Update on Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA)

By / par Bryan Gaensler (U. Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

The Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA) is producing science-ready public data products for large surveys being conducted with three telescopes: the Very Large Array (VLA), the Australian Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), and the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). These products (e.g., images, cubes, time series spectra, catalogues, databases, alerts, pipeline algorithms, and software tools) utilize Canadian Advanced Network for Astronomical Research (CANFAR) services and are searchable and usable through the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC). CIRADA also serves as a pilot project for Canada’s planned Square Kilometre Array Regional Centre.

We are pleased to announce an updated portfolio of products as follows:

  1. A “Quicklook Catalogue” of 1.7 million radio sources from the first epoch of the VLA Sky Survey (VLASS), which now includes a second version that contains data on sidelobe probabilities, the software pipelines that were used to generate the catalogues, and detailed user manuals.
  2. pyink, developed in collaboration with Dr. Tim Galvin, a tool that simplifies the preprocessing and analysis that is required to train a self-organizing map (SOM) using PINK. A SOM identifies common morphologies in a collection of images, which can be used to (i) classify image morphologies, (ii) group separate components into sources, (iii) reject spurious sources, (iv) save on processing time for other machine learning models. A tutorial and cookbook are provided to help train your own SOM.
  3. An Image Cutout Provider that allows astronomers to quickly visualize data from multiple surveys (VLASS Quicklook, GLEAM, FIRST, NVSS, WISE, PanSTARRS, SDSS I-II) at a given position in the sky and to download the data for further analysis.
  4. A Rotation Measure (RM) Cutout Provider that provides cutouts for the mean and standard deviation of the reconstructed Faraday sky as calculated by Hutschenreuter et al.
  5. The RM-Tools software package for radio polarimetry analysis, including 1D and 3D RM synthesis, RM-clean and QU fitting on polarized radio spectra.
  6. Hydra: A source finder comparison and analysis tool that can be used to compare multiple source-finding algorithms on radio continuum data, along with examples and instructions.
  7. A mock-cube generator suite for observations of galaxies in 21cm HI, which can be used to generate realistic data cubes for a single axisymmetric galaxy model, or for a suite of axisymmetric models generated from standard scaling relations.

Upcoming releases include:

  • an alpha version of the VLASS Quicklook Transient Marshal (Q4 2021)
  • a third version of the VLASS Quicklook component catalogue, which will include data on double sources that have been picked out by Yjan Gordon’s novel DragonHunter software pipeline (end of 2021)

Currently we are in discussions with external science partners to integrate Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) catalogues and images into our services. We are also in discussion to integrate the WALLABY pilot field source detections to accompany our planned release of kinematic models in Q2 2022. We are continuing our collaboration with the Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) and with the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) to enable the use of the Cube Analysis and Rendering Tool for Astronomy (CARTA) for viewing image data and tabular catalogues directly through our portal. Other 12- to 15-month plans include the release of additional data products such as a VLASS Quicklook Transients catalogue, VLASS single epoch continuum catalogues, a CHIME slow pulsar catalogue, POSSUM polarization products, and a new standard for Faraday rotation catalogues.

Dissertation: Exotic Binaries in Galactic Globular Clusters: Identification, Classification, and their Formation

(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

by / par Dr. Yue Zhao (Cory)
Thesis defended on July 6, 2021
Department of Physics, University of Alberta
Thesis advisor: Prof. Craig Heinke


Globular clusters (GCs) are dense and massive stellar populations, which provide a unique environment where the high stellar density facilitates frequent dynamical encounters, creating many exotic binaries. These exotic binaries generally have short orbits and often harbour compact objects, namely neutron stars (NSs), black holes (BHs), and white dwarfs (WDs). With the unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, GCs are found to host an overabundance of X-ray binaries.

This thesis identifies and classifies exotic binaries in multiple GCs and presents their relation to cluster dynamics, incorporating X-ray, UV, optical, and radio observations. In the GC M3 (NGC 5272), we discovered 16 X-ray sources within the half-light radius (rh), where the second brightest source (M3-CX2) is a newly discovered low-mass X-ray binary candidate. In a study of NGC 6397, we incorporate deep radio imaging observations from the MAVERIC radio survey and find a strong “hidden” millisecond pulsar candidate. A deep observation of M30 reveals 10 new X-ray sources within rh and suggests a difference between the radial distributions of bright and faint X-ray sources. Finally, a census of radio sources in multiple GCs indicates that they are likely a mixture of millisecond pulsars (the numbers of which, per cluster, scale with the rate of stellar encounters in each cluster) and quiescent black hole binaries (which do not show a simple scaling with the number of stellar encounters per cluster).

