The first CASCA Climate Survey: A snapshot of our community’s shared experience

By / par Brenda Matthews (NRC/U Victoria) & Kristine Spekkens (RMC/Queen’s U)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)


In late 2017, the Equity and Inclusivity Committee (EIC) of CASCA executed the first climate survey of its membership. This survey was modeled after surveys done by the AAS DPS (Division of Planetary Sciences) and others, and was over one year in design. The goal of the survey was to better understand the experiences of the CASCA membership to guide the CASCA Board in future decisions.

The design of the survey conformed to Canadian legal constraints in that it requested some specific personal information (though not names or other such identifiers) from respondents. It is legally problematic to request racial or similar information on a survey in Canada, so these demographic specifics were not requested.

An initial presentation of some of the survey results was done via a poster presentation at the 2018 CASCA meeting in Victoria. Here, we summarize those results and augment with additional information from the survey responses, particularly regarding harassment across a broader range of parameters than gender, which was emphasized in the CASCA 2018 poster.

Figure 1. Career stage and gender of respondents to the climate survey.

Survey Distribution and Response

The survey was distributed via the CASCA exploder with a month given to receive responses. In all, 152 members provided useable responses to the survey. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of career level and gender of respondents. Comparing to recently compiled demographics of the CASCA community, about a third of CASCA members responded in all three career stage categories of CASCA membership (Student, Postdoctoral Fellow and Ordinary, i.e., faculty level). The lowest response rate was from students (25%). The fraction of women who responded to the climate survey is comparable to that within the CASCA membership for PDFs and students, but women disproportionally responded relative to men among Ordinary members (i.e., women comprise 21% of Ordinary CASCA members, but 35% of the Ordinary level respondents to the climate survey were women). Notwithstanding these statistics, one must keep in mind that respondents to the climate survey likely don’t represent a random subsample of CASCA members.

Key goals of the survey were to poll members’ feelings of safety in their work environment and understand their experiences with regard to negative interactions in the workplace. We note here that while we did preface the survey with a request to comment on events from the past 5 years only, it is clear from the comments that many respondents instead provided a summary of their work life experience. This does not negate our ability to achieve our goal of understanding the experiences of our members in their academic life, but it does mean that events included in their responses may or may not be recent.

Reported Incidents of Harassment or Sexual Harassment

In all, 75% of women respondents and 25% of men respondents reported a significant negative incident of some kind in their work life.

Figure 2. Experiences of the survey respondents. For the 45% of the respondents who reported a serious incident of harassment or sexual harassment, the breakdown by women and men is shown here. Cisgender and transgender have been combined in this histogram. Men are shown in blue; women are in green.

Figure 2 summarizes the reported incidents as a sex-disaggregated distribution (we have included results for all women – cisgender and transgender, and results for all men – cisgender and transgender, combined). A very significant number of respondents (45%) experienced at least one serious negative interaction during their careers. All incidents of physical and sexual assault, though few, were reported by women; 15% of women respondents reported experiencing uncomfortable/inappropriate touching while over 20% of women respondents reported experiencing requests for “dates” or other inappropriate personal interactions during their work life.

Both men and women reported incidents of sexual harassment, staring or comments on appearance, invasion of personal space, sexual/gendered communication and “harassment of some sort” (as distinguished from sexual harassment – we include the definitions of both that were provided with the survey below in an Appendix). Only in the latter category was the rate of reporting higher for male respondents than for female respondents.

Figure 3. Responses regarding experiences of negative comments based on queried categories from peers versus supervisors.

Interactions with Peers and Supervisors

The responses suggest that our members are more cautious and inclusive in their actions with those who they supervise than they are with their peers. The survey requested information about the frequency with which respondents heard negative comments or experienced or witnessed harassment related to several categories (religion or lack of religion; gender; gender identity; mental disability; physical disability; race and ethnicity). The optional answers were “Never; Rarely; Sometimes; Often”. Figure 3 summarizes these responses. In all categories, the incidents of negative comments in interactions with peers greatly exceeded those with supervisors. We note however, that the category in which the most incidents of negative comments were reported (responses of “Rarely”, “Sometimes” and “Often” were all taken as positive responses) was race, and this was the highest reported fraction for interactions with supervisors by far.

Figure 4. Percentage rates of personally experienced harassment (blue) and witnessed harassment (orange).

When asked about personally experiencing or witnessing “harassment” which takes different forms than just negative comments passed about an individual or group, the highest rate of experienced harassment was reported as gender-based (see Figure 4). Over 60% of respondents reported witnessing gender-based harassment, while the number who reported experiencing it personally was approximately half that. The rate of respondents who reported harassment due to gender was 32% (8% of men and 61% of women) while 62% of respondents (50% of men and 77% of women) reported witnessing harassment based on gender.

We note that only the race category produced results in which the rate of personally experiencing harassment exceeded the reported witnessing of such harassment.

Figure 5. The majority of respondents feel safe in their workplace.

Health of the Community in Equity and Gender Issues

The survey suggests that members feel a stronger sense of equity and inclusivity in their own institutions than they do at CASCA meetings. Figure 5 shows the responses to a query about feeling unsafe in their place of work; it is clear that the very strong majority of respondents feel secure in their workplace, while just 14% of respondents felt unsafe or were unsure about their feelings of safety.

When respondents were polled about the degree to which the astronomical community is healthy with respect to equity and gender issues in their own workplaces and at CASCA meetings, respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their environment was healthy in their workplaces at rates between 60% and 70%, but at CASCA meetings, they agreed or strongly agreed at rates of just 50%. This lower response rate regarding the health of the environment at CASCA meetings is compounded by the fact that respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they knew how to report harassment at their place of work at the 75% level, whereas they knew how to report issues of harassment at CASCA events at only the 40% level.

