Cassiopeia Newsletter – 2018 Autumnal Equinox / Equinoxe d’automne


In this issue:

ALMA Matters
BRITE-Constellation Mission Update
Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) / Compte rendu de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC)
Update on CASTOR
CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope
Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien
NRC Herzberg News / Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg
Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update
Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update
Westar Lectureship Call-Out
A CASCA Westar-Visit to Ashcroft and Cache Creek
York University Update

Editor: Joanne Rosvick

Cassiopeia is CASCA’s quarterly Newsletter, published on or near the solstices and equinoxes (March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21). To submit a contribution please email All submissions must be received at least one week in advance to be published in the next edition. I accept plain text and Word documents. Note that the formatting of your document will not be preserved. Please include any images as attachments in your email, not embedded in the text. Please include URLs in parentheses next to the word or phrase that you wish to act as link anchors.

Cassiopeia est le bulletin d’information de la CASCA, publié quatre fois par année, aux solstices et aux équinoxes (21 mars, 21 juin, 21 septembre et 21 décembre). Pour soumettre un article, écrivez à Les soumissions doivent être reçues au moins une semaine avant la parution. J’accepte les fichiers en format texte (ascii) et Word. Veuillez noter que la mise-en-page de votre document ne sera pas conservée. Veuillez faire parvenir vos images en pièces jointes à votre courriel plutôt que de les insérer dans votre article. Pour les liens à des sites internets, veuillez inclure l’adresse entre parenthèses à côté du mot ou de la phrase devant servir d’ancre.

Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté and / et John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The extended Science Maturation Study reported in the June Cassiopeia has its mid-contract review at CSA on Sept 12. Some 35 science cases, ranging from solar system to cosmology, have been developed and fed into defining requirements for instrumentation, orbit, operations, and data handling. A nominal suite of legacy and PI-type programs has been used to define a design minimum lifetime of 5 years.

Technical work has included reviewing updated detector options, bandpasses for UV, u and g, guiding to achieve 0.15″ images, laser and X-band communications, solar panel and power requirements, spectroscopic options, on- and off-axis optical designs, and optical components.

Work has continued towards substantial potential partnerships with JPL and IIA in India, with nominal ideas for hardware contributions as well as science interests. A group in the UK is also eager to join, and has sought funding. Some key funding decisions should emerge within the next year.

Work is proceeding well, and a well-developed and costed mission is expected by the end of the work, next March. CASTOR remains a substantial goal for CSA, and the Space Advisory Board and the Coalition for astronomy have it in their lobbying considerations with the government. The upcoming wide-field and space astronomy workshops in Waterloo and U de Montréal will be opportunities to discuss the project in the broad Canadian context.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

Science Forum

Registration has now opened for the next TMT Science Forum, to be held December 10-12 in Pasadena, California. Please note that registration is free for students and members of the International Science Development Teams (ISDTs). In addition, ACURA has agreed to provide some travel support for University-based researchers who wish to attend this meeting, given its importance to the future success of TMT. To apply for this funding, please email with a short description of your involvement in TMT, and your need for funding support.

Among other things, the Science Forum is an excellent opportunity for ISDT members to meet face to face. With Canada recently stepping up to join these ISDTs at an appropriate level, this is the time to take advantage of that membership to ensure your science interests are represented as TMT develops.


The TMT Science Advisory Committee (SAC) is meeting Sept 12-13, and one of their main agenda items is to discuss progress with the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph (WFOS) design. The instrument team continues to work on advancing two possible designs: one using traditional slitmasks (Xchange) and another using optical fibers, over a wider field of view. At a recent, independent cost review, both instruments were found to significantly exceed the $50M cost cap when appropriate contingency is included. A subcommittee has been evaluating the scientific implications of proposed descope options for both designs, and will be reporting to the SAC at this meeting.

The other item before the SAC is a report from a subcommittee that has been considering white paper submissions for the next instrument to be constructed, after WFOS and IRIS. The SAC is in the process of reviewing and prioritizing the submissions, with a goal of identifying one or more studies for possible design funding.

Of likely relevance to future instrumentation discussion will be the Exoplanet Science Strategy report recently released by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The full report is available here. In particular, it recognizes the pivotal role that both TMT and GMT will play in the study of planet formation, and recommends that the National Science Foundation (NSF) invest in both the GMT and TMT and their exoplanet instrumentation to provide all-sky access to the U.S. community.

Funding and Construction Developments

In August, the Hawai’i Supreme Court ruled in favour of TMT regarding the case of the sublease. The issue at stake here was a possible requirement to conduct a contested case hearing for the granting of the sublease, as was done earlier this year for the Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP). The court ruled, unanimously, that a contested case hearing is not required for the sublease.

The remaining case before the Supreme Court is the appeal of the Land Board’s decision to award the CDUP itself. A decision is expected in the coming weeks, hopefully before the Board meeting in October. Coincidentally, the permitting process for the alternative site in the Canary Islands (ORM) is expected to conclude, following unanticipated bureaucratic delays.

As recently announced, the US community is now working under the leadership of NOAO to prepare a proposal for US participation in both TMT and GMT. If this is well received by the US Decadal planning process, it may pave the way for substantial (25%) NSF involvement in the project. A potential complication is that NSF participation will likely trigger the need for a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Depending on how this is staged, it could lead to further delays. No such EIS would likely be required for construction on ORM, La Palma. The Board is expected to make a site recommendation this October. CATAC will be revisiting our site selection report and recommendations from May 2017 to identify anything that might have changed or need more research, so that we can reaffirm or modify our recommendations as necessary. Continued input to CATAC on this important issue is still welcome.

Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) / Compte rendu de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC)

By / par Denis Laurin (Senior Program Scientist, Space astronomy, Space Exploration Development, Canadian Space Agency)

(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The English version follows

Bienvenue à Dre Sarah Gallagher, nouvelle conseillère scientifique à l’ASC

Le 12 septembre, notre ministre de l’Innovation, des Sciences et du Développement économique, l’honorable Navdeep Bains a annoncé la nomination de Dre Sarah Gallagher de l’Université Western à titre de première conseillère scientifique de l’Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC). Pendant son mandat de deux ans, elle partagera son temps entre ses travaux à l’Université Western et son travail à l’Agence. Dre Gallagher relèvera directement au Président de l’Agence de précieux conseils qui détermineront les futures orientations du Canada dans le domaine des sciences spatiales. Elle collaborera étroitement avec la conseillère scientifique en chef du Canada, Dre Mona Nemer, pour veiller au maintien de l’intégrité scientifique, à l’ouverture des données et à la prise de décisions fondées sur la science au sein du gouvernement. Dre Gallagher contribuera à la promotion des sciences spatiales auprès des Canadiens et verra à faire connaitre leurs retombées dans la vie de tous les jours. Elle entrera officiellement en fonction à l’Agence le 1er octobre 2018.