President’s Message

By / par Rob Thacker (CASCA President)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Dear Members,

I’ll start by wishing you all well as the fall starts. There are a lot of nerves in the university community – trust me I know as Chief Negotiator for the Saint Mary’s Faculty Union – and I hope that you are able to work effectively with your own administrations to manage COVID-19 workplace concerns effectively.

While a message like this is inevitably quite arms-length, I sincerely hope you are all able to maintain your mental hygiene. While more and more workplaces are bringing in various support mechanisms along these lines, it can still be difficult to find time for this type of self-care when so many other tasks need to be done. I can certainly say I find it difficult, especially as the service part of my work has grown. Personally, one of the most useful things I have learned is how to avoid ruminating. If you are self-critical that can be quite a debilitating habit. I found this talk by Dr Guy Winch especially enlightening.

It has obviously been an extremely difficult summer for CASCA, but as I have indicated discussions are ongoing and I am optimistic that we seem to be moving forward. The end of August saw something of a pause on efforts as multiple people were out of the office until the start of term. I pass on my personal thanks to all those people that have taken time to talk with me, I have learned much. When trust breaks down it is difficult to quickly rebuild working relationships and as a society of volunteers, we rely immensely on labour that is provided for free. Moreover, those efforts are often provided in situations with limited authority and resources. Remember, the annual budget of CASCA is a fraction of a single faculty salary, compare that to CAUT which receives over $7m a year.

As a note, historically we have tended to not spend resources on Board member training so that we can distribute more funds for supporting conferences. As astronomy working practices are evolving so perhaps should our training expectations. With the past two AGMs functioning in virtual form the Society’s financial picture is relative stable and fees will remain flat again this year. We can thus see a potential for devoting a modest amount of funds towards this. The one challenge with this approach is that directors cycle-off on a 2-year timescale, so whatever is put in place can’t be a one-off situation. There are several resources around anti-racism, as well as other topics around inclusion, that I’ve witnessed used with other Boards quite effectively. Note, I am all too aware of “tick the box” criticisms through my union work, avoiding that is important. I’m not mentioning indigenous issues and reconciliation here as that is a very important issue for the Society which I will address on its own in a future message.

In terms of major civic issues impacting astronomy, by the time you read this we will know the outcome of the federal election. The surprise election of a conservative majority government in Nova Scotia is a stark reminder of the uncertainties of polls. To a certain extent the Coalition has prepared for a possible change of government, but there is only so much that can be done. The decision making and bureaucracy systems function at the will of the government, so we are anticipating an inevitable pause in interactions this fall, precisely how long is difficult to know. As a rough timeline, we can expect a new cabinet appointed by mid-October and Parliament to resume in November.

Rather than outlining summaries of the ongoing status of various projects, which are frequently described in more detail elsewhere in Cassiopeia, in this message I’m going to take some time to talk about the Society and what is expected of directors as well as the process by which directors are appointed.

Of course, research continues apace, and I pass on thanks to all the authors that have contributed to this edition of Cassiopeia. If I can just inject one suggestion, I encourage everyone to read Kristine Spekkens’ SKA update as a lot has been happening there. Joanne Rosvick gets another big thank you for her continued duty and diligence as editor of Cassiopeia!

And, of course, my thanks as always to those of you who continue to give your time to CASCA and to the upkeep of our wider community in general!

CASCA Office Update

I need to inform you all that our webmaster Don Hutton had a heart attack in August. He was given a stent, and while discharged after three days and back at work a few more days later, he tells me he is still tiring easily even if his cholesterol is now impressively low after a change in diet and some medication. While I appreciate that the vast majority of you will not have interacted with Don, I am sure the entire membership will join me in passing on our best wishes for a continued recovery.

Expected Duties of Directors

While a President’s report is perhaps not a great place to give a detailed breakdown of the expected duties of directors, I thought it might be prudent to outline what the typical expectations are. For CASCA, because our resources are comparatively limited compared to the number of members we have, we cannot afford to employ an Executive Director. Consequently, the Board must function perhaps more as a “management Board” than desired, arguably the role of Boards is really meant to be oversight and to a lesser extent strategic direction, among other things.

