds down, I hope more astronomers take some time to learn more about the history of the islands. (Though it’s somewhat dated, I can recommend “Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands” by Gavan Daws. If you have other suggestions, please do email me with them.)

Space Science and the Canadian Space Agency

After years of talking about it on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) advisory committee, the JWST Early Release Science proposal deadline has come and gone. The selection committee is meeting in a few weeks and will divide about 500 hours worth of observing time between about 15 proposals, chosen from the 106 submitted. The JWST General Observer call for proposals will come out in two months with a proposal deadline of next March. The lesson you should draw from all this is that THE JWST ERA IS ALMOST HERE!

The Canadian Space Agency has played an important role in the development of the JWST mission and, when the spacecraft launches in 2018, I think that all Canadians will be justifiably proud to learn that a team of Canadian academic, governmental, and industrial scientists, engineers and technicians built one of JWST’s key instruments (the NIRISS spectrometer, whose Principal Investigator is René Doyon at the Université de Montréal), not to mention the critical Fine Guidance Sensor that points and guides the telescope.

Unfortunately, JWST will have a very limited lifetime. It is designed to have at least a five-year lifetime after launch, and carries only enough fuel to maintain orbital positioning for a little over ten years. Of course, most space-based endeavours have long lead times, and investments in space missions frequently begin to pay off many years into the future (and, when it comes to flagship missions, sometimes decades into the future). The spectacular near-term future we are anticipating with JWST is thus the product of investments begun many years ago. But what about the decades after JWST? We need to ensure that post-JWST Canada continues to innovate, lead, and inspire.

Operating in synergy with the CASCA Long Range Plan, and with a particular eye toward LRP2020, a number of Canadians have begun thinking about ways to lay out a roadmap to such an exciting post-JWST future. Professors Sarah Gallagher (Western) and Jeremy Heyl (UBC), working with graduate student Ilaria Caiazzo (UBC), have put together a very thoughtful white paper which I think everybody should read. This White Paper, together with the various Topical Team reports now being prepared by the CSA, show how space-based astrophysical research should operate in the country at a variety of levels, from low-cost, agile balloon-based missions that perform end-to-end experiments on a timescale relevant for the training of graduate students, to focused mid-scale missions that target high-risk/high-return subjects such as primordial gravitational waves from the first few moments after the Big Bang, all the way up to proposed participation in (and potentially leadership in) much more infrequent but highly ambitious facilities that will keep our astronomical research and space industrial communities vibrant long after JWST. The key to to this future is increased funding for the Canadian Space Agency, and the immediate audience for our recommendations is the government’s newly-formed Space Advisory Board. The Space Advisory Board’s first report, titled “Consultations on Canada’s Future in Space: What We Heard”, is now available here.

This report summarizes the feedback Space Advisory Board members received from stakeholders during the public consultations on Canada’s future in space. There are exciting plans, but how do we turn these plans into reality? By now you should not be surprised to learn that LRP2020 will be an important component in this. In the meantime, we need to keep delivering the message to the government. And this inevitably brings me to the my final topic: activities by the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy.

Coalition Activities

In late August, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy prepared a pre-budget submission and submitted this to the government. There are two main recommendations in the submission:

Firstly, we offer a recommendation for increased funding for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that is very much in-line with the White Paper noted above. The Coalition believes Canada has the resources to achieve international leadership in space-based astronomy, matching its existing success in ground-based astronomy, and that such a future includes leadership in a future space mission.

Secondly, as noted by the report on the Fundamental Science Review (the Naylor Report), Canada needs a mechanism for funding “big science” projects, which tend to involve multiple international partners, have price tags in the billions, take years to conceive and build, and have lifespans measured in decades. The lack of such a funding mechanism could mean lost opportunities for Canadian astronomy in the future, including those priority projects identified in our pre-budget submission. Therefore, getting a nimble mechanism in place remains a top priority for the Coalition. You will be hearing more about formal CASCA Board support for the Naylor Report soon, along with some suggestions for things you can personally do to help draw attention to this important report.

In addition to providing the government with a formal document as part of the pre-budget submission process, we also wrote to Ministers Bains and Duncan on August 30 to reinforce the priorities noted above. The co-chairs of the coalition (myself, on behalf of CASCA, Don Brooks, on behalf of the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, and our industry co-chair Guy Nelson, CEO of Empire Industries) plan to visit Ottawa in October/November to follow-up on the priorities identified in this letter. As with our last visit to Ottawa, we will make an effort to meet with politicians on both sides of the bench.

Let me conclude this message by thanking you, on behalf of the CASCA Board, for your support of our society. We promise to work hard on your behalf. If you have any suggestions for things we could be doing better, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Roberto Abraham