Études en astronomie spatiale supportées par l’ASC

Au cours de cette année, le programme d’exploration spatiale de l’ASC a préparé des appels d’offres pour des propositions ciblant des études permettant d’évaluer de nouvelles idées de missions alignées avec les priorités de nos communautés scientifiques. Ces priorités ont été définies au moyen de consultations, de l’atelier ACES 2016 et des équipes thématiques de l’ASC, ce qui a culminé avec la rédaction du rapport “Canadian Space Exploration – Science and Space Health priorities for Next Decade and Beyond” 2017 ( L’ASC et Services Publics et Approvisionnement Canada (SPAC) avaient affiché plusieurs demandes de propositions (DP) en astronomie spatiale et en exploration planétaire et, au moyen d’un processus compétitif, ont sélectionné les études présentées ci-dessous.

Seules les études d’astronomie spatiale sont listées, avec le responsable scientifique entre parenthèses, en ordre de la date de début du contrat:

  • Étude de contribution de mission pour LiteBIRD, par univ. McGill (Matt Dobbs), janv. 2018, 9 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique pour CASTOR, par Honeywell et CNRC (Pat Côté), janv. 2018, 15 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique « Photometric Observations of Extrasolar Planets”, par univ. Bishops’ (Jason Rowe), mai 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de maturation scientifique pour LiteBIRD, par univ. McGill (Matt Dobbs), juin 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de concept Colibri (télescope à rayons X haute résolution), par UBC (Jeremy Heyl), sept. 2018, 16 mois
  • Étude de concept EPPE “Extrasolar Planet Polarimetry Explorer”, par Magellan et UWO (Stan Metchev), sept. 2018, 15 mois

Les études combinent un soutien industriel et un leadership académique.

Au moment d’écrire ces textes, l’étude CASTOR vient de terminer sa revue à mi-parcours. Il s’est tenu au siège de l’ASC avec la participation de 23 membres de l’équipe de l’étude. Cette étude a le but d’analyser non seulement les objectifs scientifiques, mais aussi leurs impacts sur la conception de la mission et ses instruments, et devrait fournir des informations importantes à des fins de planification, y compris pour le prochain Plan à Long Terme.

Subvention VITES en astronomie spatiale

L’avis d’offre de participation VITES 2017 conclut son processus et des accords de subvention sont en préparation. Voir la page Web de FAST AO pour un rappel des objectifs de ce programme.

Au moment de la rédaction de ce texte, tous les accords de subvention des propositions sélectionnés n’avaient pas été finalisés. Il n’est donc pas possible de fournir la liste des subventions octroyées à ce stage, mais elle sera disponible et rendue publique fin octobre (voir le lien ci-dessus). Il y aura possiblement un résumé des projets dans le prochain numéro de Cassiopée.

Autre support de planification de l’ASC

Le secteur de l’Exploration spatiale de l’ASC continue d’aider la communauté à identifier les opportunités et partenariats potentiels futurs. L’ASC fournit un appui à la participation aux équipes de définition de la science et de la technologie (STDT) de la NASA ainsi que pour d’autres propositions de mission intéressant la communauté. Ce support est géré par l’Université St-Mary’s. L’ASC prévoit également d’appuyer le processus du processus du Plan à long terme (PLT 2020).

ASTROSAT (Jean Dupuis, John Hutchings)

ASTROSAT approche la fin de la troisième année d’opération et plusieurs astronomes canadiens en font l’utilisation et ont soumis des demandes de temps d’observation dans le cadre des appels pour propositions publiés par l’ISRO. Prenez note que le problème avec le détecteur NUV d’UVIT est toujours présent rendant ce canal inutilisable pour le moment, mais les canaux FUV et VIS restent disponibles. Les autres instruments sont toujours opérationnels, mais avec des dégradations mineures. Veuillez contacter Joe Postma (University of Calgary, pour plus de détails et de l’assistance. Les observateurs canadiens ayant obtenu du temps d’observation pendant le cycle A04 seront contactés sous peu par l’ASC au sujet de la disponibilité de subventions pour soutenir l’analyse des données ASTROSAT (point de contact pour les subventions à l’ASC est Jean Dupuis).

JWST (Jean Dupuis, Chris Willott, René Doyon)

Un report du lancement de JWST au mois de mars 2021 a été annoncé par la NASA ce qui a entraîné le report de la date de soumission des demandes de temps du cycle 1 d’observations au printemps 2020. Plus de détails au sujet du calendrier du cycle 1 seront fournis au courant des prochains mois. Entre temps, nous encourageons fortement les futurs utilisateurs de JWST de profiter de ce délai afin de mieux se familiariser avec les nombreuses modes d’observations offertes par la suite d’instruments disponibles sur JWST ainsi qu’avec les logiciels disponibles (ETC, APT, etc.) pour la préparation des demandes de temps. De nombreuses ressources sont disponibles afin d’assister les astronomes dans le développement de leurs demandes de temps à STScI (voir ici) et l’équipe scientifique canadienne de JWST est prête à vous aider! Nous tenons également à souhaiter la bienvenue au Dre Nathalie Ouellette qui s’est récemment jointe à l’équipe JWST à l’Université de Montréal et qui sera en charge de la sensibilisation du public pour la mission JWST.


Avec la continuation des opérations réussies du nanosat BRITE et des résultats scientifiques uniques, l’ASC maintient son soutien aux opérations et à la science de BRITE, avec une contribution à SFL pour les opérations satellitaires et un soutien financier transféré au chercheur principal au CMRC.

Le comité consultatif JCSA

Les membres du comité sont présentement:

Jason Rowe, Bishop U. (co-président)
Denis Laurin, CSA (co- président)
Chris O’Dea, U. du Manitoba
Renée Hlozek, U. de Toronto
Locke Spencer, U. de Lethbridge
Chris Willott, CNRC Herzberg
Daryl Haggard, U. McGill

La dernière rencontre a eu lieu après la CASCA à Victoria. La prochaine réunion sera par télécom en novembre ou décembre.

Welcome to Dr Sarah Gallagher, our new Science Advisor to the CSA

On September 12 our Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, announced Dr. Sarah Gallagher of Western University as the first Science Advisor to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). During her two-year, part-time mandate, she will divide her time between her work at Western University and working at the CSA. Dr. Gallagher will report directly to the CSA’s President, to shape Canada’s future direction in space science and champion Canadian space research. She will work closely with the Government’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, to support the integrity, openness and the impact of science in government. Dr. Gallagher will also help promote space science and its relevance to our daily lives by engaging with Canadians and inspiring our next generation of space scientists. She officially begins 1st Oct 2018.

CSA Supported Space Astronomy Studies

In the last year the CSA Space Exploration program prepared calls for proposals to enable studies to assess new mission ideas aligned with the priorities of our scientific communities. These priorities were set forth through consultations, the CSEW 2016 workshop and with the CSA Topical Teams, resulting in the “Canadian Space Exploration – Science and Space Health priorities for Next Decade and Beyond” 2017 report ( CSA with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) posted several Request for Proposals (RFP) in Space Astronomy and Planetary Exploration and through a competitive process selected the studies listed below.

