ngVLA Update

By Erik Rosolowsky (U Alberta), Joan Wrobel (NRAO)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

The design development for the ngVLA has continued over the past three months. The US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has selected a contractor to develop a production-ready design and produce a prototype antenna for the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA). An agreement with mtex antenna technology GmbH of Germany was signed on May 27. Under the contract, mtex will prepare a production-ready antenna design based on NRAO specifications and an earlier reference design presented in 2019 to the U.S. Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 (Astro2020). The design will be for the 244 ngVLA dish antennas that will be 18 meters in diameter.

The ngVLA Project received a favourable review in the Canadian Long Range Plan and is currently under review by Astro2020, a committee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The committee’s report is expected later this month. The ngVLA Project’s activities are presently focused on being ready to react to a positive Astro2020 Decadal outcome and to prepare documents for an ngVLA Conceptual Design Review in the autumn.

If you would like to review an overview presentation on the current state of the ngVLA Project, please feel free to review this presentation by project scientist Eric Murphy.

The first public tour of the ngVLA occurred in March. The tour featured presentations, interviews of ngVLA staff, and a question-and-answer session. Anyone who missed the virtual event is welcome to view it here.

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By Kristine Spekkens (Canadian SKA Science Director) and the AACS
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

Artist’s impression of SKA1-Mid in South Africa, combining MeerKAT dishes and SKA dishes. Image credit: SKA Organisation

There have been many exciting SKA developments in recent months and the project proceeds apace, despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic across partner countries. Up-to-date Canada-specific information regarding potential science, technology, industry and societal impacts are available on the SKA Canada website, and a summary of developments through May 2021 was presented at the 2021 CASCA AGM SKA Town Hall. More broadly, frequent project-wide updates are posted on the SKA International website.

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) now controls the project. Construction of SKA Phase 1 (= SKA1) is slated to begin in early July, pending approval by the IGO Council in late June. There has been considerable recent activity among partner countries to secure their participation ahead of the construction phase: China has ratified the SKAO Convention to become the seventh Full Member alongside Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom; France’s request to accede to Full IGO membership was approved; and Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has signed a Cooperation Agreement with the SKAO to allow the Swiss scientific and engineering community to participate in the project until a decision is made by their government to join the IGO. These recent commitments, combined with other developments such as the appointment of telescope site directors and the inaugural meeting of the SKAO Science and Engineering Advisory Committee underscore the project’s technical and financial readiness to enter the construction phase in a few weeks.

Canada’s future participation in the SKA requires committing to SKA1 construction and operations. The Federal Budget 2021 did not provide a decision on Canada’s SKA participation, and there remains an urgent need for a Canada to make a commitment to the IGO to guarantee return on investment through participation in SKA1 construction tender and procurement. In particular, Canada’s conditional allocation of the SKA1-Mid correlator construction package, one of the largest and more desirable across the project, will be jeopardized if a commitment is not made before construction starts in July. Raising awareness about the SKA within government and universities continues to be an part of the process towards securing Canadian participation, and work in this regard is well underway (see President’s Message in this issue) by the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy. Our Government understands the SKA project timeline and the importance of Canada’s contribution to its success. Consideration is still being given to the options available for Canada to continue making contributions to the project.

There will be significant employment opportunities as SKA1 construction ramps up. Many scientists, engineers, software designers, and support and administrative personnel will be hired in the UK and the host countries (South Africa and Australia). Those interested should keep an eye on the recruitment site, which includes a “job alert” tool to set up personalized emails filtered by field of expertise, location, duration and employment type (permanent, contract, secondment, etc.). Watch this space for opportunities throughout 2021.

For more information and updates on Canada and the SKA:


BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By Catherine Lovekin (on behalf of the Canadian BRITE team)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

BRITE-Constellation is an international space astronomy mission consisting of a fleet of 20x20x20 cm nanosatellites dedicated to precision optical photometry of bright stars in two photometric colours. The mission continues in full science operations, with 38 datasets available in the public domain from the BRITE public archive. As of April of 2020, all data is made public as soon as decorrelation is complete, with no proprietary period.

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


There are five BRITE satellites in the Constellation, which work together to obtain well-sampled, long term continuous (~6 months) light curves in both red and blue band passes across a variety of sky fields.