For not-for-profit boards, the generally accepted duties are as follows:

  1. Duty of Care: Directors have a duty of competence, namely the requirement to act with a certain level of skill in making decisions for the organization. The duty of care describes the level of attention required of a director, arguably one might consider it a “duty to be informed,” and to act with competence and diligence. The law doesn’t require directors to be experts, but it does expect that they act in accordance with a reasonable standard of care and to act responsibly to maintain such standards.
  2. Duty of Loyalty: Directors must act honestly and in good faith, in essence putting the best interests of the whole organization ahead of their own interests. The duty of loyalty is a personal duty of directors, it cannot be delegated to management, staff, or volunteers of the organization.
  3. Duty of Compliance (Obedience): An NFP corporation must follow applicable laws and regulations including its own bylaws. This essentially encapsulates that the organization must adhere to its stated corporate purposes in the Articles of Incorporation.

You can easily find many articles on the web that will define further legal duties, but these three high level requirements outline the key expectations of directors. Duty of Care is interesting in that the ultimate standard is that you show appropriate diligence in your role as director. Attending meetings, for example, is considered one of the parts of this requirement. Note I will say upfront that since we transitioned to monthly meetings on top of the longer quarterly meetings it has proven to be a challenge to find slots that work for everyone. Navigating four time zones across nine people each with difficult teaching schedules can be a struggle.

Duty of Loyalty encapsulates all the conflict of interest concerns we often worry about. It is perhaps the most straightforward expectation, but it can be difficult to meet. We may often not appreciate our own biases, for example. Duty of Compliance is straightforwardly understood.

Some of you may have guessed that I have an ulterior motive for the above few passages. Specifically, next year will be a significant one in terms of elections. Moreover, that process actually has to start surprisingly soon. So, I’ll finish this update with an important discussion of the upcoming elections and the bylaw processes that need to be followed.

2022 AGM Board Elections

One of the roles of the Past President is to organize nominations for the upcoming elections as Chair of the Nominations Committee. I had been looking at this with some trepidation, as for 2022 we have a significant slate of positions to fill on the Board. No less than four officer position and two director positions are potentially up for election as both the Secretary and Treasurer have the choice to offer for a second term.

The precise number of vacancies is determined not less than six months before the AGM, and for this year, November 15th is the latest date. I can say upfront that both myself and Erik, as Acting President & Interim Vice President respectively, will not be continuing beyond the AGM, as we are both in these positions under bylaw 9.1, which allows for emergency actions as needed but only until the next election cycle. Thus, both the Presidency and Vice Presidency must be filled by election in 2022. In case anyone is wondering about the normal succession process of the Vice President becoming the President, that is a policy rather than a bylaw. The bylaws themselves state clearly that office of the President is a position that is elected, in practice the succession approach means we have filled it via acclamation (this point has been emphasized at recent business meetings).

In the recent past, the Nominations Committee has frequently had to canvas people in the community and to generate nominations by that process. While always conducted, IMHO, in a spirit of openness, nonetheless the small size of the Nominations Committee has sometimes limited its awareness. I include myself in that criticism as a former member of the Nominations Committee.

With this in mind, I want to remind the community of the full process of nominations is outlined in the Society bylaws. In terms of eligibility, bylaw 5.2.1 states that directors must be ordinary members of the Society, which means those individuals that have either graduated from a PhD or been granted ordinary membership status. Bylaw 5.2.4 then outlines the Secretary puts out a call for nominations six months before the AGM, and nominations must be supported by five members eligible to vote. The role of the Nominations Committee is essentially to prepare a list of candidates and ensure consent of said individuals.

The remainder of the bylaw describes that members should be informed of the list of candidates at least 60 days before the AGM, although candidates can actually continue to be added up to 40 days before the election date. Note, some of bylaw 5.2.4 is archaic in places, in that we have moved to electronic voting, but the meaning is sufficiently clear it is not problematic. It could be changed, but it’s worth remembering every bylaw change must be filed with Corporations Canada so it is not as trivial as just changing a word document.

OK, I hope that clears up the precise nomination process. If anyone has any questions, you are of course welcome to ask myself, or Judith Irwin the society Secretary.

