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Vernal Equinox 2005 Équinoxe vernal 2005 Vernal Equinox NO. 124 ISSN 0715-474 A publication of CASCA Une publication de la Casca Celebrating 100 years of Science at the Dominion Observatory The Stars of St. John’s Church Lunenburg News from Fuse Gemini News An ALMA Update Events at NRC's HIA (2005 January - March) Reports file:///C|/sciborg/public_html/astro/ecass/issues/2005-ve/index.html (1 of 2) [3/21/2005 10:54:22 AM]

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Vernal Equinox 2005

Équinoxe vernal 2005 Vernal

EquinoxNO. 124

ISSN 0715-474

A publication of CASCA Une publication de la Casca

Celebrating 100 years of Science at the Dominion Observatory

The Stars of St. John’s Church Lunenburg

News from Fuse

Gemini News

An ALMA Update

Events at NRC's HIA (2005 January - March)

Reports

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TOC

On the Cover

The Dominion Observatory - shortly after the completion of construction.

(return to front cover)

CASCA Soap Box

● From the Editor● From the President

Features

● The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary by Randall Brooks (CSTM) and Calvin Klatt (NRC)

● The Stars of St. John’s Church Lunenburg by David Turner

Reports ● DAO Telescope Developments by David Bohlender● Événements concernant les télescopes de l’OF by David

Bohlender

News ● An Alma Update by Chris Wilson ● Events at NRC's HIA (2004 December - 2005 March) / Du neuf à

l'IHA du CNRC (2004 Decembre - Mars 2005) by Jacques P. Vallée

● News from FUSE by Alex Fullerton, Pierre Chayer and John Hutchings

Briefly Noted

● Congrès annuel de la Société canadienne d'astronomie / The Annual Meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society

● Update on Activities of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy

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TOC

In the Classroom

● Education Notes by Heather Scott● Make it Relevant - Enhancing lessons with real-life examples and

applications by Heather Scott

get PDF version of this issue

go to past issues of E-Cassiopeia...

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file:///C|/sciborg/public_html/astro/ecass/issues/2005-ve/soapbox/ed/ed.html

There are persistent rumours of spring although the snowy view from my office window would seem to cast that idea into some doubt! (Please - no e-mails from the west coast!). Despite this we have all persevered and produced the Vernal Equinox issue of E-Cass and my sincere thanks to the many contributors.Within this issue you will find the usual informative and timely pieces. Of special note are two fascinating articles about the history of astronomy in Canada. Randall Brooks and Calvin Klatt give us a vignette on the 100th anniversary of the Dominion Observatory while David Turner presents a lovely account of how his astronomical sleuthing aided in the restoration of a historic landmark. As well, be sure to check out the notice on the Montreal AGM.

Welcome to Spring!

Brian Martin ([email protected])

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President's Message

Presidential Thoughts/Pensées Présidentielles...

Through Fall and Winter many CASCA members and their supporters from ACURA and industry contributed much time, energy, and wisdom to supporting the intense efforts of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy to secure the funding called for in the Mid Term Review of the Long Range Plan. In spite of specific, encouraging signs received in advance, the Federal Budget did not provide the requested financial commitments to the next phase of LRP implementation.

The sense of renewal and hope that accompanies the arrival of Spring is sustaining the hard work and strengthening the resolve required to continue our collective quest. Coalition leadership is focussing immediate attention on achieving funding commitments that will secure the leadership roles that Canadian astronomers, engineers, industry and academic administrators have worked so hard and effectively to earn over the past two years within the fast-paced TMT project. As well, the Coalition continues its efforts to engage the agencies in addressing the systemic challenges of implementing an integrated, national, science-driven plan such as the astronomy LRP. Canada’s present system, with agency mandates that complicate and even inhibit realization of opportunities for effective participation by all players, must be made compatible with the realities that arise when implementing international projects, such as those envisioned in the LRP.

Over the past two years the Presidents of NSERC and NRC developed a draft discussion paper, “A framework for the evaluation, funding and oversight of Canadian major science investments” (available at: http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/about/initiatives/Framework%20for%20Major%20Science%20Investments%20(English).pdf). The result of this discussion will be a Federal Government policy on funding the kinds of major international projects which are so important to Canadian astronomical aspirations. Of course, Canadian astronomy is not alone among the sciences in Canada in facing such challenges, nor is Canada’s situation unique among the nations that are planning new facilities.

Nonetheless, our community needs to be well informed and fully engaged in this important discussion and associated process. In late February I asked CASCA members to read and consider carefully this “big science” document, and to share your views with the Board through CASCA’s private web site for members, a call that I renew. A good strategy may be to identify a discussion leader for a departmental meeting, the outcome of which can be posted on CASCA’s private web site. The CASCA Board letter to the National Science Advisor is being delayed until early April to allow more members to formulate and share their thoughts. It is very much in the interests of Canadian astronomers to ensure that the final policy, whatever it is, is sound, workable, and responsive to, and supportive of, scientific excellence in Canada.

I am looking forward very much to renewing old friendships and making new ones during the upcoming CASCA meeting in Montreal, while learning of your exciting discoveries and scientific developments since Winnipeg. The organizers are putting together an outstanding programme, which will provide an excellent forum for continued discussions on the many facets that together make Canadian astronomy a dynamic and compelling adventure. Plan to arrive in time to attend the opening reception, which is being co-hosted by the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy, whose Co-Chairs will provide a brief update to stimulate and inform debate throughout the meetings, including at the annual business meeting. Of particular importance to this year’s meeting is the unparalleled opportunity to improve mutual understanding between CASCA and the Canadian Space Agency. Through the special session at the CSA, we can all assist in ensuring that CSA appreciates our gratitude for their support to date in the pursuit of LRP and other space-astronomy goals, as well as their vital role in contributing to the long-term health of Canadian astronomy, in which space-based facilities are sure to play an ever increasing role.

A bientot

Plusieurs membres de la Société canadienne de l’astronomie et leurs partisans d’ACURA ont accordé beaucoup de temps, d’énergie et de sagesse au cours de l’automne et de l’hiver pour appuyer le dur travail de la Coalition pour l’astronomie au Canada pour obtenir le financement prévu dans l’examen à mi-période du plan à long terme. Malgré des signes spécifiques et encourageants reçus à l’avance, le budget fédéral ne comprenait pas les engagements de fonds demandés pour la mise en œuvre de la prochaine étape du plan à long terme.

Le sentiment de renouvellement et d’espoir qui accompagne l’arrivée du printemps soutient le dur travail et renforce l’engagement nécessaire pour poursuivre notre but commun. En ce moment, les meneurs de la Coalition prêtent leur attention à l’obtention des engagements financiers qui procureront les rôles de leadership que les astronomes, ingénieurs et administrateurs universitaires canadiens ont travaillé si dur et efficacement pour mériter au sein du projet du télescope de vingt mètres, où les activités se déroulent à un rythme rapide. En plus, la Coalition poursuit ses efforts pour obtenir l’engagement des organismes à surmonter les défis systémiques de la mise en œuvre d’un plan intégré, national et axé sur la science comme le plan à long terme pour l’astronomie. Le système actuel du Canada, dont les mandats des organismes compliquent et même inhibent la participation efficace de tous les joueurs, doit être modifié pour qu’il soit compatible avec les réalités de la mise en œuvre des projets internationaux comme ceux envisagés dans le plan à long terme.

Au cours des deux dernières années, les présidents du CRSNG et du CNRC ont élaboré un document de discussion intitulé « A framework for the evaluation, funding and oversight of Canadian major science investments » (disponible à l’adresse : http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/about/initiatives/Framework%20for%20Major%20Science%20Investments%20(English).pdf). Cette discussion mènera à une politique du gouvernement fédéral sur le financement des projets internationaux majeurs qui sont si importants pour les aspirations canadiennes en astronomie. Il est évident que l’astronomie n’est pas la seule science au Canada connaissant de telles difficultés, et la situation du Canada n’est pas unique parmi les pays souhaitant développer de nouvelles installations.

Notre communauté doit toutefois est bien informée et engagée pleinement dans cette importante discussion et le procédé connexe. Vers la fin de février, j’avais demandé aux membres de la Société canadienne de l’astronomie de lire et de considérer ce document sur les « grands projets scientifiques », et de transmettre leurs opinions au Conseil par l’entremise du site Web de la Société réservé aux membres. Je souhaite répéter cette demande à ce moment. Une bonne stratégie pourrait être d’identifier un animateur pour une réunion organisationnelle, dont les conclusions seraient publiées dans le site Web privé de la Société. La lettre du Conseil de la Société canadienne de l’astronomie au Conseiller national des sciences sera retardée jusqu’à début d’avril afin de permettre à un plus grand nombre de membres d’exprimer leurs opinions. Il est très important pour les astronomes canadiens de s’assurer que la politique définitive est solide, réalisable et qu’elle est sensible et apporte un soutien à l’excellence scientifique au Canada.

J’attends avec impatience l’occasion de renouer connaissance avec d’anciens amis et d’en faire de nouveaux pendant la prochaine réunion de la Société à Montréal, tout en apprenant vos découvertes et développements scientifiques depuis la réunion de Winnipeg. Le programme est d’une qualité exceptionnelle, et sera un excellent forum pour continuer les discussions sur les nombreux aspects qui font de l’astronomie au Canada une aventure dynamique et irrésistible. Prévoyez arriver à temps pour assister à la réception d’ouverture, qui est organisée en collaboration avec la Coalition pour l’astronomie au Canada. Les coprésidents de la Coalition présenteront une courte mise à jour pour stimuler et informer les discussions durant les réunions, incluant la réunion d’affaires annuelle. La réunion de cette année est d’une importance spéciale en raison de l’occasion inégalée qu’elle offre à la Société et à l’Agence spatiale canadienne de mieux se comprendre l’une et l’autre. Grâce à la séance spéciale de l’ASC, nous pouvons tous aider à assurer que l’ASC apprécie notre gratitude pour leur soutien jusqu’à présent pour le plan à long terme et d’autres buts liés à l’astronomie spatiale, ainsi que pour le rôle vital qu’elle a joué en contribuant à la santé à long terme de l’astronomie canadienne, pour laquelle les installations spatiales joueront sûrement un rôle de plus en plus important.

