ALMA Matters

Submitted by Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

Cycle 4 Proposal Call Pre-announcement

The JAO has issued a “Pre-announcement” for Cycle 4 proposals, the call for which is expected in March with deadline in April 2016. Among the new capabilities expected in Cycle 4 are:

  • at least 40 antennas in the 12m-Array, 10 in the 7-m Array, and 3 antennas in the Total Power array
  • ACA stand-alone proposals
  • 9 configurations with maximum baseline ranging from 155 m (all Bands), to 12.6 km for Bands 3, 4 & 6, 5.3 km for Band 7, and 2.7 km for Bands 8, 9 & 10
  • solar observing
  • millimetre-wave VLBI in collaboration with the Event Horizon Telescope

Cycle 4 Preparation

Shortly after the call is issued, the NRC Herzberg Millimetre Astronomy Group (MAG) will be holding web tutorials on proposing for ALMA. Details will be sent out in advance through the CASCA exploder and Canadian ALMA user email list (see below) for those who would like to participate. In addition, if your institution is interested in holding a local ALMA workshop, please contact gerald(dot)schieven(at) to discuss how the MAG can help.

Cycle 3 Canadian Statistics

Of the 1578 unique proposals submitted to ALMA for Cycle 3, 151 had some participation from people at Canadian institutions (36 as PI). Of these, 44 (6 PI) were awarded high priority (A or B) status, comprising 313 hours of the 2133 hours awarded (~15% of the total). In Cycles 1 and 2, projects with Canadian participation were awarded ~16% and ~11% of the total time respectively. Canadian PI projects were awarded ~18 hours in Cycle 3, roughly 2.6% of the North American allocated time. The number of Canadians involved in ALMA proposals is significant, with 55, 74, and 75 individuals as PI or co-I on all ALMA proposals in Cycle 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

As of October 25, there were 218 refereed publications using ALMA data. Of these, 37, or nearly 18% of the total, had authors or co-authors from Canadian institutions.

ALMA Development Studies

North America issued a call for proposals for ALMA development studies which were due in June 2015. A panel of highly qualified members of the astronomical community reviewed the study proposals. Seven Studies from 34 proposers representing ten institutions in the US and Canada fit within the funding envelope and were proposed for North American funding with the consent of the US National Science Foundation. One of the studies, “Digital Correlator and Phased Array Architectures for Upgrading ALMA”, involves participation by DRAO. Other approved proposals include studies to improve calibration in windows contaminated with atmospheric spectral lines, to enhance visualization of large data sets, and to improve the performance of ALMA’s SIS mixers. Funding will commence in 2016. Further details on these projects can be found in the December NRAO e-News.

Canadian ALMA Users’ email list

A new email distribution list has been created (to replace the previous list which was lost due to the cyber incursion at NRC) for Canadian users of ALMA. The moderated list will be used to distribute information of specific interest to the Canadian ALMA community. Please contact gerald(dot)schieven(at) to register for the list.

Data Reduction Party

NRAO is hosting a “Data Reduction Party” January 27-29, 2016, in Charlottesville, VA for people who have ALMA data and want to learn how to get the most science out of them. See this site for more details.

ALMA data reduction is very demanding on processing power and disk space. If you need assistance with ALMA data reduction in any capacity, the NRC Herzberg MAG may be able to help. Please contact Brenda Matthews (brenda(dot)matthews(at) for more information.

Launch of Astrosat

On Sept 28, ISRO launched India’s Astrosat observatory into its planned 600 km, 6 degree inclination orbit. The observatory comprises four X-ray telescopes, and two for UV and blue wavelengths. All instruments are co-aligned, and work simultaneously. Canada has a 5% time-share for providing the solar-blind detectors for UVIT – the UltraViolet Imaging Telescopes. The instruments are all operating, and the mission is in a 6-month period of commissioning and automating of operations. Instrument team demonstration-science observations will be released in April 2016, and team observations will continue until proposal-time observing begins in September. A call for the first Canadian proposals will be issued in ~March, and these may request observations from all instruments. CSA are funding an expert to support Canadian proposals and data processing for UVIT.

NGC 2336 - UVIT, NUV channel, res. = 1.2 arcsec.

NGC 2336 – UVIT, NUV channel, res. = 1.2 arcsec.

Astrosat offers a new and unique facility for Canadian research, and its performance appears to be excellent. UVIT in particular offers wide-field imaging in 3 simultaneous wavelength channels, with ~1” resolution, and a suite of filters and gratings. More
information may be found at this site.