Equity Initiatives

At the end of the climate survey, we asked respondents several questions about future initiatives related to equity and harassment. A majority (~92%) felt that efforts to improve equity and halt harassment should be continued or augmented by CASCA. Very few (4%) felt CASCA should do less.

The last questions of the climate survey introduced the ATHENA Swan UK (UK) and SAGE (Australia) programs of accreditation to encourage and reward strong equity and inclusivity performers and the Pleiades awards program from Australia. Respondents were asked whether or not CASCA should endorse and work towards implementation of such programs.

The positive response rates to the Athena SWAN/SAGE model and the Pleiades awards were both ~55%. Most respondents (85%) who said yes to either Athena SWAN/SAGE or the Pleiades awards model said yes to both; i.e., respondents either supported both ideas or neither. The fraction of positive responses did not depend on academic level to within a few percent. By gender, the fraction of positive responses from men was lower (~50%) than the fraction of positive responses from women (~70%) and these fractions didn’t vary significantly with career stage.

The number of respondents who were ambivalent or not sure about these awards and incentives programs exceeded the number who were against them, by a factor of 4 for the Pleiades awards and a factor of 2 for Athena SWAN/SAGE.

Future Plans

The climate survey has yielded a very rich dataset. This article has presented some of the broad results of the survey. A much more detailed analysis of the data will be reported to the CASCA Board. This report will be useful in understanding past experiences of the members and inform future initiatives, including adoption of accreditation programs, award programs designed to increase equity and inclusivity and mentoring programs.

Appendix: Definitions used in the Climate Survey

Equity is the principle of fairness and impartiality toward all. Equity implies giving as much advantage, consideration or latitude to one party as is given to another.

Harassment is conduct that includes, but is not limited to, the following: epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; denigrating jokes and display or circulation of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group. In the case of academia, persons in authority must again be cautious about using intimidating or aggressive behaviour since those they supervise are dependent on them into the future for job prospects and be reluctant to confront harassers. Harassment is different than bullying in that harassment is a form of discrimination.

Sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. More specificially, sexual harassment is words or actions that are: unwanted; directed at you; based on your sex, sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, and harmful or damaging in some way. Sexual harassers either know or ought to know their behaviour is unwelcome because it would be judged to be so by any reasonable person. Individuals must use discretion to ensure that their words and actions communicate respect for others. This is especially important for those in positions of authority since individuals with lower rank or status may be reluctant to express their objections or discomfort regarding unwelcome behaviour.

Dissertation: From large-scale molecular clouds to filaments and cores: Unveiling the role of the magnetic fields in star formation

(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

by Dr. Sayantan Auddy
Thesis defended on July 10, 2018
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Western University
Thesis advisor: Prof. Shantanu Basu

I present a comprehensive study of the role of strong magnetic fields in characterizing the structure of molecular clouds. We run three-dimensional turbulent non-ideal magnetohydrodynamic simulations (with ambipolar diffusion) to see the effect of magnetic fields on the evolution of the column density probability distribution function (PDF). Our results indicate a systematic dependence of the column density PDF of molecular clouds on magnetic field strength and turbulence, with observationally distinguishable outcomes between supercritical (gravity dominated) and subcritical (magnetic field dominated) initial conditions. We find that most cases develop a direct power-law PDF, and only the subcritical clouds with turbulence are able to maintain a lognormal body of the PDF but with a power-law tail at high values. I also present a scenario for the formation of oscillatory quasi-equilibrium magnetic ribbons in turbulent subcritical molecular clouds. The synthetic observed relation between apparent width in projection versus observed column density is relatively flat, similar to observations of molecular cloud filaments, and unlike the simple expectation based on a Jeans length argument. Additionally, I develop a core field structure (CFS) method which requires spatially resolved observations of the nonthermal velocity dispersion from the Green Bank Ammonia survey (GAS) of the L1688 region of the Ophiuchus molecular cloud along with the column density map to determine magnetic field strength profile across dense cores. By applying the CFS method we find that for most cores in Ophiuchus the mass-to-flux ratio is decreasing radially outward.

President’s Report

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

Dear CASCA members,

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

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

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

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

2019 AGM and Beyond

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


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

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

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

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

Coalition Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Community Planning Activities

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

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


Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

The MSE Management Group has just completed its annual face-to-face meeting in Waimea, Hawaii. The Management Group welcomes its new incoming chair, Andrew Hopkins (Macquarie U., Australia), as well as new members Laura Ferrarese (NRC Canada) and Luis Ho (Kavli Institute, China). A more substantial update will appear in the next Cassiopeia.

MSE Project Book

The MSE Project Book is now available as arXiv:1810.08695. 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 of the MSE capabilities and requirements.

Wide Field Astronomy in Canada

MSE science interests were represented at the Wide Field Astronomy in Canada workshop at the Perimeter Institute October 10-11. Presentations can be found under the Schedule tab at this link.

CFI Proposal

Letters of intent for a CFI proposal have been submitted to numerous institutions for the 2019 CFI round. We anticipate a substantial request to complete design work on the enclosure and telescope structure, let by UVic Prof. Colin Bradley and involving U. Victoria, UBC, Western, Waterloo, York, McGill, Laval, and Saint Mary’s.