Wishing every one of you a safe and productive fall,


ALMA Matters


From / de Gerald Schieven (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

ALMA Development Project – Second Generation Correlator

NRC, in collaboration with NRAO and Haystack/MIT, submitted a proposal in April 2021 in response to the ALMA Cycle 9 call for development proposals, to build a second generation ALMA correlator. This proposal, with 2X bandwidth (16 GHz/pol) and expansion capability to 4X bandwidth (32 GHz/pol), was selected for funding consideration by NRAO in a competitive peer-reviewed process. The proposed correlator (and VLBI beamformer) is based on the TALON technology and Frequency Slice Architecture that NRC developed for the SKA1 Mid telescope correlator/beamformer. This design meets and exceeds second generation ALMA correlator requirements on many fronts, correlating up to 80 antennas in one or more sub-arrays (i.e. all ALMA site antennas) with standard full-Stokes channel bandwidth of 13.5 kHz with nearly brick-wall -60 dB channel-to-channel isolation, across the full science bandwidth, with tunable “zoom” window channel resolution by factors of 2 down to a factor of 64 (~211 Hz) with proportionately less total correlated bandwidth. VLBI beamforming bandwidth and correlated bandwidth can be flexibly traded-off, optimizing use of processing resources.

The Cycle 8 2021 ACA Supplemental Call for Proposals is Now OPEN

The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is now accepting observing proposals for Cycle 8 that request to use the Atacama Compact Array (ACA) in stand-alone mode. Instructions on how to submit proposals can be found on the Cycle 8 Supplemental Call web page.

Users of any nationality or affiliation are invited to submit proposals before the deadline of 15:00 UT on Wednesday 6 October 2021.

Proposals submitted in the Supplemental Call will be peer reviewed using a distributed system in which each proposal team selects a designated reviewer to participate in the review process. The review process is described in detail in the Supplemental Call documentation.

Proposals with targets at any RA will be considered, but those that can be observed in the LST range 20 to 10 h are particularly encouraged. Note that 7m-Array polarization observations are not offered at this Supplemental Call. In addition, time-constrained and Target-of-Opportunity (ToO) observations are not offered at this Call for Proposals. A minimum of 1500 h will be allocated each on the 7-m Array and the Total Power Array to proposals submitted at this Call.

For the complete news item, please visit here.

Cycle 9 ALMA Ambassadors Program is Now Accepting Applications (deadline 15 October)

Are you a graduate student, postdoc, or early career researcher at a university or research institute in Canada or the US and interested in learning more about ALMA, sharing that information with the community, and receiving up to US$10,000 to support your research? Apply to become an ALMA Ambassador!

The NAASC is pleased to announce the opening of applications for the 2022 Cycle 9 ALMA Ambassadors program. Ambassadors will receive training in interferometry, the latest ALMA capabilities, and tips for proposing for ALMA. They will use that information to organize and lead a proposal preparation or data processing/analysis workshop (for their home institute, an alternate institute, or virtual workshop).

Applications are due by 5 P.M. ET on 15 October 2021; training will take place in February 2022. Proposal workshops will be held in March/April 2022 and data processing/analysis workshops will be held later in 2022.

For more information on the program and how to apply, please see here.

The Regional ARCs continue to provide support to their communities. Please contact the ALMA Helpdesk if you have any questions, comments or concerns.

Employment Opportunities with the North American ALMA Research Center

The North American ALMA Regional Center (NA ARC) is recruiting for up to three scientific staff positions. NRAO staff scientists are expected to enable cutting-edge science by the community, help enhance the scientific impact of NRAO telescopes, contribute to the overall NRAO mission, and demonstrate commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. NRAO scientist-track appointments entail 25% independent scientific research and 75% functional responsibilities.

Scientist (Open Rank): Up to two positions will be within the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC), focused within the ALMA Telescope Interface and Diagnostics Group. This group is the NAASC technical liaison to the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile and is responsible for all ALMA telescope-facing activities. The successful candidate(s) will work closely with the Telescope Interface and Diagnostics Group, the JAO, and the NAASC data processing team on functional duties that could include technical investigation, reporting and tracking of data quality issues, contributing to the extension and optimization of ALMA’s capabilities, scientific support of ALMA development programs, technical support for ALMA observations, and supporting ALMA telescope operations in Chile.

Assistant Scientist: One position will be focused on supporting development of ALMA-related functionality for NRAO’s Science Ready Data Products (SRDP) Initiative. The SRDP project aims to facilitate science at radio wavelengths by delivering data products that are ready to use for scientific study by a wide range of astronomers, including non-experts in interferometry, thereby making radio astronomy more accessible to the broader astronomical community. The successful candidate will work with the SRDP Project Scientist and the SRDP Heuristics Team to define and prototype new features to be included in ALMA/NRAO data processing pipelines, CASA software package, and the NRAO archive.

For further information, including application instructions, visit the Associated Universities, Inc. Careers page. The deadline for receipt of applications is October 15, 2021.

Update from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)

By Denis Laurin (Senior Program Scientist, Space Astronomy, Canadian Space Agency)

(Cassiopeia – Autumn 2021)


This is a brief update from CSA regarding on-going activities and missions in space astronomy.

On-going Missions and Programs

JWST (Jean Dupuis and Luminita Ilinca Ignat)

Final tests were successfully concluded in August on the James Webb Space Telescope and it is being readied for shipment to the launch site. NASA recently announced a new date for the launch, now 18 Dec 2021. The FGS/NIRISS team is taking part in rehearsals in view of JWST launch and for the ensuing commissioning phase. To bring the imaging, high contrast imaging, and spectroscopic capabilities online after launch, a carefully defined and sequenced set of commissioning activities has been developed. These activities, planned over a 6-month period after launch, will confirm instrument functionality, characterize instrument performance (optimizing where possible), obtain initial calibrations to a level required to properly plan observations, and demonstrate critical operational sequences such as target acquisition.

The Cycle 1 Canadian proposals selected by NASA seeking CSA support are under evaluation. An announcement of opportunity for CSA funding of Cycle 1 and ERS proposals was announced during the summer and the review process (including evaluators external to CSA) is ongoing with the goal awarding support for these projects by the end of the fiscal year.

The MOU with NRC to support science operations, as well as support to Université de Montréal, are extended to launch and commissioning and we are preparing renewals for the operations phase.

ASTROSAT (Jean Dupuis)

The CSA will continue to support the Astrosat mission (fiscal year 21/22 and 22/23). As mentioned in a previous newsletter (Dec 2020), the NUV detector of UVIT continues to be unavailable, but the FUV and VIS channels are still performing well. Contact Joe Postma, University of Calgary, for details for UVIT data processing and analysis issues or for assistance in preparation of proposals. Canadian researchers that have obtained observing time during earlier cycles have been awarded grant support from the CSA (contact person for ASTROSAT grants program at CSA is Jean Dupuis). We encourage Astrosat grant recipients to inform CSA of their resulting or upcoming publications, as well as any related media releases.

NEOSSat Guest Observer Program

Cycle 3 of the GO program is extended to October, with a plan to issue the cycle 4 AO soon. There is no grant funding associated with the AOs. All the data is public (on CSA FTP and CADC). A notification will be sent to CASCA members when the cycle 4 is issued. Information about the previous cycle is available here including the list of approved guest observers.


XRISM is the JAXA X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, to be launched in early 2023. CSA contributed to support the tests of the Resolve instrument, an important contribution to the payload by NASA. Dr Luigi Gallo (SWG) at Saint Mary’s University and Dr Brian McNamara (Resolve) at the University of Waterloo are members of the teams. Canadian astronomers will be able to compete for observation time (GO) and to the XGS (commissioning phase) programs through the competitive announcements of opportunity from NASA. The CSA will support successful applicants; details will be provided in future CSA AOs.


The CSA has been supporting the operations of the Canadian nanosat (“BRITE-Toronto”) at the University of Toronto Space Flight Laboratory since launch in 2013. The CSA continues to support the operations this current fiscal year, including science support to the science lead at the Royal Military College. Continued support in future years will again require mission extension review.

Investing in the Future

Topical Teams in Space Astronomy

The CSA is considering the formation of Topical Teams in space sciences, similar to the Topical Teams in 2016, including four in space astronomy, in order to identify future objectives and opportunities. Following the publication of the LRP 2020, and the expected release of the US Decadal Plan and the ESA Voyage 2050 now available, the CSA Topical Teams would nominally start early next year; this will be an opportunity for the space community to establish goals for the end of this decade and beyond. The teams would be formed competitively through an RFP. This may be followed by a Canadian Space Exploration Workshop (CSEW) in 2022; the community would be informed and invited should the workshop take place.


The Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Exoplanet Large-survey) mission is ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme medium-class (M4) mission due for launch in 2029. Ariel is a 4-year mission to study exoplanets’ composition, with a 1-m telescope observing in visible and NIR photometric and spectroscopic bands.

Canada was invited by the mission Consortium to make a hardware contribution to the spacecraft. This opportunity requires delivery of a cryo-harness, a space-qualified data cable from the FPA that can operate at cryogenic temperatures. The CSA is currently exploring the feasibility of making such a contribution which will offer in return exciting scientific research opportunities to the community, consistent with the recommendations of the LRP 2020 and the JCSA.

Space Technology Development Program (STDP)

In my Dec 2020 Cassiopeia update, STDP proposals for CASTOR and exoplanet related technologies were being reviewed. Contracts are now in place: 1) CASTOR payload technologies (targeting FPA, telescope, FSM, photometer elements) with prime contractor ABB (Quebec), Honeywell and Magellan ($2,250K). 2) Technologies (including optical design and imagers) related to the POET micro-satellite concept for exoplanet transit observation, by Bishop’s University ($1,000K). 3) A technology development for various high sensitivity imaging applications, including exoplanet research using EMCCD, by Nuvu Cameras ($825K).


Identified as the top priority in the LRP 2020 for a very large space astronomy mission, CASTOR investments continue in the short term with an important technology development planned over two years as mentioned above. This follows a comprehensive science study completed in 2019 that refined the science objectives and derived the requirements of the instruments.

A Phase 0 study and further mission science developments should follow that will provide detailed baseline design of the mission including full cost estimation and a development plan. Such a large mission will require a special budget request from the government as it is outside the operational budget of the CSA. Continued and broadly expressed community support will be essential to realize these objectives.

The CSA is exploring the interests of potential international partners, and in close collaboration with NRC HAA to define a plan forward.


JAXA selected LiteBIRD as their next large-class mission and early developments are on-going with international partners. Canada was welcomed as potential contributor several years ago to provide the warm readout electronics for the large array of cryogenic bolometers needed for this CMB-Pol mission. CSA has invested technology developments over several years, including current STDP work with McGill University until the end of 2021 to advance this unique technology. These investments are aligned with the LRP 2020 priorities that marked the LiteBIRD contribution the top priority for a large scale contribution in this decade. CSA is discussing progress with JAXA and other partners of the mission. A concern remains to be resolved following the withdrawal of the US contribution that would have provided the detectors.

Community Support (Grants)

Co-Investigator (Co-I) Grants – Supporting Canadian Researchers on International Missions

The Co-I program was described in the Sept 2019 Cassiopeia issue. CSA is making this a regular annual AO with the next issue expected in September or October. Once the AO is released, a notification will be sent by email to CASCA members. The previous Co-I AO is still viewable on the CSA website for background information.


The FAST 2021 AO is currently posted. With an expected budget of $5.28M, this issue will provide grants in three funding level categories ($300K, $100K, $40K) in various areas of space research.

Please see the webpage for a full description and its closing date.

NSERC PDF Supplements

The CSA STEDIA program has recently announced an opportunity to supplement NSERC Postdoctoral Fellows. An announcement was sent to CASCA members. The program broadly addresses space research including but is not limited to space astronomy. See the webpage of this opportunity on the CSA website for details and closing date.

Student Participation to NASA I2

More recently, CSA is advertising for the support to Canadian student participation on the NASA International Internships. See here for details.

On-line Applications

The CSA is offering fully on-line (electronic portal) application submissions for most AOs. It is necessary to create an account prior to submitting a proposal (instructions are provided within each AO). The account creation should be done several days prior to an AO submission deadline in case of any technical difficulties that could arise requiring CSA intervention to resolve.


The JCSA Consultation Committee

The current membership comprises:

Locke Spencer, U. of Lethbridge (co-Chair)
Denis Laurin, CSA (co-Chair)
Mike Hudson, U. of Waterloo
Jess McIver, UBC
Chris Willott, NRC Herzberg
Jeremy Heyl, UBC

The CSA Consultation Committees are shown on the CSA webpage including the Terms of Reference. Two members will be rotating off as they end their terms; researchers with space astronomy experience interested in the membership may express their interest to the JCSA members or the co-Chairs.
Wishing everyone a colourful autumn!
Denis Laurin

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By / par Kristine Spekkens (Canadian SKA Science Director) and the AACS
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Artist’s impression of the SKA, combining elements from South Africa and Australia from left to right in the image. Photos of real hardware have been blended with realizations of the future SKA antennas. Image credit: SKA Observatory.

The SKA project continues to proceed rapidly despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic across partner countries. Up-to-date Canada-specific information regarding potential SKA science, technology, industry and societal impact is available on the SKA Canada website, while frequent project-wide updates are posted on the SKA International website.

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) took control of the project from the design-phase SKA Organisation earlier this year (see news item here), and activities within the IGO are rapidly ramping up. Member States of the IGO, responsible for project governance through their seats on the IGO Council, include Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Potential future partners of the IGO are designated as Observers, and witness IGO Council proceedings; Observers currently include Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden. Among Observers, France and Spain are making progress towards becoming IGO Member States; a cooperation agreement with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne enables Switzerland’s participation in the IGO pending approval from their Parliament; and design-phase partners Canada, Germany, India and Sweden have been conditionally allocated work packages pending decisions by their governments to participate in SKA Phase 1 (= SKA1) construction and operations.

In late June, the IGO Member States approved the start of the construction phase for SKA1 (see news item here), which represents a historic milestone for the project. That phase will execute the construction and observatory delivery plans previously published by the IGO, which detail the science drivers, technical requirements, and anticipated societal benefits of the project. The SKA1 construction timeline remains similar to pre-pandemic projections, with construction tender and procurement underway, the first science verification observations anticipated in 2026, operations readiness reviews expected by 2028, and the onset of full operations by the end of 2029.

Canada’s future participation in the SKA requires committing to SKA1 construction and operations. This commitment is needed soon in order to guarantee return on investment through participation in SKA1 tender and procurement, as well as to secure the highly-desirable SKA1-Mid correlator construction package that we have been conditionally allocated. Discussions with SKAO in this context are ongoing. Raising awareness about the SKA within government and universities continues to be an integral part of the process toward securing Canada’s future participation, and work by the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy in this regard will resume after the federal election.

For more information and updates on Canada and the SKA:

BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By / par Catherine Lovekin (on behalf of the Canadian BRITE team)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 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 were:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): This satellite observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Cygnus field for the fourth 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 Cygnus field, although has been having some problems with fine pointing. Alternate fields are being considered.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a red filter. It is currently observing in Sagittarius and Orion, revisiting the fields for the seventh and eighth times respectively.
  • 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.

Recent Science Results

“BRITE observations of ν Centauri and γ Lupi, the first non-eclipsing members of the new class of nascent binaries”, Jerzykiewicz M., et al. 2021. MNRAS, 503, 5554

The light curves of ν Cen. Plotted are normal points formed in the adjacent intervals of 0.02 orbital phase from the blue (upper panel), and red (lower panel) BRITE magnitudes. The phases were computed from ephemeris. The lines are the theoretical W–D light curves. From Jerzykiewicz et al. (2021)

This paper reports on results of an analysis of the BRITE-Constellation and Solar Mass Ejection Imager photometry and radial-velocity observations, archival and new, of two single-lined spectroscopic binary (SB) systems ν Centauri and γ Lupi. In the case of γ Lup AB, a visual binary, an examination of the light-time effect shows that component A is the SB. Both ν Cen and γ Lup exhibit light variations with the orbital period. The variations are caused by the reflection effect, i.e. heating of the secondary’s hemisphere by the early-B main sequence (MS) primary component’s light. The modelling of the light curves augmented with the fundamental parameters of the primary components obtained from the literature photometric data and Hipparcos parallaxes, shows that the secondary components are pre-MS stars, in the process of contracting on to the MS. ν Cen and γ Lup A are thus found to be non-eclipsing counterparts of the B2 IV eclipsing binary (and a β Cephei variable) 16 (EN) Lac, the B5 IV eclipsing binary (and an SPB variable) μ Eri, and the recently discovered Large Magellanic Cloud nascent eclipsing binaries.

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.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By / par Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Latest News

It’s been a while since an MSE update in Cassiopeia, in part because the latest MSE news can always be found on the MSE website. Monthly newsletters and science telecons are also held to which all members of the MSE Science Team are invited. To join the team, please contact the Project Scientist, Jennifer Marshall, at mseinfo@mse.cfht.hawaii.edu.

The MSE Project Office team has continued to advance the design of MSE. One significant change, motivated by risk reduction in the spectrograph design, is that the optical and NIR regimes are now planned to be fed by different fibers in the focal plane: 2166 optical fibers (0.36-1.0 um) and 1083 NIR fibers (1.0-1.3 um and 1.45-1.8 um). All fibers would operate in medium-resolution mode (R=3000 to 6000) but with the capability to bin to lower resolution as required for faint targets. More details of this and other design updates can be found in the SPIE Proceedings section of the MSE Documents webpage.

The MSE Management Group has also welcomed Kyung Hee University in South Korea as an official participant in the project, in recognition of contributions to MSE’s Program Execution Software Architecture conceptual design.

In Canada, MSE was ranked as one of two recommended investments in ground-based facilities in the Large (>$30M) category by the Long-Range Plan 2020. Building on this recommendation, a consortium of Canadian astronomers will again be submitting a CFI proposal to fund design studies and prototyping. Contact Pat Hall if you’re interested in being involved.

Project Office Personnel Additions

Two key full-time PO hires in the past year have been Dr. Jennifer Sobeck as System Scientist and Barbara Small as Project Administrator.

As the project manager who led the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV) Apache Point Galactic Evolution Experiment 2 and the operations manager who led SDSS-IV operations at the Las Campanas Observatory, Jennifer S. brings a full complement of scientific, technical, and managerial experience. She will lead the detailed planning and execution of the Design Reference Survey (DRS) and will take responsibilities to maintain MSE’s science performance through its development phases.

With her computer science background, Barbara brings her diverse corporate project and IT experiences to the PO. She will be the interface with the Management Group regarding bi-monthly meetings and general communication, and responsible in maintaining the overall PO work plan schedule.

Another recent PO personnel additions is Christian Surace as Program Execution Software Architecture Technical Lead (25%-time position). As leader of the Astrophysical Data Center of Marseille, Christian brings an end-to-end perspective in structuring high-level software to complete survey program from initial proposal submission to delivery of the calibrated science data. He will be the technical lead in directing and coordinating the Program Execution Software Architecture development with the different contributors.

Your MSE Representatives for Canada

Thanks to Sarah Gallagher for her work on the MSE Science Advisory Group, and welcome to Ting Li as the new representative for Canada on the SAG!

MSE Science Advisory Group Members: Ting Li (U Toronto) and Kim Venn (U Victoria)

MSE Management Group Members: Laura Ferrarese (HAA) and Patrick Hall (York U)

Canada is also represented among the MSE Science Team Working Group Leads by Prof. Ting Li (U. Toronto, Astrophysical Tests of Dark Matter WG co-Lead) and Prof. Will Percival (U. Waterloo, Cosmology WG co-Lead).

Report from the LCRIC

By / par Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued to meet weekly over the summer. We also participated in a joint meeting with Luc Simard, Gilles Joncas, Greg Sivakoff, Kristine Spekkens, and Michael Rupen, who are some of the Canadian leaders in the SKA project. We heard a presentation from Luc Simard about how the SKA project approached the process of gaining consent from local communities in Australia and South Africa.

The LCRIC held several discussions, including one with Rob Thacker and Hilding Neilson, regarding the plans and scope for an Indigenous-focused panel discussion with leaders in the Canadian astronomical community. The current plan is for this panel discussion to take place in November.

The LCRIC continued to work on plans for community consultation and education through a series of three webinars (called “Town Halls” in our previous report) to take place this fall. The first of these webinars, with a tentative title “Including Indigenous approaches in astronomy education”, will be held in October. The goal of this webinar will be to educate CASCA members on some specific actions that they can take to embrace Indigenous approaches to astronomy education in their classes. The second webinar will focus on the theme of inclusion and the third webinar will focus on the theme of land and consent.

The LCRIC is beginning work to identify concrete actions from the LRP2020 recommendations concerning Indigeneity that we can recommend to astronomical organizations such as ACURA and the CASCA Board. We will also be meeting with additional CASCA committees, such as the EPO committee, to discuss LRP2020 recommendations in their area of interest in the coming months.

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 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 / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Recent News

The future of the TMT project is strongly linked with the recommendations of the anticipated US Decadal Review (Astro2020). Should the US-Extremely Large Telescope (US-ELTP) program be the top-ranked priority in that review, there will be an opportunity for the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to become formally involved. The Project has been preparing for the Preliminary Design Review that would follow – this would be a thorough review of all aspects of the Project. The delay to the release of Astro2020 means this Review, and subsequent activities, are correspondingly delayed. The current estimate for publication of Astro2020 is Fall 2021.

On Aug 23, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) was informed that its land concession on La Palma had been cancelled by the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Canarias. This was the result of an appeal by an environmental group called Ben Magec, who had also successfully appealed the first land concession in 2019. This outcome was not anticipated, and appeals to the ruling are being considered.

TMT Science Forum

The next TMT Science forum is being planned for June 26-29, 2022 at UBC in Vancouver. However, with the delay to the release of Astro2020, and the remaining uncertainty around travel restrictions in the near future, the possibility of delaying this meeting until 2023 is being considered.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
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 (Acting 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)