The first UVIT observations were made on Dec 1, following a planned interval to allow for full outgassing. The operations efficiency and data handling are being ramped up slowly, as is normal for a complex space observatory, but the spacecraft and instruments are working well, in some cases exceeding specifications.

Submitted by John Hutchings
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

BRITE-Constellation News

Submitted by Gregg Wade
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)


BRITE-Constellation (where BRITE stands for BRIght Target Explorer) is a network of five nanosatellites operating in low Earth orbit, designed to explore the properties of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Figure 1 - The mission patch of the BRITE-Constellation mission.

Figure 1 – The mission patch of the BRITE-Constellation mission.

The BRITE mission is supported by three countries — Canada, Austria and Poland — where Canadian funding comes mainly from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the prime contractor is the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies – Spaceflight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL). The mission was planned to have 6 BRITE nanosats, a pair from each partner country, but one of the Canadian nanosats did not detach from the third stage of its launch vehicle.

Each BRITE nanosat (mass = 7 kg; dimensions 20 × 20 × 20 cm) has a 3-cm optical telescope feeding a CCD detector. The Constellation was designed to monitor photometrically through blue and red filters the brightness and temperature variations of stars generally brighter than V ~ 4 with precision, cadence and time coverage not possible from the ground. Each BRITE instrument has an enormous field-of-view: 24° square, large enough to encompass the entire constellation of Orion (but at a resolution of only about half an arcminute per pixel). That means BRITE-Constellation can collect data on several dozens of stars simultaneously.

The sample of the apparently brightest stars in the night sky is a sample dominated by the most intrinsically luminous stars in the Galaxy: hot massive stars at all evolutionary stages, and evolved intermediate-mass stars at the very end of their nuclear-burning phases. The main goals of BRITE-Constellation are to (1) measure the frequencies of pulsations (both acoustic and gravity modes) to probe the interiors and ages of stars through asteroseismology; (2) measure the rotational modulation of stars due to star spots carried across their disks; (3) search for exoplanets through transits; and (4) obtain light curves of massive eclipsing binaries. While goal (2) is often associated with cool solar-type stars, spots in the photospheres of luminous stars could be the sources of co-rotating interaction regions in the winds, possibly arising from magnetic subsurface convection in hot, massive stars.

Figure 2 - Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of the stars of brightest  apparent magnitude, V<4.5. These ∼ 600 stars are the primary BRITE targets.

Figure 2 – Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of the stars of brightest apparent magnitude, V<4.5. These ∼ 600 stars are the primary BRITE targets.[/caption] To develop the optimum data processing and reduction strategies, a BRITE Photometry Tiger Team (PHOTT) was assembled. PHOTT explored and compared various pipelines and ways to minimise data artifacts. To extract the maximum scientific value from the reduced BRITE photometry, the BRITE Ground-Based Observation Team (GBOT) organizes ground-based observing campaigns, primarily high-resolution, high-S/N spectroscopy of BRITE targets. A detailed overview of the scientific motivation of the mission, and technical aspects of the system, are provided by Weiss et al. (2015, PASP 126, 573).

Mission Status and Data Releases

Five of the planned six BRITE nanosats are currently operating in low-altitude (600-800 km) orbits. The first pair of BRITE nanosats (from Austria) were launched on 25 Feb 2013, and the Canadian BRITEs were launched in August 2014 aboard a Russian rocket. The sixth satellite currently remains unusable in a higher elliptical orbit due to a malfunction in the release mechanism of the Russian rocket third stage.

A new ground station capability has been developed at UBC and will soon come on-line, permitting greater data downlink capability.

[caption id="attachment_6337" align="alignright" width="300"]Figure 3 - The two Canadian BRITE nanosatellites (named "BRITE-Montreal", blue filter and "BRITE-Toronto", red filter), at UTIAS-SFL prior to shipment in 2014. Figure 3 – The two Canadian BRITE nanosatellites (named “BRITE-Montreal”, blue filter and “BRITE-Toronto”, red filter), at UTIAS-SFL prior to shipment in 2014.

Seven data releases to BRITE Target PIs have occurred so far. The first was a set of science commissioning data, including (1) about 5 months of quasi-continuous observation of 15 stars in Orion. Subsequent releases were 6-month campaigns of fields in (2) Centaurus and Lupus (30 stars), (3) Sagittarius (18 stars), (4) Cygnus (37 stars), and (5) Perseus (31 stars) . (6) Orion was observed again. Most recently, a field (7) in Vela and Puppis was observed (20 stars). Very soon, data from the recently-completed Scorpius, Cygnus-II and Cassiopeia/Cepheus fields will also be released.