Only the space astronomy studies are listed, with the science lead in brackets, in order of start date:

  • Mission contribution study for LiteBIRD, by McGill Univ. (Matt Dobbs), Jan 2018, 9 months
  • Science maturation study for CASTOR, by Honeywell and NRC (Pat Coté), Jan 2018, 15 months
  • Science maturation study for Photometric Observations of Extrasolar Planets, by Bishops’ Univ. (Jason Rowe), May 2018, 16 months
  • Science maturation study for LiteBIRD, McGill (Matt Dobbs), June 2018, 16 months
  • Concept study for Colibri (High-Resolution X-ray Telescope), by UBC (Jeremy Heyl), Sept 2018, 16 months
  • Concept study for EPPE (Extrasolar Planet Polarimetry Explorer), by Magellan and UWO, (Stan Metchev), Sept 2018, 15 months

The studies have a combination of industrial support and academic leadership.

At the time of this writing the CASTOR study has just completed its Mid-term Review. It was held at CSA HQ with an attendance of 23 members of the study team. Its purpose is to analyse not only the science objectives, but also their impact on mission and payload design and should provide important information for planning purposes including the LRP 2020.

FAST Grants for Space Astronomy

The CSA 2017 FAST Announcement of Opportunity is concluding its process and grant agreements are being prepared. See the FAST AO webpage for a reminder of the objectives of this competition.

At the time of this writing not all selected proposal grant agreements have been finalized, so it is not possible to provide the list of awards at this point, but it will be available and made public at the end of October (see link above), and I may provide a summary in the next issue of Cassiopeia.

Other CSA Support for Planning

CSA SE continues to support the community towards identifying future opportunities and partnerships. Support to the NASA Science and Technology Definition Teams (STDT) participation and other mission proposals of interest to the community is provided by CSA and managed via St-Mary’s Univ. CSA also plans to support the process of the LRP 2020 process.

ASTROSAT (Jean Dupuis, John Hutchings)

ASTROSAT operations are approaching the 3-year mark, and many Canadian astronomers are using this unique observatory and have submitted proposals in response to the Calls for Proposals issued by ISRO. Note that an issue with the NUV detector of UVIT continues, so this channel is unavailable at this time, but the FUV and VIS channels are still available. Other instruments are operating with some minor degradations. Contact Joe Postma (University of Calgary) for details and assistance. Canadian observers that have obtained observing time during cycle A04 will soon be contacted by CSA about the availability of data analysis grants (CSA contact for grants is Jean Dupuis).

JWST (Jean Dupuis, Chris Willott, René Doyon)

The announcement by NASA of the delay of JWST’s launch to March 2021 has caused the Cycle 1 proposal deadline to be delayed to no earlier than Spring 2020. More details about the Cycle 1 schedule will be available over the next few months. In the meantime, we strongly encourage the future users of JWST to take advantage of this delay to better familiarize themselves with the numerous observation modes available with the suite of science instruments on-board JWST, as well as with the software tools (ETC, APT, etc.) available for the preparation of proposals. STScI is providing several resources to assist astronomers in the development of their observing proposals (see here) and the Canadian JWST science team is there to help you! We also wish to welcome Dr. Nathalie Ouellette who has recently joined the JWST team at the Université de Montréal where she will be responsible for public outreach for the JWST mission.


With continued successful operations of the BRITE nanosat and unique and productive science outputs, the CSA maintains support to BRITE operations and science, with a Contribution to SFL for satellite operations and financial support transferred to the PI at RMC for data reduction respectively.

The JCSA Consultation Committee

The current membership comprises:

Jason Rowe, Bishop U. (co-Chair)
Denis Laurin, CSA (co-Chair)
Chris O’Dea, U. of Manitoba
Renée Hlozek, U. of Toronto
Locke Spencer, U. of Lethbridge
Chris Willott, NRC Herzberg
Daryl Haggard, McGill U.

The last meeting was at CASCA in Victoria. The next planned meeting will be by telecom in November or December.

Wishing everyone a colourful autumn,
En vous souhaitant à tous un bel automne coloré,
Denis Laurin

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By / par Bryan Gaensler (Canadian SKA Science Director)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

For more information and updates on the SKA:

International SKA Update

The Square Kilometre Array has reached a number of major milestones in the past few months.

July 13, 2018 saw the inauguration of the 64-dish MeerKAT telescope, the precursor to SKA1-Mid, at the SKA site in the Karoo desert region of South Africa. The array was opened by South Africa’s Deputy President, His Excellency The Honourable David Mabuza, and was accompanied by a release of MeerKAT’s stunning new image of the Galactic Centre (see Figure 1). Canada’s SKA Directors Greg Fahlman and Bryan Gaensler and Canadian High Commissioner Her Excellency Sandra McCardell were all in attendance for the celebration. As well as the spectacular MeerKAT array, attendees also viewed the SKA1-Mid prototype dish now under construction at the site.

Figure 1: Canadians at the launch of the MeerKAT array in South Africa, standing in front of MeerKAT’s image of the Galactic Centre. From left to right: Greg Fahlman, Sandra McCardell, Bryan Gaensler, Jan Milligan, Russ Taylor (Credit: Sandra McCardell)

At the other SKA site in Australia, a multi-national team involving the Netherlands, Italy, Malta, UK, China and Australia has now completed a prototype array of SKA1-Low antennas. This 256-element “AAVS1 Test Platform” is now being used to test the antenna technology (see Figure 2). All 36 antennas of the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) have now been fitted with phased-array feeds. ASKAP commissioning continues towards the delivery of Array Release 3, an 18-antenna array and the commencement of phase two early science observations. A pilot survey program using all 36 antennas is being planned for the first quarter of 2019. The Australian site now has a fully integrated hybrid power station, and is the only major observatory able to run purely on solar power.

Figure 2: The completed Aperture Array Verification System (AAVS1) at the Australian SKA site (Credit: CSIRO)

The SKA now has a nervous system! After four and a half years, the international consortium tasked with designing the crucial software that will control, monitor and operate the SKA telescopes concluded its work. The first of 12 consortia to complete their work package, Telescope Manager was led by India’s National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) and comprised nine institutions in seven countries, including Canada’s NRC Herzberg.

More countries are signing up to the SKA. In June 2018, Spain become the 11th member of the SKA Organisation, and in July 2018, France became the 12th. Both countries have already contributed greatly to the SKA project through their involvement in the international design consortia and in the SKA’s Science Working Groups.

The 27th meeting of the SKA Board of Directors took place over July 11-12, 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa. The Board was updated on progress towards establishing the new Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO). As part of the process to establish the IGO, eight countries have “initialled” the tex of the SKA Convention text, with a formal Ministerial signing ceremony to be scheduled for later this year in Italy. Canada and New Zealand will not be initial signatories to the SKA Convention, but have begun discussions on joining the SKA Observatory as associate members.

Discussions in Cape Town also covered progress on SKA design work, plans for the bridging phase (between the end of design and the start of construction), planning for transitioning between the current SKA Organisation and the future SKA Observatory (the new IGO), and the potential role of SKA regional centres. The next such meeting will be an interim Board meeting in September by video, with an in-person meeting scheduled for November 13-14, 2018 at the new SKA Headquarters in Manchester.