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

By / par Stéphanie Côté (CGO, NRC Herzberg / OGC, CNRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

La version française suit

Gemini receives generous NSF Award

In mid-September the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a press release to announce the granting of a large multi-million dollar award to Gemini Observatory, to “enhance its role in the era of multi-messenger astronomy and future facilities like the James Webb Space Telescope”. The successful proposal included four projects. The bulk of this new award will fund the development of an advanced multi-conjugate AO system for Gemini-North. This is excellent news for the Canadian community which has had a strong interest in seeing such a facility on Gemini-North for many years already. In particular this new facility will greatly enhance the impact of the upcoming Gemini InfraRed Multi-Object Spectrograph (GIRMOS), developed in Canada by a team led by Suresh Sivanandam (Dunlap Institute).

Another part of the award will go to procure new realtime computers to support both this new AO North system and the existing GeMS. And then another part of the award will be used to develop software to optimize Gemini for multi-messenger astronomy and transients follow-up, such as automated systems to trigger follow-up observations within minutes of discovery, but also including the delivery of science-ready data to astronomers through automated data processing pipelines. These pipelines have been long-awaited by our users and will benefit all users in all non-transient fields too. Lastly a small part of the award will go to enhance public outreach efforts to better inform journalists and the public particularly on multi-messenger astronomy.

Gemini Assessment Point 2018

We wish to thank the Canadian Gemini Assessment Point Review Panel chaired by Sarah Gallagher (UWO) and with members Etienne Artigau (U de Montreal), JJ Kavelaars (NRC), Samar Safi-Harb (U of Manitoba) and Locke Spencer U of Lethbridge), for their engagement in this Review of Gemini’s impact in Canada and future opportunities for Canadians, for organizing broad consultation from the community as part of this process, and for producing a very well-structured, well-argued final report. This report was submitted to NRC and their recommendation for Canada to continue in our Gemini partnership with the same share level was approved by our NRC president Iain Stewart in mid-November, just in time to be reported officially to the November 2018 Gemini Board meeting.

As part of this review process it was an occasion for the CGO to compile statistics on all aspects of Canadian use of the Gemini telescopes over the last 10 years. We uncovered many successes of our Canadian users that they can all be proud of, such as:

  • The mean impact of Canadian Gemini papers published from 2009 to 2015 is higher than any other ground-based telescope papers including Keck papers.
  • From 2009 to 2017 Canadians have contributed (as lead authors or co-authors) to almost half (46%) of all science press releases by the Gemini Observatory.
  • There are by now over 72 Canadian MSc and PhDs theses based on Gemini data, which is more than from any other telescopes that Canadians have access to.

Congratulations to all our Canadian users who have contributed in one way or the other to these amazing stats. We also wish to thank all our users who expressed their support and future interest in Gemini in the survey and the webex Townhall for the Gemini Assessment Point Review Panel, and we look forward to many more years of our fruitful partnership with Gemini!

Call for Proposals for Large and Long Programs 2019

The Call for Proposals for the Gemini Large and Long Programs 2019 have been released. The Letters of Intent are due February 4th 2019, and the final proposals will be due April 1st 2019. Please consult the Call for Proposals to see how much time is available for LLPs in each of the following 6 semesters for which time can be requested. All current instruments are available for this Call, except GPI which will no longer be offered for LLPs (but will be offered for regular proposals in 2019B and 2020A, until GHOST arrives at Gemini-South). The visitor instruments GRACES and ‘Alopeke are also offered for LLPs on Gemini-North. Note that PIs are also invited to submit proposals for Subaru Intensive Programs to Gemini through the Gemini-Subaru time exchange program. Subaru Intensive programs applications follow the same rules and eligibility used for the Gemini LLPs. Note that a proposal can include both a Gemini and a Subaru component.

Canadian Gemini Press Releases

If you feel that the paper you are finalizing might be worthy of a press release, please get in touch with the Gemini Public Information and Outreach Office. Just send them a draft of the paper and they will be looking at the best way to present the results to the public. DO NOT attempt to write the press release yourself, let the professionals do it for you! And they will help with the illustrations too. Get in touch either with us at the Canadian Gemini Office at or directly with Peter Michaud (PIO Manager).

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

Gemini reçoit une généreuse subvention du NSF

À la mi-septembre, la National Science Foundation (NSF) des États-Unis a publié un communiqué de presse dans lequel elle annonçait l’octroi d’une importante subvention de plusieurs millions de dollars à l’Observatoire Gemini, afin de «renforcer son rôle à l’ère de l’astronomie multimessager et des futurs télescopes tels que le télescope spatial James Webb ”. Le projet soumis par l`Observatoire comprenait quatre volets. La part la plus large de cette nouvelle subvention financera le développement d’un système AO multi-conjugué avancé pour Gemini-Nord. Ceci une excellente nouvelle pour la communauté canadienne, qui rêvait depuis de nombreuses années déjà de voir le développement d’un tel système à Gemini-Nord. En particulier, ce nouveau système AO renforcera considérablement l’impact du futur spectrographe infrarouge multi-objets pour Gemini (GIRMOS), présentement en construction au Canada par une équipe dirigée par Suresh Sivanandam (Institut Dunlap).

Une autre part de la subvention ira à l’acquisition de nouveaux « ordinateurs en temps réel » pour prendre en charge à la fois ce nouveau système AO Nord ainsi que GeMS à Gemini-Sud. Une autre part sera utilisée pour développer du logiciel qui optimisera Gemini pour l’astronomie multimessager et le suivi des phénomènes transitoires, tels que des systèmes automatisés pour déclencher des observations de suivi dans les minutes qui suivent la découverte, mais également pour la livraison de données scientifiques réduites aux astronomes grâce à des pipelines de traitement de données automatisés. Ces pipelines sont attendus depuis longtemps par nos utilisateurs/trices et profiteront autant à tous les utilisateurs/trices en dehors des phénomènes transitoires. Enfin, une petite partie de la subvention servira à renforcer les efforts de sensibilisation du public afin de mieux informer les journalistes et le public surtout sur l’astronomie multimessager.