As this issue of Cassiopeia went to press, the assignments of the BRITE nanosats was:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): This satellite observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Crux-Carina field for the third time.
  • BRITE Lem (Poland): Lem observes with a blue filter, but is currently idle due to unresolved stability issues.
  • BRITE Heweliusz (Poland): Heweliusz observes with a red filter. It is also currently observing the Crux-Carina field.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a red filter. It is currently observing in Sagittarius, revisiting the field for the seventh time.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): Currently out of order.

The BRITE Constellation observing program is currently set through late 2021. Details of the observing plan will be available on the BRITE photometry Wiki page.

The BRITE Austria team has encountered serious funding difficulties recently. Cuts at the Graz Technical University potentially mean the end to the operational support for the entire BRITE constellation, although 3 of the 5 satellites are still working well. The international BRITE team is currently investigating other options, including crowd funding options, to keep the satellites operating for another two years. We are still in the process of setting this up, and information will be available on the BRITE-constellation web page in the coming weeks.

Recent Science Results

“Searching for possible exoplanet transits from BRITE data using machine learning technique”, Yeh & Jiang, 2021, PASP, 133, 014401

In this paper, the authors examine photometric light curves of BRITE satellites through a machine learning technique to investigate whether there are possible exoplanets moving around nearby bright stars. Focusing on different transit periods, several convolutional neural networks were constructed to search for transit candidates. The convolutional neural networks were trained with synthetic transit signals combined with BRITE light curves until the accuracy rate was higher than 99.7%. Using this method, they were efficiently able to find ten candidate systems. Among these ten candidates, two of them, the HD37465 and HD186882 systems, were investigated in more detail.

Conferences, Resources, and Social Media


The BRITE team does not plan to host any conferences this year.

Resources and Social Media

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

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

BRITE Constellation is on Facebook, at @briteconstellation.

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team (BIAST), which consists of BRITE scientific PIs, technical authorities, amateur astronomers, and mission fans, advises the mission executive on scientific and outreach aspects of the mission. If you’re interested in joining BIAST, contact Konstanze Zwintz, the chair of BEST.

President’s Message

By Sara Ellison (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

On June 10, the CASCA Board published a statement regarding the recent confirmation of the unmarked burial sites of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Reservation School. This news has been the latest heart-breaking reminder of Canada’s long history of colonial atrocities. To the full CASCA Board statement (English; and French), I add my personal thoughts and prayers to those in grief and pain, to the communities and families who have lost loved ones, and to the Indigenous members in our Society. I encourage our Society members to reach out to your Indigenous colleagues and friends in their time of sorrow.

Addressing inequity, bias and racism is a recurrent theme in CASCA’s Long Range Plan 2020. Despite its infancy, the first steps in this broad-reaching decadal initiative have now begun. As I described at the recent AGM, we have a new implementation and oversight structure that convenes the Ground-based Astronomy Committee (GAC; welcome to Will Percival as the new Chair), the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy (JCSA), the LRP Community Recommendations Committee (LCRIC) and the CASCA Board. The Chairs of these committees have already begun regular communication over the coordination and tracking of LRP progress. Discussions with other CASCA committees will also ramp up over the coming months as we mobilize towards working on the recommendations in our charge. I refer you to the LCRIC update in this newsletter for more information on community updates. On the dissemination front, I can report that the hard copies of the LRP have been received by both the ACURA office and at Temple Scott Associates for distribution amongst our university and external contacts. However, with tele-working still in place for the vast majority of workers in Ottawa, as well as many universities, it is anticipated that the final delivery will be made in the Fall once people return to their offices and are receiving mail (major stakeholders have been previously sent electronic versions).

CASCA 2021 attracted a record number of attendees – some 500 strong from across the astronomical community. This year’s AGM additionally broke new ground for the Society with an unprecedentedly broad scope in its sessions, including an Indigenous cultural awareness session by Bob Joseph, and keynote presentations by Ninan Abraham and Astrid Eichorn on academic racism and the carbon footprint of research in the EDI and Sustainability sessions. The feedback we have received on these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive, and sends a clear message that our annual gathering should be a place where we meet to not only discuss science, but also where we consider our place in an equitable and responsible society. CASCA 2022 (“Canadian Astronomy in the Roaring 2020s”) will again break new ground, as the Society’s first hybrid meeting, with the in-person component taking place at the University of Waterloo (LOC Chair: Will Percival). In case you missed it, the video invitation to CASCA 2022 (May 10-16) presented at the end of this year’s AGM can be found here. Those who attend CASCA 2022 in-person will be able to pick up a hard copy of the LRP!

