ngVLA Update

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

In early November, the US Decadal Review released its rankings, identifying the design and construction of the ngVLA as one of the three top priorities for US astronomy over the coming decade. This is particularly big news for the Canadian community since the ngVLA was also recognized as one of the top priority ground-based facilities in the Canadian Astronomy Long Range Plan 2020-2030. This recommendation was conditional “pending a positive recommendation on this project from the US Astro2020 Decadal Survey,” which has now happened.

Our LRP recommends that Canada pursues scientific and technical leadership in the development of the ngVLA. To that end, Brenda Matthews (NRC) has recently agreed to serve as the co-Chair of the refreshed ngVLA Science Advisory Council (SAC). The SAC is the interface between the scientific community and the Project Office. Since the SAC’s formation in 2016 its members have provided invaluable guidance and feedback on many aspects of the ngVLA. With the Project now past the critical US Decadal review, the SAC is being reformed under this new leadership. We are also grateful to James DiFrancesco (NRC) who has served on the SAC since its inception and is now rotating off. Our community is also fortunate to have Lewis Knee and Michael Rupen (NRC) on the Technical Advisory Council for the ngVLA, presenting a strong presence in the technical leadership.

If you are excited about the ngVLA, one way you can get involved in the community is to attend the meeting Computational Astrophysics in the ngVLA Era: Synergistic Simulations, Theory, and Observations at the Flatiron Institute in New York (June 7-9, 2022).

CRAQ Summer School Announcement

By Robert La Montagne
(Cassiopeia – Winter 2021)

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec (CRAQ) is announcing its annual Summer School, which will be held on June 15-17, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec.

This year’s topic will focus on Cosmology. This 3-day school will introduce cutting-edge observational probes of cosmology such as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), intensity mapping, and gravitational lensing, with hands-on analysis examples including CMB mapmaking, MCMC parameter estimation, and machine learning. Instructors will include Adrian Liu, Cynthia Chiang, Matt Dobbs, Katelin Schutz, Jon Sievers (McGill University), Yashar Hezaveh, and Laurence Perreault Levasseur (Université de Montréal).

The CRAQ Summer School is principally aimed at graduate students in the field of physics, astronomy, and astrophysics, although students who have completed an undergraduate program in physics will also be accepted.

There is no registration fee. However, we cannot offer traveling funds or cover lodging expenses.

The Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec promotes employment diversity, inclusion and equity. We encourage applications from women, visible and ethnic minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity. We will consider providing travel funds for individuals from these communities if they cannot attend the summer school otherwise. Please contact us using the email address below.

Additional information about the program, registration and accommodation will be available soon on this site:

Email contact:

BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By / par Catherine Lovekin (on behalf of the Canadian BRITE Team)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 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 finished a campaign in Cygnus, and is now being set up on the Vela Puppis field.
  • 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 currently observing the Orion field.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a blue filter. It has recently wrapped up a campaign in Orion, and is now on hold while its orbit takes it through eclipse. It is expected to resume observations in mid-December.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): Currently out of order.

The BRITE Constellation observing program is currently set through early 2022. Details of the observing plan will be available on the BRITE photometry Wiki page.

Recent Science Results

“Five years of BRITE-Constellation photometry of the luminous blue variable P Cygni: properties of the stochastic low-frequency variability (Elliott et al., arXiv:2110.12056)

Luminous Blue Variables (LBVs) are massive stars that are likely to be a transitionary phase between O stars and hydrogen-free classical Wolf-Rayet stars. The variability of these stars has been an area of study for both professional and amateur astronomers for more than a century. This paper presents five years of precision photometry of the classical LBV P Cygni taken with the BRITE-Constellation nanosatellites. The authors use the BRITE data to search for periodicities that could elucidate the drivers of variability for these stars. These data show some long-timescale variability over the course of all six calendar years of observations, but the frequencies needed to reproduce the individual light curves are not consistent from one year to the next. These results likely show that there is no periodic phenomenon present for P Cygni, meaning that the variability is largely stochastic. This suggests the variability is being caused by internal gravity waves similar to those seen in other massive stars, with P Cygni exhibiting a larger amplitude and lower characteristic frequency than the main-sequence or blue supergiant stars previously studied. These results show evidence that LBVs may be an extrapolation of the blue supergiants, which have previously been shown to be an extension of main-sequence stars in the context of the stochastic low-frequency photometric variability.

The BRITE flux, after subtracting off the global mean, with units of parts per thousand (ppt) (left) and the Fourier amplitude spectrum (right) for the 2014 data from BRITE. Each peak used in our analysis is highlighted with a different color in the Fourier spectrum, and then the fit is overplotted on the photometry with the corresponding color for that term and all previous terms. The final four-frequency fit is then used to calculate the (? −?) that is shown on the bottom panel of the photometry. Fits including the first four frequencies are shown on the left plot: 1 term (red dashed line), 2 terms (dotted blue line), 3 terms (dash-dot green line), 4 terms (solid pink). Vertical lines on the right plot indicate the frequency added to each term.

Conferences, Resources, and Social Media


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

Resources and Social Media

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

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 at

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2021)

Recent News

The US Decadal report, released in November, clearly recognized the scientific excellence and importance of the US Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) Program, and TMT in particular. Furthermore, it lays out clear steps and milestones that the project must achieve in the next few years. Specifically, the report notes that “it will be necessary for NSF to commence with an external review with a target completion in 2023, in order to evaluate the financial and programmatic viability of both proposed U.S. ELT projects”. If states further that a decision for US federal investment should be predicated on several things, including final site selection and agreed-upon commitments from partners “for all of the necessary capital and operations money, pending only NSF investment”. This is certainly a challenge for TMT, but the clarity is very welcome, and the viability of the project is going to come rapidly into focus over the next two years.

CATAC is aware that if NSF becomes a TMT partner, this will have an impact on Canada’s share and opportunity for scientific and technological leadership. All avenues must be explored to maintain a significant share in the telescope, to fulfil our own Long Range Plan recommendation that “this participation be at a level that provides compelling opportunities for Canadian leadership in science, technology and instrumentation”. Astro2020 provides a clear roadmap and timeline that will help all partners, including Canada, to secure the resources necessary to satisfy their own ambitions. CATAC has begun working closely with GAC as they explore how to fulfil the LRP recommendation to ensure Canada has access to a VLOT in case of delays to, or failure of, TMT.

Site Update

The University of Hawaii released a draft plan for Mauna Kea in September, and held a period of open consultation after its release. Among other things, the draft calls for the number of astronomical sites at the summit to be reduced from fourteen to nine. The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and Hōkū Keʻa decommissioning process is already underway, and the VLBA antenna will be decommissioned prior to 2033. A process is outlined to identify the remaining two facilities by the end of 2025. The sites of the decommissioned facilities will not be available for future astronomy use. The site on ORM remains a viable alternative for TMT, and CATAC reiterates that it remains scientifically acceptable.

The Maunakea legislative working group established by the Hawaii House of Representatives has been active through most of the year. Their mandate is to propose a new management structure for the mountain. There is information, including meeting notes, available on their web page. Their report is anticipated for late December 2021 or early 2022.

The site on Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM) in La Palma remains a viable alternative for TMT, and CATAC reiterates that it remains scientifically acceptable. However, in August of this year, an appeal by environmental group Ben Magec to annul the land concession for TMT was successful. This decision has been appealed to a higher court.

TMT Science Forum

Canada was looking forward to hosting the next TMT Science Forum, in Vancouver in 2022. Due to the continued travel uncertainty associated with the pandemic, as well as the delay of Astro2020 and the imminent launch of JWST, it was decided to postpone this event until 2023.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair,
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (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)

ALMA Matters


By / par Brenda Matthews (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2021)

Cycle 8 and Canadian ALMA Allocations

Cycle 8 observations began on September 30, 2021. The array is currently in Configuration 6, and the array configurations will gradually contract over the coming months.

This cycle, PIs from Canadian institutions were allocated nearly 8.4% of the available time for North American projects on the main 12m-Array, which is above the nominal 7.125% Canadian fraction. Globally, almost 20% of all allocated projects had at least one Canadian on the proposal.

Over the lifetime (so far) of the ALMA observatory since Cycle 0, Canadian PI projects were allocated 6.3% of the North American fraction. Over the past three cycles, Canadian PI projects were allocated 7.6%.

Analytics on Dual Anonymous Peer Review for Cycle 8 shows that the DPR reduced nearly all biases, with the exception of native English fluency and a modest bias against first time proposers.

Cycle 9 Pre-announcement

The pre-announcement for the Cycle 9 Call for Proposals is scheduled for 16 December 2021. The new capabilities planned for Cycle 9 will be announced at that time.


A Canadian-led ALMA Large Program has completed the largest imaging survey of molecular gas—the fuel needed for star formation—in one of the most extreme regions of the Universe, the Virgo Cluster.

The VERTICO—Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide—Survey observed the gas reservoirs in 51 galaxies in the nearby Virgo Cluster and found that the extreme environment in the cluster is robbing galaxies of their star-forming fuel. The recent survey paper led by Dr. Toby Brown, Plaskett Fellow at HAA, was published Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series and provides the clearest evidence yet that the environment surrounding galaxies can reach far within the galaxies and perturb their molecular gas.

For those who would like further information, there is the National Research Council press release, Conversation article, and YouTube video to accompany the paper.

Visualize Data in the ALMA Archive with CARTA

The ALMA Archive has recently incorporated the Cube Analysis and Rendering Tool for Astronomy (CARTA) into the ALMA archive. With CARTA you can quickly visualize ALMA data products interactively in the archive without spending the time and bandwidth downloading them to your personal computer. In particular, some imaging products are being stored in the ALMA archive, like the ARI-L imaging products from early ALMA cycles. ARI-L images can be explored with CARTA and the downloaded in a science ready form. The successful integration of CARTA is nationally exciting since CARTA was initially developed in Canada using ALMA Development funding based on prototype work from Canada’s CyberSKA project. For more information on using CARTA in the ALMA archive, see this site and for more information about the CARTA project in general, see the CARTA page.

Video Tutorials for New ALMA Users

The NAASC is pleased to announce a new YouTube channel for the ALMA Primer Series of video tutorials. The platform currently hosts several short video tutorials designed to explain aspects of ALMA and interferometry, such as estimating sensitivities for proposals, understanding the largest angular scale, and the ins and outs of weighting schemes.

Screenshot from the tutorial video “Weighting in Imaging”.

The site will be populated as well with short animations from the videos suitable for use in seminars and live training. New videos will be added from time to time.

Check out and subscribe, here!

Band 6 Upgrade Approved

The ALMA Board met in November, and one of the key outcomes was the approval of an upgrade to ALMA’s Band 6 capabilities. The upgrade will improve ALMA’s bandwidth and spectral line sensitivity in the most productive ALMA band. A special session will take place at the upcoming AAS meeting (#239) during which plans for increased wideband sensitivity will be presented

Update on CASTOR

By / par Patrick Côté, John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2021)

CASTOR has moved forward on a number of fronts since our last report.

  1. An export permit to exchange technical details with the IIA team in India is in process. This will enable full exchange of technical details as we move forward in defining the partnership.
  2. The RFP for the industrial phase 0 contract has been re-issued following some delays in the process. A contract should be approved and issued by early January.
  3. ISRO are seeking an interim agreement to work on a joint mission. A brief meeting in October between the CSA president and the ISRO chairman in October broached the subject and it is being followed up by CSA.
  4. The MOU annex between CSA and NRC for ongoing STDP support and phase 0 work has been signed by Directors General on both sides. Plans are thus now moving forward to fund university-based work towards the final deliverables.
  5. The MOU between CSA and JPL remains in process, as JPL plan all their activities resulting from the US decadal plan. The technical collaboration will begin early in 2022 to support the STDP industrial contracts. This also involves e2v as suppliers of the detectors.
  6. CSA recently announced a plan to fund a new collection of Topical Teams to map out their future activities in space exploration. The intent is not to replace LRP2020, but to provide additional details and ideas needed for long-term strategic planning. This is an opportunity for the community to update and emphasize the case for CASTOR, which has capabilities across the full range of topical teams.

The STDP work with ABB, Honeywell, and Magellan is proceeding well and the next contract milestone meeting on December 14 will reflect that. We have also continued to interact with the Canada-wide optical link network as an attractive option for CASTOR.

For more information on the mission, see here.

Future Far-Infrared Space Missions: An update on Canadian Participation in the Post-SPICA Era

By / par David Naylor, Locke Spencer (University of Lethbridge), Doug Johnstone (NRC-Herzberg/University of Victoria)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2021)

It has been one year since we shared with you the news that ESA had decided to cancel support for the SPICA mission within the M-5 competition on programmatic grounds. Since that time we have continued to monitor the evolution of the international far-infrared (FIR) space astronomy landscape. The goal of this message is to provide a brief update on the current status of a potential FIR space telescope and the potential for Canadian involvement.

The 2020-2030 Canadian Long Range Plan in Astronomy report (LRP2020) was released in late 2020. The document recognizes the importance of a cooled far-IR space telescope. Canadian participation in such a mission is ranked as the number two priority large investment in space astronomy (LRP2020 p. 69-71). This investment would capitalize on Canadian heritage and expertise in the FIR including Herschel and significant work on SPICA/SAFARI.

Earlier this month, the US Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 (Astro2020) was released. The Astro2020 report recognizes the ESA cancellation of SPICA and resultant gaps/opportunities in FIR astrophysics (Astro2020 Sec. and recommends a FIR probe class mission (~$1B, ~2030 launch) be considered to address this gap. This news has sparked thought and exploration within the international SPICA community regarding potential contributions and partnerships with a US-led FIR probe class mission (or similar, Astro2020 provides a recommendation which can evolve towards the most suitable option given available resources and potential partnerships). Several SPICA instrumentation partners have identified ways to transition contributions originally envisioned for SPICA to a US-led FIR mission at their National Agency levels. While nothing has been decided at this point, there is clearly interest within the SPICA instrument/science teams in pooling resources and supporting such a mission.

Given the commentary in the US Decadal Report, the astronomy communities in the US and Europe have also been ramping up their efforts to discuss and define the most important scientific drivers for a near-term, likely scaled down in scope, FIR space mission. Some of you may have received an email message from these groups. On the US side, Matt Bradford (Caltech, SPICA team member) and Jason Glenn (Goddard, Herschel team member), are planning an in-person community workshop in Pasadena in March (dates TBC). On the European side, Denis Burgarella (France), in collaboration with Laure Ciesle (France) and Carlotta Guppioni (Italy), are planning a similar workshop The next generation mid/far-IR space missions – formulating a European perspective to be held in Paris, 9–11 February 2022. In addition, a request has been submitted for a space-based FIR astronomy session at the 2022 European Astronomical Society. All of the endeavours described above are open to and welcome Canadian participation.

The Canadian Space Agency has recently published a request for proposals to engage the scientific community in an exercise to plan the future of Canadian space science. A related email from Douglas Scott was circulated on December 9th through the CASCA exploder. The first step of this exercise is to form “topical teams” that will coordinate discussions in one of four astronomical themes; a space-based follow-up to the LRP. We encourage the FIR community to join these teams, with the expectation that over the next year or so there will be meetings (presumably over zoom) to discuss planning and prioritisation in the various research areas. The resulting reports that will be synthesized by the CSA into a 2022 version of the “2016 Canadian Space Exploration: Science and Space Health Priorities for the Next Decade and Beyond”.

Given the rapidly evolving situation we believe it would be useful to hold a Canada-wide virtual meeting in the next few months, ahead of the US and European science workshops, to better understand the range of FIR astronomy interest across Canada and to encourage participation in the forthcoming workshops. To this end we have setup a far-infrared space astronomy (FIRSA) webpage as a portal to the latest news, workshops/conference, publications and links on FIRSA matters. The page will include a link to the SPICA archival material. The existing SPICA supporter list will become the FIRSA supporter list. Participation is open to everyone. Instructions for joining, and current membership of the list are posted on the website.

Over the last 3 decades the CSA has provided support for Canadian participation in a number of FIR space astronomy missions: ISO and AKARI at modest levels; Herschel through the HIFI and SPIRE instruments and their teams; and for the last decade technology development (e.g., through FAST and STDP programs) for the SPICA mission. This technology development is currently ongoing and Canada’s expertise in this area is highly regarded. One lesson learned from SPICA is that equal or similar division of work packages between partners is an existential threat to a project. While Canada, and individual European nations, have much to contribute to a probe class mission, it is clear that if realized such a mission would be NASA-led.

In summary, the demise of SPICA has raised the profile of a FIR mission within the US Decadal report. While the situation is extremely fluid there remain reasons for optimism and excitement at the prospect of a smaller, less-ambitious, but potentially nearer-term FIR space telescope mission led by NASA. What is clear is that through its contributions to Herschel and SPICA over the last two decades, Canada is in a strong position to join a probe mission. We will endeavour to keep supporters informed of developments as they occur and look forward to meeting in person in Pasadena.

Finally, on a personal note, having led the Canadian effort on SPICA for over a decade (and before that Herschel/SPIRE) and with retirement in sight (my last MSc student starts in 2022) it is time to pass on the baton. Locke will assume the reins for the UL effort and Doug will continue to champion the science. I will be available to mentor and provide advice if it is needed and look forward to seeing Canada’s contributions to the next FIR space astronomy mission.

Keep safe everyone.

Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Update

By / par Kristine Spekkens (Canadian SKA Science Director) and the AACS
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 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 develop rapidly. The construction phase for SKA Phase 1 (= SKA1) has begun, with recent activities focussing on tender and procurement.

The SKA Observatory (SKAO) is building and will operate SKA1, with current Member States Australia, China, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom responsible for project governance. Potential future SKAO partners are designated as SKAO Council Observers, which currently include Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and Sweden. Many Observers are completing their internal processes to become Member States and gain governance rights in the project.

SKA1 construction is proceeding according to the construction and observatory delivery plans previously published by the SKAO, which also detail the science drivers, technical requirements, and anticipated societal benefits of the project. Telescope construction is staged into “Array Assemblies” (AA’s). The first 6-station array for SKA1-Low in Australia and 4-dish array for SKA1-Mid in South Africa (= AA0.5) are planned for 2024, science verification observations (with AA2) should begin in 2026, operations readiness reviews for the telescope design baselines (= AA4) are expected by 2028.

The SKAO is committed to the sustainable development of the project across the globe, with a particular focus on building partnerships with Indigenous and local communities at the remote sites where the dishes and antennas will be located. In Australia, an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with the Wajarri Yamaji on whose traditional lands SKA1-Low will be located provides ongoing consent for the Murchison Radio Observatory (MRO) where ASKAP and the MWA currently operate, and SKA1-Low has received in-principle support while a new ILUA is being finalized. In South Africa, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with representatives of the San people whose early ancestors walked the land on which SKA1-Mid will be located was signed to protect and promote San culture and heritage. An MOU is also in place with Agri-SA, many of whose members own farms which border or will host SKA1-Mid antennas. These steps are part of an ongoing process of respectful engagement on which the SKAO will continue to build to deliver tangible societal benefits across the lifetime of the project.

In late November, NRC signed a two-year cooperation agreement with the SKAO to allow Canada’s scientific and engineering communities to continue participation in the project, while membership in the SKAO is given full consideration by the federal government. Key elements of the cooperation agreement include the delivery of the AA0.5 SKA1-Mid correlator using Canadian data processing technology developed by NRC-HAA and industry partner MDA during the design phase, and the opportunity for Canadian industry to participate in construction tender and procurement across the project through March 2023.

Canada’s long-term participation in the SKA would require a commitment to construction and operations beyond the cooperation agreement, and this commitment would be needed well before the agreement expires in 2023 in order to maintain our leading role in the SKA1-Mid correlator work. 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 has begun.

There are a number of ways in which astronomers can get involved in the SKA: for example, SKA Science Working Groups are accepting new members, and there are regular calls for participation in SKA Science Data Challenges. Now that construction has begun, a significant ramp-up in staffing across the project also is underway, and many scientists, engineers, software designers, and support and administrative personnel will be hired. Individuals from all nationalities are welcome to apply. Those interested should keep an eye on the SKAO Recruitment Portal, which includes a “job alert” tool to set up personalized emails filtered by field of expertise, location, duration and employment type.

For more information and updates on Canada and the SKA:

Canadian Gemini News / Nouvelles de l’Office Gemini Canadien

By/par Stéphanie Côté (Canadian Gemini Office, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre / Office Gemini Canadien, Centre de Recherches Herzberg en Astronomie & Astrophysique du CNRC)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2021)

La version française suit

DARP tips

The last Gemini Call for proposals for semester 2022A was the first one for which it was requested in Canada to write the proposals anonymously following the Dual-Anonymous Review Process (DARP). Canadians are increasingly familiar with these guidelines as many other astronomical facilities have implemented similar requirements for their observing proposals (NASA, ALMA, ESO amongst others). We were pleased to see that the great majority of Gemini proposals successfully followed the DARP guidelines, with only 2 proposals out of 38 that did not write their cases anonymously. CanTAC decided not to lower their grade or reject them for this semester, but this might not be the case next semester. The US and most of other Gemini will all be moving to DARP in the coming semester. In the case of a joint proposal their TACs might also decide to sanction non-compliant proposals.

It is thus of importance to make sure our Canadian users know well how to write anonymous proposals. A few of our 2022A proposals made an effort to follow DARP but had one minor slip. This minor slip always happened in the same context, which was when referring to some of their previous observations, or other related accepted programs. Here we give some tips on how write DARP-approved texts in these situations:

  • Do not refer to previous observing programs at any observatories in an identifying fashion, including past Gemini programs. Replace “We have observe this galaxy in our previous 2021A program” with “GN-2021A-Q33 observed this galaxy previously”, without taking ownership for the program.
  • The same goes if your targets are selected by one of your past or ongoing surveys on another facility or are Target-of-Opportunity targets to be triggered by data from another of your programs. Replace “Our targets were selected from our 1.45 micron WIRCAM imaging survey of this star-forming region from our program 21BC08”, with “Our targets were selected by the 1.45 micron WIRCAM imaging survey of this star-forming region from program 21BC08”.
  • And the same goes if you need to refer to an accepted proposal at another facility for which you have not yet received data. Instead of “These data will complement our NIRSPec data from our accepted JWST program 1686 PI=Smith”, say simply “These data will complement the NIRSpec data to be acquired by JWST program 1686”. Do not take ownership of the program.

In all these cases when it is written anonymously in this way it does not make it obvious if you are the PI or Co-I of this other previous/future program, or have an arrangement with a co-I to get the data, or maybe are simply ready to scavenge the archives when the data are made public.

Please make sure to consult the ‘DARP guidelines’ page for your future Gemini proposals, and feel free to consult with us (CGO) before the deadline in case of doubt or questions.

No Call for Large and Long Programs in 2022

There is normally an annual Call for Large and Long Programs (LLPs) on Gemini every spring for the March Call for proposals. This will not be the case for 2022, as there is insufficient time available for new LLPs in semester 22B and 23A (taken up by previously approved LLPs). Also there will be less time available than usual in the Semester 2022B due to the re-silverizing of both Gemini-South and Gemini-North mirrors, which had been delayed since Covid-19 restrictions have been placed, and are now overdue. By deferring the LLP 2022 call this will assure that there will be more time available in future Semesters 23B/24A for LLPs when users should be able to take advantage of GHOST, the new high-resolution spectrograph to be commissioned at Gemini-South in 2022.

Note that proposals for Exchange Subaru Intensive programs will not be solicited either in 2022.

DRAGONS Released

Last October a new version of DRAGONS, the new Python-based data reduction platform, was released. This version supports the reduction of all imaging data (GMOS, NIRI, GNIRS, Flamingos-2, GSOAI), as well as GMOS longslit spectroscopy for quicklook purposes. It is not yet ready for science quality reductions, but for a quicklook of the data which is useful for data quality assessment or checking quickly if the desired S/N has been achieved.

Last week a patch release of DRAGONS was issued, version 3.0.1, to fix a few bugs, and improve the default behaviour of the spectral aperture finding algorithm.

Development efforts are continuing on DRAGONS so that the next major release will be able to support science-quality reduction of GMOS longslit data, with optional interactive tools for key reduction steps.

Please download the latest version of DRAGONS here. For information and tutorials on DRAGONS see the documentation on readthedocs here.

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

Astuces pour EPDA

L`Appel de demandes Gemini pour le semestre 2022A a été le premier pour lequel on demandait au Canada d`écrire les demandes de manière anonyme suivant le processus d’examen par les pairs en double aveugle (EPDA). Les Canadien.nes sont de plus en plus avec ce processus, car de nombreux autres observatoires astronomiques ont mis en place des exigences similaires pour leurs demandes d’observation (NASA, ALMA, ESO, entre autres). Nous avons agréablement surpris de constater que la grande majorité des demandes Gemini ont suivi avec succès les directives du DARP, avec seulement 2 demandes sur 38 qui n’ont pas été rédigées de manière anonyme. CanTAC a décidé de ne pas sévir ce semestre (soit en baissant leur note ou en les rejetant carrément), mais cela pourrait ne pas être le cas le semestre prochain. Les États-Unis et la plupart des autres partenaires Gemini passeront tous au DARP pour le prochain semestre. Dans le cas d’une demande conjointe, leurs TACs pourraient également décider de sanctionner les demandes non conformes.

Il est donc important de s’assurer que nos utilisateur.trices canadien.nes sachent bien comment rédiger des demandes anonymes. Quelques-unes des demandes reçues en 2022A se sont efforcées de suivre DARP mais ont laissé passer une erreur mineure. Cette erreur mineure s’est toujours produite dans le même contexte, c’est-à-dire lorsqu`il s`agissait de se référer à certaines de leurs observations précédentes ou à d’autres de leurs programmes acceptés connexes. Nous donnons ici quelques conseils sur la façon d’écrire des textes à la façon DARP dans ces situations :

  • Ne faites pas référence à vos programmes d`observations précédents que ce soit à Gemini ou ailleurs, d`une façon qui vous identifierait. Remplacez « Nous avons observé cette galaxie dans notre précédent programme 2021A », dites plutôt « GN-2021A-Q33 a observé cette galaxie précédemment », sans vous approprier le programme.
  • Il en va de même si vos cibles sont sélectionnées par l’un de vos sondages précédents ou en cours à un autre observatoire ou sont des cibles d’opportunité à déclencher par les données d’un autre de vos programmes. Remplacer “Nos cibles ont été sélectionnées à partir de nos données d`imagerie à 1,45 micron avec WIRCAM de cette région de formation d’étoiles réalisé par notre programme 21BC08”, dites plutôt “Nos cibles ont été sélectionnées à partir des données d`imagerie à 1,45 microns avec WIRCAM de cette région de formation d’étoiles du programme 21BC08”.
  • Et il en va de même si vous devez vous référer à une demande acceptée à un autre observatoire pour laquelle vous n’avez pas encore reçu de données. Remplacez « Ces données viendront compléter nos données NIRSPec de notre programme JWST accepté 1686 PI = Gagnon », dites simplement « Ces données viendront compléter les données NIRSpec qui seront obtenues par le programme JWST 1686». Parlez de ce programme de façon neutre, sans vous l`approprier.

Dans tous ces cas, lorsque c’est écrit de manière anonyme de cette façon, cela ne dévoile pas si vous êtes le PI ou le Co-I de cet autre programme précédent/futur, ou si vous avez un arrangement avec un co-I pour obtenir les données, ou peut-être vous êtes simplement prêts à fouiller les archives lorsque les données seront rendues publiques.

Veuillez vous assurer de consulter la page « Consignes pour EPDA » pour vos futures demandes Gemini, et n’hésitez pas à nous consulter (OGC) avant la date limite en cas de doute ou de questions.

Pas d’Appel de demandes pour les Longs et Larges programmes en 2022

Il y a normalement un appel annuel pour les Longs et Larges programmes (LLP) à Gemini chaque printemps avec l’appel de demandes du mois de mars. Ce ne sera malheureusement pas le cas en 2022, car il n’y a pas suffisamment de temps disponible pour de nouveaux LLP aux semestres 22B et 23A (déjà remplis par les LLPs précédemment approuvés). De plus, il y aura moins de temps disponible que d’habitude au cours du semestre 2022B en raison de la ré-argentisation des miroirs Gemini-Sud et Gemini-Nord, qui avait été retardée depuis que les restrictions Covid-19 ont été imposées, et est maintenant plus que due. En reportant l’appel LLP 2022, cela garantira qu’il y aura plus de temps disponible dans les futurs semestres 23B/24A pour approuver des LLP utilisant GHOST, le nouveau spectrographe haute résolution qui sera mis en service à Gemini-Sud en 2022.

À noter que les demandes de Programmes Intensifs Subaru (échange LLP sur Subaru) ne seront pas sollicitées non plus en 2022.

Sortie des DRAGONS

En octobre dernier, une nouvelle version de DRAGONS, la nouvelle plate-forme de réduction de données utilisant Python, a été publiée. Cette version permet la réduction de toutes les données d’imagerie (GMOS, NIRI, GNIRS, Flamingos-2, GSOAI), ainsi que la spectroscopie à fente longue de GMOS pour vérification rapide. Elle n’est pas encore prête pour les réductions de qualité scientifique, mais pour un aperçu rapide des données qui est utile pour l’évaluation rapide de la qualité des données ou pour vérifier rapidement si le S/B souhaité a été atteint.

La semaine dernière, un correctif logiciel (patch) de DRAGONS a été publié, la version 3.0.1, pour corriger quelques bugs et améliorer le comportement par défaut de l’algorithme de recherche de l`ouverture spectrale.

Les efforts de développement se poursuivent sur DRAGONS afin que la prochaine version majeure puisse permettre la réduction de qualité scientifique des données spectroscopiques à longue fente de GMOS, avec des outils interactifs optionnels pour les étapes-clés de réduction.

Veuillez télécharger la dernière version de DRAGONS ici. Pour des informations et des tutoriels sur DRAGONS, consultez la documentation sur readthedocs ici.

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