Gemini Assessment Point 2018

Nous tenons à remercier le comité d’examen du « Gemini Assessment Point » au Canada, présidé par Sarah Gallagher (UWO), ainsi que les membres Etienne Artigau (U de Montréal), JJ Kavelaars (NRC), Samar Safi-Harb (U du Manitoba) et Locke Spencer (U de Lethbridge), pour leur engagement dans cette étude de l’impact de Gemini au Canada et des opportunités futures pour les Canadiens, pour avoir organisé une vaste consultation communautaire dans le cadre de ce processus, et pour avoir produit un rapport final très bien structuré et bien argumenté. Ce rapport a été soumis au CNRC et sa recommandation pour que le Canada poursuive son partenariat avec Gemini avec le même niveau de participation de 18.15% a été approuvée par notre président du CNRC, Iain Stewart, à la mi-novembre, juste à temps pour être officiellement présentée à la réunion du conseil d’administration de Gemini en novembre 2018.

Dans le cadre de ce processus, le CGO a eu l’occasion de compiler des statistiques sur tous les aspects de l’utilisation des télescopes Gemini au Canada au cours des 10 dernières années. Nous avons découvert beaucoup de succès dont nos utilisateurs/trices canadien(ne)s peuvent être fier(e)s, tels que:

  • L’impact moyen des articles canadiens Gemini publiés de 2009 à 2015 est supérieur à celui de tout autre télescope basé au sol, y compris les articles de Keck.
  • De 2009 à 2017, les Canadiens ont contribué (en tant qu’auteurs principaux ou co-auteurs) à près de la moitié (46%) des communiqués de presse scientifiques publiés par l’Observatoire Gemini.
  • Jusqu’à maintenant plus de 72 thèses de maîtrise et de doctorat au Canada ont été produites grâce à des données Gemini, ce qui est plus que tout autre télescope auquel les Canadiens ont accès.

Félicitations à tou(te)s nos utilisateurs/trices canadien(ne)s qui ont contribué d’une manière ou d’une autre à ces statistiques étonnantes. Nous souhaitons également remercier tous ceux et celles qui ont exprimé leur soutien et leur intérêt futur pour Gemini dans le sondage et la discussion webex Townhall pour le comité d’examen du « Gemini Assessment Point », et nous vous souhaitons de nombreuses années fructueuses dans le futur grâce à notre partenariat avec Gemini!

Appel de Demandes pour les Programmes Longs et Larges 2019

L’Appel de demandes pour les Programmes Gemini Longs et Larges 2019 a été publié. Les lettres d’Intention doivent être envoyées au 4 février 2019 au plus tard, et les demandes finales seront dues le 1er avril 2019. Veuillez consulter l’Appel de demandes pour vérifier combien de temps peut être demandé dans chacun des 6 semestres suivants. Tous les instruments courrants sont disponibles pour cet appel, à l’exception de GPI, qui ne sera plus offert pour les PLL (mais le sera pour les demandes régulières en 2019B et 2020A, en attendant l’arrivée de GHOST à Gemini-Sud). Les instruments visiteurs GRACES et ‘Alopeke sont également offerts pour les PPL de Gemini-Nord. Notez que les PIs sont également invités à soumettre des demandes de « Programmes Intensifs » sur Subaru via le programme d’échange de temps Gemini-Subaru. Les demandes de Programmes Intensifs Subaru doivent respecter les mêmes règles et les mêmes critères d’éligibilité que ceux utilisés pour les programmes PPL de Gemini. Notez qu’une demande peut très bien inclure à la fois une composante Gemini et une composante Subaru.

Communiqués de presse canadiens

Si vous pensez que l’article que vous êtes en train de finaliser mériterait peut-être un communiqué de presse, veuillez contacter le Bureau d’Information et de Sensibilisation du public de Gemini. Envoyez-leur simplement votre manuscrit avant publication et ils trouveront le meilleur moyen de présenter les résultats au public. N’essayez PAS d’écrire le communiqué de presse vous-même, laissez donc les professionnels le faire pour vous! Et ils peuvent aussi produire des illustrations pour accompagner le texte. Contactez-nous à l`Office Gemini Canadien à, ou directement Peter Michaud (Directeur de l’Information à Gemini).

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

Report from the LRPIC

By / par John Hutchings (Chair, LRPIC)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

The LRPIC has followed issues and progress on both ground and space facilities. We welcome input and discussion either via the individual members or via the open discussion mailing list. We continue to communicate closely with the JCSA, GAC, and CATAC committees.

LRPIC has been involved in two pre-LRP workshops: wide field surveys in Waterloo, and space astronomy at the Universite de Montreal. We have noted recent developments in the site and partnerships in TMT and MSE, and the SKA organization and its precursor facilities now operating.

LRPIC, along with JCSA, the Coalition, and the Space Advisory Board continue to voice concern at the lack of a stable and adequate space science budget and mandate for CSA. Debacles like the failed WFIRST partnership are severely eroding our international reputation, and prospects are challenging for LRP2020. We note the continued absence of the promised space policy by the government, but note the many and active lobbying efforts towards redressing the situation, and have hopes that this will result in the needed changes.