For further information on international SKA activities, see the latest SKA Newsletter and the bi-monthly SKA Organisation Bulletin.

Canadian Technology Development for SKA (Luc Simard and David Stevens)

NRC Herzberg continues to be a major participant in pre-construction efforts for the SKA, principally through NRC leadership of the Central Signal Processing (CSP) consortium and their contractor MDA, and also through NRC participation in the DISH and Telescope Manager design work.

The CSP consortium is approaching a major milestone in the form of its Element Critical Design Review, to be held at the SKA Project Office on September 25-28, 2018. This will mark the end of nearly six years of development work. The external reviewers for the review will be Jonathan Weintroub (Harvard), Larry D’Addario (JPL/Caltech), Alain Baudry (Université de Bordeaux) and Cees Bassa (ASTRON), in addition to several reviewers from the SKA Organisation. Four of the five CSP sub-elements (PSS, PST, MID.CBF and LOW.CBF) were reviewed back in February and March 2018. All reviews went well, with good discussion and feedback received. There were more than 1900 Observation Action Registers raised. Most were resolved before or during the meetings. Outstanding actions are being worked and tracked. The last sub-element (Local Monitoring & Control) will be reviewed on September 24, 2018. Both reviews will focus on extensive documentation packages submitted by the CSP team. On the technical side, the team recently reworked Pulsar Search (PSS) to include rapid phase change, tested a different 16k channeliser design in MID.CBF for better performance, and continued to integrate the Frequency Slice Processor FPGA design for the correlation function mode with the different 16k channeliser and settings. A critical interface control document that includes important power and cooling specifications has been finalised with the SKA infrastructure team in South Africa, and is now in the signature stage.

The Mid-Frequency Single Pixel Feed Receiver/Digitiser design (SPFRx) at NRC has undergone a number of significant changes as a result of discussions on requirements between the SKA Organisation and the CSP and DISH consortia in April 2018. In order to maintain phase coherence during band changes, an individual analogue-to-digital converter will be used for each sampling frequency. The two digital processing cards in the Pedestal Unit will be replaced by a single TALON-DX processing card. This key hardware commonality between SPFRx and MID.CBF will leverage the same development and prototyping efforts for both systems in Penticton. Some re-design work is required and is now underway. A second delta Detailed Design Review is now scheduled for October 2018, and Band 1&2 qualification models will be delivered to South Africa in May 2019. The Band 1&2 Critical Design Review will also be held that month. The Digitiser design team has been expanded to include additional resources in Penticton. This effort fits within the overall DISH consortium work which will conclude in mid- to late-2019.

SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (Kristine Spekkens)

The SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) met at the newly-commissioned FAST radio telescope near Guiyang, China, over July, 2-3 2018. In general the SEAC is satisfied with the progress of the project since its last meeting, noting the success of the critical design review process so far, the SKA Organisation’s management of the low-frequency aperture array (LFAA) workpackage, the implementation of the Operations Model Review recommendations and the production of detailed documents regarding global data flow and computational requirements for calibration and archiving as highlights. The SEAC’s recommendations to the SKA Organisation and to the SKA Board were largely accepted, including the development of commissioning software, a technical review of high-performance computing requirements for calibration and archiving, the arbitration of consortia interdependencies, continued LFAA development and resourcing to manage consortia as necessary, and the creation of a reference SKA Regional Centres design.

SKA Regional Centres Coordination Group (Séverin Gaudet)

The SKA Organisation has adopted a tiered model for data and science support, similar to that employed by CERN. Storage and computing resources associated with the operational SKA Observatory itself will be highly constrained in order to keep up with SKA operations. Any further processing and subsequent science extraction by users will require significant, outside computing and storage resources in the form of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs).

The SKA Regional Centre Coordination Group (SRCCG) is developing the concept of a network of SRCs distributed around the globe. Since May 2018, the SRCCG has met three times to deal with two urgent requests from the SKA Organisation and from the Board:

  • SRC Costing: A revision of the SRC Requirements document was requested to improve the estimates for the global SRC resources necessary to support the science productivity of the facilities. These include storage capacity, processing capacity and types of FTE support. The document must be completed by the beginning of October 2018 for submission to the next meetings of SEAC and the Board. This requirements document with a distribution model are necessary inputs to planning for a Canadian SRC.
  • Governance: In response to a request from the SKA Organisation for a governance model for SRCs, the SRCCG’s position was that the governance model should be developed by the SRC members in collaboration with the SKA Organisation and not by the SRCCG. There are many models of international resource collaborations such as CERN’s WLCG, so this is not seen as a project risk. This issue spurred the need to begin thinking about forming an international SRC collaboration (see next paragraph).

    In parallel with the SRCCG discussions, a meeting of representatives of potential SRC members was held in August 2018 to discussed to lay out a framework for forming an SKA Regional Centre Organisation. A draft outline of this framework is being drafted; once finalised, it will be distributed to stakeholders in Canada to gather comment before the end of September 2018. All potential member consultations will be merged into an expanded document for the next face-to-face meeting of the SKA Board in November 2018.

Canadian SKA Regional Centres Advisory Committee (Erik Rosolowsky)

The Canadian SKA Regional Centre Advisory Committee (CSRCAC) has been working with the NRC to define the scope of a possible Canadian SKA Regional Centre. Regional centres are an integral part of the SKA data ecosystem, and provide the primary point of contact between the SKA Observatory and the astronomical community. Given that that the CADC and other national organisations already perform many of the key functions of a regional centre, we are exploring the implications of hosting a regional centre in Canada. At CASCA 2018 in Victoria, the scope and structure of a Canadian SKA regional centre was one of the main topics of discussion. The primary question we are facing is what kind of services would enable the SKA regional centre to be a facility that supports all of Canadian astronomy. We are planning more community consultation and we will work closely with NRC to define a regional centre plan that matches community needs.

Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis

The Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA) is a newly established consortium of six Canadian universities, funded by a $10.3M grant from the CFI. CIRADA is developing the tools and infrastructure needed to support a Canadian SKA Data Centre, with direct application to the VLA, CHIME and ASKAP, and in close collaboration with CADC, NRAO and other partners. The CIRADA projects has now formally kicked off, and initial use cases are being developed. See CIRADA for more information.

SKA Science and Science Engagement

Canadian astronomers continue to participate in almost all SKA science working groups. The working groups on transients, pulsars, the Milky Way and the cradle of life are all currently chaired by Canadians (Michael Rupen, Ingrid Stairs, Erik Rosolowsky and Doug Johnstone, respectively). The next SKA science meeting, “New Science enabled by New Technologies in the SKA Era”, will take place at the new SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank over April 8-12, 2019; the abstract and registration deadlines are both October 26th, 2018.

