2024 Executive Award: Kristine Spekkens

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Kristine Spekkens as the winner of the 2024 CASCA Executive award, recognizing her sustained contributions in service that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact nationally and internationally, in particular through the key role she has played in enabling Canada’s joining the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO) as a full member in 2023.

Prof. Spekkens began her faculty career in Canada in 2008 after receiving her PhD in 2005 from Cornell University. In the last 15 years, Prof. Spekkens has served on four CASCA committees: Nominating (2022 – present), Equity and Inclusivity 2016-2022 (chair, 2020-2022), Awards 2013-2016 (chair 2014-2016), Ground-Based Astronomy (2011-2013) and on the CASCA Board (2016-2019). She also served on the ACURA TMT advisory council (2017-22), and was vice chair of the 2015 Long Range Plan mid-term review.

Dr. Spekkans also served as a Canadian representative on many international committees including the Visiting Review Committee for the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (Australia, 2023), the External Proposal Review Committee for FAST (China, 2023), the NRAO TAC (US, Chair, 2018-19), and NRAO Extragalactic Science Review Panel (2017-19). These many roles testify to the esteem in which the community and external agencies hold Prof. Spekkens’ judgment.

It is in service related to the SKA Observatory that Prof. Spekkens has played her most critical roles. She
currently serves on the ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA (2017-present), as the Canadian SKA Science Director (2019-present) and as vice-chair of the SKA’s Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC; 2023-present, committee member since 2021 and previously 2017-19). These roles along with her tireless efforts to advocate on behalf of the Canadian astronomy community were integral to Canada becoming a treaty member of this historic observatory.

Overall, Prof. Spekkens’ service to the Canadian community has been myriad and of the highest quality. She has had a significant impact in enhancing research done by all Canadian astronomers. Her commitment to our community makes her extremely deserving of the CASCA Executive award for 2024.

2023 Qilak Award: Doctor Laurie Rousseau-Nepton

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton as the winner of the 2024 Qilak award, recognizing recent and impactful outreach activities.

Dr. Rousseau-Nepton received her PhD from Université Laval, and following a Resident Astronomer position at the Canada France Hawai’i Telescope, joined the faculty of the University of Toronto. Dr. Rousseau-Nepton receives this recognition for her leadership in and involvement with the award-winning and ground-breaking National Film Board of Canada documentary North Star/Étoile du Nord, which she co-directed, co-wrote and starred in, as well as for her associated outreach activities. This film and outreach activities have had, and will continue to have, important and broad impacts on public understanding and appreciation of the science of astronomy. In sharing her journey with young people, the film promotes the participation in astronomy of under-represented groups, in particular women and Indigenous people. In parallel to North Star, Dr. Rousseau-Nepton did weekly presentations to schoolchildren in Hawai’i and also did about 60 presentations to school classes in Canada through Connected North, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring educational resources to remote Indigenous communities.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Rousseau-Nepton for these outstanding outreach contributions.

Dr. Roberto Abraham and the Dragonfly team: 2024 Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Roberto Abraham and the Dragonfly team are the winners of the 2024 Dunlap Award.

This award recognizes a decade of innovation and effort on the part of Dr. Abraham and the Dragonfly team, who have designed, constructed, and operated the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in New Mexico. The Dragonfly team has used this facility to produce ground-breaking science results in the low surface brightness universe, including the discovery of ultra-diffuse galaxies and galaxies displaying exceptionally low amounts of dark matter. The Dragonfly team is relatively small compared to other high impact astronomical projects and the close-knit, hands-on environment fostered within the team has propelled many exceptional young scientists into high-profile, international careers. Dr. Abraham received his PhD from Oxford University and, following postdoctoral research at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge University, and the Royal Greenwich Observatory, joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 2000.

CASCA is exceptionally pleased to recognize the efforts of Dr. Abraham and the entire Dragonfly team with this award.

2024 Plaskett Medal: Dr. Antoine Bédard

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Antoine Bédard as the recipient of the 2024 J.S. Plaskett Medal for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in astronomy or astrophysics.