The first BRITE science results have been accepted in refereed journals: a paper by Weiss et al. on the pulsating magnetic star alpha Cir. Weiss et al. (A&A, in press) report two-colour BRITE photometry of this roAp star, excluding quadrupolar modes for the main pulsation frequency, and reporting remarkable differences in the rotationally-modulated flux in the blue and red bandpasses.

Additional papers reporting results for hot, pulsating stars and classical Be stars have also recently been submitted for publication.

The first BRITE science conference, “Science with BRITE Constellation: Initial Results” took place during 14 – 18 September 2015 in Gdansk Sobieszewo, Poland. Presentations authorised for public release are available on the conference website.

A workshop related to a large-scale spectropolarimetric survey of BRITE targets was held at the Meudon
Observatory on October 26-30, with 19 participants. The BRITE spectropolarimetric survey is proceeding nominally, with expected completion in March 2016. Magnetic field has been detected in 47 stars so far, and follow-up observations are being acquired or planned for many of them. Two papers have already been published (Shultz et al. 2015, Neiner et al. 2015) and many others are in preparation. A second BRITE spectropolarimetric workshop will be organized from 14-18 November 2016 at the Meudon Observatory near Paris.

Figure 4 - Light curves of the eclipsing binary V Pup, observed as part of the BRITE Vela/Puppis field. Shown here is a 5-day interval of the BRITE-Austria (blue) and BRITE-Toronto (red) observations.

Figure 4 – Light curves of the eclipsing binary V Pup, observed as part of the BRITE Vela/Puppis field. Shown here is a 5-day interval of the BRITE-Austria (blue) and BRITE-Toronto (red) observations.

Mission Management and Contact

Executive decisions about the mission are made by the BEST (BRITE Executive Science Team), consisting of representatives from all three partner nations. The Canadian BEST members are Tony Moffat (BEST Chair, Université de Montréal), Jaymie Matthews (BEST vice-Chair, UBC), Slavek Rucinski (University of Toronto), and Gregg Wade (Royal Military College), with Jason Rowe (Université de Montréal) and Stefan Mochnacki (University of Toronto) serving as non-voting BEST members.

Setting priorities on BRITE targets and science goals was overseen by BEST, with input from the BRITE International Science Advisory Team (BIAST), consisting of 130 astronomers around the globe. Interested in joining BIAST, to participate in data analysis, and receive monthly mission updates? Please contact BEST through Tony Moffat (

Neiner, C.; Buysschaert, B.; Oksala, M.E.; Blazère, A., 2015, “Discovery of two new bright magnetic B stars: i Car and Atlas”, MNRAS 454, 56

Shultz, M.; Rivinius, Th.; Folsom, C. P.; Wade, G. A.; Townsend, R. H. D.; Sikora, J.; Grunhut, J.; Stahl, O.; and the MiMeS Collaboration, “The magnetic field and spectral variability of the He-weak star HR 2949”, 2015, MNRAS 449, 3945

Weiss, W.W.; Rucinski, S.M.; Moffat, A.F.J.; Schwarzenberg-Czerny, A.; Koudelka, O.F.; Grant, C.C.; Zee, R.E.; Kuschnig, R.; Mochnacki, St.; Matthews, J.M.; Orleanski, P.; Pamyatnykh, A.; Pigulski, A.; Alves, J.; Guedel, M.; Handler, G.; Wade, G.A.; Zwintz, K., 2014, “BRITE-Constellation: Nanosatellites for Precision Photometry of Bright Stars”, PASP 126, 573.

Weiss, W.W.; Frohlich, H.-E.; Pigulski, A.; Popowicz, A.; Huber, D.; Kuschnig, R.; Moffat, A.F.J.; Matthews, J.M.;, Saio, H.; Schwarzenberg-Czerny, A.; Grant, C; Koudelka, O.; Lueftinger, T.; Rucinski, S.; Wade, G.A.; Alves, J.; Guedel, M.; Handler, G.; Mochnacki, S.; Orleanski, P.;, Pablo, B.; Pamyatnykh, A.; Ramiaramanantsoa, T; Rowe, J.; Whittaker, G.; Zawistowski, T.; Zoconska, E.; Zwintz, K., 2015, “The roAp star alpha Cir seen by BRITE-Constellation”, A&A, in press.

Herschel-HIFI News

Submitted by Sylvie Beaulieu, Herschel-HIFI Instrument Support Scientist
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

Herschel Science Archive (HSA)

The latest Herschel Science Archive (v.7.0) was released on 28 October 2015. In this release, you will find links from individual observations to associated refereed publications. This new feature is accessible from the query result page in the HSA User Interface by selecting the “DETAILS & PUBLICATIONS” button, and then clicking on the tab “Publications”. Footprints for photometric observations (PACS & SPIRE) greatly improve the accuracy of geometrical searches. Remember that Herschel data are 100% in the public domain.