The SKA Organisation is now undertaking SKA Science Data Challenges. These will be increasingly realistic simulated SKA data products, aimed at preparing the scientific community for extracting science most efficiently from the actual SKA data products as soon as they become available. The first Data Challenge release will be relatively modest in scope, providing simulated continuum image data products for random pointing directions obtained with SKA1-Mid at a small number of centre frequencies. However, this should already allow for testing of source finding and characterisation code that can be compared with the input catalogue for completeness and reliability as well as more specific analysis of relevance to particular Science Working Groups (e.g., recovering source ellipticities with the precision that would be needed for a weak gravitational lensing experiment). The first release for the SKA Data Challenges will soon be made available here.

The SKA project maintains 11 international science working groups and another 2 focus groups. Membership of science working groups and focus groups is open to all qualified astronomers. If you are interested in joining one of these groups, please email

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is the precursor of SKA-Low and is a powerful science facility in its own right (see MWA for details). MWA phase 2, which improves the sensitivity of the array by an order of magnitude, is now operating. Canada, through the University of Toronto, is a full member of the MWA project, with representation on the MWA Board. Any Canadian astronomers wishing to join the MWA Consortium and to consequently gain access to MWA data, software tools and science collaborations should contact Bryan Gaensler.

ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA

The Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) coordinates activities and discussion on the SKA through the ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA (AACS). Current members of AACS are listed here. AACS meets several times per year, with its next meeting in November 2018. For further information or to propose AACS agenda items, please contact the AACS Chair, Bryan Gaensler.

CASCA-Westar Lectureship Call-out

By / par Phil Langill (U. Calgary, Director, Rothney Astrophysical Observatory)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The English version follows

La Société canadienne d’astronomie (CASCA) aimerait offrir à votre communauté ou organisation la possibilité d’accueillir une conférence Westar. Suivant ses engagements pour partager la science avec le public, la CASCA s’engage à fournir le financement nécessaire pour qu’un(e) astronome canadien(ne) distingué(e) se rende dans votre communauté pour un séjour de deux jours où il/elle donnera une conférence publique gratuite et interagira avec les membres de votre communauté. De plus, en fonction de vos besoins et de leur expertise, le/la conférencier(ère) pourra également offrir d’autres activités gratuites telles que l’observation au télescope, des visites en classe ou une formation en astronomie pour les enseignants. La conférence Westar met en vedette nos incroyables chercheurs canadiens en astronomie, suscite l’enthousiasme et l’intérêt pour l’astronomie et la science, et offre des possibilités d’éducation pour le grand public et les enseignants de sciences.

Si vous souhaitez qu’un conférencier Westar visite votre communauté, nous vous encourageons à visiter notre site web et remplir le formulaire d’application. Les candidats retenus seront avisés le plus rapidement possible. Veuillez répondre aux questions aussi précisément que possible, car elles sont conçues pour nous aider à optimiser le processus de planification.

The Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) would like to offer your community or organization the opportunity to host a Westar Lecture. As part of its commitment to share science with the public, CASCA will provide the necessary funding for a distinguished Canadian astronomer to visit your community for a two-day stay. He or she will give a free public lecture and interact with members of your community. In addition, depending on your needs and expertise, the speaker may also offer other free activities such as telescope observation, classroom visits, or astronomy training for teachers. The Westar Lecture showcases our incredible Canadian astronomers, inspires enthusiasm and interest in astronomy and science, and provides educational opportunities for the general public and science teachers.

If you would like a Westar speaker to visit your community, we encourage you to visit our website and fill out the application form. Successful applicants will be notified as soon as possible. Please answer questions as specifically as possible as they are designed to help us optimize the planning process.

Canadian Gemini Office News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By / par Stéphanie Côté (CGO, NRC Herzberg / OGC, CNRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

La version française suit

Korea Becomes a Full Gemini Partner!

On Tuesday, July 24th during the “Gemini Science and Evolution of Gemini” meeting in San Francisco, participants had the chance to witness the signing of the agreement between the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) and the other partners of the Gemini Observatory, that establishes the Republic of Korea as a full Participant in the Gemini Observatory.

KASI has been a limited-time partner of Gemini since 2015, during which time over 100 Korean programs have been observed on Gemini and already 10 Korean papers based on Gemini data have been published. KASI was also a major partner in the team that developed IGRINS (in collaboration with University of Texas). This high-resolution near-infrared echelle spectrograph was offered as a Visitor instrument at Gemini-South in 2018A and turned out to be the most requested instrument in the South for that semester from all the Gemini community. Users will be happy to know that Korea will be building a similar instrument specifically for Gemini as part of their initial contribution to the Observatory.

Figure 1: The Republic of Korea flag was raised at Gemini Base Facility in Hilo, Hawai’i, during the signing event (Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA)

The New Director of the Gemini Observatory is Announced: Dr Jennifer Lotz

Gemini Observatory and AURA have announced the appointment of the next Gemini Director: Dr. Jennifer Lotz. Dr. Lotz received her PhD in astrophysics from Johns Hopkins University in 2003, working on dwarf elliptical galaxies with Harry Ferguson. After holding a Leo Goldberg Fellowship at NOAO, and then a postdoctoral position at UC Santa Cruz, she has been a tenured astronomer at STScI with a joint appointment at Johns Hopkins University. She has been working on galaxy evolution and morphology, the high-redshift Universe and gravitational lensing. She is a leading expert in the field of galaxy mergers. She was the Principal Investigator of the highly successful and influential Hubble Frontier Fields program. She comes to Gemini with a solid record of scientific and technical leadership.

Dr. Lotz will succeed Dr. Laura Ferrarese on October 1, to start her 5 year appointment. Big kudos to Laura for her admirable leadership in the last year as Interim Director which has helped strengthen Gemini’s partnership.

New Large and Long Programs 2018

The new Large and Long Programs approved this year by the international LLP TAC were announced: two new programs were accepted, one of which is Canadian-led. The program “Chemistry of new metal-poor stars found in the Pristine Survey” is led by Kim Venn (University of Victoria), with Canadian co-Is Collin Kielty, Spencer Bialek and Julio Navarro (University of Victoria), Pat Côté and Alan McConnachie (NRC Herzberg) and Ray Carlberg (U of Toronto). This program will devote 150 hours over five semesters for GRACES high-resolution spectroscopic observations of ~80 extremely metal-poor stars found in the Pristine survey. High-resolution (R=40,000), high signal-to-noise (SNR>100) spectroscopy will be obtained to determine accurate chemical abundances for important elements that explore the variety of nucleosynthetic pathways in metal-poor stars, core-collapse supernovae, and the first stars.

The other new LLP is from PI Ian Crossfield (MIT) on “Validating TESS Exoplanet Candidates”. In addition to these two new programs, the Gemini Observations of Galaxies in Rich Early ENvironments (GOGREEN) Survey led by Michael Balogh (U of Waterloo) was granted an extension.