A Subaru delegation attended the Waterloo workshop and presented a vision for instrumentation and international partnership. A $2M/year contribution would give full partnership status: access to at least 25 nights (regional time), a role in governance, and access to SSPs (Large Programs). In all, Canada could access over 100 nights for this level of participation. Subaru partnership would involve technical and scientific collaborations with Japan, also a TMT partner. For more about this, contact Michael Balogh.

CCAT-prime CDR was held in late October, and construction is now under way, on a schedule for first light in2021. The CATC consortium plans to ask for ~$9M CDN in the upcoming CFI round, with some $2-3M used for participation in instrumentation. This would give Canada a 20% share in the facility.

LRPIC is delighted at the appointment of Sarah Gallagher as CSA science advisor. Dan Wayner, ex NRC-VP, has been appointed to the similar science advisor position for NRC. NRC has appointed Luc Simard as HAA DG, to succeed Greg Fahlman. We congratulate all of these, and are following and working with therm in their new roles.

LRPIC members are M. Balogh, M. Dobbs, S. Ellison, J. Hutchings (chair), JJ Kavelaars, B. McNamara, N. Murray, I. Stairs.

Observers: R. Abraham, R. Kothes, J. Rowe, L. Simard, R. Thacker.

JCMT Update

By / par Chris Wilson (McMaster University, JCMT Board Member for Canada)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

Magnetic field vectors in the “Pillars of Creation” in the M16 nebula are shown overlaid on a 3-colour HST image from Hester et al. (1996). The data were obtained at 850 microns with the POL2 instrument mounted in front of SCUBA-2 on the JCMT. Figure from Pattle et al. (2018, ApJL, in press).

The JCMT continues to produce exiting new science results, with many results from the Large Programs appearing in the past 6 months. I’d like to particularly highlight the amazing results from the Canadian built polarimeter POL2 on SCUBA-2, including the first observations of the magnetic field structure inside the “Pillars of Creation” from the BISTRO Large Program (see Pattle et al., 2018, ApJL, in press, ArXiv: 1805.11554 and Ward-Thompson et al., 2017, ApJ). Pierre Bastien (Montreal) also presented a poster on POL-2 results at the recent CASCA meeting. The first generation Gould Belt Survey with SCUBA-2 is being very productive and publishing lots of papers, with good Canadian participation and leadership. There is also a major Canadian role in the new transient large program with some exciting papers published recently.

Canadian PI observing time on the JCMT continues to be very oversubscribed, although the oversubscription rate in the most recent semester (18B) was lower than previous semesters. This drop may reflect the uncertainty in future Canadian participation in the JCMT (see below), or simply proposer fatigue caused by the high oversubscription rate.

The East Asian Observatory (EAO) currently has a 5-year agreement to operate the JCMT that ends in February, 2020. Recently, the EAO Board decided that they wish to continue to operate the JCMT for a second 5-year term. They would welcome continued participation by their U.K. and Canadian partners, and are also looking for additional partners from Asia and beyond.

As a result of this extended commitment by the EAO, the observatory is planning for upgrades to the existing instrumentation. The current 230 GHz receiver will be replaced with a newer, more sensitive receiver within the next year. Active investigations are underway for replacements for both SCUBA-2 and the 345 GHz array receiver HARP-B. Assistant Director Jessica Dempsey gave a talk about the future instrumentation plans at the JCMT at the recent CASCA meeting in Victoria.

The current Canadian university funding runs out February 2019. We will be looking for options to continue to fund JCMT operations, but none are currently obvious. The NSERC RTI program that has funded the Canadian operations contribution from February 2017-February 2019 did not run a competition in 2017. It remains to be seen whether it will be resurrected for the 2018 competition this fall given the new infusion of money from the Federal Government to the granting councils. The CADC currently operates the archive for the JCMT and about half of our PI observing time is tied to this CADC contribution. Whether this situation will continue if university funding for the JCMT ends remains to be confirmed. Another opportunity we are exploring is whether a CFI proposal could fund a contribution to the new instruments on the JCMT in return for continued PI access by Canadian researchers.

If operational funding from Canada lapses completely, Canadian astronomers will continue to be members of and have access to the existing Large Programs on the JCMT. Whether this courtesy would be extended at the next large program call (likely sometime in 2020) remains to be seen.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

TMT Science Forum

The sixth TMT Science Forum was held in Pasadena, Dec 10-12. The agenda and participant list are available here. It was great to see so many Canadian researchers attending, and actively participating in the discussions. It was especially encouraging to see all the excellent science being done by our postdocs and graduate students, and their ambitions for more great things with TMT. Some of them also participated in the TMT Early Career Workshop the week before the Forum, where they were immersed in a start-to-finish instrument design experience.

A major focus of discussion was the US preparation for a preconstruction proposal to the NSF, largely to support instrumentation development, and preparation for the US Decadal survey Astro2020. Much of this work involves developing Key Science Programs, designed to make use of potential US access to both TMT and GMT. While this is a US-focused exercise, many of these Key Science Programs build on work that has already been done within the TMT community, by the International Science Definition Teams.

Compelling science cases were presented for several future instrument concepts, including multi-object NIR spectroscopy, high-contrast imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy. Discussion of the relative priorities of these concepts was an important agenda item for the SAC meeting that immediately followed the forum. Early in January, CATAC will be engaging with the Canadian community to develop a clear picture of where our priorities lie.

While this was the last Forum funded through the cooperative agreement with NSF that sparked the meetings, many people expressed the opinion that they should continue. While it is likely the next meeting will be held in China, I hope that we will consider hosting one in Canada perhaps the year after that.