University of Waterloo Group News

Since last August, the group has welcomed a new member, Dr Scott Jones, who is a recent PhD graduate from Western University. Scott is helping with HIFI data processing and analysis.

Please note that the Herschel-HIFI Waterloo group will cease operation by the 31st of March 2016. Although no support will be available from that date via the Waterloo group, we will try to maintain the webpage and keep it as up-to-date as possible.

The implementation of the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library (HELL) is progressing well. A special one-week documentation retreat was held in October to allow a group of eight HIFI editors to concentrate on editing the HIFI Handbook, and several other documents that will join the HELL documentation repository. Permanent links to the ESA Herschel Project and to the Herschel Explanatory Legacy Library will be available through our webpage.

Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE)

While HIPE 13.0 is the current release, and HIFI_CAL_22_0 is the latest Calibration Tree, this autumn saw the last Astronomer Acceptance Testing for HIPE, with HIPE 14.0 due to be released to the community in mid-December 2015. HIFI_CAL_24_0 will also be released. We invite you to visit What’s New in HIPE for the changes in this new release and see below. Additional information can be found in the HIFI Instrument and Calibration page

HIFI Calibration

A new calibration tree has been implemented in HIPE 14.0. It contains substantial changes in the sideband ratio tables, as well as a complete intensity calibration uncertainty component model. The corresponding UncertaintyTable products are available in calibration -> Downlink -> Generic and were updated with the following uncertaintyType: HotLoadTemp, ColdLoadTemp, HotLoadCoupling, ColdLoadCoupling, SidebandRatio, OpticalStandingWavesLoads, OpticalStandingWavesDiplexer.

The new calibration tree also provides tables of spur warning channel flags for point and mapping modes. These flags are assigned based on a knowledgebase built out of the spur flags manually identified for spectral scans and populated in the calibration tree in HIPE 13.0.

The sideband ratio updates will imply changes in intensity at all frequencies in bands 1 to 4. No changes are expected in bands 5 to 7.

The identifyLines task was updated with the following: implementation of threading to speed up the task, improvements of the rejection of false detected lines, changes on the Herschel Spectral Line List columns names, implementation of the image band line identification for pointed and mapping observations, fix to the RMS computation, and the implementation of the exportLines task.

Level 2 Pipeline

For DBS Raster maps, the Level 2 spectra are no longer averaged – this was already the case for OTF maps; Introduction of a new calibration output providing a frequency-dependent intensity calibration uncertainty budget; Assignment of spur warning channel flag for all point and mapping modes.

Level 2.5 Pipeline

Changes to the output of the Deconvolution task: the single-sideband spectrum is now contained in a Spectrum1d called “dataset” (it was called “ssb” up to HIPE 13).

HIFI products

Flags are now applied to OFF spectra as well; Generation of a browse image for the reference spectra, when the option useReferenceSpectra is set to true; The FITS header keywords have been revamped in order to provide proper nicknames to the parameters featured in those headers.

Standing Wave removal

New parameter addMedianContinuum: allow the median continuum to be added back into the baseline fit flux [DEFAULT: False].

Baseline removal

New parameter addMedianContinuum: allow the median continuum to be added back into the baseline fit flux but only performs well for basemode=’sub’ and not basemode=’div’ [DEFAULT: False].


The output deconvolution product ssb is now called dataset (please note that scripts prior to this change will break).

HiClass Export tool

Although this is not an HCSS development, it should be noted that GILDAS/Class now reads the HCSS-generated FITS without needing any prior conversion as it used to be the case using the HiClass task.


With this latest release, you have access to the latest documentation updates for both the HIFI Data Reduction Guide, and the HIFI Pipeline Specification Manual. Specifically, you will find a revamp of the chapter “Flags in HIFI data”, section Quality Flags, and a new chapter called “Understanding the uncertainty table information in your data” has been added to the HIFI Data Reduction Guide.

Conferences, workshops and webinars related to Herschel

The University of Waterloo Herschel-HIFI Support Group is committed to assisting you with accessing data through the Herschel Science Archive (HSA) and in using the Herschel Interactive Processing Environment (HIPE) to process your data. Please do not hesitate to contact us. Our webpage has a dedicated page on Data Processing.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

Submitted by Patrick Hall, MSE Advisory Group member
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

mse-logo2Design work for the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) continues apace.

The MSE Science Requirements Document

The MSE Science Requirements Document (SRD) was formally configured in October after a 12 month effort by the international science team to revisit the basic science drivers of the facility and identify the key science enabling capabilities. The SRD is the top level requirement document that gives a clear direction for the conceptual design phase; all other technical documents flow from the SRD. Engineers are therefore working to the requirements set out in this document, and changes to it are made through a formal review and approval process.

The SRD will shortly be available for download at the “Documents” page of the MSE webpages. In parallel, an exposure draft of the Detailed Science Case – providing the scientific narrative of the science cases and context from which the SRD has been derived – is being finalised and will be available for download in the first quarter of 2016.

Activities of MSE’s International Engineering Team

MSE’s International Engineering Team met for a second time, on 14-16 October 2015 at the original Paris Observatory. This meeting was graced by a number of new participants, including those from Spain, Lausanne Switzerland, Durham England, Lyon France and Meudon France. The workshop included discussion of the overall system architecture and the work packages designing the major subsystems.

Discussions at CFHT’s board meeting

This month’s CFHT Board meeting includes a full afternoon session devoted to MSE. Discussion will include the design work distribution, plans for science case review, operations planning, engineering status, budget and resources, and governance models.

Spain interested in joining the MSE collaboration

Spain, as represented by Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) and Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), have recently expressed a strong interest in joining the MSE collaboration. Letters of collaboration are expected imminently. Furthermore, Spain has offered to host the next MSE Team Collaboration Workshop, at La Palma. More details in the next Cassiopeia!

CFI proposal plans

A CFI proposal is being planned to support strong Canadian participation in the design and construction of MSE instruments and subsystems. If you are interested in being part of such a proposal and haven’t already been contacted, please contact Patrick Hall at

Web sites

MSE Website
MSE Overview

Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg/NRC Herzberg News

By/par Dennis Crabtree (NRC-Herzberg)
with contributions from/avec des contributions de Chris Willott

(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

La version française suit

These reports will appear in each issue of Cassiopeia with the goal of informing the Canadian astronomical community on the activities at NRC Herzberg.

Feedback is welcome from community members about how NRC Herzberg is doing in fulfilling our mandate to “operate and administer any astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada” (NRC Act).

Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC)

CanTAC met in October/November by a series of telecons to discuss and rank CFHT and Gemini proposals for semester 2016A. The CanTAC SuperChair for this meeting was Kristine Spekkens (RMC), while the Galactic panel chair was Stanimir Metchev (Western) and the Extragalactic panel chair was Scott Chapman (Dalhousie). Dennis Crabtree continues to serve as the technical secretary.

The full list of CanTAC members for the November meeting was:

Galactic Extragalactic
David Bohlender (Herzberg) Arif Babul (Victoria)
Christopher Johns-Krull (Rice) Peter Capak (Caltech)
Stanimir Metchev (Western) Scott Chapman (Dalhousie)
Leslie Rogers (Caltech) Alan McConnachie (NRC Herzberg)
Samar Safi-Harb (Manitoba) Kristine Spekkens (RMC)
Ingrid Stairs (UBC) Ludo van Waerbake (UBC)
Peter Stetson (Herzberg)

For Semester 2016AB CanTAC received 40 CFHT proposals (25 Galactic and 15 Extragalactic) and 46 Gemini proposals (26 Galactic and 20 Extragalactic). There was a total of 615 hours requested on CFHT and 606 hours on Gemini. The subscription rates were 2.73 for CFHT, 2.6 for Gemini North and 3.2 for Gemini South.

The demand for both telescopes increased significantly from the last semester although the trend of receiving more Galactic than Extragalactic proposals continues. CanTAC felt the quality of proposals was quite high this semester.


The CADC developed the CANFAR (Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research) computing infrastructure system for astronomers. CANFAR provides its users easy access to very large resources for both storage and processing, using a cloud based framework. The current system uses a mix of internal CADC resources and Compute Canada’s national computing resources to store and make available approximately a Petabyte of observational data, as well as significant computing resources.

NRC Herzberg received NRC investment money to enable the transfer of the bulk of the hardware and service needs of the CANFAR Network Enabled Platform from NRC-Herzberg to Compute Canada. The CADC has worked with Compute Canada to develop a detailed statement of work for the CADC/CANFAR/CC Transition Project (C3TP). This is a shared co-development project in which Compute Canada will develop generic cloud and data services which can be used by a suitably modified CANFAR system to provide specific functionality to CADC’s community. The CADC will work with Compute Canada to design these generic services.