GMOS-S Air Bubbles fixed

GMOS-S is back to work on-sky after its major surgery. It had to be taken off the telescope to fix the problem of air bubbles that had developed in the oil interfaces between its optical lenses. Although these units are sealed, there is still some oil loss over time due to slow leakage. The air bubbles unfortunately produced orientation-dependent scattering effects that affected the flatfields and throughput that were difficult to correct. To refill the oil, the GMOS intervention team had to extract the collimator from GMOS-S, which had never been done since its commissioning 17 years ago! At the same time, they upgraded the fill system to ensure that in the future oil refills can be done without opening the whole optical train. GMOS-S was put back on the telescope and flatfields show a dramatic improvement. It is now busy delivering great science data again.

GMOS IFU Tutorial and F2 Data Reduction Cookbook

A new tutorial on reducing GMOS IFU-1 data was held at the Science and Evolution of Gemini meeting in July by Kathleen Labrie (Gemini). The tutorial shows how to obtain the data and calibrations and go from raw data to a stacked cube, all the while addressing various possible data issues. An online version of this step-by-step tutorial is now available to everyone here.

Note that there is also a new Flamingos-2 data reduction cookbook that was released earlier this year and is available here.

Figure 2: Composite color image from two deep GMOS-N images in filters g’ and i’ of the ultra-diffuse galaxy NGC1052-DF2. (Image credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/Keck/Jen Miller)

Recent Canadian Gemini Press Releases

Pieter Van Dokkum (Yale) and his team including Bob Abraham, Deborah Lokhorst, and Jielai Zhang (U of Toronto) reported in the March 29th issue of the journal Nature the discovery of a galaxy that appears to have almost no dark matter. NGC1052-DF2 is an ultra-diffuse galaxy that was first spotted with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a custom-built telescope in New Mexico that they designed to find these low-surface-brightness galaxies. They obtained the radial velocities of ten luminous globular-cluster-like objects in this galaxy, which has a stellar mass of approximately 2 × 108 solar masses. Using these they estimated its velocity dispersion to be less than 10.5 kilometres per second, which is very low and implies a total mass less than 3.4 × 108 solar masses. This implies that the mass ratio Mhalo/Mstars is of order unity (and consistent with zero), a factor of at least 400 lower than expected for a galaxy of this mass. The Nature paper is available here.

Join the thousands and thousands of Gemini Observatory followers on Facebook: @GeminiObservatory and Twitter: @GeminiObs

La République de Corée devient un pays partenaire de Gemini!

Le mardi 24 juillet, lors de la conférence “Science et Evolution” de Gemini à San Francisco, les participants ont pu assister à la signature de l’accord entre l’Institut Coréen d’astronomie et de sciences spatiales (KASI) et les autres partenaires de l’Observatoire Gemini, qui établit la République de Corée en tant que partenaire à part entière de l’Observatoire Gemini.

KASI est partenaire limité de Gemini depuis 2015, et depuis plus de 100 programmes coréens ont été observés sur Gemini et 10 articles coréens basés sur les données Gemini ont déjà été publiés. KASI était également un partenaire majeur dans l’équipe qui a développé IGRINS (en collaboration avec l’Université du Texas). Ce spectrographe échelle haute résolution en proche infrarouge a été offert en tant qu’instrument Visiteur à Gemini-Sud en 2018A et s’est avéré être l’instrument le plus demandé dans le Sud pour ce semestre par toute la communauté Gemini. Les utilisateurs seront heureux de savoir que la Corée construira un instrument similaire spécifiquement pour Gemini dans le cadre de sa contribution initiale à l’Observatoire.

Figure 1: Le drapeau de la République de Corée a été levé devant le quartier général de Gemini à Hilo, Hawaii, lors de la cérémonie de signature (Crédit: Observatoire Gemini / AURA)

La nouvelle directrice de l’Observatoire Gemini est annoncée: Dr Jennifer Lotz

L’Observatoire Gemini et AURA ont annoncé la nomination de la prochaine directrice de Gemini: Dr. Jennifer Lotz. Dr. Lotz a reçu son doctorat en astrophysique de l’Université Johns Hopkins en 2003, en travaillant sur les galaxies elliptiques naines avec Harry Ferguson. Après avoir obtenu une bourse Leo Goldberg à NOAO, puis un poste postdoctoral à l’Université de Californie à Santa Cruz, elle est astronome à STScI avec un poste conjoint à l’Université Johns Hopkins. Elle étudie l’évolution et la morphologie des galaxies, l’Univers à grand redshift et les lentilles gravitationnelles. Elle est une experte de premier plan dans le domaine des fusions de galaxies. Elle était l’investigatrice principale du programme Hubble Frontier Fields, très influent et très réussi. Elle vient à Gemini avec un solide dossier de leadership scientifique et technique.

Dr Lotz succédera à Dr Laura Ferrarese le 1 er octobre pour commencer son mandat de cinq ans. Un grand bravo à Laura pour son leadership remarquable au cours de l’année écoulée en tant que directrice par intérim, qui a contribué à renforcer le partenariat de Gemini.

Nouveaux programmes Longs et Larges cuvée 2018

Les nouveaux programmes longs et larges approuvés cette année par le TAC LLP international ont été annoncés: deux nouveaux programmes ont été acceptés, dont l’un est Canadien. Kim Venn (Université de Victoria) dirige le projet «Chemistry of new metal-poor stars found in the Pristine Survey», avec Collin Kielty, Spencer Bialek et Julio Navarro (Université de Victoria), Pat Côté et Alan McConnachie (CNRC Herzberg) et Ray Carlberg (U de Toronto). Ce projet consacrera 150 heures sur cinq semestres à des observations spectroscopiques à haute résolution avec GRACES d’environ 80 étoiles extrêmement pauvres en métaux trouvées lors du sondage Pristine. Ils obtiendront des données spectroscopiques de haute résolution (R = 40 000) avec rapport signal sur bruit (SNR> 100) pour déterminer les abondances chimiques précises des éléments importants qui exploreront la diversité des voies de nucléosynthèse des étoiles pauvres en métaux, les supernovae à affaissement central, et les premières étoiles.

L’autre nouveau programme LLP est mené par le PI Ian Crossfield (MIT) sur «Validating TESS Exoplanet Candidates». En plus de ces deux nouveaux programmes, le sondage GOGREEN (Observations of Galaxies in Rich Early Early Environment) mené par Michael Balogh (U de Waterloo) a été prolongé.

Suppression des bulles d’air dans GMOS-S

GMOS-S est de retour au télescope après sa chirurgie majeure. Il a fallu le démonter du télescope pour résoudre le problème des bulles d’air qui s’étaient développées dans les interfaces d’huile entre ses lentilles optiques. Bien que ces unités soient scellées, il y a toujours une certaine perte d’huile au fil du temps en raison d’une fuite lente. Les bulles d’air ont malheureusement produit des effets de diffusion dépendant de l’orientation qui ont affecté les flatfields et le throughput et sont difficiles à corriger. Pour remplir l’huile, l’équipe d’intervention de GMOS-S a dû extraire le collimateur de GMOS-S, ce qui n’avait jamais été fait depuis sa mise en service il y a 17 ans! De plus, ils ont installé un nouveau système de remplissage pour s’assurer qu’à l’avenir, les recharges d’huile pourront être effectuées sans ouvrir tout le train optique. GMOS-S a été remis sur le télescope et les flatfields sont nettement améliorés. GMOS-S est de retour au travail pour fournir de splendides données scientifiques.