The #1 ranked space facility in the LRP is the Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and ultraviolet Research (CASTOR). As reported at the AGM, and in the dedicated article in this issue, CASTOR continues to make steady progress and gather momentum under the Canadian scientific leadership of Pat Côté and John Hutchings. A significant ramp-up in activity (both development work and promotional efforts) is expected in the latter half of 2021.

CSA is funding an extensive technical contract for CASTOR that will run until May 2023 and have also have approved a Phase 0 study to begin later this year that will run concurrently. Taken together, these studies will allow CASTOR to move to flight development, once the mission is approved and funded by the government. International partners continue to work closely with the CASTOR team: JPL have demonstrated their support by approving technical work using internal funds, the UK group have offered detector testing as part of the STDP work and the partnership with India through ISRO continues to develop, albeit with some COVID-induced delays. ACURA and the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy are being kept up to date with developments so that they are briefed for engagement within universities and in Ottawa.

In ground-based priorities, the SKA project continues to progress rapidly in anticipation of the start of its construction phase. Since the SKA update at the AGM, China has ratified the SKA Observatory (SKAO) treaty convention to become the 7th Full Member, France has announced that it will accede to the SKAO, and Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has signed a cooperation agreement with the SKAO to allow the Swiss scientific and engineering community to participate in the project until a decision is made by their government to join the Observatory. As you are all aware, the SKA was not listed explicitly in the Federal budget that was announced on April 19, and Canada is now relegated to `observer’ status, with no involvement in the governance of the project. As described by the Canadian SKA Science Director, Kristine Spekkens, at our recent AGM, there is a pressing need for commitment by the end of this month if we are to avoid the loss of our provisional industry contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars. Lobbying for SKA has been the primary activity of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy in the last year. Our most recent meeting took place in late May with a senior Policy Advisor from Minister Champagne’s office. This is the first time that the Coalition has been able to secure a meeting with the Minister’s office since Francois Phillippe Champagne took over from Navdeep Bains as Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry in January 2021. Through a variety of communication channels, the government is fully briefed on the SKA and are aware of the project’s timelines and the stakes if we do not commit imminently.

In other news from Ottawa, on May 26 the House of Commons unanimously passed a private members motion from former Science Minister Kirsty Duncan that will create a permanent House Committee on Science and Research. However, the Committee will not be created until the next Parliament (i.e. after the next federal election). Speculation for an upcoming election is buzzing around the capital. The Government’s legislation to implement the 2021 budget (Bill C-30) has been studied at Committee in the House and the Senate, and efforts are now underway to get it passed before the mid-June summer recess. Passing that legislation is generally considered an imperative if the Liberals want to call an election for the fall. Once Parliament recesses for summer, it is not due to resume until September 20 – and that is assuming an election is not called before then. However, as perhaps the clearest signal yet that a 2021 election is likely, all parties agreed to a motion allowing MPs not running again to give their farewell addresses in the House on June 15. The Liberals also invoked their “electoral urgency” clause regarding riding nominations. Without Parliament sitting, the only means for the Liberals to trigger an election before September 20 is for the Prime Minister to ask the Governor General (or acting Governor General) to dissolve Parliament. That request would almost certainly be granted. Finally, the House of Commons Finance Committee has launched its annual pre-budget consultation, with submissions due on August 6. As we do every year, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy will make a submission to this call.

Canadian Gemini Office News

By Stéphanie Côté (CGO, NRC Herzberg / OGC, CNRC Herzberg)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

Virtual Gemini Science Meeting in August 2021

Virtual Gemini Science Meeting coming up and you’re invited!

Gemini will be hosting a Virtual Science Meeting August 23-26 2021. It will be a combination of invited talks, observatory updates, hands-on training sessions and plenty of time for discussions. There will be a special focus on upcoming instrumentation. This meeting is meant to bridge the gap between the last Gemini Science meeting in 2018 and the next in-person meeting planned for August 2022 in Seoul Korea.

The meeting is free but you do need to register to receive the connection information. Join us for this Virtual meeting, coming soon on a screen near you!

Recent Canadian Gemini Press Releases

Fastest Spinning Brown Dwarfs

On June 8th 2021 an international team of astronomers led by graduate student Megan Tannock (Western University) and including Stanimir Metchev (Western University) and Jonathan Gagné (Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, IREX University of Montreal), announced the discovery of the most rapidly rotating brown dwarfs known. Brown dwarfs are often described as “failed stars”, they form like stars but are not massive enough to start fusing hydrogen into helium as stars do. Tannock and her team first measured the rotation speeds of these brown dwarfs using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They obtained the follow-up observations with Gemini-North’s GNIRS as well as Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile. They confirmed that three brown dwarfs each complete a single rotation in roughly an hour, which is about 10 times faster than normal. This translates to equatorial rotational velocities of >100km/s. This rotation rate is so high that if these objects rotated any faster they could come close to tearing themselves apart. The AJ paper is available here.

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

CanTAC and Dual-Anonymous CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat Proposals

By / par David Bohlender (CanTAC Technical Secretary) and Stéphanie Côté (Canadian Gemini Office)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2021)

Beginning with the next round of proposals for CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat, CanTAC will require that proposals be written in an anonymous fashion.

Over the last few semesters the Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC) has been moving towards dual-anonymous (or double-blind) reviews of applications for CFHT, Gemini, and NEOSSat telescope time. Many other facilities have already implemented similar requirements for their observing proposals (HST, JWST, NASA, Chandra, SOFIA, ALMA, ESO). Under this system, the proposers are not told the identity of the reviewers and the reviewers do not know the identity of the proposers. Reviewers’ attitudes toward a submission may be affected, either consciously or unconsciously, by the identity of the author(s); withholding this information lets the reviewers focus solely on the science case of a proposal.

The identity of only the CanTAC super chair is now provided on the NRC web pages. In recent semesters CFHT and Canadian Gemini Office (CGO) staff have also attempted to remove sections of the submitted proposals that identify the applicants, previous observing runs, publications, etc., in the versions of the documents that are seen by CanTAC members and external referees. Only the CanTAC Technical Secretary (currently this article’s first author) receives copies of proposals that identify the applicant(s). This permits the Technical Secretary to contact principal investigators when necessary, and to identify potential conflicts between applicants, CanTAC members, and external referees.

CFHT’s last few calls for proposals have asked Canadian applicants to prepare their applications in a way that does not give away their identity (e.g. see the 2021B call). In recent semesters you may have received a feedback letter from CanTAC that pointed out that you had not written a properly anonymized CFHT (or Gemini) proposal. These warnings should be taken seriously for proposals you submit for semester 2022A.

Writing an anonymous proposal obviously requires some care from the authors. This is not particularly difficult and there are many on-line documents that provide helpful advice, such as the STScI Recommendations of the Working Group on Anonymizing Proposal Reviews and the ESO Dual-Anonymous Guidelines. Here are a few important points selected from these and other documents, as well as recent CanTAC experience:

  • Do not claim ownership of past work, e.g., “my previous work…” or “Our prior analysis demonstrates that…”
  • When citing references, use third person neutral wording especially when self-referencing. For example, replace phrases like “as we have shown in our previous work (Doe et al. 2021), …” with “as previously shown (Doe et al. 2021), …”
  • For thesis-related work do not identify the students. Avoid text like “These observations will be analyzed and modelled as part of the dissertation research of I. M. Observer (U. of Clearskies) and A. N. Theoretician (U. Niverse).” Instead, use an anonymized version “These observations will be analyzed and modelled as a significant component of two doctoral theses.”
  • Depending on the program element, it may be occasionally important to cite exclusive access datasets, non-public software, unpublished data, or findings that have been presented in public before but are not citable. Each of these may reveal (or strongly imply) the investigators on the proposal. In these instances, proposers must use language such as “obtained in private communication” or “from private consultation” when referring to such potentially identifying work.
  • Do not refer to previous observing programs at any observatories in an identifying fashion. For instance, rather than write “we observed another cluster, similar to the one we are proposing under HST program #XXXXX,” instead write “HST program #XXXXX has observed this target in the past…”
  • Do not include the names of the personnel associated with the proposal or their organizational affiliations in page headers, footers, diagrams, figures, or attachments uploaded as part of a proposal.
  • If you are re-submitting a proposal first written prior to dual-anonymous peer review make sure you edit it carefully to anonymize the text.
  • If you are submitting a joint application with co-investigators from other agencies you will have to carefully edit the text before submission even if the other agency TACs do not require anonymous proposals.

Here is an example of non-anonymized text from a sample proposal:

In Rogers et al. (2014), we concluded that the best explanation for the dynamics of the shockwave and the spectra from both the forward-shocked ISM and the reverse-shocked ejecta is that a Type Ia supernova exploded into a pre-existing wind-blown cavity. This object is the only known example of such a phenomenon, and it thus provides a unique opportunity to illuminate the nature of Type Ia supernovae and the progenitors. If our model from Rogers et al. (2014) is correct, then the single-degenerate channel for SNe Ia production must exist. We propose here a second epoch of observations which we will compare with our first epoch obtained in 2007 to measure the proper motion of the shock wave.

Here is the same text, again re-worked to anonymize the text:

Rogers et al. (2014) concluded that the best explanation for the dynamics of the shockwave and the spectra from both the forward-shocked ISM and the reverse-shocked ejecta is that a Type Ia supernova exploded into a pre-existing wind-blown cavity. This object is the only known example of such a phenomenon, and it thus provides a unique opportunity to illuminate the nature of Type Ia supernovae and the progenitors. If the model from Rogers et al. (2014) is correct, then the single-degenerate channel for SNe Ia production must exist. We propose here a second epoch of observations which we will compare with a first epoch obtained in 2007 to measure the proper motion of the shock wave.

To date, failure to write an anonymous request for CFHT, Gemini, or NEOSSat telescope time has not impacted the grade of your proposal(s) in any way. However, with the CGO formally requiring dual-anonymous proposals next semester, starting with proposals for semester 2022A CanTAC may choose to reject proposals that are not written in an anonymous fashion.

If you have questions you can reach out to David Bohlender (CanTAC TS), Stéphanie Côté (CGO), or the CanTAC super chair (Brian Chaboyer until 31 August 2021).

David Bohlender, CanTAC Technical Secretary

Stéphanie Côté, Canadian Gemini Office

Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre
National Research Council of Canada

Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory 2021-2022 Season Call For Proposals

Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory 2021-2022 Season Call For Proposals

The next deadline for proposals is 23:59 KST on 2021 August 10.
Proposals should be emailed as a single file in PDF format to:

The Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) invites proposals for the Taeduk Radio Astronomy Observatory (TRAO) 14-meter telescope for the 2021 Fall – 2022 Spring season. Proposal candidates should submit up to three pages of scientific and technical justifications (including figures, tables, and references) in addition to their Proposal Cover Sheet in English using the latex templates (form here)

There are two categories of proposals for the 2021-2022 observing season.

  1. General Program (GP): single-year observing program with a telescope time of up to 300 hours
  2. Key Science Program (KSP): multi-year observing program with a telescope time of 400 hours per year, for up to three years

TRAO supports multi-beam spectroscopy observations (4 x 4 array: SEQUOIA-TRAO) at a frequency range of 85 – 115.6 GHz. The TRAO system supports single-sideband observations for position-switched or OTF observations. The backend has two spectral windows controlled independently, each window with 4096 channels in a 62.5 MHz bandwidth. In addition, a single-pixel wide-band (2 GHz) spectrometer is available. Proposal candidates should consult the TRAO Status Report for additional technical specifications:

TRAO has a shared-risk remote observing mode available. However, inexperienced users are advised to do the observations on the site. Outside (non-KASI) PIs who intend to use the remote observing mode should specify local collaborators in the proposal. The local collaborators are responsible for handling on-site tasks during the remote observations, such as resetting the system in case of system failure, which happens occasionally.

Minho Choi

Report from the LCRIC

By Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

The CASCA Board has created a new committee, the LRP Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC for short) to oversee and co-ordinate the societal-level recommendations of LRP2020. The initial members of the committee are Etienne Artigau (CASCA Board rep), Shantanu Basu, Brenda Matthews (LRP2020 rep), Sharon Morsink, Mike Reid, and Chris Wilson (chair).

The LCRIC’s mandate and full terms of reference are available in the Committees area of the CASCA website. In brief, the LCRIC will (1) identify those recommendations for which LCRIC will be responsible for implementing; (2) develop a coherent and achievable plan to implement the community recommendations in LRP2020, including goal timelines, need for additional resources etc.; and (3) work closely with the CASCA Board to help implement and monitor the plan. This work will be done in collaboration with other CASCA committees and may involve the use of subcommittees and/or working groups. The LCRIC will also seek external advice to provide additional expertise.

The CASCA Board has asked that the LCRIC include Recommendation #1 (Develop guiding principles for telescope sites) and #46 (Create Indigenous engagement committee) among our top priorities for the coming year. The LCRIC has been meeting weekly since the CASCA AGM in May 2021 to discuss some of the issues and steps involved around these recommendations. We have also held a joint meeting with the CASCA Board and CASCA’s Equity & Inclusivity Committee (EIC) to begin discussion of some of the LRP2020 recommendations where the EIC committee will play an important role. We plan to meet with other CASCA committees over the next 3 months.

The LCRIC will invite community participation in the process of consultation and implementation of LRP2020’s recommendations. We are planning to hold a series of town halls with the CASCA community to discuss specific topics in more depth. The first of these town halls will focus on the theme of inclusion of astronomers from underrepresented groups. The second town hall will focus on the theme of training and outreach, with a particular focus on Indigenous members and communities (e.g. Recommendation #46). The third town hall will focus on the theme of land and consent, which is one of the key aspects of Recommendation #1. We will be engaging with key stakeholders in the coming weeks.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We also recognize that the CASCA community will need continuous engagement to make progress on many of the most complicated and challenging aspects of LRP2020. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)


The TMT Project Office is busy preparing for an anticipated Preliminary Design Review that will occur if the NSF accepts the US Extremely Large Telescope Project proposal, that aims to provide both GMT and TMT access to the entire US community. We expect the NSF decision to depend on the outcome of the US Astro2020 Decadal planning process. The recent announcement that publication of this report has been delayed therefore also impacts the timescale of this review process.


The anticipated NSF review will be comprehensive, addressing all aspects of TMT including plans for Operations. Prompted by this, CATAC reviewed the existing Operations Plan, which was last updated in 2012, and the Operations Requirements Document. Following several weeks of discussion, including a meeting with Mark Dickinson from the USELTP, we prepared a report that included 15 recommendations. This report was submitted in confidence to the TMT Board and SAC, as well as the Boards of CASCA and ACURA. It is now publicly available on our web page, here. The recommendations include:

  • The Project provide support for both Large Programs and Fast Turnaround Programs. The latter should be available at first light.
  • The dominant mode of observing should be with adaptive queue scheduling. This should represent a majority of the allocated time, and be built from a merged list of programs from all partners.
  • The Observatory should implement mechanisms to ensure that there is oversight, monitoring, and appropriate long-term maintenance of any software or data archive intended or expected for use by the broader TMT User community, even if developed within a single partner community.
  • A readily searchable and high-functioning archive, with equally good public access to non-proprietary data, is essential for maximizing science output and providing equal access to all members of the TMT community.

Feedback on this report is welcomed.

Maunakea Management

In response to the independent evaluation of the Maunakea Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), a Working Group has been established in Hawaii to develop recommendations for a governance and management structure for Maunakea. The Working Group is made up of 15 people including state lawmakers, representatives from the public and private sector, and seven members selected to specifically represent the interests of Native Hawaiians.

TMT Science Forum

The next TMT Science forum will take place a year from now, June 26-29, 2022 at UBC in Vancouver. We are optimistic that this will be primarily in-person.

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)
Sara Ellison (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)

ALMA Matters


From Gerald Schieven (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

Array Status

After a year (less a day) of shutdown due to the pandemic, PI science observations resumed on March 17, with at least 37 antennas in use on the 12m-Array. Observations with the Total Power array resumed shortly thereafter, and 7m-Array PI science observing resumed in early June. Because of the limited number of staff allowed at the observatory, antenna moves to the extended configurations were delayed to early June, and a series of snowstorms has further delayed the move. The plan is to move to configuration C43-7/8 as soon as possible, and to visit each long baseline configuration on a slightly compressed schedule.

Cycle 8 Proposal Submissions

Though the number of proposals submitted for Cycle 8 was down slightly from the previous two cycles (1735 compared to 1829 and 1773 for Cycles 6 and 7), the amount of time requested, over 48,000 hours, was almost 45% more than the record for any previous cycle. This is an oversubscription rate of 6.6 overall. PIs from Canadian institutions also requested a record amount of time, with an overall oversubscription rate of 6.6 (ratio of time requested to the Canadian “share” of North American time).

This was also the first cycle to use the dual anonymous peer review system, in which proposals were required to be written in such a way as not to identify the proposers in order to minimize inherent biases in the review process. In addition, all PIs (or designated co-Is) of proposals requesting under 25 hours were required to referee ten other proposals. All proposals requesting 25 or more hours, including all “large” proposals, are being reviewed by panels as was done for previous cycles. A full analysis of the success of the dual anonymous peer review system will be done once the proposal review process has completed, but early indications are that dual anonymous proposals were well received, and very few PIs failed to referee their assigned proposals. Results of the proposal review will be sent to PIs in August 2021.