The Canadian FGS/NIRISS leads discussing detector tuning data at the JWST Cryo-Vacuum 3 Test at Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland in November 2015. From left to right, René Doyon (FGS/NIRISS Principal Investigator, Université de Montréal), Begoña Vila (CV3 Test Lead, NASA), Chris Willott (FGS/NIRISS Instrument Scientist, NRC) and Neil Rowlands (FGS/NIRISS Project Scientist at COM DEV International).

The Canadian FGS/NIRISS leads discussing detector tuning data at the JWST Cryo-Vacuum 3 Test at Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland in November 2015. From left to right, René Doyon (FGS/NIRISS Principal Investigator, Université de Montréal), Begoña Vila (CV3 Test Lead, NASA), Chris Willott (FGS/NIRISS Instrument Scientist, NRC) and Neil Rowlands (FGS/NIRISS Project Scientist at COM DEV International).

It is an exciting time in the JWST project with activities on several fronts in the integration and testing phase of the observatory development. The four science instruments are midway through the third and final Cryo-Vacuum Test (CV3) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland. This 3 month long test at 40K simulates the conditions of the observatory in orbit, putting the instruments through a series of thermal, electrical and optical tests to provide flight-like data for verification and calibration. The Canadian FGS/NIRISS instrument team from the Université de Montréal, National Research Council, Canadian Space Agency, Space Telescope Science Institute and prime contractor COM DEV International are heavily involved in supporting these tests which run 24/7 for the 3 month period. At the time of writing, activities are progressing well and on schedule.

Another exciting event taking place now is the integration of the 18 primary mirror segments onto the telescope structure. Each hexagonal segment is made of lightweight beryllium with a very thin gold coating and measures 1.3 metres across. A robotic arm is used to lift and position each mirror. All 18 primary segments and the secondary mirror will be in place early in 2016. After that the fully-verified instrument module is to be installed onto the telescope.

In October 2015 the European Space Agency hosted a conference titled “Exploring the Universe with JWST”. This meeting brought together scientists from around the world to discuss how JWST will be used to tackle their science questions. Presentations can be found online at .

There is also a lot going on with the JWST ground system, in particular the pipeline, calibration and commissioning plans for the science instruments. The Canadian team is very active in all these areas to ensure that the powerful science modes of NIRISS are capitalized upon. With parallel observing now approved by the project, significant work is underway to see how NIRISS can be used in parallel to significantly enhance the efficiency of the observatory.

JWST will be launched into a halo orbit around L2 on an Ariane V rocket in October 2018.

Les rubriques qui suivent reviendront dans chaque numéro du bulletin et ont pour but de tenir les astronomes canadiens au courant des activités de CNRC Herzberg.

Les commentaires des astronomes sur la manière dont CNRC Herzberg accomplit sa mission, c’est-à-dire « assurer le fonctionnement et la gestion des observatoires astronomiques mis sur pied ou exploités par l’État canadien » (Loi sur le CNRC), sont les bienvenus.

Comité canadien d’attribution du temps d’observation (CanTAC)

Les membres du CanTAC se sont entretenus en octobre/novembre dans le cadre d’une série de téléconférences afin d’examiner et d’ordonner les demandes du semestre 2016A se rapportant aux observatoires TCFH et Gemini. Kristine Spekkens (RMC), qui agissait à titre de super-présidente à cette occasion, était appuyée par Stanimir Metchev (Western) à la tête du Groupe galactique et Scott Chapman (Dalhousie) à la tête du Groupe extragalactique. Dennis Crabtree continue de servir de secrétaire technique au Comité.

Voici la liste complète des membres du CanTAC qui ont assisté à la réunion de novembre :

Groupe galactique Groupe extragalactique
David Bohlender (Herzberg) Arif Babul (Victoria)
Christopher Johns-Krull (Rice) Peter Capak (Caltech)
Stanimir Metchev (Western) Scott Chapman (Dalhousie)
Leslie Rogers (Caltech) Alan McConnachie (NRC Herzberg)
Samar Safi-Harb (Manitoba) Kristine Spekkens (RMC)
Ingrid Stairs (UBC) Ludo van Waerbake (UBC)
Peter Stetson (Herzberg)

Le CanTAC a reçu 40 demandes pour le TCFH (25 du Groupe galactique et 15 du Groupe extragalactique), pour le semestre 2016B, et 46 pour l’observatoire Gemini (26 du Groupe galactique et 20 du Groupe extragalactique), ce qui correspond à un total de 615 heures dans le premier cas et de 606 heures dans le second. Les taux d’adhésion étaient de 2,73 pour le TCFH, de 2,6 pour Gemini Nord et de 3,2 pour Gemini Sud.