Dr. Bédard received his PhD from Université de Montréal, under the supervision of Drs. Pierre Bergeron and Pierre Brassard, and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Warwick (UK). His thesis, titled ‘Characterization and modeling of the spectral evolution of hot white dwarf stars’, combines observations, model atmosphere and stellar evolution calculations, data analyses, and interpretations. Dr. Bédard’s thesis begins with spectroscopic analysis of 2000 hot white dwarfs, providing our best picture of white dwarf spectral evolution. He then substantially reworked the STELUM stellar evolutionary code and used this to simulate white dwarf spectral evolution. Finally, he applied his numerical simulations to self-consistently explain the physics behind the spectral evolution of white dwarfs as they cool, solving several well-known longstanding problems in the study of white dwarfs. Dr. Bédard’s thesis introduction provides a thorough overview of the study of white dwarfs for graduate students and other researchers working on this topic, and his papers have already had a wide impact in the field.

ASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Bédard’s achievements with this award.

Dr. Julio F. Navarro: 2022 Carlyle S. Beals Award for Outstanding Research

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Julio F. Navarro as the recipient of the 2024 Carlyle S. Beals Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in research.

Dr. Navarro obtained his PhD from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. As one of the leading cosmologists in Canada and the world, he has made many lasting impactful contributions to the field of computational cosmology, including landmark work on the intrinsic structure of dark matter halos. His work has proved essential to our understanding of the role of dark matter in the large-scale structure of the universe and in galaxy formation and evolution. Dr. Navarro’s contributions also include studies of dissipative effects on satellite galaxies, the collapse and shock-heating of non-radiative gas during the formation of galaxy clusters, and the formation and evolution of galactic disks. He was a pioneer of the “smoothed-particle hydrodynamics” (SPH) simulation technique, which remains the dominant tool allowing scientists to understand galaxy formation and evolution. Dr. Navarro has mentored numerous graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who have gone on to highly successful scientific careers.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Navarro’s efforts with this award.

Second announcement for “Star formation across the scales: star clusters to galactic disks

This is the second announcement for the workshop “Star formation across the scales: star clusters to galactic disks”, hosted by McMaster University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy in conjunction with the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA). The workshop will take place on McMaster’s campus from August 12th to August 14th, 2024. The workshop will showcase work by Canadian junior researchers, particularly graduate students, on the topics of observations and simulations of star formation in galaxies, from the scale of star clusters to galactic disks. We welcome talk and poster applications from anyone working in the field.

We are currently accepting abstract submissions for talks and posters at this link:


You can find the list of confirmed invited speakers at the same link.

We are accepting abstract submissions until Friday, May 17th, and talks will be announced by Friday, May 24th. Some travel subsidy is available for early career researchers; applications for travel subsidy should be submitted along with your abstract.

We hope to see you in August!

Best regards,

The Organizing Committee

Hector Robinson
Claude Cournoyer-Cloutier
Padraic Odesse
Rachel Pillsworth
Jeremy Karam
Marta Reina-Campos
James Wadsley
Ralph Pudritz

CASCATO Abstract submission deadline and early-bird registration deadline extended

We are pleased to see your abstract submissions coming in. We are extending the abstract submission date to April 4, 2024 and the early-bird deadline to April 24, 2024 to make sure we don’t miss your abstracts!

Go to https://cascato.ca/registration/ to register – don’t delay

See you in Toronto

This is a reminder that the abstract submission will close on Thursday March 28th. Don’t delay, submit your abstract at https://cascato.ca/registration/ as soon as possible. The potential list of sessions is given on the abstract submission forms.

Program: The draft block schedule is now available on the website: https://cascato.ca/program/. We have an exciting program including the graduate student day on Monday June 3, we look forward to seeing you at CASCATO!

Accommodation: We note that there are some graduate options listed on the website, but also that it is possible to double up and share some of the rooms at the Sheraton (details listed on the website). We have had some requests for room bookings for the Sunday night at the Sheraton, and the hotel has agreed to make an additional block of rooms available for Sunday night – you should be able to book those now. Please contact loc@cascato.ca if you have any issues.