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President's Message

À bientôt!

Jim Hesser

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

The Dominion Observatory – 100thAnniversaryRandall Brooks (CSTM) and Calvin Klatt (NRCan)

The early astronomical work — 1905-1930s

Following Canadian Confederation in 1867 government astronomy was primarily associated with surveyors who needed a means to determine the difference in longitude between their location and Greenwich. This required accurate tables of the positions of astronomical objects, precise and accurately calibrated theodolites and transit telescopes as well as access to chronometers. Surveyors and a small number of astronomers were hired by the Geological Survey of Canada (founded 1841), the Hydrographic Survey (1880s), the Topographic Survey (1880s) and Geodetic Survey of Canada (1909). Among other duties, these astronomers/surveyors laid out the boundaries between the US and Canada and between provinces. In Ottawa, the Cliff Street Observatory (near the current Supreme Court of Canada and overlooking the Ottawa River) was constructed in the 1880s to house transit telescopes to regulate precise clocks and to act as a primary reference point for surveyors. However, a key element was missing, an observatory to mirror in Canada the functions of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In 1898, one of the astronomers, Otto Klotz had a vision of a grander facility — a “national observatory”. The result was the founding of the Dominion Observatory with Frederick King, the Chief Astronomer, as its first Director. The Observatory’s principal functions were to be the primary longitude for Canada and to determine and distribute time to government departments, including Parliament, as well as to other businesses that required precise time, most notably the railroads.

Image 1 Cliff Street Observatory. Image 2 Klotz&King

Construction of the building on which the 15” telescope’s dome was to be erected began in July 1902 when Klotz and King “laid out the line”, i.e. the orientation of building. To accommodate the transit instruments, the western portion of the structure is exactly on an east-west line. On Aug. 12, 1902 the contractor, Theophile Viau, began excavation of the basement and the total cost of the contract was $74,999. The contract for the transit house, which was attached on the west side of the main building was awarded to McGillvray&Labelle in 1904 with planned mid-April 1905 occupancy.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

The series of images shows various phases of construction of the Observatory’s sandstone building and the equipment used to lift the large stones, and eventually the dome and telescope, into place. The building still stands today as a notable landmark on the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa. With a budget of $350,000 for the building and equipment, the telescope was ordered in June 1901 from Warner&Swasey of Cleveland with optics by John Brashear of Pittsburgh. The cost of the telescope was to be $14,625. It was completed in Jan. 1903. Precision sidereal and solar clocks, including one by Riefler, were ordered from Paris and received in Sept. 1902 at which point they began to be tested for accuracy and reliability.

Image 3 Construction

The Dominion Observatory was completed in 1905 with “first light” with the main instrument, the 15 inch refracting telescope, occurring on 17th April. The Observatory became the primary reference point for anyone measuring time and geographical locations, latitudes and longitudes and altitudes in Canada. The new facility supported related functions but, most significantly for the astronomical community, added astrophysical studies to the daily responsibilities of the staff. Observatory staff were also given the responsibility of conducting seismic, magnetic and gravimetric studies related to underlying natural resources like iron and to the shape of the Earth.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 4 completed observatory

The Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) has some of the Observatory’s original transit telescopes but the largest, the so-called meridian circle transit, was apparently destroyed when the Observatory closed in 1970. Despite some early flaws that had to be resolved, it was the primary instrument to measure meridian transits of stars until the early 1930s when one of the older transit instruments was modified to improve its precision. The transit times were compared to measurements made at Greenwich, Washington and elsewhere to define Canadian time.

The sidereal time was maintained on an electrically activated self-winding clock made by S. Riefler (CSTM’s Riefler clock was purchased at the same time but was sent to the Observatory in Saint John, NB) and the time signals were distributed via telegraph wires around Ottawa, to the railroads and to other government observatories in Saint John to Victoria.

The 15” refracting telescope installed in 1905 is the largest refractor ever erected in Canada. The original Brashear achromatic objective lens was replaced in 1958 with one that is better colour corrected for photography. The new lens, a triple apochromat made by Perkin-Elmer Corp., is the largest such lens ever made. The speed of the mechanical clock-work drive powered by falling weights was controlled by a fly-weight governor of the type invented by James Watt in the 18th century and often seen on steam engines. The telescope’s drive train was also replaced in the 1950s with a synchronous electrical motor.

Klotz’s interest in the Sun was accommodated by the purchase of a coelostat specifically designed to track and photograph the Sun and it’s spectrum. The instrument was, however, first taken to Labrador for a total solar eclipse in

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

1905. The months of planning and efforts by the more than a dozen astronomers in the expedition was thwarted by cloudy conditions. Back in Ottawa, a specially designed shed with roll off section housed the coelostat for almost 70 years.

Image 5 Riefler clock

From 1905 the Dominion Observatory’s astronomers made notable contributions to the study of the Sun, an aspect of Canadian astronomy that continued with new instruments, both optical (e.g. the mirror transit and later the reflecting telescope of the Ottawa River Solar Observatory) and at radio frequencies (Algonquin Radio Obs. solar interferometer), until 1993 when the last of the solar programmes run out of NRC in Ottawa were wrapped up.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 6 coelostat in Labrador, 1905

One research programme at the new Observatory was to measure the motion of visual binaries and multiple star systems. Warner&Swasey built a filar micrometer for this work but the astronomers soon became much more interested in the astrophysics of the stars and nebulae. The acquisition of additional instruments supported the new research efforts. The early spectrograph used several glass prisms although the coelostat used gratings including one made at Mt. Wilson on Rowland’s engine. Cameras on the spectrographs recorded spectra for later investigation. These spectra were visually measured on linear measuring engines including ones made by the German firms of Toepfer and Zeiss.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 7 images -- filar micrometer, measuring engines

Another major instrument was added in 1915 when the double astrograph designed and made by John Brashear was mounted in its own small dome adjacent to the main building. One of the telescopes on the double astrograph incorporated an objective prism spectrograph with a thin wedge shaped prism mounted in front of the objective. This feature of the astrograph required that the guide telescope be adjustable in the direction it was pointed. Brashear’s novel arrangement compensated for the fact that the telescope with the prism viewed a field of stars off-axis from the direction the astrograph was pointed and the guide telescope’s mounting also allowed for scanning to find a suitable guide star. With the direct photos and objective prism spectra, the DO astronomers were able to discover cluster variable stars and to use the information to establish the distances to clusters of stars and associated nebulae.

Two early photometers from the Observatory’s equipment survive, one by Brashear and a later one (ca. 1930) by Kipp&Zonen. These were used to measure the brightness of stars either directly or later from the photos taken with the astrograph. Brashear’s was a wedge photometer meaning that it incorporated a neutral density optical wedge. The observer physically adjusted the position of the eyepiece mounted behind the wedge until the star just disappeared. The position of the eyepiece was mechanically marked on a chart so that the brightness each star could later be compared to others in the observing sequence. The Kipp&Zonen instrument incorporated a photosensitive cell but its sensitivity limited measurements to stars of magnitude apx. 7 to 7.5. In this day of CCD photometry, it is difficult to imagine the tediousness of the measurements and analysis that required attention to a variety of effects and possible errors, both systematic and non-predictable, in the photos and instruments.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 8 photometers

Some of the more noteworthy events at the observatory were the apparent discovery of “Planet X” in 1928 by François Henroteau and Mim Burland, the determination of the solar rotation as a function of latitude by Ralph DeLury (both in the 1930s) and the discoveries of meteor impact craters mainly in the Canadian Shield (in the 1940s - 1960s) by C.S. Beals, Peter Millman, Ian Halliday and others. The Planet X photos have been lost, save a couple from a newspaper, and we can only surmise that the cause was plate flaws, though research by Paul Feldman may soon shed some new light on this embarassing episode in the Observatory’s history. As an interesting aside, Mim Burland became the first woman in the Canadian government service to wear pants on the job — a necessity while observing long hours in Ottawa’s chilly winters. However, it took a ministerial waiver to do so!

Over the first few years of the Observatory’s operations, its astronomers, John Plaskett in particular, soon had a vision to expand the observatory’s scientific studies. Plaskett recognized the limitations of the 15” telescope and wanted a very much larger instrument. Using his political connections, he persuaded the Canadian government to fund a new observatory, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. When completed in 1917, the 72” reflecting telescope was the largest in the world but remained so for only a few months. World War I had delayed the telescope’s completion as the 72"mirror was to be cast in Belgium not far from the centre of the conflict. Under Plaskett’s leadership — much to Frederick King’s chagrin — and with a large, well equipped instrument and a growing staff, Victoria became a leading centre for astrophysical studies.

Geophysical Operations

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

As mentioned earlier, the Dominion Observatory had another mandate — the study of the planet Earth. In particular the Dominion Observatory led the way in Geomagnetism, Seismology and Earthquake Research as well as Gravimetry.

Magnetic observations had been conducted prior to 1905 under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, and in 1907 “the observatory began systematic observations for terrestrial magnetism” (Report of the Chief Astronomer, 1908). The Dominion Observatory focused on repeat observations to monitor secular variation of the magnetic field, used to study processes in the Earth’s core.

This effort continues today at the same location in Ottawa in the work of Natural Resources Canada, primarily through operations of magnetic observatories which record rapid variations of the magnetic field used in the study of the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere as well as Earth-Sun interactions. Airborne geomagnetic data collection is used today for exploration and scientific purposes.

Seismic operations began in the Dominion Observatory basement in 1906, and in April of that year produced a spectacular recording of the San Francisco earthquake. Otto Klotz was the Observatory’s first seismologist and by 1920 had established a national network of seismometers in Victoria, Saskatoon, Saint Boniface, Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax.

These seismographs were in place to record the sequence of strong earthquakes in 1929 (magnitude 7, Grand Banks), 1933 (7, Baffin Bay), 1935 (6, Temiskaming) and 1944 (5.7, Cornwall). The Grand Banks earthquake caused a tsunami which killed 27 people. It took 40 years for another magnitude 5 or greater earthquake to occur in Canada (1982, 5.7, Miramichi).

This seismic work led to an effort to quantize earthquake hazards. The first edition of the National Building Code of Canada (1941) included seismic provisions. The 2005 National Building Code follows this precedent with much more precise seismic hazards estimations.

Geophysical understanding of earthquake processes has advanced significantly over the past century. Today the Dominion Observatory tradition is carried out through the Natural Resources Canada Natural Hazards program. A recent highlight is the discovery of “episodic tremor and slip” in the Cascadia subduction zone near Vancouver Island enabled by extremely precise GPS measurements combined with seismic recordings. These crustal motions (2-5 mm) gradually move up the length of Vancouver Island over about 15 days with surprising regularity (14.5 +/- 0.2 months) and are accompanied by a (previously inexplicable) “noise” on seismographs in the region. The direction of slip is opposite to the long term deformation motion.

Gravity observations began slightly before the Observatory was built, in 1902, when a Mendenhall type pendulum gravimeter was acquired (manufactured by Fauth&Co., Washington, DC).

The beautiful and superbly made pendulums used with this apparatus were, with meticulous care, used until the 1970s with more modern apparatus. The Askania torsion balance (ca. 1925•1928) was designed to record observations photographically, as well as permitting visual observations. Gravity surveys were carried out, among other reasons, to locate bodies of ore that might be the basis of Canada’s growing mining industry.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 9 Mendenhall&torsion balance

Later, precise spring gravimeters were developed, eliminating the use of pendulums. With improved instrumentation gravimeters were developed to

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

withstand the rigours (and non-gravitational accelerations) of ship-borne or airborne data collection. Airborne gravity has been used in recent years in commercial exploration to discover diamond-bearing kimberlites in Canada’s arctic.

“Absolute” gravimeters are now the tool of choice for precise in situ measurements. These gravimeters precisely measure the acceleration of a falling corner cube reflector in a vacuum."

The former Dominion Observatory gravity program is now carried out at Natural Resources Canada. A national gravity database with approximately 700,000 points collected over 50 years is used to provide a national picture for use in exploration. The primary use of this database today is the modeling of the Canadian geoid - an equipotential surface that corresponds to mean sea level. Absolute gravity is used to monitor vertical crustal motion and to establish a gravity reference system for commercial and scientific users of Gravity instrumentation.

Conclusion The Dominion Observatory is well known to older Canadians. It was the source of the daily time signal broadcast on CBC Radio from the 1930s until the time functions were transferred to the National Research Council in 1970. The advent and success of the National Research Council scientists in building an atomic clock precise enough to replace astronomical observations meant the Dominion Observatory’s days were numbered. The DO’s automatic talking clocks, continued to sound out the time every minute, day and night, until the Observatory’s closure in 1970. Following the closure, the astronomical functions of the Observatory, along with the time service, were transferred to the National Research Council while the geophysics functions were transferred to Natural Resources Canada.

Following the Observatory’s closure, the 15” telescope was only used for public observing. However, by 1974 it became obvious that this function would be better served from the Canada Science and Technology Museum and it was moved to a new observatory at the Museum. The 15” continues to provide young people and old with memorable views of the night skies. In 1988 the observatory was named to honour one of Canada’s leading astronomers and an strong advocate of public education in astronomy and science, Dr. Helen Sawyer Hogg.

To commemorate the 100thanniversary of the Dominion Observatory, the Canada Science&Technology Museum will be opening a small exhibition on the 16th April. This is part of the Museum’s International Year of Physics exhibitionMégaSciencewhich includes a section on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, Nobel Awards and soon to include the ZEEP reactor (first reactor outside the US) from AECL and the Tokamak de Varrennes.

As all CASCA members know, and is supported by paper citations, astronomy in Canada has been one of our strongest scientific disciplines. This status in astrophysical research is traceable to the founding of the Dominion Observatory and the vision of its early astronomers, Klotz, King and Plaskett. That path was set with the opening of the Dominion Observatory 100 years ago in April 1905 — a remarkable legacy for what was, at the time, largely a colonial scientific backwater. One wonders what those three astronomers would think of Canadian astronomical achievements of the last 25 years, the LRP and future plans for Canadian astronomy.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

Image 10 15"Today

link to:http://www.sciencetech.technomuses.ca/english/whatson/hogg_observatory.cfm

Further Reading:●

Peter William Basham and Larry Newitt, "A historical summary of Geological Survey of Canada studies of earthquake seismology and geomagnetism”,1993 Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 30(2):372-390.

John Hodgson,The History of the Dominion Observatories: I 1905 - 1946; II 1946 - the present, Ottawa, 1965.●

Photos: historic images: Canada Science and Technology Museum Archival Collections; others CSTM.

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The Dominion Observatory – 100th Anniversary

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Stars of St. John's Church

The Stars of St. John’s Church LunenburgDavid Turner

Saint Mary’s University

St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg, which dates from 1754, is the second oldest protestant church in Canada. The original church design was modified a number of times since its original construction, the most recent occurring in 1870 when its present Gothic Victorian interior was constructed. The Church is a well known landmark in Nova Scotia, and appears as a backdrop in the 1998 Hollywood Pictures movie “Simon Birch.” The Church was designated as a National Historic Site in October 1998. Lunenburg itself is a World Heritage Site. Disaster struck on the evening of October 31, 2001, when the Church was destroyed by a fire apparently set as a Halloween prank. With remarkable fortitude the Church congregation voted to restore St. John’s to its original condition prior to the fire, and reconstruction at the site began almost immediately.

St. John’s Church, Lunenburg, prior to the fire of October 31, 2001. Image courtesy of Parks Canada and St. John’s Church.

The chancel area after the fire. Image courtesy of Parks Canada and St. John’s Church.

The chancel stars as they originally appeared. Image courtesy of Parks Canada and St. John’s Church.

Much of the early effort involved reconstructing the Church exterior, but by 2004 it was time to contract out work on the interior. The company selected to restore the original Gothic artwork was Era Studio in Lunenburg, operated by Julie-Jayne (JJ) Coolen and her mother Margaret Coolen.

In late May I began a correspondence with Margaret Coolen, who had contacted Hugh Couchman, Secretary of CASCA, for assistance in identifying the pattern of stars that had originally graced the ceiling in the chancel portion of the Church. Although there had been many photographs of the Church interior taken prior to the fire, Margaret did not have sufficient coverage of the star patterns in order to reproduce them as they had originally appeared. She also noticed that the distribution of visible stars was not truly random, and sought the assistance of someone familiar with the constellation patterns of the night sky.

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Stars of St. John's Church

Margaret and JJ visited my office in late June to loan me photographic enlargements of portions of the chapel ceiling, along with a CD of additional images in the collection of Parks Canada and the Church. The star patterns were apparently referred to locally as a “mariner’s sky,” although Margaret wondered if they might instead relate to the first Advent. I had previously checked the geographical orientation of the Church in case the stars represented a scene from the site itself. I had visited the Church many times prior to the fire, but had only vague recollections of the chapel ceiling, and was unaware of any significance to the stars painted there.

The images of the ceiling immediately illustrated the problem faced by Margaret and JJ. Because of the nature of the stars, which are gilded, and the poor lighting of the ceiling, only photographs of the eastern ceiling panel display the full complement of stars placed there, and some are obscured by a lantern chain. In images covering adjacent panels, many stars are not sufficiently illuminated to show up on photographs. The chapel ceiling itself is similar to a dormer roof. It contains two panels on each of the north and south faces, one rectangular and the other quadrilateral, and three eastern panels of triangular shape, all seven panels forming a rounded eastern roof to the chancel. The ceiling dates to the 1870 renovations, but the stars were apparently added at a later date, with various estimates placing their addition to somewhere around 1900. Parish records have not revealed further details.Like Margaret and JJ, I was initially puzzled by the star patterns. The distribution is somewhat random, but includes a non-random component suggestive of constellations. The star images differ in size in a manner suggestive of their actual brightness distribution in the night sky. Despite my years of experience operating the planetarium at Laurentian University, I was just as puzzled as my visitors by what the star patterns might represent.

After about five or ten minutes of that first meeting I was able to identify a specific clump of stars on the eastern panel that seemed familiar. Further checking revealed the pattern to be the constellation Perseus, although with a few stars missing and a few extras included. I was later able to trace out most of the constellation from the visible stars, although it helped matters to invert the original black and white images to make the panel images more like observational finder charts. On my graphic printouts I sketched the outline pattern of the constellation as it appears in standard star charts.

Julie-Jayne Coolen laying out the new pattern for the stars. Image courtesy of Ed Jordan.

Perusal of adjacent fields confirmed the identification of Perseus on the eastern panel. With a bit of artistic license I was able to identify many of the constellations adjoining Perseus: Aries, Camelopardalis, Lynx, Pisces, etc. The chapel ceiling appeared to represent a standard view of the night sky, in fact as it would appear through the ceiling rafters, complete with the loss of thirty degrees of sky above the horizon to the chapel walls and many overhead stars to the framework of rafters holding up the ceiling panels. It bothered me that many of the more spectacular constellations, such as Orion, Ursa Major, and Taurus, were not present because of the 30° horizon cutoff, and that Cassiopeia was missing because its bright stars lay in the direction of the rafters. The original star scene was rather bland for a church ceiling.

The major motivation for Margaret’s contact with an astronomer was the need to produce a new layout for the ceiling stars that would replicate, as closely as possible, the original star scene. I therefore spent some time after my meeting with Margaret and JJ establishing the time and geographical location of the scene painted on the ceiling panels. The location of Perseus in the middle of the eastern panel was a bit of a mystery. In today’s skies the constellation cannot appear above the eastern horizon as it did in the eastern panel because it is located only 40° from the north celestial pole. Diurnal motion always carries Perseus on a path that falls to the north of due east. My attempts to reproduce the orientation of the constellation using desktop planetarium software (Earth Centered Universe, which is distributed to Department members by its creator, Department technician Dave Lane) failed to match the appearance of the stars on the chapel ceiling. Even a reorientation of the ceiling panels did not produce a match to the star pattern of the ceiling.

Following Margaret’s suggestion of the first Advent, I set the planetarium software to reproduce the scene from two thousand years ago, using sunset of the first Christmas, established by setting the Sun on the western horizon, as a means of initiating a further search. Because of my background in writing scripts for planetarium Christmas Star productions, I initially set the scene for Bethlehem. Perseus was 10° further from the north celestial pole in that era, so it did swing over the eastern horizon each

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day two thousand years ago. To my surprise, the sky for sunset of the first Christmas placed Perseus much as it appeared in the ceiling star scene, but the orientation was skewed. A readjustment to the latitude of Lunenburg was all that was needed to bring the scene into close agreement with the star pattern facing me from the “finder chart” I had made for the eastern ceiling panel.

I immediately forwarded the news to Margaret and JJ about the apparent origin of the star pattern as a replication of the scene at sunset of the first Christmas, but it worried me that the stars would not actually be visible at that time. Margaret’s husband Reid, a retired church cleric, pointed out the likely significance of sunset, which marks the end of one day and the beginning of the next in Jewish tradition. The star scene replicated on the chapel ceiling of St. John’s Church was apparently chosen to mark the beginning of the first Christmas as seen from Lunenburg. Subsequent discussions with local historians and with Randall Brooks, chair of CASCA’s Heritage Committee, confirmed that deduction.

The nature of the discovery raised many additional questions. Was the meaning of the original star scene of the chapel ceiling not known to parishioners? Who had created the design for the star patterns displayed on the ceiling? And how was it produced? Randall Brooks helped answer some of those questions. Star patterns apparently decorate the domes of many churches, including many in Europe, eastern U.S., and eastern Canada. Churches are often oriented such that their chancels lie on the eastern end, so scenes replicating the first Christmas include the stars of Perseus in prominent view. Previously existing layouts for the pattern may have been used at St. John’s, or the scene may have been created locally by someone possessing an astronomical background. Somehow the meaning of the starry ceiling had been lost over the years.

It took about a week early in September for me to generate a new pattern for JJ and Margaret to follow in replicating the original star scene. A brief evening visit to Lunenburg established that the chapel end of the Church actually faces 5° south of east rather than due east, so I laid out the new pattern based on the actual Church orientation, using a bit of artistic license to make the star scene match the original layout as closely as possible. The original ceiling display had apparently contained 700 stars (yes, someone counted them!), so I generated plans that included faint enough stars to bring the resulting total to that number. JJ and Margaret Coolen spent the next two and a half weeks plotting the new star pattern on the newly painted wooden ceiling, then gilding stars of different sizes to the planks using a magnitude reference scheme I included in the plans. The newly renovated chancel ceiling was completed a few days prior to a press conference held at St. John’s on October 7 to announce partial funding for the renovations from American Express.Whatever feelings I may have felt on my initial reply to Margaret Coolen’s inquiry about the Church stars have been long forgotten in the wake of the overwhelming media response to the story. The finished chapel ceiling is a spectacular sight thanks to the meticulous work of JJ Coolen, and will be a drawing card for Church visitors in years to come. The original star scene depicted on the ceiling was almost obscured by the passing of the years, the fading of the original colour scheme, and the weathering of the ceiling panels. The newly renovated ceiling with its rich deep blue background and gilded golden stars is a striking artistic portrayal of the sunset star scene that would have been visible through the Church rafters on the traditional date of the first Christmas. Star gazers will have no trouble recognizing the familiar constellations adjacent to Perseus in the night sky.

It has been a tremendous experience to have played a role in the recovery of a lost portion of St. John’s Church heritage.

The newly-renovated chapel ceiling. Image courtesy of Margaret Coolen, Era Stduio.

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DAO Telescopes

DAO Telescope Developments

In December Dr. Dmitry Monin joined HIA as the Telescope Support Technologist, a position created when Doug Bond retired in 2004 May after providing more than 20 year of service supporting the DAO telescopes and other HIA efforts. Dmitry was most recently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Moncton and also has extensive experience working at observatories, most notably at the Special Astrophysical Observatory.

Work on the McKellar 1.2-m telescope has been focused on the implementation of robotic operation of the telescope and high-resolution spectrographs. Observers can now write a simple script to open the dome, obtain sequences of calibration and science observations and then close the shutter at the end of the night. A rain sensor and web camera are in place for automatic closure of the dome in case of deteriorating weather and for remote monitoring. A tip-tilt autoguider (adapted from the old CFHT HRCam) provides excellent guiding capability. In February and March unattended observations have been carried out successfully on many nights and a number of objects have been monitored for 10 consecutive hours or more during these long, clear evenings. We hope to soon add automatic target acquisition to permit observations of multiple objects during a night. The installation of a more sensitive guider CCD and more efficient beamsplitter for the autoguider system should improve the current V=8 limiting magnitude by a few magnitudes, hopefully by the fall of 2005. Interested user are encouraged to contact David Bohlender or Dmitry Monin.

An automated data reduction pipeline has also been written for spectroscopic data acquired with the 1.2-m telescope. This includes routines to measure radial velocities using standard star observations as velocity templates, effectively replacing the decommissioned radial velocity scanner. Recent tests on a V=5 delta Scuti star resulted in velocity precisions of 20-30 m/s for 3-minute exposures. The reduction pipeline should soon be integrated into the data acquisition system to provide real-time results to the user.

Efforts on the 1.8-m Plaskett telescope have been focused on improving the overall telescope performance as well as updating the telescope control system and observing environment. The Cassegrain secondary has recently received a new coating and the Newtonian secondary will be recoated in early April. A new autoguider is available in imaging mode and is now integrated with the rest of the data acquisition environment. A complete upgrade of the TCS is high on the current priority list, as is the installation of a 2K x 4K EEV detector at the Newtonian focus. The latter will double the field coverage currently available with SITe5. Steve Bickerton (McMaster U.) and HIA staff members JJ Kavelaars, Marc Baril, Tim Hardy, and Les Saddlemyer are also developing two "FastCam" systems. These are relatively small field, but rapid readout (20 Hz) detectors that will be used to search for very small Kuiper Belt objects by searching for "occultations" of background stars. They will clearly have other interesting science applications, but will also eventually be used as sensitive guide cameras.

Some effort is also being made to implement a Target of Opportunity observing program on the

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DAO Telescopes

1.8-m telescope. While a significant portion of this time will likely be used to revive David Balam's high profile NEA program, we encourage the community to contact us if they require timely observations (either imaging or spectroscopy) of objects within the capabilities of the 1.8-m.

Finally, the role of the 1.8-m telescope as part of the Centre of the Universe will also become more prominent in the spring and summer of 2005. Historically the telescope has been available for public viewing on Saturday nights between April and October. However, effective from the May long weekend until Labour day the 1.8-m will now be available for CU programs until 11PM on every night of the week. Impact on science during the short summer nights will be minimal and observers, when practical, will be encouraged to carry out their calibration work in a fashion that will allow interaction with the public.

David BohlenderDAO Telescope Project [email protected]

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Événements concernant les télescopes de l’OFA

M. Dmitry Monin s’est joint à l’IHA en décembre comme technologue de soutien aux télescopes, un poste créé quand Doug Bond avait pris sa retraite en mai 2004, après 20 ans de service à fournir du soutien aux télescopes de l’OFA et à d’autres projets de l’IHA. Dmitry était récemment un boursier postdoctoral à l’Université de Moncton et a aussi une vaste expérience de travail dans les observatoires, notamment à l’Observatoire astrophysique spécial.

Les travaux effectués sur le télescope McKellar de 1,2 mètre visent principalement à mettre en oeuvre la commande robotique du télescope et les spectrographes de haute résolution. Les observateurs peuvent maintenant écrire des scripts simples pour ouvrir le dôme, obtenir des séquences d’étalonnage et faire des observations scientifiques, puis fermer l’obturateur à la fin de la soirée. Le télescope est muni d’un détecteur de pluie et d’une caméra Web qui permet de fermer automatiquement le dôme en cas d’intempérie et de surveiller les installations à distance. L’appareil d’autoguidage à bascule-inclinaison (adapté de l’ancien HRCam du CFHT) possède d’excellentes capacités de guidage. Des observations sans surveillance ont été faites pendant plusieurs nuits en février et en mars et plusieurs objets ont été suivis pendant 10 heures consécutives ou plus durant ces soirées longues et dégagées. Nous espérons bientôt pouvoir ajouter une fonction d’acquisition automatique des cibles pour permettre d’observer de multiples objets pendant la nuit. On compte améliorer la magnitude limite de V-8 actuelle du système d’autoguidage de quelques magnitudes d’ici l’automne de 2005 en y installant un CCD de guidage plus sensible et un diviseur de faisceau plus efficace. Les utilisateurs intéressés sont encouragés à communiquer avec David Bohlender ou Dmitry Monin.

On a écrit un pipeline de réduction pour les données spectroscopiques acquises à l’aide du télescope de 1,2 mètre. Cela comprend des routines servant à mesurer les vitesses radiales à l’aide d’observations d’étoiles standard comme modèles de vitesse, qui remplacent le balayeur de vitesse radial mis hors service. On a récemment obtenu une précision de 20 – 30 m/s pour des expositions de 3 minutes lors d’essais effectués avec une étoile Scuti delta de V = 5. Le pipeline de réduction devra bientôt être intégré dans le système d’acquisition de données, ce qui permettra de fournir des résultats en temps réel aux utilisateurs.

Les travaux effectués sur le télescope Paskett de 1,8 mètre visent principalement à améliorer le rendement général du télescope et à améliorer le système de commande et le milieu d’observation du télescope. On a récemment ajouté un nouveau revêtement au télescope Cassegrain secondaire et le télescope de Newton secondaire recevra un nouveau revêtement vers le début d’avril. Un nouvel appareil d’autoguidage est disponible en mode de formation d’images et est maintenant intégré dans le reste du milieu d’acquisition de données. La rénovation complète du TCS est d’une grande priorité, tout comme l’installation d’un détecteur EEV de 2 K x 4 K au point focal du télescope de Newton. Ce dernier permettra de doubler la couverture de champ disponible actuellement avec le détecteur au SITe5. M. Steve Bickerton (Université McMaster) et les membres du personnel de l’IHA J.J. Kavelaars, Marc Baril, Tim

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Hardy, et Les Saddlemyer développement également deux systèmes « FastCam ». Le champ de ces systèmes est relativement restreint, mais ils sont munis de détecteurs ayant une cadence de sortie de 20 Hz et seront utilisés pour chercher des objets très petits dans la zone de la comète Kuiper, en cherchant des « occultations » d’étoiles de fond. Il est évident que ces systèmes pourront servir à faire d’autres observations scientifiques intéressantes, mais ils seront éventuellement utilisés comme caméras de guidage sensibles.

On travaille également à mettre en oeuvre un programme d’observation de « cibles d’opportunité » pour le télescope de 1,8 mètre. Malgré le fait qu’une partie importante de ce temps sera probablement consacré au rétablissement du programme important du NEA de David Balam, nous encourageons les membres de la communauté ayant besoin de faire des observations plus opportunes (création d’images ou spectroscopie) d’objets à l’aide du télescope de 1,8 mètre à communiquer avec nous.

Finalement, le télescope de 1,8 mètre jouera un rôle plus important pour le Centre de l’univers au printemps et à l’été de 2005. Ce télescope a par le passé été disponible au public le samedi soir, d’avril à octobre. Il sera désormais disponible pour les programmes du CU jusqu’à 23 h tous les jours à compter de la fin de semaine prolongée en mai jusqu’à la Fête du travail. Les répercussions sur les observations scientifiques pendant les courtes nuits de l’été seront minimes et on encouragera les observateurs, lorsque pratique, de faire leurs travaux d’étalonnage d’une façon qui ne nuit pas aux interactions avec le grand public.

David BohlenderGestionnaire du projet des télescopes de l’[email protected]

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ALMA Update

ALMA Update 1 Recent newsA major focus of activity in the international ALMA project over the past few months has been the rebaselining of the project to bring it up to date since the definition of its schedule and budget in October 2002. There is the potential that this process will significantly impact project schedule and scope, but the project is determined to make every effort to avoid significant impacts on ALMA's Level 1 Science Requirements. In the United States, President Bush has signed an appropriations act that, among many other things, will fund NSF construction efforts for ALMA this year at the expected level of US$ 50M.

Adrian Russell, formerly head of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, has taken up his position as North American ALMA Project Manager at NRAO in Charlottesville.

Procurement of the antennas has been delayed from last year to this year as the bilateral partners (USA and Europe) work extremely carefully and hard to ensure the success of this critically important element of the construction project. Towards this end, testing has resumed at the Socorro Antenna Test Facility on the two prototype antennas. Designed to address remaining technical issues, these tests include 100,000 cycle (10 seconds per cycle, 24 hours per day for two weeks) fast switching tests.

Other parts of the North American ALMA effort continue to progress well. The first pre-production receiver cryostat was delivered from the UK. This one metre wide cryostat is designed to hold as many as ten receiver cartridges per antenna. Preliminary tests indicate the cryostat has considerable spare cooling capacity over its specification. The first Band 3 (at HIA) and Band 6 (at NRAO) cartridges are both performing well in their initial series of tests, and the back end and correlator work continues to make excellent progress (the latter under budget and ahead of schedule). The other two initial receiver bands for ALMA, Bands 7 and 9, are proceeding in Europe, and Japan is ramping up work on the Band 4, 8, and 10 cartridges (and on its Atacama Compact Array).

Work is continuing on the Operations Plan, with the first complete draft planned to be presented to the Board at their April 2005 meeting. Funding for ALMA operations has already begun to ramp up at NRAO and ESO through both new hiring and re-assignment of people to the ALMA project. A major task here in Canada in the next year will be to identify the specific contributions that we can make to ALMA operations.

In Chile, the interim offices of the Joint ALMA Office (JAO) in Santiago were opened in November. Mass excavation works at the Operations Support Facility (OSF) below Llano Chajnantor continue, as do road works.

In the area of outreach, there will be an ALMA lunch session at CASCA in Montréal in May as

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ALMA Update

well as two posters describing the current Canadian work in receivers and software, and also a poster providing an update on the ALMA project as a whole.

2 ALMA Science Advisory CommitteeThe ALMA Science Advisory Committee met September 27-28, 2004 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The main focus of the meeting was on five charges from the ALMA Board. Unfortunately the report from the meeting is not yet on the public ALMA web page, but I hope it will appear there soon. I will summarize the main points here.

Most of the discussion focused on the first charge, which was to recommend science-based criteria that could be used by the project in preparing tradeoff studies should the budgetary situation require them. This discussion was particularly difficult because the ASAC was not given any financial information as to what the cost savings of a particular change to ALMA might be. The ASAC concluded that the loss or reduction of any element of the baseline project will result in significant loss of ALMA science. One interesting point is that imaging simulations presented at the meeting suggest that the effect on image quality of decreasing the number of antennas in ALMA is incremental, in a similar way that reducing the number of antennas by one would result in a slight increase in the rms noise level achieved in a given integration time.

We also had an extensive discussion on the second charge on how to facilitate joint projects between scientists from the different ALMA partners, large proposals, and legacy projects. Based on those discussions, the ASAC felt that the best way to handle large programs would be to have a single International Program Review Committee (similar to the ITACs for the JCMT and Gemini) that would rank and/or choose between large proposals. Scientific overlap between small proposals was felt to be a less critical issue, as smaller amounts of ALMA resources would be at stake. I recommend that anyone interested in these issues read the report when it becomes available. However, it is important to bear in mind that working out time allocation for ALMA is an on-going process and our thinking on it may well evolve with time.

On the charge related to calibration, the ASAC concluded that relaxing the absolute amplitude calibration specification from 1 to 3% below 300 GHz and from 3 to 5% above would not have a prohibiting impact on ALMA's major science goals. However, we emphasized that repeatability and relative accuracy should be maintained at a higher level. On the charge related to demonstration science and community involvement, the ASAC thought this would be best achieved by teaming astronomers from the wider community with ALMA experts to execute projects end-to-end, from the definition of scheduling blocks through observations and data reduction to publication. On the current draft science verification plan, the ASAC was concerned about whether sufficient scientific staff would be available to carry out the plan, as well as the short time currently allocated for science verification.

The ASAC met again February 24-25, 2005 in Garching, Germany. We had only two charges from the Board for this meeting. The first charge asked us examine the status of ALMA re-baselining and to comment on the scientific impact of any proposed changes. The second

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charge was a repeat of the charge from our previous meeting regarding facilitating joint projects etc. Since the ASAC report is not yet finalized as I write this, I will summarize our conclusions in my next report and at the ALMA lunch meeting at CASCA.

3 ALMA Developments in Canada

3.1 Band 3 Receiver Development

As noted above, the Band 3 Receiver Project at HIA continues apace. Cartridge #1 is scheduled to be delivered to the NA Integration Centre this spring. The Cartridge Test Set has been equipped to perform all the tests required for checking the specifications. Each of these experiments needed to be completely established before full characterization could begin. To accomplish these tests for each LO frequency (every 1 GHz), a tuning table needed to be generated that would be valid over the mixer operating range of 3.75 to 4.25K. Also, since the cartridge must be tested within the appropriate environment, extremely careful setup is required. The HIA Test cryostat thermal stability and temperature must be identical to the Front End one. The Cartridge Test Set is now running in semi-automated mode and will be upgraded to be fully automated by the end of this year.

Initial measurements of Cartridge #1 reveal that it should have no problem meeting the specifications. The Band 3 receiver has unprecedented performance characteristics. The single sideband noise is an impressive 40 K. Image rejection is better than -10 dB. Gain saturation is better than 5%. Gain stability, on timescales 0.1 to 1 sec, is less than 4×10-7 (Allan variance). Cross-polarization is better than 20 dB. The IF output power and signal flatness also meet specifications, i.e. 4 dB peak to peak in any 2 GHz and 6 dB peak to peak across the whole IF band (4-8GHz). The excellent test results for Cartridge #1 are a testament to the entire Band 3 instrumentation team.

Keith Yeung has returned to the Band 3 Project (welcome back!) and is playing an instrumental role in the commercialization of the Band 3 IF amplifiers. A 4-8 GHz cryogenic high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) amplifier has been developed at HIA specifically for the ALMA Band 3 receivers. This low noise amplifier (LNA) is designed to amplify the IF signal at a cryogenic temperature of 4 Kelvin by more than 30 dB and has an ultra low noise figure of less than 5 Kelvin. A contract was let to Nanowave Technologies Inc. of Toronto last October to manufacture forty-three copies of these HIA amplifiers for the eight Band 3 preproduction cartridges. HIA is currently negotiating a technology license agreement for Nanowave Technologies to supply all the remaining LNAs for the Band 3 production cartridges and, possibly, for the Band 4 and 8 cartridges being developed by the ALMA-Japan Teams.

For more information on the ALMA Band 3 Receiver Project contact Doug Johnstone (Project Scientist - [email protected]), Stephane Claude (Project Engineer - [email protected]), or Keith Yeung (Project Manager - [email protected]).

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ALMA Update

3.2 Software

The January 2003 audit of the AIPS++ package for ALMA offline data processing concluded that support for the recording of the data processing history was inadequate. This was marked as a high-priority defect within the package and as a result, Raymond Rusk and Gary Li have been heavily involved in the effort to improve this.

After Raymond and Gary completed integrating Juan R. Pardo's atmospheric model into AIPS++, they moved on to logging important AIPS++ data processing steps to the history section of AIPS++ data tables including:

1. flagging measurements suitable for scientific use

2. calibrating data against known astronomical sources

3. imaging observations

While Gary worked primarily on recording the flagged data, Raymond did all other work related to this task and also added code to make this information retrievable in an easy-to-use format.

Shortly after completing his flagging work, Gary was assigned the important task of fixing the slow filling problem of almatifiller, a tool used convert to and from ALMA and AIPS++ data formats for Plateau de Bure Interferometer (PBI) observations. He then proceeded to work on adding tolerance to the frequency and pointing models so that frequencies within the given tolerance will be indicated by identical spectral window IDs. This enhancement is especially useful to the vlafiller tool.

David Fugate has been heavily involved in an effort to clean up existing ALMA Common Software (ACS) to conform to ALMA Software Engineering coding standards. While most ACS code predates the standards, it is vital to adhere to the standards for maintenance reasons. As always, a substantial portion of his time has been used to support ALMA software engineers throughout the world which includes investigating ALMA software problem reports. Recently David has contributed much to the ACS 4.1 design discussions and has just been assigned his tasks for ACS 4.1. This consists mainly of improving and adding to ACS documentation in addition to a complete refactoring of the ACS logging mechanism to permit its reuse within the ALMA Offline software subsystem (i.e., AIPS++).

Chris Wilson is currently carrying out the third test of the ALMA Pipeline software, which is a regression test to see if needed changes identified in the November 2004 test have been implemented adequately. The next pipeline software test will likely take place in early summer 2005 and will again involve outside testers. Anyone interested in participating in this test (and getting an early peak at ALMA Pipeline processing) should contact Chris.

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3.3 Other related news

The 10 micron water vapour monitor (IRMA) concluded testing on the Submillimeter Array in early January, 2005, with two of the three units having demonstrated a continuous run without failure of over 4 months. The third unit was brought back to Lethbridge in late November in order to be upgraded for deployment at Gemini South. This was done in February where Gemini are evaluating its use as an observing scheduling aid. In order to make more progress with data analysis, the IRMA project will have a PhD student added to it within the next couple of months.

Chris Wilson [email protected]

Canadian ALMA Project Scientist

(with input from Jim Hesser, Doug Johnstone, Lewis Knee, Robin Phillips, and Russ Taylor)

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.40.

On 19 Mar 2005, 10:48.

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E-Cass - 2005 Mar. - NRC HIA Happenings - Du neuf a l'IHA du CNRC

Events at NRC's HIA (2004 Dec.-2005 March)

edited by:

Du neuf à l'IHA du CNRC (déc. 2004 - mars 2005)

édité par:

Dr. Jacques P. Vallée

Late December, Marcin Sawicki finished his 3-yr term at HIA in Victoria. Durint his stay, he authored 10 main journal papers, six of which he anchored as first author. Some of his research involved galaxies at intermediate redshifts, using radio (JCMT) and optical (Gemini, HST, Keck, Palomar) telescopes. He took a position as Research Physicist at the Univ. Calif. in Santa Barbara.

Fin décembre, Marcin Sawicki nous a quitté après un terme de 3 ans à Victoria. Pendant ce temps, il a écrit 10 articles professionnels, dont six comme premier auteur. Une partie de ses recherches a touché les galaxies avec un moyen décalage vers le rouge, utilisant tour à tour des télescopes radio (TJCM) et optiques (Gemini, HST, Keck, Palomar). Il est devenu maintenant un chercheur physicien à l'Univ. Calif. de Santa Barbara.

In mid-January, Elena Dalla Bonta started a 6-month visit at HIA. Studying under the supervision of F. Bertola (Univ. of Padova), she will be working in Victoria with Laura Ferrarese on the photometry and kinematics of the innermost regions of the brightest cluster galaxies.

Mi-janvier, Elena Dalla Bonta a commencé une visite de 6 mois à Victoria. Sous la supervision de F. Bertola (Univ. de Padoue), elle travaille ici avec Laura Ferrarese sur la photométrie et la cinématique des régions internes des plus brillantes galaxies dans les amas.

In January, HIA staff made scientific and other presentations to NRC Vice-President Richard Normandin, who was visiting HIA in Victoria. Early February, the HIA Advisory Board met in Victoria, to address issues raised in the mid-term Review of the Long-Range Plan. In Ottawa, the Minister of Industry confirmed the 5-yr appointment of Pierre Coulombe as NRC President, effective 14 February.

En janvier, plusieurs présentations scientifiques et autres furent faites au Vice-président du CNRC, Richard Normandin, lors de sa visite annuelle de l'Institut à Victoria. Début février, le Comité Aviseur de l'IHA s'est réuni à Victoria, pour travailler sur les questions soulevées par la revue à moyen terme du Plan à Long Terme. A Ottawa, le Ministre de l'Industrie a confirmé l'embauche de Pierre Coulombe comme Président du CNRC pour 5 ans, débutant le 14 février.

This January, Jason Fiege (Univ. Manitoba) joined NRC's JCMT Canadian Time Allocation Group, for a 3-year term. More details on the CTAG process can be found on HIA's web site.

En janvier, Jason Fiege (Univ. Manitoba) s'est joint au Groupe d'Allocation de Temps Canadien du CNRC, pour un mandat de 3 ans. On trouvera plus de détails sur le processus du GATC sur le site de l'IHA.

Early March, HIA signed a contract with the Gemini consortium to add 2 new functions to the Gemini Archives held at the CADC: - electronic transfer of data from the 2 Gemini telescopes to the CADC; - data distribution from the CADC to the Principal Investigators. Séverin Gaudet is the project manager.

Début mars, l'IHA a signé un contrat avec le consortium Gemini pour ajouter aux archives Gemini du CCDA deux nouvelles fonctions: - transfer électronique des données des 2 télescopes Gemini au CCDA; - distribuer les données du CCDA au Chercheurs Principaux. Séverin Gaudet est le responsable du projet.

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E-Cass - 2005 Mar. - NRC HIA Happenings - Du neuf a l'IHA du CNRC

Once again this March, Ken Tapping is heading to the battle lines in San Diego for the meeting of the UN-ITU Radio Astronomy Working Group. At this meeting Ken will introduce and support two Canadian proposals: one is to combine two radio astronomy measures to end a long process of "leapfrog erosion"; the other one is to start the process of identifying the needs for protection in radio astronomy in Space.

Une fois de plus en mars, Ken Tapping est reparti au front à San Diego pour la rencontre du Groupe de travail en radioastronomie de l'UN-ITU. Cette fois, Ken présentera et supportera deux propositions canadiennes: une pour combiner deux mesures en radioastronomie pour arrêter le long processus d'"érosion en saute-mouton"; l'autre pour débuter le processus d'identification des besoins en protection pour la radioastronomie spatiale.

The McKellar 1.2m optical telescope in Victoria can now be robotically operated, including the opening and closing of the dome, sports a new automated data acquisition system, and a new reduction pipeline for spectroscopic data. More details are in an accompanying article by David Bohlender.

Le télescope optique McKellar de 1.2m à Victoria peut maintenant être opéré robotiquement, incluant l'ouverture et la fermeture du dôme, fonctionne avec un système automatique d'acquisition de données, et possède un pipeline pour la réduction des données spectroscopiques. On trouvera plus de détails dans un article de David Bohlender.

The Plaskett 1.8m optical telescope in Victoria has also seen improvements, including a new coating for the Cassegreain secondary and a new autoguider for imaging. The Kuiper Belt consortium and the Near-Earth-Asteroids crowd are eager to try it; others are welcome to apply for time. More details are in David Bohlender's article in this issue.

Des améliorations ont été apportées au télescope Plaskett de 1.8m à Victoria, incluant un nouveau revêtement pour le Cassegrain secondaire et un nouveau guidage automatique pour l'imagerie. Le consortium de chercheurs sur la Ceinture de Kuiper et celui sur les Astéroides proches de la Terre espèrent l'utiliser bientôt; d'autres peuvent appliquer pour du temps. D'autres détails dans l'article de David Bohlender dans ce numéro.

Laura Ferrarese and Holland Ford (JHU) recently published a massive 114-page refereed review on Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei for Space Science Reviews.

Laura Ferrarese et Holland Ford (JHU) ont publié récemment une synthèse massive de 114 pages sur Supermassive Black Holes in Galactic Nuclei pour Space Science Reviews.

In March, Alan Batten gave a talk on "Einstein and God" as part of the Centennial Celebration on "The Unknown Einstein" held at the University of Victoria.

En mars, Alan Batten a donné un discours sur "Einstein and God", une contribution pour la Contribution Centenaire sur The Unknown Einstein" tenue à l'University of Victoria.

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FUSE Suffers More Pointing Problems

More Challenges for FUSE

Nouveaux Défis pour FUSE

Image credit: JHU

The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) suffered a serious setback on December 27, 2004 when one of the two functioning reaction wheels stopped spinning. Since then, the instrument has been powered down, science operations have been suspended, and the satellite has been kept in a variety of non-standard safe configurations. Initially an "anti-sun" pointing mode was used to keep the solar panels illuminated and the batteries charged, but this configuration was quasi-stable and could only be maintained through frequent intervention from ground controllers. A new, more robust, autonomous "nadir-pointing" safe mode was developed and implemented in late January.

Le satellite d'exploration spectroscopique dans l'ultraviolet lointain (FUSE) a subi une sérieuse rechute lorsqu'une des deux roues de réaction a cessé de tourner. Depuis ce temps, l'instrument a été fermé, les opérations scientifiques ont été suspendues, et le satellite a été maintenu dans une variété de configurations le gardant hors de danger. Initiallement le satellite pointait dans la direction opposée au Soleil, mais n'était pas tout-à-fait stable face aux perturbations gravitationnelles et devait être constamment surveillé par des opérateurs au sol. Un nouveau mode plus robuste et ne demandant pas de surveillance a été développé et implémenté au mois de janvier.

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FUSE Suffers More Pointing Problems

This latest malfunction involves the reaction wheel controlling the "roll" axis of the satellite, and resembles the previous failures of the "pitch" and "yaw" reaction wheels in November-December 2001. The culprit in all three stoppages is believed to be the gradual shifting of the reaction wheel housing due to repeated thermal cycling. These shifts occur preferentially in directions that eventually bring the wheels into contact with their housings. The resulting friction causes the reaction wheel to stop spinning, with little hope of recovery. Fortunately, the remaining reaction wheel is mounted differently, and is unlikely to be affected in a similar way.

Cette dernière défaillance implique la roue de réaction contrôlant l'axe longitudinale du satellite, et ressemble aux pertes des roues des deux autres axes au mois de novembre-décembre 2001. La défaillance des trois roues est apparamment due au mouvement graduel du boîtier des roues causé par les cycles thermiques. Ces déplacements se produisent préférentiellement dans des directions qui éventuellement amènent les roues en contact avec leur boîtier. La friction entraîne l'arrêt des roues avec très peu d'espoir de les faire tourner à nouveau. Heureusement, la roue de réaction redondante est montée différemment et ne devrait pas être affectée de la même façon.

In general, three reaction wheels are required to slew a satellite from position to position on the sky and maintain fine-guiding control. The initial complement onboard FUSE consisted of 4 wheels: pitch, yaw, and roll, plus a redundant "skew" wheel that has a component along each of the other axes. To recover from the loss of the pitch and yaw reaction wheels, FUSE has been using its magnetic torquer bars - essentially controllable electromagnets - to provide three-axis control through interactions with the Earth's magnetic field. The loss of the roll wheel further complicates this method of control, but does not preclude it. Revisions to the attitude control software are currently being tested, with the expectation that FUSE will return to an inertial pointing mode and limited science operations within a few weeks of this writing (mid-March 2005).

En général, trois roues de réaction sont requises pour déplacer le satellite et maintenir le pointage. Initialement, FUSE avait 4 roues de réaction: une roue pour chaque axe physique plus une roue redondante alignée selon un axe common aux autres axes. Suite à la perte de deux des quatres roues, FUSE utilisait ses barres magnétiques (électro-aimants) afin de contrôler ses déplacements en utilisant le champ magnétique terrestre. La perte de la roue selon l'axe longitudinal complique cette méthode de contrôle, mais ne l'écarte pas. Une révision du logiciel de contrôle de l'altitude est en cours, et nous espérons que FUSE retournera à son mode de pointage inertiel et aux opérations scientifiques d'ici quelques semaines suivants ces lignes (mi-mars 2005).

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FUSE Suffers More Pointing Problems

The prognosis for a return to science operations is good, but the details of the new observing capability with only one reaction wheel and torquer bars, including the sky coverage for stable pointing, are still being studied intensively. Initial simulations using the new control algorithm have demonstrated that there are significant regions of sky where sub-arcsecond pointing stability can be achieved. In particular, locations near the continuous viewing zones (near the poles of the orbit; the equivalent of circumpolar regions for ground-based observers) exhibit extended periods of stability of at least 250 ks duration. How this stability changes with sky position is still being studied, and the predictions of the simulations will ultimately need to be tested against the behaviour of the satellite.

Le pronostic pour un retour aux opérations scientifiques est bon, mais les détails de la nouvelle façon d'observer avec une seule roue de réaction et les barres magnétiques, incluant la couverture du ciel avec des pointages stables, sont présentement sous études intensives. Des simulations utilisant le nouveau système de contrôle ont démontré qu'il y avait d'importantes régions du ciel ou le pointage fin était effectif. En particulier, les régions près des pôles de l'orbite de FUSE montrent des périodes de stabilité d'au moins 250 ks. L'étude de cette stabilité pour tout le ciel est présentement en cours. Les prédictions des simulations devront aussi être finalement testées avec le comportement du satellite.

This latest problem with FUSE's attitude control system came a few days before the selection of proposals for Cycle 6 of the Guest Investigator program were to be announced. NASA is still considering the formal status of these programs. Whatever happens with them, all unobserved targets currently in the FUSE Mission Planning Database will have to be reviewed again for technical feasibility. Further information concerning policies and procedures will be announced once the "one-wheel" capabilities of FUSE are better understood. NASA currently plans to shorten Cycle 6 and maintain the schedule for Cycle 7. Thus, the Call for Proposals for Cycle 7 will be issued early in the summer, with a deadline for proposal submission of mid-September.

Ce dernier problème avec le systeme de contrôle de l'altitude est arrivé quelques jours avant la divulgation de la sélection des soumissions pour le Cycle 6 du programme des chercheurs invités. La NASA est en train de considérer le status formel de ces programmes. Quoiqu'il advienne avec ces programmes, toutes les cibles qui n'ont pas été observées devront être révisées en accordance avec leur faisabilité. D'autres informations concernant les nouvelles règles et procédures seront annoncées aussitôt que les nouvelles capacités de FUSE seront mieux comprises. La NASA planifie d'écourter le Cycle 6 et compte maintenir la programmation du Cycle 7. Ainsi, l'appel des soumissions pour le Cycle 7 sera annoncé au début de l'été, avec comme date limite la mi-septembre pour soumettre les propositions.

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FUSE Suffers More Pointing Problems

Although operating FUSE has proven to be more challenging than expected, the scientific legacy of this feisty satellite is already assured. Many of these achievements are reported in the proceedings of the conference on "Astrophysics in the Far-Ultraviolet: Five Years of Discovery with FUSE" (hosted by the University of Victoria in August 2004), which will be available later this year. The scientific yield of FUSE is also indicated by the annual number of refereed publications , which is continuing to increase. Finally, the impact of FUSE is evident from the fact that many of the concept studies for the next generation of UV-optical satellite observatories provide wavelength coverage down to 1000 Å, in order to ensure access to resonance-line diagnostics like O VI that are now considered essential.

Quoique l'opération de FUSE s'est avéré plus ardue que prévu, l'héritage scientifique de ce satellite est déjà assuré. Plusieurs de ces réalisations sont présentées dans le compte rendu de la conférence sur "l'Astrophysique dans l'Ultraviolet Lointain: Cinq Ans de Découvertes avec FUSE" (tenue à l'université de Victoria au mois d'août 2004), lequel sera disponible au courant de l'année. Le rendement scientifique de FUSE est aussi révélé par le nombre croissant de publications avec arbitrage . Finalement, l'impact de FUSE est évident par le fait que plusieurs des études de concept pour la nouvelle génération de satellites spécialisés dans le UV et visible fournissent une couverture jusqu'à 1000 Å, afin d'assurer un accès aux raies de résonnance comme O VI qui sont maintenant considérées comme essentielles.

At the time the roll reaction wheel failed, the FUSE archives contained 3,610 observations of 2,322 unique objects, which represents a total integration time of 51.4 Ms. We are happy to report that uniformly reprocessed versions of these spectra will be available from the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre (CADC) later this spring. Since the CADC is able to reprocess the entire FUSE archive very quickly, an added benefit to the user community is that the CADC will endeavour to keep their holdings updated with spectra extracted by the latest version of the CalFUSE calibration pipeline. We invite you to browse the archive for targets that will help you with your research.

Au moment de la défaillance de la roue de réaction de l'axe longitudinal, les archives FUSE contenaient 3,610 observations de 2,322 cibles, réprésentant un temps d'intégration total de 51.4 Ms. Nous sommes heureux d'annoncer que les dernières versions de ces spectres seront disponibles au Centre Canadien de Données Astronomiques (CADC) plus tard ce printemps. Puisque le CADC est capable de réduire les archives FUSE très rapidement, les spectres réduits avec la dernière version du pipeline de calibration CalFUSE seront toujours disponibles. Nous vous invitons à parcourir les archives en recherchant des cibles qui pourraient vous aider dans vos recherches.

Alex Fullerton Pierre Chayer John Hutchings Support Astronomer Support Astronomer Canadian Project Scientist

[email protected] [email protected] [email protected]

(410)-516-5226 (410)-516-8252 (250)-363-0018

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Congrès annuel de la Sociétécanadienne d'astronomie

Congrès annuel de la Société canadienne d'astronomie

"L'astronomie canadienne dans l'espace"15-17 mai, 2005

Université de Montréal, Québec, CanadaLe prochain congrès annuel de la Société canadienne d'astronomie est organisé par l'Université de Montréal et a lieu du 15 au 17 mai 2005. Le thème scientifique choisi, "L'astronomie canadienne dans l'espace", met en valeur les activités des scientifiques canadiens en astronomie spatiale. Ce thème permet également de mettre de l'avant le rôle joué par l'Agence spatiale canadienne, située à Saint-Hubert, dans le développement et le support des activités des astronomes canadiens dans l'espace. Le congrès a lieu sur le campus de l'Université de Montréal, à quelques kilomètres seulement du centre de la ville.

Le site web (http://www.astro.umontreal.ca/casca2005) contient toute l'information concernant l'inscription, l'horaire, les directions et cartes, les restaurants, ainsi que les activités sociales et culturelles :

Dates importantes

15 avril 2005 Date limite d'inscription (tarif régulier)15 avril 2005 Date limite d'inscription au banquetSamedi, le 14 mai ●

Atelier des étudiants diplômés ●

Réception et inscription

Dimanche, le 15 mai ●

Conférence R.M. Petrie●

Conférence publique Helen Sawyer Hogg

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Congrès annuel de la Sociétécanadienne d'astronomie

Lundi, le 16 mai ●

Visite à l'Agence spatiale canadienne

Banquet

The Annual Meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society

"Canadian Astronomy in Space"May 15-17, 2005

Université de Montréal, Québec, CanadaThe 2005 annual meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society is hosted by the Université de Montréal May 15-17, 2005. The scientific theme selected for the meeting, "Canadian Astronomy in Space", pays tribute to the activities of Canadian astronomers in the use of space-based astronomical instruments. The role of the Canadian Space Agency, located in nearby Saint-Hubert, in the development and support of Canadian astronomical activities in space is also highlighted. The meeting is held on campus, a short subway or bus ride from the downtown core.

The website (http://www.astro.umontreal.ca/casca2005) contains all the information concerning registration, schedule, directions and maps, restaurants, as well as social and cultural activities:

Important Dates

April 15, 2005 Deadline for early registrationApril 15, 2005 Deadline for banquet registrationSaturday May 14 ●

Graduate Student Workshop●

Opening reception and registration

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Congrès annuel de la Sociétécanadienne d'astronomie

Sunday May 15 ●

R.M. Petrie Prize Lecture●

Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture

Monday May 16 ●

Visit at the Canadian Space Agency●

Conference Banquet

Conférences Hogg et Petrie / Hogg and Petrie Award Lectures

Helen Sawyer Hogg Public Lecture:

Michel Mayor, Université de Genève Des planètes gazeuses aux planètes rocheuses: dix ans de découvertes de planètes extrasolaires

R.M. Petrie Prize Lecture:

Reinhard Genzel, Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics: Massive Black Holes in Galaxies

Conférenciers invités / Invited SpeakersDoris Daou, Spitzer Science CenterEducation and Public Outreach: More than just Glamour!

René Doyon, Université de MontréalThe James Webb Space Telescope - Project Status

Sun Kwok, ASIAAScience Results from the Odin Submillimeter Satellite

Jaymie M. Matthews, UBC

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Congrès annuel de la Sociétécanadienne d'astronomie

Canada's Little Space Telescope That Could:Another Year of Scientific Surprises from the MOST Microsatellite

Harvey B. Richer, UBCDeep HST Imaging in Globular Star Clusters

Nicole St-Louis, Université de MontréalHot topics with the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer

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Update on Activities of the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy

Update on Activities of the Coalition for Canadian AstronomyYou have heard recently from me, via a CASCA email, that Canadian astronomy received no funding in the February 2005 federal budget. This was a major disappointment but, as I indicated last month, the Coalition is continuing its efforts to secure funding for the next five years of the Long Range Plan (LRP). Of greatest concern in the immediate future is our ability to maintain partnership in the Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) – after ALMA, the next ground-based LRP priority. Some funds have been received, partly through a CFI grant, but we currently lack a substantial fraction of the funds needed to support the first design phase. Efforts to secure the remaining dollars are ongoing, substantially through the efforts of ACURA.

We will be evaluating our efforts of the past nine months and deciding what to do better. But we also are aware of the significant support the Coalition has received from individual MPs who have been clear and positive in their support of federal funding for the next phase of the LRP. We need to continue our dialogue with MPs – to thank them for their support so far and ask for their continued efforts on our behalf. This means every one of us needs to communicate with our local MP once or twice in the next six months. And the CASCA membership needs to hear from you regarding each correspondence or face-to-face discussion. It has been very clear to me that the unity of our community behind the LRP is a powerful part of the message we are sending to the federal government, and that must continue.

Finally, at the CASCA 2005 opening reception, the Coalition will be highlighting the efforts of those who have been talking to MPs and ministry staff. This will be a brief interruption of the main event (eating and drinking and reconnecting) and we hope many of you will be there.

Gretchen Harris

Co-ChairCoalition for Canadian Astronomy

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Education Notes…

Education Notes… Canadian Astronomy Education Website gets Noticed!

The Canadian Astronomy Education website (http://www.cascaeducation.ca), which is now in its second year, was

recently selected by the Internet Scout Project at the University of Wisconsin. Since 1994, the project team members comprising professional librarians and content experts seek out, research and annotate various websites for the report, which provides educators, academics and researchers with quick links to reputable sites, without having to do a lot of searching. Criteria for making the report include high-quality content, up-to-date information and links, dependable availability of the site and links as well as an efficient organization of the site and authoritative sources. To see the complete report, visit http://scout.wisc.edu/ The CASCAed website was also selected as the Looknorth Site of the Day, featuring unique and innovative websites, in September (http://www.looknorth.ca). In total, over 90 websites link to the Canadian Astronomy Education website, reaching teachers, students and the general public all over the world. Teaching for the first time…or tenth??Be sure to check out the resources for post-secondary teachers and professors on the Canadian Astronomy Education Website at:http://www.cascaeducation.ca/files/proAstro_index.htmlYou’ll find resources for lessons, as well as tips on how to teach

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Education Notes…

effectively (and efficiently!), how to become involved in outreach and information on teaching “Astronomy 101.” Upcoming Astronomy Education PresentationsAs usual, there will be an education session at the upcoming CASCA General Assembly (Montreal, May 15-17), including a presentation by Doris Daou from the Spitzer Science Centre on “Education and Public Outreach: More than just Glamour!” There will also be a teacher’s workshop held in French during the afternoon of May 16, for which over 100 teachers have already registered. The Atlantic Canada Association of Science Educators’ second annual conference, entitled “Weaving Together the Many Threads of Science Education,” takes place July 7-9, 2005, in Antigonish, NS. Visit http://www.unb.ca/fredericton/science/physics/acase/ACASE2005.html for more details.

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Make it Relevant – Enhancing lessons with real-life examples and applications

Make it RelevantEnhancing lessons with real-life examples and applications

Heather Scott

It is all too easy to create a lecture, stand up in front of a group of students, and deliver it. The assumption is often that if you break it down into small enough pieces, which you know your audience already understands, and don’t speak too quickly, the students will understand and be able to apply the new concepts with a bit of practice. While this may work for the most engaging of public speakers, for the rest of us this approach leaves students bored, confused, unsure of how to use the knowledge in real life and how to apply what they have “learned” to problems.

Learning is primarily driven by emotions. If we can impact the students, create a situation which forces them to not just think, but evaluate, compare, discover and feel, we have already moved towards increasing their aptitude for learning. One of the easiest ways to do this is to introduce relevant examples of concepts to the students. By beginning a major teaching unit with something to which the audience can relate, you can turn direct experience into reflective observation, conceptualization and eventually the ability to problem-solve.

In astronomy, we are lucky to not only have fantastic discoveries on a regular basis, but also that these stories are picked up by newspapers and news agencies. Pictures and images are usually breathtaking and thought-provoking.

Take, for example, the recent fireball sighting in the north-western United States (http://www.hohmanntransfer.com/mn/0503/stak2.htm). This story alone could spark a lesson on the basics of asteroids and meteors (first-year course), the origins of meteors (second year course), the physics of entering the atmosphere, or the likelihood of near-earth asteroids crashing into the Earth and affecting life as we know it, as it did for our reptilian friends 65 million years ago (with ties to astrobiology). Evoke the emotions of the students by perhaps showing the amateur video (also available at the site above) at the start of class and asking what they see. Challenge what they give as responses and make them justify their answers –

Student: “It looks like a comet.”Professor: “Interesting. Why?”Student: “It is bright at one end, and trails off the other direction, like a tail.”Professor: “True, but comets appear to be much slower than this, and are rarely so bright.”

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Make it Relevant – Enhancing lessons with real-life examples and applications

Student: “It’s a meteor.”Professor: “Can meteors have tails?”Student: “Perhaps, if it’s a really bright meteor moving very quickly?”Professor: “Is it? Hundreds of meteors fall during a meteor shower, and they don’t often last this long. Witnesses say they saw it coming from a distance. So if it’s not a comet, and not a regular meteor, what is it?”

Together, the class can come up with a definition of meteor/comet/bolide etc. and then move into a more typical lesson plan. At the end of the lesson, return to the feature story presented at the beginning. Ask the class to now evaluate what they saw/read in the article. Maintain interest with other articles, such as http://www.astronomy.com/default.aspx?c=a&id=2874 , and assign topical questions to accompany the reading.

The recent event that you choose to highlight does not have to be something that was “seen” (although first-hand experiences work best to reinforce concept retention); other good examples include the increase in the Earth’s rotation speed due to the tsunami-causing earthquake in December or the comparison of the environment on Titan to the Earth’s.

Once you move on from your original lesson, keep your eyes pealed for either more references to your original story, updates, or similar occurrences. Returning to the topic by giving yet more examples of recent events again reinforces the importance of the concepts and brings the material home.

There are several good sites to check up on every now and then for high-profile news stories, including those listed below. The benefits of using articles written for the public, is that they increase awareness about an event, usually including some technical terms, but saving most of the jargon for more extensive research.

http://www.cbc.ca/science/●

http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/●

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/index.html●

http://www.astronomy.com/default.aspx?c=ss&id=26

More advanced levels can use abstracts from recent research papers.

As a student moves from being novice to expert, he/she will benefit most from being offered real-world situations and concrete experiences. By attaching content to an event which impacts your students, they will not only remember what you taught, but also be able to analyze actual

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Make it Relevant – Enhancing lessons with real-life examples and applications

situations. Simply by keeping up with the headlines and incorporating them into your lectures, you can arouse the curiosity of your audience, encouraging them be actively involved in the learning process.

Happy Teaching!

Heather is the CASCA Education Coordinator, combining both a background in Astronomy (HBSc. and MSc.) and Education (BEd.). She currently teaches high school Physics and General Science at Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ontario.Heather R. ScottRidley CollegeSt. Catharines, [email protected]

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