La demande de temps d’observation aux télescopes a sensiblement augmenté comparativement au semestre précédent, bien que l’on continue de recevoir plus de requêtes du Groupe galactique que du Groupe extragalactique. Le CanTAC estime que les demandes soumises ce semestre se démarquaient par leur très grande qualité.


Le CCDA a mis au point l’infrastructure informatique CANFAR (réseau évolué du Canada pour la recherche en astronomie) destinée aux astronomes. CANFAR permet à ses utilisateurs d’accéder aisément à de très vastes ressources de stockage et de traitement des données par l’infonuagique. Le système actuel combine les ressources internes du CCDA et les installations nationales de Calcul Canada pour entreposer environ un pétaoctet d’observations et les mettre à la disposition des chercheurs, avec d’importantes ressources en calcul.

CNRC Herzberg a obtenu des fonds du CNRC pour que le gros des besoins en matériel et en services de la plateforme qu’habilite le réseau CANFAR soit confié à Calcul Canada. De concert avec cet organisme, le CCDA a élaboré un énoncé des travaux détaillé pour le projet de transition CCDA/CANFAR/CC (PTC3), projet de développement conjoint en vertu duquel Calcul Canada mettra au point des services de données et d’infonuagique génériques auxquels on accédera par le système CANFAR après son adaptation, et qui offriront des fonctionnalités précises aux membres du CCDA. Le CCDA collaborera avec Calcul Canada pour créer les services génériques en question.


Novembre 2015: le noyau de l’équipe FGS/NIRISS discute des ajustements de détecteur dans le cadre de la troisième campagne de tests (CV3) des instruments du JWST qui ont cours au Goddard Space Flight Centre de la NASA (MD, É.U). Dans l’ordre habituel, René Doyon (chercheur principal du FGS/NIRISS; Université de Montréal), Begoña Vila (leader des tests CV3, NASA), Chris Willott (scientifique responsable de l’instrument FGS/NIRISS; NRC-H) et Neil Rowlands (scientifique responsable du projet FGS/NIRISS chez COM DEV International).

Novembre 2015: le noyau de l’équipe FGS/NIRISS discute des ajustements de détecteur dans le cadre de la troisième campagne de tests (CV3) des instruments du JWST qui ont cours au Goddard Space Flight Centre de la NASA (MD, É.U). Dans l’ordre habituel, René Doyon (chercheur principal du FGS/NIRISS; Université de Montréal), Begoña Vila (leader des tests CV3, NASA), Chris Willott (scientifique responsable de l’instrument FGS/NIRISS; NRC-H) et Neil Rowlands (scientifique responsable du projet FGS/NIRISS chez COM DEV International).

Le projet JWST traverse un moment palpitant, car les activités se multiplient sur plusieurs fronts dans la phase d’intégration et d’essais de l’observatoire. Les quatre instruments scientifiques en sont à mi-chemin du troisième et dernier essai cryogénique sous vide (CV3) au Goddard Space Flight Center de la NASA, au Maryland. Cette épreuve de trois mois, réalisée à la température de 40 K, simule les conditions d’un observatoire spatial, ce qui obligera les instruments à subir une batterie de tests thermiques, électriques et optiques, et à fournir des données semblables à celles qui seront acquises en orbite, en vue de leur vérification et d’un étalonnage. L’équipe de l’instrument canadien FGS/NIRISS, composée de membres de l’Université de Montréal, du Conseil national de recherches, de l’Agence spatiale canadienne, du Space Telescope Science Institute et de COM DEV International, le maître d’œuvre, est fortement impliquée dans ces tests qui dureront trois mois, sans interruption. Au moment où j’écris ceci, les activités progressent bien et aucun retard n’a été enregistré.

Un autre fait fort intéressant en train de se produire concerne l’intégration des dix-huit éléments du miroir primaire à l’armature du télescope. Mesurant 1,3 m de diamètre, chaque partie hexagonale du miroir est composée de béryllium, métal très léger, et recouvert d’une mince couche d’or. Un bras robotisé soulève et place chaque élément. Les 18 sections du miroir primaire et le miroir secondaire devraient être en place au début de 2016. Suivra l’installation du module instrumental, après les vérifications d’usage.

En octobre 2015, l’Agence spatiale européenne organisait un colloque qui avait pour thème l’exploration de l’univers avec le JWST. Des scientifiques du monde entier y ont assisté, anxieux de savoir comment on utiliserait le JWST pour répondre à leurs questions. Les exposés donnés au colloque peuvent être consultés au

Beaucoup de choses se passent également du côté des installations terrestres du JWST, notamment le pipeline, l’étalonnage des instruments scientifiques et les plans en vue de leur mise en service. L’équipe canadienne s’active fort dans tous ces domaines pour s’assurer qu’on exploitera toute la puissance des modes scientifiques du NIRISS. Les observations en parallèle ayant désormais été autorisées dans le cadre du projet, on a entrepris d’importants travaux pour établir si le NIRISS pourrait être utilisé en parallèle afin de rehausser sensiblement l’efficacité du télescope.

