Women in Physics Canada Conference WIPC2023

Samar Safi-Harb (Chair) and Janette Suherli (Deputy Chair), on behalf of the WIPC2023 Organizing Committee:

We are pleased to announce that registration and abstract submission are now open for the 2023 Women in Physics Canada Conference (WIPC2023) to take place at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg during July 4-7 (2023).

The conference website can be found here:

WIPC is aimed at increasing the representation of women and under-represented groups in Physics (and STEM more generally). The meeting will be open to students (undergraduate and graduate students), postdocs, researchers/educators in Physics and Astronomy, and anyone interested in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in STEM from across the country and internationally.

We are thrilled to announce that Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Oxford) will be the conference keynote speaker. Dr Bell Burnell is known for her discovery of pulsars and is a big champion in EDI.

We are working on an exciting program for WIPC2023, which will include:
*Scientific presentations from a diverse pool of researchers and panelists
*Skills development workshops and a speed-mentorship workshop
*A panel discussion on EDI
*A panel discussion on career choices
*Networking activities
*Student/early career researchers talks and presentations

Important Dates:
*Early Bird Registration Deadline — April 17, 2023
*Abstract Submission Deadline — April 17, 2023
*Travel Support Request Deadline — April 17, 2023
*Childcare Support Request Deadline — May 1, 2023
*Accepted Abstract for Oral Presentation Announcement — May 16, 2023
*Travel Support Announcement — May 16, 2023
*Regular Registration Deadline — May 23, 2023
*Late Registration Deadline — June 19, 2023
*Late Abstract Submission Deadline (for Posters Only) — June 19, 2023

The conference poster can be downloaded from: https://sci.umanitoba.ca/wipc2023/wp-content/uploads/sites/12/2023/01/WIPC2023-Invite_new.png
Feel free to circulate it within your community.

Thanks to our sponsors, we will be able to offer a modest registration fee for students which covers lunches and health breaks at the conference, the banquet dinner and open galleries access at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, food and drinks at the reception and poster session; in addition to students’ travel awards, prizes, and surprises! We are also developing a plan for childcare support.

If you have any questions, please reach out to wipc2023@physics.umanitoba.ca

We look forward to welcoming you to Winnipeg this summer!

ALMA Matters


By Brenda Matthews and Gerald Schieven (ALMA)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

ALMA Marks 10 years of Science Observations!

Special events are scheduled on 13 March 2023 at the ALMA site to commemorate the 10th anniversary of ALMA science observations.

In Canada, an online mini-symposium of ALMA science was organized by the Millimetre Astronomy Group at NRC and held on 9 March, with participation from across the country. The excellent keynote presentation about the ALMAQuest Survey by Sara Ellison was preceded by exciting presentations from Ryley Hill (UBC), Anan Lu (McGill), Jiaqing Bi (University of Victoria) and Alex Tetarenko (Lethbridge University/Texas Tech) and followed by a short presentation on the future of ALMA’s science potential by ALMA Director Sean Dougherty.

Many thanks to all who participated and tuned in to learn about ALMA’s contributions to science in Canada.

Events are scheduled to mark this milestone throughout this year in Chile, culminating in the conference ALMA at 10 years: Past, Present, and Future to be held in Puerto Varas, Chile from 4-8 December 2023. Watch this space for registration information.

Cycle 9 Observing Update

Following the recovery period after the cyberattack of 23 October 2022, ALMA resumed Cycle 9 observing in mid-December. The primary losses were to projects requiring the two most compact 12-m array configurations. As per usual ALMA policy, incomplete A-grade proposals will be carried forward into Cycle 10.

Cycle 10 Pre-Announcement

Due to the impact of the cyberattack, which stopped observing and much of the work of observatory staff, the ALMA Director and the ALMA Management Team decided to delay the release of the Call for Proposals by 3 weeks and delay the proposal deadline by 2 weeks.

The Call for Proposals (CfP) with detailed information on Cycle 10 is anticipated to be issued on 12 April 2023, and the deadline for proposal submission will be in 10 May 2023.

ALMA Cycle 10 will start in October 2023. In the main 12-m Array, antenna configurations C-1 to C-8 (with maximum baselines between 0.16 and 8.5 km) will be offered. The number of hours to be available for approved science observations will be announced in the CfP. Projects with observations in the highest-frequency Bands 8, 9, and 10 are strongly encouraged. Proposers are encouraged to submit ACA stand-alone observations for targets that can be observed in the LST range of 20h to 10h.

New in Cycle 10

The following technical capabilities will be available this Cycle for the first time:

  • Band 1 on the 12-m Array and for Stokes I only (no Stokes Q/U/V), anticipated to be available from March 2024
  • Spectral scans that include Total Power observations
  • 4×4-bit spectral modes for improved sensitivity on the 12-m Array (dual polarization)
  • Solar observations in full polarization in Band 3 using only the 12-m Array
  • Phased array mode in Bands 1, 3, 6 and 7 (the total time available for this mode is expected to be capped at approximately 50 hours)
  • VLBI in Bands 1, 3, 6 and 7, including flexible tuning for spectral lines

New in Cycle 10 will be the availability of Joint Proposals with other facilities, including the Space Telescope Science Institute’s James Webb Space Telescope, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

Also new this Cycle, band-to-band phase calibration will be available for high frequency observations on both the 7-m Array and all 12-m Array configurations. The total time available for projects needing band-to-band phase calibration is expected to be capped.

Need Help with ALMA Proposals? ALMA’s Ambassadors are Here to Help!

To prepare the North American community to fully participate in the ALMA Call for Proposals, the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC) organizes proposal preparation workshops in the months leading up to the proposal deadline. In addition, the North American community is encouraged to request to host ALMA proposal preparation workshops at their home institutions. These events are one to two day workshops organized and led by experienced local postdocs from the ALMA Ambassadors program and/or NAASC staff with a focus on the capabilities of ALMA, mm/submm interferometry observing techniques, and the tools required to design ALMA observing programs and submit proposals.

For cycle 10, two ALMA ambassadors from Canadian universities will be running proposal preparation workshops. Please take notes of these dates and contact the organizers if you are interested in participating.

18 April 2023, 1030am – 530pm (Eastern time): CITA, University of Toronto (remote participation possible), contact Jiayi Sun, but first check the details here.

20 April 2023, 900am – 500pm (Pacific time): University of British Columbia (remote participation possible), contact Adam Dong.

Data reduction workshops will be held at later dates.

Other proposal preparation workshops outside Canada may be of interest. You can see the dates for all the workshops here.

NRC is Building the Next Generation ALMA Correlator

As reported last issue, NRC (hardware) and NRAO (software) are collaborating to build the next generation ALMA correlator, a key part of ALMA’s Wideband Sensitivity Upgrade (WSU) project. The contracts have now been signed, and construction of the ALMA TALON Central Signal Processor (AT.CSP) at a projected cost of 35.9M USD, including contingency and commissioning, is now underway. The AT.CSP design leverages nearly a decade of R&D work at NRC-HAA’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory to develop the SKA-mid Correlator/beamformer (CBF). This next generation correlator for ALMA will double the current (dual-polarization) 8 GHz instantaneous bandwidth of ALMA, with a path forward to double it yet again. In addition, AT.CSP will allow up to 1.2 million channels to be sampled simultaneously, enabling high spectral resolution to be achieved across the observable band width.

More information about the correlator upgrade can be found in Carpenter et al., 2022, ALMA Memo 621.

ALMA Primer Instructional Videos

Radio interferometry, including with ALMA, is a complex and often non-intuitive field. Like the ALMA introductory document, Observing with ALMA – A Primer, the ALMA Primer Instructional Video Series is designed to provide a basic introduction to radio interferometry, calibration, imaging, and other topics in brief (5-15 minutes), bite-size pieces. In addition, short (<1minute) extracts of some of these videos are available to use when teaching or in presentations. The series is a work in progress; new videos are added periodically.

The ALMA Primer Instructional Video Series is now available from the ALMA Science Portal. The videos are also available from the ALMA Primer YouTube Channel. Subscribe to be alerted whenever new videos are added!

Update on CASTOR

By Patrick Côté, John Hutchings (NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

  • UKSA has favourably reviewed a proposal to fund CASTOR work under a new bilaterals initiatives, subject to a program cost cap. A meeting between CSA and UKSA is planned for this spring to define a partnership in CASTOR.
  • CASTOR will be on the agenda during a CSA-NASA meeting later this month, and it is expected that a dedicated meeting to discuss a possible NASA partnership will happen this spring.
  • Discussions are underway with groups in Spain, France, and Korea to develop their partnership interests in CASTOR. ISRO have indicated an interest in pursuing a partnership, but progress towards that end has been slow.
  • The Phase 0 science and industry teams continue to make good progress in defining the mission, and a final review will be held at CSA in May. The STDP technical contract work also continues, but the characterizing the JPL-E2V detectors will now be carried out by HAA. This technical work will continue for most of this year.
  • A formal request to government for approval and funding, to be submitted jointly by CSA and NRC, will be based on the Phase 0 mission definition, science plan, and costing. This request will include expected international partner contributions, which should substantially reduce the cost to Canada while retaining Canadian leadership.
  • The mission science capabilities, which are increasingly well defined thanks to the ongoing Phase 0 study, are broad and unique, covering a wide range of topics in astronomy. The Coalition for astronomy (CASCA, ACURA, and industry) will be focussed on informing the government on CASTOR, and promoting it as a top-ranked national priority.
  • Those interested in learning more about the mission and its science programs are encouraged to participate in the upcoming Surveys 2 Discoveries Workshop (May 16-18) in Montreal. In addition, the upcoming CASCA AGM (June 12-16) in Penticton will feature a CASTOR Town Hall.

For more information on the mission, see the mission page here.

Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) Update

By Patrick Hall (MSE Management Group Member)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

Two MSE-related announcements are coming soon.

The Project Office is negotiating with a new MSE Project Scientist and hopes to announce their appointment soon.

CFHT is also about to release a call for letters of interest from new partners to participate in the development of MSE either through the design and fabrication of an MSE-Pathfinder instrument or through advancing the design of MSE itself. The Pathfinder instrument is proposed to reduce technical risk for MSE by demonstrating on-sky the science capabilities of MSE’s primary subsystems and principal software platform while producing shared science data products for the community. It is envisioned as a scientific capability for timely spectroscopic follow-up on targets-of-opportunity (TOOs) detected by existing and upcoming high-profile facilities such as Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s LSST alerts for time domain and transient targets. The Pathfinder instrument is proposed to use moderate-resolution optical spectrographs fed by fibers from one of two systems: 1) a prime-focus MOS of ~1000 fibers; 2) a large-format IFU sharing the Cass Bonnette with VISION (a common feed for SPIRou and ESPaDOnS), enabling rapid switching between those three instruments.

Last but not least, mahalo to Kei Szeto who retired at the end of January. His contributions to the MSE project have been invaluable. Mahalo, Kei!

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

The NSF recently completed its comprehensive Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of TMT and GMT.  A recommendation on whether or not to proceed to Final Design Review (FDR) is expected for some time in late summer.  The FDR phase normally lasts about 18 months and will require a firm governance model and site selection.

An Environmental Review forms an important part of the NSF process.  This review is well underway, and the NSF is evaluating the numerous comments it received during the July 19-Sept 17, 2022, scoping comment period.  The current status of this review is maintained at this website, where you can also subscribe to email updates.

The annual call for individuals to join TMT: International Science Development Teams (ISDTs) closed on March 1, 2023.  Over the next few months, the ISDTs will be tasked with updating the 2015 Detailed Science Case in preparation for the FDR.

The first in a series of TMT webinars was held in late 2022/early 2023.  This included an overview of the project and site status and was well attended by Canadians.  It is anticipated that the next webinar, yet to be announced, will focus on first-light instrumentation.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge Don Brooks for his many years of service as Executive Director of ACURA, and his leadership in uniting University support behind Canadian participation in TMT.  ACURA has played a vital role in not only helping to secure the significant federal investment announced in 2014, but also in ensuring that continued participation in the project respects Canadian values as expressed in the Long Range Plan and in feedback from the University community.  Don has been an active participant in CATAC activities since our inception, and his sage advice and deep knowledge of the TMT project will be sorely missed.

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)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Jason Rowe (Bishop’s)
Stan Metchev (Western University; TIO SAC)
Kim Venn (ACURA Board Chair, non-voting, ex-officio)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Christine Wilson (Acting CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Update

By Kristine Spekkens (Canadian SKA Science Director) and the AACS
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

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.

In a press release on January 24th, 2023, the Honourable François Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced Canada’s intention to seek full membership in the SKA Observatory (SKAO) with NRC-Herzberg representing Canada in SKAO governance. This major announcement is consistent with our community’s recommendations for SKA participation in the Canadian Astronomy Long-Range Plan 2020-2030 (LRP2020), for which the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy advocated in meetings with government officials. Some additional information is available in the releases marking the government’s decision:

The steps necessary to complete the membership process are anticipated to take place in the coming months. CASCA members will be kept informed of this process and corresponding opportunities to participate as those details become available.

The SKA has been a high priority for the Canadian astronomical community for over two decades, and the efforts of many individuals over many years have made the government’s decision possible. Thank-you to everyone who contributed to this effort.

For more information, updates, and opportunities to get involved:

In Memoriam: Terence Dickinson (1943 – 2023)

By Alan Dyer
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

portrait courtesy Susan Dickinson

Terence Dickinson, Canadian astronomer and author of numerous popular books on astronomy, passed away February 1, 2023 at age 79 after a long battle with Parkinson’s.

Described as Canada’s Carl Sagan, Terence Dickinson spent a lifetime promoting astronomy and Canadian research through many channels, including his books, newspaper columns, lectures, radio show spots, and TV appearances.

His interest in astronomy began when he was only five years old, when he saw a meteor streak across the sky. Terence’s professional career began in 1968 when he became a staff astronomer and teacher at the McLaughlin Planetarium of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In 1970, he became assistant director of the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, New York.

Terence served as the editor of the then new ASTRONOMY magazine in 1974 and 1975. From 1995 until 2016, Terence edited and co-owned SkyNews, Canada’s magazine of stargazing. He is perhaps best known in the amateur astronomy world as the author of the NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing The Universe, a book that has helped tens of thousands of people get started in the hobby of amateur astronomy. It has been in print through several editions for forty years.

Terence also authored many other popular books, including The Universe and Beyond, Hubble’s Universe, and The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, co-authored with Alan Dyer.

image courtesy Alan Dyer

From 1981 until the mid-2000s, Terence wrote a weekly astronomy column for The Toronto Star newspaper, taking over the popular column from long-time author and Canadian astronomer Helen Sawyer Hogg. Another of Terence’s regular platforms for promoting astronomy was television, through his frequent appearances in the late 1990s and early 2000s on Canada’s Discovery Channel. He was also a regular on CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks science show.

Among his numerous awards are the New York Academy of Sciences’ Children’s Book of the Year (1988), the Royal Canadian Institute’s Sandford Fleming Medal (1992), Industry Canada’s Michael Smith Award for Public Promotion of Science (1993), and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Klumpke-Roberts Award (1996). He was the recipient of honorary degrees from Trent University and Queen’s University. In 1995, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to public understanding of astronomy.

In 1994 asteroid #5272 was officially named Dickinson in his honor by the International Astronomical Union.

Terence Dickinson’s ability to explain the universe and simplify astronomical concepts in ways easily understood by the average reader has gained him a huge international audience. Many thousands of people have developed an interest in astronomy and the wonders of the universe because of his work.

His love for astronomy was infectious, as anyone who attended one of his wonderful lectures will attest. He once said, “I want to do what I’m doing for as long as I can. There’s just so much more to know and see, and I’m still excited as a kid about new discoveries. I’ll never run out of things to write about – I’ll just run out of time.”

Dissertation: “Nearby galaxies: modelling star formation histories and contamination by unresolved background galaxies”

(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

by Dr. Hadi Papei
Thesis defended on January 13, 2023
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Western University
Thesis advisor: Prof. Pauline Barmby

Galaxies are complex systems of stars, gas, dust, and dark matter which evolve over billions of years, and one of the main goals of astrophysics is to understand how these complex systems form and change. Measuring the star formation history of nearby galaxies, in which thousands of stars can be resolved individually, has provided us with a clear picture of their evolutionary history and the evolution of galaxies in general.

In this work, we have developed the first public Python package, SFHPy, to measure star formation histories of nearby galaxies using their colour-magnitude diagrams. In this algorithm, an observed colour-magnitude diagram is modelled as a linear combination of many simple stellar populations with different ages and metallicities. This package treats metallicity as a free parameter, and the uncertainties are estimated by bootstrapping. This algorithm was tested on two different simulated populations and successfully recovered the input parameters. We have also measured the star formation history of the galaxy IC 1613 and found that the measured star formation history agrees with previous measurements for this galaxy.

Observing fainter phases of stellar evolution plays an essential role in the accuracy and precision of star formation history measurements for nearby galaxies. However, fainter sources are more contaminated by unresolved background galaxies. In the second project, we investigated the contamination effect of background galaxies in star formation history measurements by simulating stellar populations of nearby galaxies and a population of unresolved background galaxies. We found that deeper photometry helps to reduce the contamination only for distance moduli larger than (m-M)=23 or 0.4 Mpc. Most of the contamination effect comes from galaxies less than 2 magnitudes brighter than the photometry limit, and the contamination affects the older stellar populations more than younger populations. We also showed that including a model of background galaxies in the fitting process can result in a more accurate and precise measured star formation history compared to removing the contaminated part of the colour-magnitude diagram.

AstroEDU Conference Announcement

By Michael Reid (University of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

Join us in Toronto, May 10-12 for AstroEdu—the astronomy education conference

AstroEdu, the astronomy education conference, is coming to the University of Toronto, May 10-12, 2023. Registration and abstract submission are now open at the conference website. This international conference will feature experts and practitioners in the fields of astronomy and astronomy education, discussing all of the latest research and best practices in astronomy education at all levels. We warmly welcome the Canadian astronomy research community to participate. If you’re interested in finding out how your students learn astronomy, or how your colleagues teach it, this is the conference for you. If you’ve developed an innovative way of teaching astronomy or have studied how your students learn, we invite you to submit an abstract for a poster or talk.

The conference will be held in a hybrid format, both in-person in Toronto and online. To facilitate the widest possible participation, registration fees are indexed to Gross National Income and there are discounts available for virtual participants and students, so please pass this notice on to your colleagues worldwide. We encourage all participants to consider the climate impact of their participation, choose lower-carbon transportation options where available, and consider virtual participation.

We thank the Dunlap Institute and the International Astronomical Union for their generous sponsorship of the meeting.

ngVLA Update

By Erik Rosolowsky (U Alberta)
(Cassiopeia – Spring 2023)

New Eyes on the Universe: Last Call!

Please join us May 1-5 in Vancouver, Canada for this meeting as we discuss and extend the cutting-edge science opportunities enabled by the unprecedented SKA-ngVLA coverage spanning three decades of frequency. We particularly encourage participation by early career scientists, who will be the major users of these observatories. April 7 is the deadline for in-person registrations, poster abstract submissions, and hotel reservations.

Progress Toward an ngVLA Prototype 18m Antenna

mtex antenna model

Following December’s successful preliminary design review, mtex antenna technology GmbH has begun manufacturing the ngVLA prototype 18m antenna. Most critical items are on order or have been received by mtex, and initial servo system integration tests have been performed. Currently mtex is finalizing the selection of bearings and gearboxes based on a common specification, as well as the selection of the surface treatment for the main reflector based on empirical tests of the thermal loading. Manufacturing files for the major steel assemblies are also being finalized. The ngVLA Antenna integrated product team is currently detailing the interface between the feed enclosure and the feed indexer and also preparing the infrastructure at the VLA Antenna Test Site to receive the new prototype. A manufacturing status review is planned for September, followed by an antenna factory inspection in November. If these go well, the prototype antenna will be transported to the VLA Antenna Test Site, arriving in January 2024. The prototype antenna will then undergo final assembly and extensive single-dish testing before being integrated into the current VLA for interferometric testing.

ngVLA Special Session: Chemical Probes of Astrophysical Systems

The NRAO and the ngVLA Project convened a Special Session titled “Chemical Probes of Astrophysical Systems” on January 11 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, WA. The session highlighted the ngVLA’s Key Science Goal 2: The Cosmic Origins of Life as well as presenting updates to the community about the ngVLA’s design and development. Eighteen presentations from the session are available here.