Tutoriel GMOS IFU et manuel de réduction de données F2

Un nouveau tutoriel sur la réduction des données GMU IFU-1 a été organisé lors de la conférence “Science et Evolution de Gemini” en juillet par Kathleen Labrie (Gemini). Le tutoriel montre comment obtenir les données et les calibrations et passer des données brutes à un cube superposé, tout en abordant divers problèmes de données possibles. Une version en ligne de ce tutoriel étape par étape est maintenant disponible pour tous ici.

Notez qu’il existe également un nouveau manuel de recettes de réduction des données Flamingos-2 qui a été publié plus tôt cette année et qui est disponible ici.

Figure 2: Image couleur composée à partir de deux images profondes de GMOS-N dans les filtres g ’et i’ de la galaxie ultra-diffuse NGC1052-DF2. (Crédit d`image: Observatoire Gemini /NSF/AURA/Keck /Jen Miller)

Communiqués de presse canadiens récents

Pieter Van Dokkum (Yale) et son équipe incluant Bob Abraham, Deborah Lokhorst et Jielai Zhang (U de Toronto) ont rapporté dans le numéro du 29 mars de la revue Nature la découverte d’une galaxie qui ne semble pas avoir de matière noire. NGC1052-DF2 est une galaxie ultra-diffuse qui a été repérée pour la première fois avec le système de téléobjectifs Dragonfly, un télescope au Nouveau-Mexique conçu sur mesure pour détecter ces galaxies de faible brillance de surface. Ils ont obtenu les vitesses radiales de dix objets semblables à des amas globulaires lumineux dans cette galaxie, qui a une masse stellaire d’environ 2 × 108 masses solaires. En utilisant ces valeurs, ils ont estimé que la dispersion de la vitesse était inférieure à 10,5 kilomètres par seconde, ce qui est très faible et implique une masse totale inférieure à 3,4 × 108 masses solaires. Cela implique que le rapport de masse Mhalo/Mstars est près de 1 (et cohérent avec zéro), un facteur au moins 400 fois inférieur à celui attendu pour une galaxie de cette masse. L`article Nature est disponible ici.

Rejoignez les milliers et milliers de suiveurs de l’Observatoire Gemini sur Facebook: @GeminiObservatory et Twitter: @GeminiObs.

A CASCA-Westar visit to Ashcroft and Cache Creek

By / par Jon Willis (University of Victoria)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

The CASCA-Westar outreach program links educators and community groups across Canada to professional astronomers. The program offers isolated communities – whether geographically or economically – the opportunity to hear about the best that astronomy has to offer. Over twenty Canadian astronomers and CASCA members have made themselves available as CASCA-Westar lecturers to travel to remote communities and offer classroom activities for school kids, curriculum workshops for teachers and popular public talks.

I became a CASCA-Wester lecturer last year. Like many professional astronomers, I regularly engage with local schools and have developed a number of themed presentations for audiences ranging from elementary schools to seniors groups. I was therefore pleased to receive an invitation from CASCA-Westar in the early summer of 2018 to visit Ashcroft and Cache Creek in the interior of BC. My visit was hosted by Jenn Casorso, a youth coordinator with the Bonaparte Indian Band.

Ashcroft and nearby Cache Creek are both about an hour’s drive west of Kamloops – a leisurely day’s travel by ferry and car from my usual haunts on Vancouver Island. Ashcroft is a village of some 1,600 residents located on the banks of the Thompson River just south of a major confluence with the Bonaparte river. Nearby Cache Creek adds another 1,000 people to the local population. Both settlements were founded in the 1860s during the Cariboo gold rush on land traditionally inhabited by the Secwepemc people.

My busy day began at the Desert Sands Community School in Ashcroft with a presentation on “Everything you ever wanted to know about the Big Bang but were afraid to ask”. This is a prop-driven cosmology talk that features pupils expanding with the Universe, weighty chunks of meteorite, exploding balloons and the Period Tablecloth. It is a very interactive presentation and immense fun to deliver – it certainly warms the kids up to ask a barrage of questions.

After lunch we headed over to Cache Creek Elementary School for a “Little Guide to the Night Sky”. This presentation uses 10 spectacular images of planets, moons, stars, nebulae and galaxies to take the pupils on a journey from Earth to our nearest massive galaxy, Andromeda. The Discovery Channel and the internet had prepped my audience with a lot of topics on which they expected answers and I was very much saved by the bell at the end of the school day!

My enjoyable and rewarding day concluded with a public talk at Ashcroft Community Centre on the “Search for Life in the Universe” and welcomed residents of all ages to learn about the prospects for discovering life beyond Earth.

I hope that my audiences learned as much as I did through the day and I also hope that my CASCA-Westar visit lays the foundation for a lasting relationship with these communities and the opportunity to work with them again in the future.

END NOTE: Jon Willis is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. He combines research into cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe with teaching and writing about astrobiology. He is the author of “All These Worlds Are Yours: The Scientific Search for Alien Life” (Yale 2016).

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Sarah Gallagher (MSE Science Advisory Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)

Status of Science Team Membership

The MSE Science Team has grown substantially, and now has more than 300 members, including 33 Canadians. Science Working Groups have begun work for the Design Reference Survey work that will begin within the next couple of months. If you signed up for the Science Team but have not been receiving e-mails, please contact MSE Project Scientist Alan McConnachie.

MSE Design Challenges Featured on Social Media

The engineering software company SolidWorks chose to feature MSE and CFHT for their software launch event with an interview with Greg Green (Instrument Designer and Machinist, CFHT). The relevant video segment is within the first few minutes, with MSE design models showcased in minutes 6–9.

Wide Field Astronomy in Canada

MSE science interests will be represented at the Wide Field Astronomy in Canada workshop at the Perimeter Institute (October 10–11, 2018; Waterloo). MSE MG Chair Pat Hall will give an invited presentation on the interrelationship of MSE and LSST, and an MSE splinter meeting will be held on Friday, October 12. We hope to see you there!

MSE Project Book

The MSE Project Book will be released next month. The Project Book is a summary of the technical status of MSE for engineers and technical managers as the project advances from the Conceptual Design Phase into the Preliminary Design Phase. The Book also provides information on the science motivations for the MSE capabilities and requirements, as well as project management information on how the Project is organized and on our plan to progress through and beyond the Preliminary Design Phase for readers who are scientists and decision makers.

SPIE Papers

Fifteen MSE presentations made at the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Astronomical Telescope and Instrumentation meeting (Jun 10–15, 2018; Austin, Texas, USA) this summer were posted on the arXiv. They are all available at this link. The breadth of topics is a testament to the hard work to date of the participants and the Project Office on the technical design and planning work key to the success of MSE.

IAU 2018

McConnachie presented at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Focus Meeting 13, Global Coordination of International Astrophysics and Heliospheric Activities from Space and Ground (Aug 20 – 23, 2018; Vienna, Austria), in a Discussion Session entitled “Global Coordination of Ground-based Astronomy,” chaired by Debra Elmegreen. The panel included leads from the TMT, GMT, ELT, MSE, LSST and SKA.

Preparation for a CFI Proposal

As reported in the last MSE Update, planning preparations continue for a CFI proposal submission for the next round (anticipated in 2019). Discussions are underway regarding a pathfinder spectrograph to be deployed on an existing 4- or 8-meter class telescope to enable unique science while demonstrating that MSE engineering and technology requirements can be met. If you are interested in contributing to this effort, please contact CFI Project Manager for MSE Colin Bradley.

MSE Preliminary Design Phase

A version of the MSE Statement of Understanding suitable for signature has been circulated to all participants. The ACURA Board and Executive Director, Don Brooks, are reviewing the SOU with lawyers at UBC to determine if ACURA can join the SOU as the Canadian signatory. We anticipate a more substantial update on this issue in the Winter Solstice edition of e-Cassiopeia.

References for Further Information and Key Contacts

The MSE website is Questions or comments about MSE governance can be directed to your MSE Management Group Members, Greg Fahlman and Pat Hall. Scientific questions or comments can be directed to your MSE Science Advisory Group Members, Sarah Gallagher and Kim Venn.

BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By / par Gregg Wade (Canadian PI for BRITE)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2018)


BRITE-Constellation is an international space astronomy mission consisting of a fleet of 20x20x20 cm nanosatellites dedicated to precision optical photometry of bright stars in two photometric colours. The mission continues in full science operations, with 25 data releases to BRITE target PIs having already taken place, and many datasets available in the public domain from the BRITE public archive.

The BRITE mission is a collaboration between Canadian, Austrian and Polish astronomers and space scientists. The Canadian partners represent University of Toronto, Université de Montréal, Bishop’s University, and Royal Military College of Canada. The mission was built, and the Canadian satellites operated by, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab (UTIAS-SFL). The Canadian Space Agency funded the construction of the Canadian satellites, and continues to support their day-to-day operations.


There are five operating BRITE satellites in the Constellation, collecting data on various sky fields in a coordinated programme to obtain well-sampled, longterm continuous (~6 months) light curves in both red and blue bandpasses.

As this issue of Cassiopeia went to press, here was the status of the sky assignments for the BRITE cubesats:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): Toronto observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Cygnus III and Cassiopeia III fields, switching between the two fields each orbit. As implied by the numeral ‘III’, the current campaigns on these fields represents revisits of previously-observed fields.
  • BRITE Lem (Poland): Lem observes with a blue filter. It is also observing the Cygnus III field.
  • BRITE Heweliusz (Poland): Heweliusz observes with a red filter. This satellite is observing the Cygnus III field, but will soon transition to another field (details TBD).
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a blue filter. It is observing the Sagittarius IV and the Cassiopeia III fields.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): UniBRITE observes with a red filter. This satellite is currently observing the Cygnus III and Cassiopeia III fields.

The BRITE Constellation observing programme from early 2017 through to mid-2019 has been planned by the BRITE Executive Science Team (BEST), and details are available on the BRITE photometry Wiki page.

Recent Science Results

Figure 1: The two-month long BRITE light curve of V973 Sco (red filled circles) as recorded in 2015 in the red passband by BRITE-Heweliusz, along with the contemporaneous observations of phi 2 Lup (black diamonds, offset by 50 mmag for better visibility) showing no significant variability. From Ramiaramanantsoa et al. (2018).

“A BRITE view on the massive O-type supergiant V973 Scorpii: hints towards internal gravity waves or sub-surface convection zones” (Ramiaramanantsoa et al. 2018, MNRAS 480, 972). The authors report detection of stochastically-triggered photospheric light variations reaching ~40 mmag peak-to-valley amplitudes in the O8Iaf supergiant V973 Scorpii as the outcome of two months of high-precision time-resolved photometric observations with the BRITE nanosatellites. The amplitude spectrum of the time series photometry exhibits a pronounced broad bump in the low-frequency regime (<0.9 c/d) where several prominent frequencies are detected. A time-frequency analysis of the observations reveals typical mode lifetimes of the order of 5−10 days. The overall features of the observed brightness amplitude spectrum of V973 Sco match well with those extrapolated from two-dimensional hydrodynamical simulations of convectively-driven internal gravity waves randomly excited from deep in the convective cores of massive stars. An alternative or additional possible source of excitation from a subsurface convection zone needs to be explored in future theoretical investigations.

“Short-term variability and mass loss in Be stars IV. Two groups of closely spaced, approximately equidistant frequencies in three decades of space photometry of ν Puppis (B7-8 IIIe)” (Baade et al., submitted to A&A). In early-type Be stars, groups of nonradial pulsation (NRP) modes with numerically related frequencies may be instrumental for the release of excess angular momentum through mass-ejection events. Difference and sum/harmonic frequencies often form additional groups. The goal of this study is to find out whether a similar frequency pattern occurs in the cooler third-magnitude B7-8 IIIe shell star ν Pup. Time-series analyses are performed of space photometry with BRITE-Constellation (2015, 2016/17, and 2017/18), SMEI (2003–2011), and Hipparcos (1989-1993). Two IUE SWP and 27 optical echelle spectra spanning 20 years were retrieved from various archives. The optical spectra exhibit no anomalies or well-defined variabilities. A magnetic field was not detected. All three photometry satellites recorded variability near 0.656 c/d which is resolved into three features separated by ~0.0021 c/d. First harmonics form a second frequency group, also spaced by ~0.0021 c/d. The frequency spacing is very nearly but not exactly equidistant. Variability near 0.0021 c/d was not detected. The long-term frequency stability could be used to derive meaningful constraints on the properties of a putative companion star. The IUE spectra do not reveal the presence of a hot subluminous secondary. ν Pup is another Be star exhibiting an NRP variability pattern with long-term constancy and underlining the importance of combination frequencies and frequency groups. The star is a good target for efforts to identify an effectively single Be star.

Conferences, Resources and Social Media


The BRITE Executive Science Team recently met in Wroclaw, Poland for two days of scientific and administrative discussions. Thirteen scientific presentations were delivered on topics ranging from BRITE CCD cosmetics to time-domain astronomy with BRITEs.

The proceedings of the third BRITE Science Conference – held at Lac Taureau, Canada in August 2017 – are available in printed form and online.

The BRITE team is spearheading the organization of a conference entitled “Stars and their Variability, Observed from Space”, to occur in Vienna, Austria from August 19 – 23, 2019. Preregistration is available on the conference website.


The BRITE Public Data Archive, based in Warsaw, Poland, at the Nikolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre, can be accessed at

The mission Wiki (including information on past, current and future fields) can be accessed at

BRITE Constellation is on Facebook, at @briteconstellation.

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team (BIAST), which consists of BRITE scientific PIs, technical authorities, amateur astronomers, and mission fans, advises the mission executive on scientific and outreach aspects of the mission. If you’re interested to join BIAST, contact Canadian BRITE PI Gregg Wade: