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 panel@lrp2020.groups.io and the co-chairs at chairs@lrp2020.groups.io.

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 panel@lrp2020.groups.io et les co-présidents à chairs@lrp2020.groups.io.

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 rosenfel@chass.utoronto.ca.
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!

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,