The big news in the past months has been the positive ruling in both contested cases before the Hawai’i Supreme Court. First, in August, the Court ruled unanimously in favour of TMT on the issue of the sublease. Then, at the end of October, the Court delivered a 4-1 decision to uphold the Conservation District Use Permit issued to TMT by the Land Board. This is welcome news, that now gives TMT the legal right to restart construction. While it is expected that there will still be protests, the latest polls show strong support for TMT among Hawaiians. We are therefore hopeful that construction can begin soon, amid a welcoming environment in Hawai’i.

First Light Instrumentation

The SAC met in October to recommend a design choice for the Wide Field Optical Spectrograph, one of two first light instruments on the TMT. CATAC’s public report on the three designs under consideration was made available to SAC members. The SAC recommended that the project pursue the multi-slit imaging spectrograph design (Xchange), which was also the design preferred by CATAC. This concept will be the baseline for further development.

A conceptual design review of an adaptive secondary mirror (AM2) was held in October, and no show-stoppers were identified. However, there are risks associated with deploying an AM2 at first light, and it complicates commissioning. While an AM2 could have a big impact on future instruments, simplifying their design, it will not significantly affect WFOS or IRIS. Therefore, while there is interest in this being an early capability, it may not be necessary to push for it to be ready at first light.

Recent and Upcoming Meetings and Events

  • US-ELTP Splinter session at AAS, Seattle on Monday Jan 7, 2019
  • Conference, “Extremely Big Eyes on the Early Universe”, UCLA Jan 28-Feb 1, 2019

ALMA Matters


By / par Gerald Schieven (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

ALMA Campaign Provides Unprecedented Views of the Birth of Planets

The release of the spectacular ALMA image of rings in the protoplanetary disk around HL Tau in 2014 was a game changer in the study of planet formation. Now an international team led by S. Andrews of the CfA has reported that this kind of structure is the rule rather than the exception. Their Cycle 4 ALMA Large program mapped 20 nearby protoplanetary disks (see image), and the results have just been released in a series of ten papers to appear in ApJLetters. For the full press release, see ALMA-campaign-provides-unprecedented-views-of-the-birth-of-planets.

ALMA Cycle 7 Development Studies

You are invited to submit a study proposal to the ALMA North America Cycle 7 Development program. The ALMA Operations Plan envisages an ongoing international program of development and upgrades that may include hardware, software, or data analysis tools. With a modest investment, ALMA will continue to lead astronomical research through the current decade and beyond. The call for proposals is open to the NA ALMA Operations Partnership, which is defined as the community of astronomers and scientists in related fields from North American ALMA partner countries (which includes Canada). General Studies (funded for 1 year up to US$200,000 per individual award) are to be funded in this call. Proposals can be submitted until May 1st, 2019. We also encourage prospective PIs to submit Notices of Intent (deadline March 15th, 2019), followed by Study Proposals. For full details, please see here.

In The News

ALMA press releases in 2018 which involve Canadians:

Galaxy-Scale Fountain Seen in Full Glory, B. R. McNamara, A. N. Vantyghem (UWaterloo); C. P. O’Dea, S. A. Baum (UManitoba)

Fierce Winds Quench Wildfire-like Starbirth in Far-flung Galaxy, S. C. Chapman, T. B. Miller (Dalhousie); M. Cunningham (St Mary’s)

ALMA Discover Exciting Structures in a Young Protoplanetary Disk That Support Planet Formation, R. Dong (UVictoria)

ALMA and VLT Find Too Many Massive Stars in Starburst Galaxies, Near and Far, V. Hénault-Brunet (NRC Herzberg)

Ancient Galaxy Megamergers, T. Miller, S. C. Chapman, R. Perry, K. M. Rotermund (Dalhousie); A. Babul (UVictoria); D. J. M. Cunningham (St Mary’s); K. Lacaille (McMaster); E. Pass (UWaterloo); D. Scott (UBC)

New Horizons in Planetary Systems

Registration is now open to the conference: “New Horizons in Planetary Systems”, to be held in Victoria from 13-17 May 2019. Registration and more information is available here.

The meeting is planned to have a broad scope, including planetary systems in formation within protoplanetary disks, minor objects in the solar system, debris disks and exoplanets. Experts will be asked to provide insights from all these fields to enhance our understanding of how planets form and evolve. Though co-organized by NRAO and the NRC Herzberg millimetre astronomy group, the meeting is not ALMA-centric, and has a strong focus on the impact of the New Horizons mission flyby of a KBO in January 2019, plus experts from TESS and other facilities who will be asked to provide a multi-chromatic picture of the current understanding in their fields. Invited speakers have been asked to provide broadly accessible talks.

Confirmed invited speakers include:

Diana Dragomir (MIT Kavli Inst): Early results from the TESS mission

Brett Gladman (UBC): theory of planet formation

Grant Kennedy (U Warwick): debris disk constraints on planet formation

Heather Knutson (Caltech): exoplanet atmospheric composition

Emmanuel Lellouch (Observatoire de Paris): solar system objects, constraints on formation

Karin Öberg (Harvard U): protoplanetary disk composition and chemistry

John Spencer (SWRI): New Horizons KBO flyby: first results

Zhaohuan Zhu (UNLV): protoplanetary disk structure

We will also host a public talk on New Horizons by Deputy Mission Scientist Kelsi Singer (SWRI).

The number of participants is limited, so register today.