Online registration: There have been some requests for discounted student and retiree rates for online registration, those are now available to book on the Eventbrite page.

Student grants: We have some limited funds available for student grants, please email loc@cascato.ca to request support for the meeting. We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto,


Register now for CASCATO 2024

Registration is now open for CASCATO 2024 (https://cascato.ca/registration/), co-hosted by the University of Toronto and York University, and held at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.

Early bird registration will only continue until April 17, 2024, so don’t delay in registering.

A block of rooms at the Sheraton is already available (see the accommodations page if you wish to begin planning your trip: https://cascato.ca/accommodation/). Please book soon as we have a room booking at the hotel – and filling those rooms is an essential part of being able to host the meeting at such a comfortable hotel venue.

Note that we have also included a spreadsheet on that page to help facilitate sharing of rooms for those who want to double up to save on accommodation costs.

There is also some information on options for graduate student accommodation at York University, we will send more information on downtown options shortly.

A reminder that abstract submission is now open (here: https://cascato.ca/registration/) and will continue until March 28, 2024. We will send out decisions on accepted abstract submissions before the close of the early bird deadline.

We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto!


Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By / par Eric Steinbring with translation by / avec traduction par Stéphanie Côté (Canadian Gemini Office, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre / Office Gemini Canadien, Centre de Recherches Herzberg en Astronomie & Astrophysique du CNRC)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2024)
La version française suit

Upcoming Deadlines

There are three important Call for Proposal (CfP) application deadlines coming up – all back-to-back-to-back – providing Canadians competitive access to Gemini. So just to help keep these straight:

  • First is the monthly CfP for Fast Turnaround (FT) time, at noon Hawai’i Standard Time (HST) on 31 March. For the FT Call see here. These are short proposals that can put a small, but important dataset in your hands quickly;
  • Next, on 1 April is the deadline for full proposals to the Large and Long Program (LLP) 2024 Call. These are big proposals, asking for either significantly more time than a Regular proposal, or spread over many semesters – or both;
  • And then, finally, is the 2024B semester CfP, at 4 PM (PDT) / 7 PM (EDT) on 2 April. This is for Regular semesterly proposals. Look here for the Canadian-specific information about that Call.

Good luck.

New Modes and Instruments

Something new in the North is the Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph (GNIRS) low-resolution Integral Field Unit (IFU); this has coverage from 1 to 2.5 microns over a 3.15″ x 4.80″ Field of View (FoV) with 0.15″ pixels. A second high-resolution IFU (using the 0.05″-pixel-sampling camera) is also now available on a shared-risk basis in the upcoming 2024B CfP. They can be used along with Altair adaptive optics, and together are meant to replace the venerable Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) – which has been retired. Incidentally, the Near-InfraRed Imager (NIRI) is also retired, but GNIRS has got your back, allowing imaging using its direct “keyhole” FoV. And, coming soon to the North is the new Immersion GRating INfrared Spectrograph-2 (IGRINS-2), which is essentially a clone of the visiting instrument IGRINS, which will soon leave Gemini South. IGRINS-2 is an efficient, high-resolution (R~40,000; 1.49-2.46 micron) spectrograph, which will undergo a Science Verification phase in the May/June timescale. Keep on the lookout for that!

Student and Outreach Initiatives

A couple things might be of interest, especially to students anticipating making use of Gemini – or, if you’re just curious. One is the Shadow the Scientists program which provides live, interactive sessions with honest-to-goodness astronomers doing astronomy from the big telescopes, and has lately had several sessions at Gemini North (with another coming up soon, on 27 March). It’s worth noting that “eavesdropping”, i.e. remote viewing during a night, is already an option which Gemini invites for successful Regular programs. Another new idea is the Student Visitor Program, which can fund selected graduate students attached to a successful Regular-semester program to visit Gemini (North or South) and, ideally, coordinate the visit to correspond with observations for the program itself. There’s more info here. The general intent of this is for a few students each semester to meet Gemini staff, give a talk, and learn about the observatory operations onsite: the telescope, instruments and data reduction, etc. It proved very popular for the first semester offered, in 2024A.

