A Final Dispatch from the JCMT

By Gary Davis, Director JCMT
(Cassiopeia – Winter 2014)

Momentous changes are upon us: before the next Cassiopeia is issued, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope will change hands. The good news is that the JCMT will continue to operate under new East Asian management, potentially for many years, and will continue to deliver the innovative and high-impact science that has been its hallmark to date. Given the decision of the historical UK-Canada-Netherlands partnership to withdraw its support for the observatory, this is the best outcome that could possibly have been achieved.

The dissolution of the partnership began with the withdrawal of the Dutch agency NWO in March 2013. NRC Canada then withdrew on 30th September 2014, and I would like to record here my thanks to NRC and the Canadian community for their financial, technical, scientific and personnel contributions to the JCMT over more than 27 years. The JCMT has unquestionably been a stronger and more successful telescope over this period because of Canada’s participation. It is extremely gratifying to observe that Canada is now a partner of choice in submillimetre astronomy missions and experiments – Herschel, ALMA, BLAST and ACT to name a few, and potentially CCAT and SPICA in the future – and this is a direct consequence of the experience gained with the JCMT.

Confronted with these decisions from the Netherlands and Canada, the UK funding agency STFC decided in May 2012 that it could no longer support the operation of the JCMT beyond the date of Canadian withdrawal. It is a tautology to say that this was a profoundly disappointing decision for everyone associated with the observatory. In retrospect, however, it is a clear consequence of the funding pressures occasioned by mega-projects: although the details in the two cases are different, the withdrawals of both the Netherlands and Canada were driven by their commitments to ALMA.

My mission since then has been to find a new entity to take over the operation of the telescope. In previous issues of Cassiopeia I reported that an Announcement of Opportunity had been issued in June 2013, and that four Expressions of Interest had been received: one each from the UK and Canadian communities, one from Purple Mountain Observatory, and one from the East Asian Core Observatories Association (EACOA), an umbrella organisation representing astronomy research institutes in Taiwan, China, South Korea and Japan. It is particularly gratifying to me, as Director of the observatory, to note that the user communities in the UK and Canada are determined to retain their access to the JCMT: in Canada, this effort is being led by Christine Wilson. Following a workshop in Vancouver in December 2013, these interests were eventually consolidated into a single proposal, which was accepted by the University of Hawaii (UH) in June 2014. The actual transfer is now firmly scheduled to take place at midnight on 31st January 2015: the legal ownership of the facility will transfer from STFC to UH, and the telescope will be operated by EAO in partnership with the UK and Canadian communities. EAO is the East Asian Observatory, a non-profit corporation set up by EACOA in the State of Hawaii. All of the legal arrangements for this transaction are now being put in place. The transfer of the UK’s two world-leading telescopes (UKIRT and JCMT) to new management is, as far as I am aware, unprecedented in the history of observational astronomy.

In parallel with the legal arrangements, we have been working with EAO to ensure as far as possible a seamless transition of observatory operations. For example, the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) will continue to host the JCMT Science Archive for data taken under the historical partnership, and it is expected that they will also provide this service for data taken under the new management, at least in the short term. The observatory’s science support and scientific computing teams will be retained intact by EAO and will continue to be available to provide support to users, for both old and new observations.

From October 2012 to September 2014, Dr Doug Johnstone was seconded to the JCMT from NRC Herzberg and served as Associate Director. I am extremely grateful to Doug for agreeing to take on this challenging but vital position for two years, and for splitting his time between Hilo and his permanent residence in Victoria. His primary responsibilities were to oversee the JCMT Legacy Survey and the JCMT Science Archive, both of which he fulfilled admirably and with his usual infectious enthusiasm, and I think he even enjoyed the experience! Doug has now returned to his position as a staff scientist in the Radio Astronomy Programme at NRC Herzberg.

This is my last column for Cassiopeia after more than 12 years as Director of the JCMT. Following the transfer of the telescope at the end of January 2015, I will be moving to the UK to take up a new position as Director of Operations Planning for the SKA project. It is a challenge to which I look forward with enormous enthusiasm, not only because it will take me back to England, where I spent several happy years as a student and postdoc, but also because it will be a huge change of outlook to be involved at the early stages of an ambitious project rather than continually being on the defensive. I look back on my time at the JCMT with pride at what has been accomplished: three new instruments working extremely well (ACSIS, HARP and SCUBA-2), two more ready to be commissioned (POL-2 and FTS-2), a vibrant legacy survey programme producing frontier science across a wide range of astrophysics, a full-featured science archive in collaboration with CADC, and most recently of course a secure future for the observatory and its staff. It has been a labour of love.

Modèle d’évolution de galaxies pour simulations cosmologiques à grande échelle

Dr. Benoît Côté

Dr. Benoît Côté

Par/by Benoît Côté
Thèse défendue le 18 décembre 2014; Thesis defended on December 18th 2014
Département de physique, université Laval
Directeurs de thèse/thesis advisors: Hugo Martel & Laurent Drissen (U. Laval)

Résumé (English version follows)

Nous présentons un modèle semi-analytique (MSA) conçu pour être utilisé dans une simulation hydrodynamique à grande échelle comme traitement de sous-grille afin de générer l’évolution des galaxies dans un contexte cosmologique. Le but ultime de ce projet est d’étudier l’histoire de l’enrichissement chimique du milieu intergalactique (MIG) ainsi que les interactions entre les galaxies et leur environnement. À l’heure actuelle, le MSA inclut tous les ingrédients né- cessaires pour reproduire l’évolution des galaxies de faible masse et de masse intermédiaire. Cela comprend l’accrétion du halo galactique et du MIG, le refroidissement radiatif, la for- mation stellaire, l’enrichissement chimique et la production de vents galactiques propulsés par l’énergie mécanique et la radiation des étoiles massives, mais exclut l’effet d’un noyau actif galactique qui n’est important que pour les galaxies plus massives. La physique des bulles interstellaires est appliquée à chaque population d’étoiles qui se forme dans le modèle afin de relier l’activité stellaire à la production des vents galactiques propulsés par l’énergie mé- canique. Nous utilisons des modèles stellaires à jour pour générer l’évolution de chacune des populations d’étoiles en fonction de leur masse, de leur métallicité et de leur âge. Cela per- met d’inclure, dans le processus d’enrichissement, les vents stellaires des étoiles massives, les supernovae de Type II, Ib et Ic, les hypernovae, les vents stellaires des étoiles de faible masse et de masse intermédiaire sur la branche asymptotique des géantes ainsi que les supernovae de Type Ia. Avec ces ingrédients, notre modèle peut reproduire les abondances des éléments C, N, O, Na, Mg, Al, Si, S, Ca, Cr, Mn, Ni, Cu et Zn observées dans les étoiles du voisinage solaire. De manière plus générale, notre MSA peut reproduire la relation actuelle observée entre la masse stellaire des galaxies et la masse de leur halo de matière sombre. Il peut aussi reproduire la métallicité, la quantité d’hydrogène et le taux de formation stellaire spécifique observés dans les galaxies de l’Univers local en fonction de leur masse stellaire. Notre mo- dèle est également consistant avec les observations suggérant que les galaxies de faible masse sont davantage affectées par la rétroaction stellaire que les galaxies plus massives. De plus, le modèle peut reproduire les différents comportements, soit oscillatoire ou stable, observés dans l’évolution du taux de formation stellaire des galaxies. Tous ces résultats démontrent que notre MSA est suffisamment qualifié pour traiter l’évolution des galaxies de faible masse et de masse intermédiaire à l’intérieur d’une simulation cosmologique à grande échelle.


We present a semi-analytical model (SAM) designed to be used in a large-scale hydrodynamical simulation as a sub-grid treatment in order to generate the evolution of galaxies in a cosmolog- ical context. The ultimate goal of this project is to study the chemical enrichment history of the intergalactic medium (IGM) and the interactions between galaxies and their surrounding. Presently, the SAM takes into account all the ingredients needed to compute the evolution of low- and intermediate-mass galaxies. This includes the accretion of the galactic halo and the IGM, radiative cooling, star formation, chemical enrichment, and the production of galactic outflows driven by the mechanical energy and the radiation of massive stars, but excludes the effect of an active galactic nucleus which is only important for more massive galaxies. The physics of interstellar bubbles is applied to every stellar population which forms in the model in order to link the stellar activity to the production of outflows driven by mechanical energy. We use up-to-date stellar models to generate the evolution of each stellar population as a function of their mass, metallicity, and age. This enables us to include, in the enrichment process, the stellar winds from massive stars, Type II, Ib, and Ic supernovae, hypernovae, the stellar winds from low- and intermediate-mass stars in the asymptotic giant branch, and Type Ia supernovae. With these ingredients, our model can reproduce the abundances of C, N, O, Na, Mg, Al, Si, S, Ca, Cr, Mn, Ni, Cu, and Zn observed in the stars located in the solar neigh- borhood. More generally, our SAM reproduces the current stellar-to-dark-halo mass relation observed in galaxies. It can also reproduce the metallicity, the hydrogen mass fraction, and the specific star formation rate observed in galaxies as a function of their stellar mass. Our model is also consistent with observations which suggest that low-mass galaxies are more affected by stellar feedback than higher-mass galaxies. Moreover, the model can reproduce the periodic and the stable behaviors observed in the star formation rate of galaxies. All these results show that our SAM is sufficiently qualified to treat the evolution of low- and intermediate-mass galaxies inside a large-scale cosmological simulation.

Postdoctoral Position in Galaxy Clusters and Galaxy Evolution

Due by January 9, 2015.

Applications are invited for a postdoctoral position in the areas of high-redshift galaxy clusters and galaxy evolution at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics (DAA), University of Toronto. The successful candidate will work with Prof. Howard Yee and key team members (e.g., M. Balogh, U.Waterloo; A. Muzzin, Cambridge) on the analysis of high-redshift galaxy cluster observations from the GOREEN (Gemini Observations of Galaxies in Early Rich Environments) project.  GOGREEN is an ongoing Gemini Large Program which will obtain optical spectroscopy on hundreds of cluster members at z>1. The candidate is also expected to lead deep multi-band imaging observations to support this program. Additional scientific projects using data from the SpARCS and GCLASS surveys are also available, and the candidate will be encouraged to pursue his/her own research in related areas.  The position requires a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics. Expertise in optical/IR imaging and/or spectroscopic
data is required. The initial appointment is for two years, renewable for a third depending on performance.

The DAA has strong ties to the recently-found Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics and CITA.  The successful candidate will have access to Canadian national facilities such as CFHT and Gemini on a competitive basis.

Applicants should provide a cover letter, a CV, and a summary of research interests and accomplishments (3 pages maximum), and arrange to have three letters of reference sent to the above address, by January 9, 2015. Only electronic applications (in pdf files) are accepted.

McGill Space Institute Coordinator

Deadline is January 30, 2015.

McGill University has recently created the McGill Space Institute (msi.mcgill.ca) and requires a dynamic, outgoing individual to coordinate internal centre interactions and events, workshops, do administration including assistance with grant applications, reports and logistics, as well as organizing outreach events and initiatives for the McGill community and the general public.  The successful candidate with have a PhD in a field related to astrophysics, planetary science or astrobiology, and will be granted 25% of their time to work on research of direct relevance to cosmology, astrophysics, planetary science, or astrobiology.  Excellent communication skills are required; ability to communicate effectively in French is a strong asset.   Experience in outreach at all levels is also a strong asset. The position is for 2 years, with renewal by mutual agreement and contingent on funding.  Salary will be commensurate with experience.

Please email a CV, a 1-page written statement of interest, and names and contact information of 3 references, bundled into a single pdf file, to: vkaspi@physics.mcgill.ca.

The deadline for applications is January 30, 2015.

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply; however, in accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

Post-doctoral position in astrophysics at the Université de Montréal

Please submit before April 1, 2015.

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Québec (CRAQ) is opening a post-doctoral position at the Université de Montréal (Québec, Canada). The CRAQ is a collaborative research centre whose members include astrophysicists from the Université de Montréal, the Université Laval, McGill University, and Bishop’s University. The candidates are expected to carry out original research in a field of astrophysics overlapping with the research interests of the permanent faculty at the Université de Montréal, which include stellar astrophysics, exoplanets, solar physics, blackholes, extragalactic astronomy, and astronomical instrumentation (see http://craq-astro.ca/index_en.php for further information). A Ph.D. in physics or astronomy is required.

Potential candidates with the required expertise are encouraged to apply, and should send before April 1st, 2015 their CV, research proposal, cover letter and contact details of two referees (including email addresses) to Dr. Pierre Bergeron (bergeron@astro.umontreal.ca). The successful candidate could start as early as September 1st, 2015 and no later than January 1st, 2016. The position is for two years, with a possible extension of one year.

2015 U of T Summer Undergraduate Research Program

Deadline for applications is 30 January 2015.

2015 U of T Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Astronomy & Astrophysics

The third annual Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students in Astronomy, Physics and Engineering to prepare for a career in scientific research.

Over the 16-week program, students will:

• Experience what a career in research is like by independently conducting a project related to on-going astronomical research at U of T
• Collaborate with U of T astronomers
• Enhance their computing skills
• Improve their research writing and communication skills
• Learn about research being conducted at U of T
• Have an opportunity to participate in U of T public outreach activities

Students will be funded by the program and will work with astronomers from the Dunlap Institute, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics (DAA), or the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), depending on the student’s research interest, choice of institute, or choice of research project.

It is a unique opportunity to work within a group comprising three units with complementary expertise in observational research, astronomical instrumentation (Dunlap), and theoretical astrophysics (CITA).

The program runs from 4 May to 21 August, 2015.

The deadline for applications is 30 January, and the official offer date is 6 February.

For full details and to apply, visit:



Faculty Position in Exoplanetary Science at McGill University

Review of applications will begin 15 January 2015

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (www.mcgill.ca/eps) and the Department of Physics (www.physics.mcgill.ca) at McGill University invite applications for a joint tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor, beginning as early as September 2015 in the area of Exoplanetary Sciences. We encourage qualified individuals with relevant research interests in experimental, instrumentation, observational or theoretical aspects of exoplanetary sciences to apply.

This is the first of two faculty positions being created in support of the new McGill Space Institute, bringing together researchers in astrophysical, geological, atmospheric and astrobiological areas from multiple departments on campus. Existing complementary research strengths at McGill include early Universe cosmology, galaxy evolution and compact objects in the Department of Physics, as well as geology, astrobiology and atmospheric sciences in Earth and Planetary Science and other departments.

We seek candidates with a proven record of excellence in research and the capacity for excellence in teaching. The successful candidate will be supported by a generous start-up package. Applicants should submit a detailed curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching interests, and a research plan. They should also arrange for three letters of reference. All of these materials should be uploaded to http://dualcore.physics.mcgill.ca/FACULTY/

Review of applications will begin 15 January 2015, and continue until the position is filled. McGill University is committed to equity in employment.

All qualified applicants are encouraged to apply; however, in accordance with Canadian immigration requirements, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

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