NRC Herzberg News / Nouvelles du CNRC Herzberg

By / par Dennis Crabtree (NRC Herzberg), Contributions from / de James Hesser, Chris Willott
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2018)

La version française suit

General News

Luc Simard has accepted the position of Director General of the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre. Luc joined the NRC in 2002 as an archive scientist with the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre. He subsequently became a Team Leader, Instrument Science in the Astronomy Technology Program and took on the role of Director, Astronomy Technology in 2015. As Director, Luc has led a team of 68 scientists, engineers and technicians located at both the Penticton and Victoria sites. Over the years, he has been involved in a number of high profile international telescope instrumentation projects, including, for example, the Gemini High resolution SpecTrograph (GHOST), the mid frequency correlator and beamformer for the Square Kilometer Array and the SPIRou and Near-InfraRed Planet Search (NIRPS) spectrographs for the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT).

Luc was also the Science Instruments Group Leader for the Thirty Meter Telescope Observatory Corporation, responsible for the delivery of three science instruments and one adaptive optics calibration unit, overseeing work being performed in 20 different institutes located in five countries.

His scientific research has been dominated by work with large galaxy surveys and his primary interest lies in testing galaxy formation and evolution models. Luc has authored or co-authored 98 refereed publications, which have received more than 9,400 citations. He has chaired international conferences in astronomy, been a member of various advisory committees and panels, and has given invited talks in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, covering a wide range of topics including galaxy evolution, science and instrumentation for extremely large telescopes, and project management. Luc is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. He holds a PhD in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Victoria and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California Observatories in Santa Cruz, USA.

Concert of William Herschel’s Music

Friday night >250 people enjoyed a concert at Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral they will not soon forget. Fittingly, the concert recognized the DAO’s centennial and the RASC’s sesquicentennial and, equally fittingly, it was sandwiched between William Herschel’s 285th birthday (15 Nov.) and founding DAO Director John Stanley Plaskett’s 153rd birthday (17 Nov.).

The program consisted of three lively symphonies and two concerti written by musician/composer turned astronomer William Herschel who, inter alia, discovered Uranus and infrared radiation. The program had what are believed to be three North American premieres. Harpsichord virtuoso Michael Jarvis, with his virtuosic violinist partner Paul Luchkow (the “Luchkow Jarvis Duo”), is working to revive Herschel’s music for modern audiences. Eight other excellent musicians joined them with period instruments. RASC members David Lee and John McDonald created the beautiful video that accompanied the music using images and sketches by RASC, Victoria Centre members. David and John both participated in an informative pre-concert talk led by the concert’s producer Ian Alexander (Co-chair of the Cathedral’s Music Committee) which also featured retired DAO astronomer Alan Batten and Michael Jarvis. The audience learned about the music, the origin many years ago of this presentation concept, and what to look for in the accompanying images. Dramatic narration throughout the concert by Alan Batten (William Herschel) and Carolyn Sinclair (Caroline Herschel) was based upon the Herschel’s’ original writings, as extensively researched by Alan and scripted by Ian.

A rehearsal photo by David Lee is shown above. Performance photos by Chris Gainor may be seen here and a short recording by David Lee made during rehearsal may be listened to here.

JWST Update

The two halves of the James Webb Space Telescope are now residing together at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Los Angeles. The completed telescope with integrated science instruments is awaiting integration with the spacecraft in 2019. The spacecraft and its enormous deployable sunshield are undergoing a series of environmental tests. Having successfully completed the acoustics test, the spacecraft has now begun a series of vibration tests that simulate the stresses experienced during a launch.

Following the Independent Review Board report released earlier this year, NASA has set a new launch date of March 30, 2021. The science planning timeline shows that the Cycle 1 Call for Proposals is expected to be released at the end of 2019 or start of 2020. The extra time available before launch is being used to improve the efficiency of JWST operations and the state of the data reduction pipeline and archive functionality (including the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre).

The Canadian JWST team recently supported the first Science Instrument Rehearsal at the Mission Operations Center in Baltimore, replicating a week of instrument commissioning activities, including some planned « anomalies ». The exercise was very valuable to test both the flight software and human interactions in this phase of the mission.

There have been some changes to the JWST team at the Universite de Montreal. Julien Rameau has moved on from his position as JWST Instrument Scientist to a new position in France. An advertisement for his replacement is now online here. Nathalie Ouellette has joined the team as the new Canadian JWST Outreach Scientist.

This photo shows the two halves of JWST together in Los Angeles. On the left side three gold-coated hexagonal primary mirror segments of the stowed telescope can be seen. On the right side the stowed spacecraft is being raised for transportation to the environmental test facility; the purple shiny material is the folded sunshield.

Nouvelles d’intérêt général

Luc Simard a accepté le poste de directeur général du Centre de recherche Herzberg en astronomie et en astrophysique. Luc s’est joint au CNRC en 2002 à titre d’expert en archivage des données au Centre canadien de données astronomiques. Il est par la suite devenu chef de l’équipe responsable des instruments au sein du programme Technologies d’astronomie, et a assumé en 2015 le rôle de directeur, Technologies d’astronomie. À ce titre, Luc a dirigé une équipe de 68 scientifiques, ingénieurs et techniciens, répartis dans les sites de Penticton et de Victoria. Au fil des ans, il a participé à de nombreux projets internationaux de haut niveau dans le domaine de l’instrumentation des télescopes, notamment pour le spectrographe optique haute résolution de Gemini [High resOlution SpecTrograph ou GHOST], le corrélateur de moyennes fréquences et le conformateur de faisceaux du Réseau d’un kilomètre carré (SKA) et les spectrographes SPIRou et Near-InfraRed Planet Search (NIRPS) pour le Télescope Canada-France-Hawaï.

Il a également été chef du groupe des instruments scientifiques de l’observatoire abritant le Télescope de trente mètres. Dans ce poste, Luc a été responsable de la livraison de trois instruments scientifiques et d’un dispositif d’étalonnage d’optique adaptative, et a supervisé des travaux exécutés dans 20 instituts différents situés dans cinq pays.