Echéances à venir

Il y a trois dates limites importantes pour les appels de demandes (AdD) qui s’approchent – et qui sont toutes consécutives – offrant aux Canadien.nes un accès compétitif à Gemini. Alors juste pour vous aider à y voir clair:

  • Le premier est l’appel de demandes mensuel pour le programme Retour Rapide (FT), à midi, heure normale d’Hawaï (HST), le 31 mars. Pour l’appel FT, voir ici. Il s’agit de demandes courtes qui peuvent rapidement vous apporter un ensemble de données restreint mais important;
  • Le 1er avril prochain sera la date limite pour les demandes complètes à l’appel 2024 du Programme Long et Large (LLP). Il s’agit de demandes de temps importantes, qui demandent soit beaucoup plus de temps qu’une demande régulière, soit s’étalent sur plusieurs semestres – ou les deux;
  • Et puis, enfin, l’appel de demandes du semestre 2024B, à 16h (HAP) / 19h (HAE) le 2 avril. Ceci concerne les demandes semestrielles régulières. Recherchez ici les informations spécifiques au Canada pour cet appel.

Bonne chance!

Nouveaux modes et instruments

L’unité de champ intégrale (=IFU) à basse résolution du spectrographe Gemini en proche infrarouge (GNIRS) est une nouveauté dans le Nord; il couvre de 1 à 2,5 microns sur un champ de vision (FoV) de 3,15″ x 4,80″ avec des pixels de 0,15″. Un deuxième IFU de haute résolution (utilisant la caméra à échantillonnage de pixels de 0,05″) est également désormais disponible en mode risques-partagés pour le prochain AdD 2024B. Ils peuvent être utilisés en mode optique adaptative avec Altair et, ensemble, sont destinés à remplacer le vénérable spectrographe de champ intégral dans le proche infrarouge (NIFS), qui a été retiré. Soit dit en passant, l’imageur proche infrarouge (NIRI) a également été retiré, mais GNIRS peut vous être utile, permettant l’imagerie en utilisant directement son champ en « trou de serrure ». Et bientôt dans le Nord nous aurons le nouveau spectrographe infrarouge à réseau en immersion (IGRINS-2), qui est essentiellement un clone de l’instrument visiteur IGRINS, qui quittera bientôt Gemini Sud. IGRINS-2 est un spectrographe efficace à haute résolution (R ~ 40 000 ; 1,49-2,46 microns), qui passera une phase de vérification scientifique en mai/juin. Restez à l’affût pour cela!

Initiatives pour étudiant.es et pour la sensibilisation

Nous avons quelques nouvelles intéressantes en particulier pour les étudiant.es qui envisagent d’utiliser Gemini prochainement- ou même si vous êtes simplement curieux.se. La première est le programme Shadow the Scientists qui propose des sessions interactives en direct avec de vrais astronomes faisant de la science sur des grands télescopes. Ce programme a récemment organisé plusieurs sessions à Gemini Nord (avec une autre à venir, le 27 mars). Il convient de noter que ce mode de «eavesdropping», c’est-à-dire la connection et visualisation à distance pendant une nuit, est déjà une option que Gemini offre à tous ses programmes réguliers cédulés dans la queue d’observation. Une autre nouvelle initiative est le programme d’Étudiant.es Visiteur.ses, qui paye pour qu’une sélection d’étudiant.es gradué.es qui ont un programme accepté dans le semestre régulier puissent venir visiter Gemini (Nord ou Sud au choix); idéalement, la visite est coordonnée pour qu’elle corresponde à la prise d’observations de leur programme. Veuillez trouver toutes les informations ici. L’objectif général est de permettre à quelques étudiants chaque semestre de rencontrer le personnel de Gemini, donner une conférence et se familiariser avec les opérations de l’observatoire sur place: le télescope, les instruments et aussi la réduction des données, etc. Cela s’est avéré très populaire pour le premier semestre pour lequel le programme était offert, en 2024A.