Le JWST sera lancé sur son orbite en halo autour de L2 avec une fusée Ariane V en octobre 2018.

President’s Report


By Chris Wilson, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Hivers/Winter 2015)

Hi, everyone,

Well, the end of term is in sight but like many of you, I am still swamped with marking and student meetings. So this will again be a short report noting a few important highlights.

Our next annual meeting will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The graduate student workshop will be on May 30th, 2016 with the CASCA meeting itself May 31st – June 2nd, 2016. The meeting will be held at the historic Fort Garry Hotel, located in the heart of Winnipeg, within easy walking distance of many attractions such as The Forks and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. More information is available on the meeting web site. Registration will open in January.

Work on the report from the Mid-Term Review panel is well underway; the committee estimates that roughly 90% of the document has been written. The panel is holding weekly telecons and I think the report is converging quite quickly. While there is a certain amount of polishing that will be needed, the panel is working to have the full report completed early in the new year.

I am sure that many of you continue to follow the latest news on the TMT from Hawai`i. In early December, the Hawai`i Supreme Court invalidated the Conservation District Use Permit issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii – Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea. This means that TMT will need to apply for a new permit in Hawai`i in order to build on the Maunakea site, with September 2016 the earliest possible date on which a new permit could be obtained. We continue to monitor the situation and will share information as it becomes available and can be made public.

Members of the ACURA Advisory Committee on the SKA helped to organize a workshop on “Canada and the SKA” that was held at the University of Toronto December 10-11, 2015. The meeting was an opportunity for the Canadian community to assess its main interests and activities for the SKA, and to identify areas for synergy and coordination. There was good turnout by astronomers from a number of Canadian universities and NRC-Herzberg, as well as participation by a number of potential industrial partners and a number of international astronomers as well. If you missed the workshop, the talks are expected to be made available soon on the conference web site.

The CASCA Board held two meetings this fall, a short one in October and our longer mid-year meeting in December. These meetings are held electronically to save time and travel costs. We also discuss issues as they arise via email and igloo (a community forum software). The new Diversity and Inclusivity Committee has been established; its first chair is Dr. Brenda Matthews from NRC-Herzberg and you can find the membership and terms of reference on the CASCA web site. Another task at this time of year is identifying new members to serve on CASCA committees: a big thank you to everyone who has agreed to serve our community in this way!

One of the major areas of discussion over the past 18 months has been the Westar trust and the Westar Lectureship. In my previous report, I described how the Board had committed a portion of the income from the Westar funds to support the Discover the Universe Initiative. A big focus over the next 6 months will be working to re-establish the Westar Lectureship series. The Westar lectures occurred quite regularly in the 2000s but as far as I can tell was overtaken in 2009 by the International Year of Astronomy and never restarted. The CASCA Board is working with our EPO committee and Discover the Universe to implement a new model that combines a Westar lecture by an astronomer with hands-on teacher training activities offered by Discover the Universe. Expect to see a call for volunteers in early 2016.

Happy holidays!

JWST Early Release Science Program: A Survey to Gauge Community Interests

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled for launch in October 2018, and the first call for proposals will be released in 2017. The Space Telescope Science Institute, following the recommendations of the JWST Advisory Committee (, is now defining the parameters for an Early Release Science (ERS) program.

The primary objective of the ERS program is to provide community access to a broad suite of JWST science observations as early as possible in Cycle 1. The observing programs will be chosen by peer review to provide representative datasets and to address technical challenges related to the major instrumental modes available on JWST. ERS observations are expected to seed initial discovery and to inform Cycle 2 proposals, which will be submitted just months after the start of Cycle 1.

We are gathering community input to inform our preparations for the program and invite your participation in our brief survey at The survey will be open until 15 January 2016 and consists of four pages; it should take 10-15 minutes to complete.

More information on the general framework and timeline for the ERS program can be found on the ERS webpage ( Questions and/or comments are welcome via email (jwst_ers [at]

2016 U of T Astronomy Summer Undergraduate Research Program

We are now accepting applications for the annual Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Our SURP 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 2 May to 19 August, 2016.

The deadline for applications is 29 January, and the official offer date is 5 February.

For full details and to apply, visit: