Canadian Astroparticle Physics Summer School 2020 Cancelled

From the organizers:

COVID-19 has led to many institutes stopping visitors, public schools shutting down, universities cancelling classes and events with large groups, and banning all international travel for their staff and guests. The Canadian government has now closed international travel, and some provinces have enacted a state of emergency. Given this, it is with great sadness that we will be cancelling CAPSS in May. While it is too early to know what our plans are for CAPSS2021, we will reach out to the community as soon as we know. This site will also be updated at that time.

In the meantime, the McDonald Institute will soon begin exploring ways to bring our content and programs to an online platform. Please join our newsletter to get updates about our programming:

Thank you again for your interest in CAPSS, and we hope we can engage you in our other programs in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, please take care of yourself!

Cassiopeia Newsletter – Vernal Equinox / équinoxe du printemps 2020


In this issue / Dans ce numéro:

President’s Report
ALMA Matters
CASCA Archives
CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope
Long Range Plan 2020 / Plan à long terme 2020
Report from the LRPIC
LSST Update
NameExoWorlds Contest

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.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

In late December, 2019, the law enforcement presence on Maunakea was removed, and the access road reopened. This came together with an agreement from TMT that there would be no attempt to restart construction until the end of February at the earliest, a loose deadline which has since been extended. These developments were an important step forward, as they have given the time and space needed for stakeholders in the dispute to engage in dialogue with less outside attention and pressure. No one knows for sure what the future holds for TMT, for Maunakea or for astronomy in Hawaii.

The alternative site identified for TMT is the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), Canary Islands. This is a good quality site, scientifically. A decision to select this site rests with the TMT International Observatory Members1 and the dominant factors here are not scientific but rather political, financial and environmental. There are significant challenges to be overcome on all fronts; ORM is not an easy choice even in light of the difficulties faced on Maunakea.

Both the US Decadal and Canada’s LRP processes are proceeding and the fate of TMT is intertwined with them. CATAC is providing up to date information to our LRP panel when requested.

Steady progress on the instrumentation is being made, with the advances in the design of WFOS and refinement of MODHIS specifications. Construction is underway at HAA for the building in which NFIRAOS will be assembled, and the India TMT Optical Fabrication Facility (ITOFF) at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics campus near Bengaluru recently completed construction.

Upcoming Events:

The following events are all subject to further developments with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

  • TMT SAC meeting – March 25
  • CATAC will host a lunch session at CASCA at York University, Tuesday May 26, 2020
  • The TMT Early Careers Workshop will be held at HAA, May 26-June 1, 2020
  • Canada is planning to host the next TMT Science forum, May 15-19 (TBC) 2021, in Vancouver

1Canada is represented at the TIO Membership level by Iain Stewart, President of NRC. He is advised by the HAA Director, Luc Simard, who in turn takes advice from the TMT Board, SAC, CATAC and the broader community.

CATAC membership:

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair,
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Report from the LRPIC

By / par John Hutchings (Chair, LRPIC)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

LRPIC and observers continue to meet regularly. We follow ongoing LRP issues, and keep in touch with the LRP2020 panel, ACURA, and Coalition activities. Our invited report submitted in September reviews the decade, and we have provided more detailed feedback to the LRP2020 panel. It this context, we note LRP2010 and MTR2015 priorities still face significant challenges that will extend well into the next decade. These include:

  1. TMT and MaunaKea site issues.
  2. CFHT and MSE futures.
  3. CFI requests for several future projects (MSE, CCAT-prime, EELT instrument, LSST)
  4. SKA membership and construction funding.
  5. CSA failure to commit to new missions, despite years of studies. Lack of space science policy and process.
  6. Overall lack of coherent funding process for major science.
  7. Ways to participate in ngVLA

We note significant evolution over the decade in:

ngVLA, Hitomi, XRISM, Athena
MSE and partnership, CCAT -> CCAT-prime
CASTOR partnerships, LiteBIRD
CSA studies and proposals SPICA, Colibri, EPPE, POEP
Operating NEOSSAT for astronomy
CFHT, Subaru, Gemini, LSST partnerships

Exoplanet science; FRBs and Pulsars (CHIME); GW events

The table below summarizes the status of current LRP facilities.

Long Range Plan 2020 / Plan à long terme 2020

By / par Pauline Barmby and / et Bryan Gaensler (LRP2020 Co-Chairs / co-présidents PLT2020)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

La version française suit

The LRP panel co-chairs attended the January AAS meeting to present a poster on LRP2020, hear about the current situation on Maunakea, and get updates on the current state of the US Astro2020 decadal survey. Results from Astro2020 are not expected to be released before January 2021. This has implications for Canada, since many of the projects being considered by LRP2020 are also being considered by Astro2020; after careful consideration we decided not to delay the LRP2020 report.

The panel has completed discussions of the projects, facilities and recommendations contained in the white papers, and decided on a set of priorities. Report-writing is underway. The panel met at NRC-Herzberg in February for an in-person writing retreat and continues to meet regularly online. We are still on schedule to present the draft recommendations in May at the CASCA AGM in Toronto.

The LRP webpage is a little more up-to-date than it was a few months ago and we hope to make the individual LRP2020 white papers and reports more easily accessible soon. The latest news on LRP2020 is available from the Slack workspace and our Twitter handle @LRP2020. The panel can be contacted at and the co-chairs at

Les coprésidents du panel PLT ont assisté à la réunion de janvier de l'AAS pour présenter une affiche sur PLT2020, entendre parler de la situation actuelle sur Maunakea et obtenir des mises à jour sur l'état actuel de l'enquête décennale américaine Astro2020. Les résultats d'Astro2020 ne devraient pas être publiés avant janvier 2021. Cela a des implications pour le Canada, car de nombreux projets envisagés par PLT2020 le sont également par Astro2020; après mûre réflexion, nous avons décidé de ne pas retarder le rapport PLT2020.

Le panel a achevé les discussions sur les projets, les installations et les recommandations contenues dans les livres blancs, et a décidé d'un ensemble de priorités. La rédaction du rapport est en cours. Le panel s'est réuni au CNRC-Herzberg en février pour une retraite d'écriture en personne et continue de se rencontrer régulièrement en ligne. Nous sommes toujours dans les délais pour présenter l'ébauche des recommandations en mai à l'AGA de la CASCA à Toronto.

La page Web du PLT est un peu plus à jour qu'il y a quelques mois et nous espérons rendre les livres blancs et rapports PLT2020 individuels plus facilement accessibles bientôt. Les dernières nouvelles sur PLT2020 sont disponibles sur l’espace de travail Slack et sur Twitter @LRP2020. Le panel peut être contacté à et les co-présidents à

LSST Canada Update

By / par JJ Kavelaars (LSST Canada collaboration)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

At the LSST community session during the CASCA meeting last June, the status of Canada’s LSST engagement was communicated. In addition, the results of the LSST Canada community survey were described and the evolving nature of the LSST international associate partnership model was presented. At the time of that session, LSST anticipated moving forward on partnerships near the end of February 2020. Since then, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope has been renamed the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and the observational program itself is now called the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), repurposing the LSST brand and giving the observatory a name that honours Dr. Vera C. Rubin, a pioneer in dark matter research.

Following the change last year to the associate partnership scheme, the specific contributions of associate partnerships are still under negotiation. A Contributions Evaluation Committee (CEC) has been set up by the Rubin Observatory’s Acting Director of Operations Robert Blum with a charge to evaluate proposed contributions by international associates. The charge to the CEC is available from the LSST Community pages. An outline of the proposed Canadian contributions to LSST was submitted to the CEC via a Letter of Intent in November 2019.

Recently, the LSST Project announced that they have asked NSF to extend the timeline on the associate partnership/in-kind contribution process as LSST operations have been lately focused on building a comprehensive operations plan, a significant effort that must be completed before rational in-kind contributions can be negotiated. Additional details on the current schedule are available from the LSST Community pages.

Whatever in-kind contributions Canada makes must enable our ambitions for participation in LSST, as measured by the LSST Canada community survey. The first key contribution is the Canadian LSST Science Analysis Platform (CLASP), for which a CFI proposal led by Renée Hlozek (Dunlap Institute, Toronto) was submitted last month. A second key contribution is an archival component provisioned by NRC, pending the outcome of LRP2020. Of course, these contributions must be also valued by LSST, at a level that enables our community’s interests. At this time, the proposed contributions are consistent with Canadian astronomy’s ambitions, as expressed through the community survey, and LSST’s advertised valuing of in-kind contributions.

The CLASP proponents have been communicating informally with the CEC and responding to their inquiries on a timely basis. We remain hopeful that the significant benefits of CLASP to LSST will be recognized during the upcoming evaluation process.

The LRP2020 Panel report, of which a draft is expected in the spring of this year, will provide substantive comment on the importance of the project within the Canadian astronomy research landscape. Canada will not, however, have a complete answer on our capacity to respond to LSST in-kind requirements until after a decision on the CFI proposal is made. CFI decisions are unlikely to be publicly available until well into summer 2020 at the earliest.

The above information is provided to keep the community informed of the efforts being made to join LSST and the status of those efforts. We hope to have more definitive information available by the time of the CASCA meeting this May.

If you have further LSST questions, please contact Renée Hlozek ( and/or JJ Kavelaars ( If you would like to be added to the LSST Canada e-mail exploder, please send a request to

The CASCA Archives

By / par Randall Rosenfeld (Archivist, RASC and CASCA)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

CASCA was founded nearly fifty years ago (1971) as a much needed organized voice for the professional astronomical community in Canada. Through representing the community in the present, and attempting to shape its future, the Society generates the raw stuff of history—the course of organized astronomy in Canada, and the history of a significant sector of science in Canada, and abroad. Despite gaps in the documentary record, CASCA’s holdings of its history are reasonably impressive, and a testament to the foresight of successive Society Secretaries, and colleagues.

At present the CASCA Archives consist of 6.5 linear metres of material, chiefly in the form of documents in print, or manuscript. They are housed in the RASC Archives in Toronto.

These include the original artwork and conceptual documents for the CASCA logo, the pre-CASCA assessment, planning, and contact documents, documents chronicling the earliest Society meetings, office holders’ correspondence with other scientific bodies, members, and various governments, Society circulars for internal distribution and media releases for public distribution, the financial records of the Society, AGM planning documents, minutes and programs, Cassiopeia, membership lists, various decadal plans, and committee reports, and institutional “gray literature” (all the more interesting for its limited distribution, and survival). Amongst the subjects represented are CASCA’s role in various international astronomical cooperative projects, programs of aid to astronomical communities in war-ravaged or disaster-stricken areas, the development of next-generation instrumentation and facilities, and the repurposing and refurbishment of no longer current facilities, and campaigns to protect installations, or improve funding prospects.

The Archives contain fundamental resources for charting the changing nature and make up of CASCA demographics, the evolving research interests of the community, Canadian involvement in the opening up of different wavelength regimes, the Society’s relations with government bodies, the development of space-based astronomy, and the changing nature of its involvement with Canadian society at large. This material is largely underexplored and underutilized, and the history of CASCA and organized professional astronomy in Canada has yet to be written in any full, or meaningful way. When it is, the CASCA Archives will be a prime source.

The Archives are open to any Society member by appointment, and a certain amount of searching can be undertaken by the Archivist for members at no charge. A finding aid to the CASCA Archives is in preparation.

If any CASCA member has material which they believe might beneficially be accessioned into the Archives, the Archivist would be delighted to hear from them.

For any inquiries, please contact
CASCA Archives
203-4920 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON M9A 1B7

NameExoWorlds Contest

By / par Sharon Morsink (University of Alberta)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

Sharon Morsink

The International Astronomical Union celebrated its centenary in 2019 with the international NameExoWorlds Contest. In this contest, the IAU assigned approximately 100 countries (including Canada) a star and an exoplanet. Each country then ran a contest where the public was asked to propose a set of linked names for the star and exoplanet. Canada (through CASCA) was assigned the star HD 136418 and its exoplanet HD 136418b. Phil Langill, Director of the Rothney Observatory at the University of Calgary, used the Rothney’s Baker-Nunn telescope to produce a wide-field image of the stellar neighbourhood of HD 136418.

Figure 1. Starfield near Nikâwiy. Image reduction by Phil Langill.

The new names for the star and planet are Nikâwiy and Awasis (respectively). Both names come from the Cree language. Nikâwiy translates into English as “my mother” and is pronounced NI-gah-wee, where the “g” is hard g as in “gate”. Awasis translates into English as “child” and is pronounced “ah-wah-sis”. If new exoplanets orbiting Nikâwiy are discovered, these will be named after other family members in the Cree language. The original idea for this naming convention came from Amanda Green, a junior high science teacher in Alberta and then was modified slightly by Wilfred Buck, a noted Cree educator who specializes in astronomy education.

Figure 2. Amanda Green and Wilfred Buck, photo credit Emily Mertz, Global News.

The CFHT Director, Doug Simons, granted us a short observation of Nikâwiy using the spectrometers ESPaDOnS and SPIRou which produced a very detailed spectrum.

Figure 3. Spectrum of Nikâwiy from the ESPaDOnS and SPIRou spectrometers on the CFHT Telescope. Data reduction by Phil Langill.

Figure 4. Detail of Hydrogen absorption line.

Figure 5. Detail of Sodium absorption lines.

Figure 6. Detail of Calcium absorption lines.

I would like to thank all of the CASCA members who helped publicize the contests. We had over 500 suggestions for naming conventions, and over 700 people voted on the 4 finalists. The 500 suggestions were narrowed down to just 4 finalists by the panel composed of: Pierre Lacombe, Christian Marois, Nicole Mortillaro, Hilding Nielson, and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton. The contest was organized by a subcommittee of CASCA’s EPO committee including Pierre Chastenay, Julie Buldoc-Duval, Phil Langill, Kelly Lepo, Nathalie Ouellette, Nienke van der Marel, Frederique Baron, Mary Beth Laychak, Mike Chen, and myself (Sharon Morsink). I would like to thank everyone who helped make this contest a successful outreach event!

ALMA Matters


From / de Gerald Schieven
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

ALMA Cycle 7 Observations Suspended Due to COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread to Chile, the ALMA Director has made the decision to suspend science operations with ALMA, effective 20 March. This decision has been taken to protect the safety of ALMA staff, many of whom travel long distances by bus and by plane to reach the remote ALMA site in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

A reduced staff will be retained at the Operation Support Facility (OSF) to maintain the safety of the ALMA equipment and infrastructure. All other staff will be working remotely for the immediate future. The plan is to continue providing data processing, data archive services, and ARC support, including the Cycle 8 Call for Proposals (see below) while external conditions allow it. An announcement will be posted on the science portal when observations are resumed.

Cycle 8 Call for Proposals

ALMA proposals are being solicited for Cycle 8, which runs from 1 October 2020 through 30 September 2021. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for proposal submission has been extended to 19 May 2020. (Note that this deadline may be further extended if circumstances warrant. Consult the ALMA Science Portal for further information.). Full details of the Call for Proposals, including the full list of capabilities and links to documents and the Observing Tool, can be found on the ALMA Science Portal.

An important consideration is that the two largest configurations, C-9 and C-10, will not be available during Cycle 8; the maximum baselines will vary from 0.16 to 8.5 km.

The Millimetre Astronomy Group at NRC Herzberg is the “Canadian Node” of the North American ALMA Regional Center, and is ready to help you with any aspect of proposal preparation and execution. You can contact us directly ( or through the ALMA helpdesk on the Science Portal.

Dual-anonymous Proposal Review in ALMA Cycle 8

ALMA is strongly committed to ensuring that the proposal review process is as fair and impartial as possible. Analysis of the proposal rankings in previous cycles has identified systematics that may signify the presence of biases in the review process. To reduce biases as much as possible, ALMA will use a dual-anonymous proposal review process starting in Cycle 8. In a dual-anonymous review, the proposal team does not know the identity of the reviewers and the reviewers do not know the identity of the proposal team. While proposers will still enter their names and affiliations in the ALMA Observing Tool (OT), this information will not appear on the proposal cover sheet, nor in the tools used by the reviewers. It is the responsibility of the proposers to ensure that anonymity is preserved when writing their proposals. To assist in anonymizing the scientific justification (including the abstract and technical justifications), guidelines have been provided by the observatory which can be found here.

ALMA Publications

The number of publications per year using ALMA data continues to rise dramatically, with more than 450 refereed papers in 2019. As of early March more than 1775 ALMA papers had been published. Of these, 2.5% of all ALMA papers have a first author from a Canadian institution. Canadians appear on 14% of all ALMA papers. The annual statistics for publications is shown on the accompanying image. The blue bars show the number of publications per year, the purple line shows the fraction of papers with a Canadian first author, and the green line shows the fraction of all papers with a Canadian in the list of authors.

Dennis Crabtree has performed an analysis of papers published based on data from approximately 30 observatories world-wide. His analysis covers papers published between 2014 and 2018. ALMA papers have the highest Median Impact per Paper of any observatory tracked by Dennis. The impact of a paper is the ratio of citations a paper has received to the citations for the median ApJ paper of the same year.