Dans ses travaux de recherche scientifique, Luc s’est avant tout concentré sur les grands levés de galaxies. Il s’intéresse principalement à la mise à l’essai de modèles de formation et d’évolution de galaxies. Il est l’auteur ou le coauteur de 98 publications à comité de lecture, lesquelles ont été citées plus de 9 400 fois. Il a présidé des congrès internationaux en astronomie, il a été membre de diverses commissions consultatives et de groupes d’experts, et il a été invité comme conférencier aux États-Unis, au Canada, en Europe et en Asie, pour aborder un vaste éventail de sujets, dont l’évolution des galaxies, la science et l’instrumentation des télescopes de très grande taille, et la gestion de projets. Il est également professeur auxiliaire au département de physique et d’astronomie de l’Université de Victoria. Il est titulaire d’un doctorat en physique et en astronomie de l’Université de Victoria et a obtenu une bourse postdoctorale à l’observatoire de l’Université de Californie à Santa Cruz, aux États-Unis.

Concert William Herschel

Le vendredi 16 novembre, plus de 250 personnes ont assisté à la cathédrale Christ Church de Victoria à un [concert][Concert.jpg] qu’elles ne sont pas prêtes d’oublier. L’événement, qui a souligné le centenaire de l’Observatoire fédéral d’astrophysique (OFA) et les 150 ans de la Société royale d’astronomie du Canada (SRAC), s’insérait fort à propos entre le 285e anniversaire de naissance de William Herschel (le 15 novembre) et le 153e anniversaire de naissance du directeur fondateur de l’OFA, John Stanley Plaskett (le 17 novembre).

Le programme proposait trois symphonies et deux concertos entraînants composés par le musicien et compositeur devenu astronome William Herschel, qui a notamment découvert Uranus et le rayonnement infrarouge. Le concert incluait en outre ce que nous considérons comme trois premières nord-américaines. Tout d’abord, la présence de Michael Jarvis, virtuose du clavecin, et de son partenaire violoniste virtuose Paul Luchkow (le « duo Luchkow Jarvis »), qui cherchent à remettre la musique d’Herschel à l’honneur auprès des auditoires d’aujourd’hui. Huit autres excellents musiciens se sont joints à eux avec leurs instruments anciens. Les membres de la SRAC David Lee et John McDonald avaient en outre mis au point une magnifique vidéo pour accompagner la musique d’images et esquisses créées par des membres du centre de Victoria de la SRAC. David et John ont tous deux participé avant le concert à une causerie animée par l’organisateur, Ian Alexander (coprésident du comité musical de la cathédrale), à laquelle ont aussi pris part Alan Batten, astronome de l’OFA à la retraite, et Michael Jarvis. L’auditoire a pu ainsi découvrir l’origine de la musique et du concept de présentation, ainsi que glaner des conseils utiles pour savoir quoi regarder dans les images d’accompagnement. Une narration théâtrale d’Alan Batten (incarnant William Herschel) et de Carolyn Sinclair (incarnant Caroline Herschel) a accompagné le concert, inspirée d’écrits originaux de Herschel et rédigée par Ian à la suite d’une recherche étendue effectuée par Alan.

Ci-dessus une photo prise par David Lee durant une répétition. Des photos du spectacle, prises par Chris Gainor, sont accessibles ici et un court enregistrement vidéo réalisé par David Lee durant les répétitions peut être visionné ici.

Nouvelles du JWST

Les deux moitiés du télescope spatial James Webb (James Webb Space Telescope, ou JWST) sont maintenant rassemblées au Northrop Grumman Space Park de Los Angeles. Le télescope complet doté de tous les instruments scientifiques requis attend son intégration au véhicule spatial, prévue en 2019. L’astronef et son énorme écran solaire rétractable sont actuellement soumis à divers tests environnementaux; les essais acoustiques ont été complétés avec succès et les essais de vibration ont débuté, soumettant l’engin spatial aux stress qu’il devra subir lors du lancement.

À la suite du rapport du comité d’examen indépendant publié plus tôt cette année, la NASA a fixé une nouvelle date de lancement, soit le 30 mars 2021. Le calendrier de planification scientifique indique que l’appel de propositions pour le cycle 1 sera lancé à la fin de 2019 ou au début de 2020. Le temps additionnel prévu avant le lancement sera utilisé pour améliorer l’efficacité du JWST, l’état du flux de réduction des données et les fonctions d’archivage (y compris celles du Centre canadien de données en astronomie).

L’équipe canadienne du JWST a récemment participé à une première répétition de l’utilisation des instruments scientifiques au Mission Operations Center de Baltimore. La simulation a reproduit une semaine de mise en service des instruments, y compris quelques « anomalies » programmées. L’exercice a été extrêmement utile pour tester le logiciel de vol et les interactions humains-machines durant cette phase de la mission.

Certains changements se sont produits dans l’équipe du JWST de l’Université de Montréal. Julien Rameau a quitté son poste de scientifique en instrumentation au JWST pour un nouveau poste en France. Le poste est actuellement annoncé ici. Nathalie Ouellette s’est en outre jointe à l’équipe canadienne du JWST à titre de scientifique chargée de la vulgarisation.

Cette photo illustre les deux moitiés du JWST qui ont été réunies à Los Angeles. On peut voir à gauche trois segments hexagonaux du miroir primaire enduit d’or du télescope en position rentrée. À droite, l’engin spatial est soulevé pour être transporté aux installations d’essais environnementaux; le matériel mauve et brillant est l’écran scolaire replié.