President’s Report

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2020)

Dear CASCA Members,
The past three months have been unprecedented in our lifetimes. We’re seeing the impact of COVID-19 across all levels of our lives, be they personal, professional, community, and beyond. The academy has been comparatively quick to act to transition to online services, but adjustments to our operations will continue to have to be made.

While many observatories are understandably having to suspend operations, organizationally, CASCA can function in an – almost – entirely electronically-mediated fashion. There is one exception, the Business Meeting, but we have a strategy to handle the bylaw expressly forbidding all-electronic meetings that will still allow significant online participation. We can’t take this bylaw lightly either as we are a legal corporation. However, one of the first pieces of business in the annual Business Meeting will be a bylaw update for exceptional circumstances.

Coalition Update

It’s been a comparatively quiet period for the Coalition, largely down to TMT discussions and updates to government now being handled by the NRC. The Coalition has been in direct contact with the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and we’ve been assured they are receiving frequent updates. Of course, many of you will have heard that the cost estimate for the project has now risen to $2.4B, while most of us appreciated this increase was inevitable the number is now public. CATAC has remained very active as you will see from their update to the community in this issue of Cassiopeia.

At the same time the SKA has moved forward notably, and the decision on the precise construction configuration is made. As hoped, no further descoping of the project is under consideration. This does mean a moderate increase in the project cost but since it has been decided before a precise ask for funds it can be handled. Canada’s proposed contribution remains around the 6% level, consistent with prior discussions of participation levels.

Where things get yet further uncertain is the release of the LRP and what will happen within the context of an economic stimulus package. Anyone doing research on the impact of the 1918/19 influenza pandemic will know that, by and large, economies recovered well. However, the precise factors involved in that recovery are debated, for example, the pandemic came shortly after a war and there was already a shortage of labour.

I hate to state the obvious, but the LRP will be released in a truly unprecedented era.


The in-person cancellation was a difficult but obviously necessary decision. While there is some expectation of an easing of restrictions on a 6-8-week timescale, we can still expect limitations on large gatherings for some time yet.

Many of you are no doubt wrestling with moving the last few days of class online so we can complete the current semester. As was already noted in the exploder email that I sent out, we have moved to form an “Online Organization Committee” or OOC (I’m pronouncing it “ook” like “look”). I’d hoped to be able to list all the members in this communique, but we’re still trying to pin down the last couple of people. Expect to hear more on this in the next few days.

I’ve had a couple of emails wondering why the planned online AGM is focused on contributed posters rather than contributed talks. In all honesty that’s down to what our organization can handle at this time. We’re already pulling in best-practice information, being in contact with the AAS, but starting with a plan that is “contained” allows us to build effectively.

The Future of CASCA

While my heart wants to talk about galaxy formation, my head is telling me that if I’m going to say anything in President’s Address I ought to talk about the future of CASCA. In addition to my Associate Dean/Outreach duties at SMU I’m also the Chief Negotiator for our faculty union. That has some interesting advantages in that I get access to some detailed organizational discussions, specifically the service vs mobilization approach to governing associations. Frustratingly, I wish I had known these things at the beginning of my Presidency. It would have been good to action a few of the concepts, but for now I’ll just say I think there are some good ideas we can utilize to make CASCA increasingly valuable and effective for our community. Tune in to the AGM for more.

So long

With my President’s term finishing at the Business Meeting in May, this marks my last Cassiopeia report! It’s been my sincere honour to serve in this role and to represent a community, that despite differences, is capable of open and frank discussions. I’ve learned a lot from many of you in my term as President, and I’m truly appreciative of that. Equally importantly, I again must thank all of you for volunteering your time, and for our staff their efforts, in support of CASCA and the wider aspirations of our community. CASCA simply doesn’t move forward without you!

With Sara Ellison stepping in the President’s office I know CASCA is headed on an even higher trajectory! Additionally, we’re writing up macro-schedules for officers, so each Board transition is hopefully getting just that bit easier. But it is a time of enormous upheaval as well, so I ask you all to be understanding and give Sara the support she’ll need during this transition period.

As we all face the threat of COVID-19 together, we need to support each other. I hope that you can find your own personal way to deal with the stresses this has brought, and to find a way to help others in your life.

I wish you all good health and, as much as can be expected, clarity of thought.

Take care everyone,