NRC Herzberg scientists are involved with many exciting research projects that utilize a variety of telescopes. Our astronomers are also heavily involved with new telescope and instrumentation projects.

Herzberg Astrophysics Projects

The Pan-Andromeda Archaeological Survey

Fig02 PAndAS is an astronomical survey using the Canada French Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) designed to explore, in unprecedented detail, the structure and content of the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way: the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and its close neighbour, the Triangulum Galaxy (M33). Hidden within the vast volumes explored by PAndAS lie remnants of – and therefore clues to – the formation of these galaxies.

While there might be 400 billion or so galaxies in the Universe, there are only 2 galaxies – Andromeda and Triangulum – whose history can be revealed to us in this level of detail through the study of their “galaxy archaeology”. PAndAS has used over 300 hours of telescope time in the g and i filters to map over 400 square degrees of sky surrounding the Andromeda galaxy, resolving millions of individual stars in this galaxy out to unprecedented distances from its centre. Results to date can be found in over 20 refereed papers, in addition to more than a dozen papers on closely related follow-up topics that have used, among other facilities, the Keck telescopes, the Gemini Observatories, the Subaru Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: McConnachie (PI), Cote, Davidge

Official URL:


The Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey

lff_ngvs_fovThe Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey (NGVS) is an approved Large Programme for the Canada French Hawaii Telescope (CFHT). The NGVS will use 771 hours of CFHT time (approx. 140 nights), spread equally over the  2009A-2012A semesters, to image the Virgo Cluster -the dominant mass concentration in the local universe and the largest collection of galaxies within ≈35 Mpc – from its core to virial radius, in five filters (u,g,r,i,z), to unprecedented depths.

The NGVS will be the state-of-the-art optical survey of a low-redshift cluster environment for years to come. It will also offer a wealth of synergistic opportunities with the many on-going and planned surveys of the Virgo Cluster at longer and shorter wavelengths. The purpose of this web-page is to initiate such opportunities by providing some basic information about the NGVS. As the survey progresses, this webpage will be expanded to include real time information about the data acquisition and processing.

The NGVS team comprises 45 members at Universities and research institutes across North America and Europe.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Ferrarese (PI), Blakeslee, Cote, Gwyn, Kavelaars, McConnachie, Sanchez-Janssen, Schade, Simard

Official URL:


The ACS Virgo and Fornax Cluster Surveys

The ACS Virgo Cluster Survey (ACSVCS) and ACS Fornax Cluster Survey (ACSFCS) are large, high-resolution imaging surveys of galaxies belonging to the nearby Virgo and Fornax Clusters that were carried out with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the Hubble Space Telescope.

These surveys, undertaken between 2001 and 2011 by an international team of astronomers led from NRC-Herzberg in Victoria, helped changed the ways astronomers think of galaxy formation. Key topics addressed by the ACSVCS and ACSFCS include the central structure of early-type galaxies, the connection between stellar nuclei and super-massive black holes, the properties of globular cluster systems, and the extragalactic distance scale. The ACSVCS, in particular, represents one of the highest-impact programs ever conducted with the Hubble Space Telescope.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Cote (PI), Blakeslee, Ferrarese

Official URL:


The Soul of Lupus with ALMA (SOLA) Project

The multi‐national SOLA (Soul of Lupus with ALMA) consortium has initiated a very large program to conduct comprehensive studies of the Lupus Molecular Clouds and their star formation processes. The long‐term goal is to exploit ALMA and other growing observational capabilities in the southern hemisphere to establish the Lupus region as a prototypical low‐mass star forming scenario on a par with, for example, the Taurus clouds in the northern sky. This ambitious project will try to address several key questions about star formation:

•  What determines the mass, temperature, density, and turbulence of starless cores and filaments? Do starless cores/filaments have internal structure and relate to the final stellar mass?
•  How is angular momentum distributed and transferred at various evolutionary stages for disks, outflows, single and binary stars?
•  How does the magnetic field play a role in the process of star formation from outflow to disks?
•  What is the jet/outflow mechanism? What impact does a jet/outflow cause on the surroundings physically and chemically?
•  When do disks form and when and where do dust grains evolve in a disk?

The consortium is composed of a large team of scientists from most of the countries involved in the ALMA project, and will supplement ALMA by incorporating astronomical data from a number of other astronomical facilities in the southern sky such as APEX, ASTE, MOPRA, NANTEN 2, and the VLT.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Knee

Official URL:


The DEBRIS Project

DEBRIS (Disk Emission via a Bias-free Reconnaissance in the Infrared/Submillimetre) is one of four key projects to observe circumstellar discs with the Herschel Space Observatory, launched on 14 May, 2009. The main goal of DEBRIS is to detect and characterize dusty debris discs around nearby main sequence stars. The survey targets almost 450 stars in order to understand statistically how many stars harbour debris discs.  DEBRIS is driven by 100 micron (far-infrared) observations toward each target with the PACS instrument. For the nearest stars, our integration time is sufficient to detect discs with dust content a factor of a few times that of the dust mass of the Kuiper Belt of comets around the Sun. DEBRIS is a flux-limited survey, meaning that each target is observed for an equal time meaning that our mass sensitivity decreases for targets of increasing distance from the Sun.  Promising or interesting targets were observed more deeply, and/or at shorter (70 micron) or longer (250, 350 and 500 micron) wavlengths with SPIRE.  The multi-wavelength data enable us to establish the spectral energy distribution for each disc, from which temperature and radius can be calculated.

Among the results from DEBRIS are: detection of a broad range of morphologies in resolved disks, including narrow rings, wide belts and multiple rings (Booth et al. 2013; Broekhoven-Fiene et al. 2013) detection of a correlation between debris disks and low-mass planets (Wyatt et al. 2012), detection of a disk around Fomalhaut C, a recently discovered companion to the famous disk-host Fomalhaut (Kennedy et al. 2014), and the detection of a resolved disk around the multi-planet M dwarf GJ 581 (Lestrade et al. 2013).  Herschel’s superior resolving power is revealed in the high number of resolved disks detected; half of the 70 disks detected by DEBRIS are resolved at 100 micron.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Matthews, Kavelaars, Lawler, Di Francesco


JCMT Legacy Surveys

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii is in the midst of seven large-scale legacy surveys ranging from studies of stellar debris disks (SONS) and galactic star-forming regions (GBS, JPS) to nearby galaxies (NGS) to galaxies in the early universe (CLS). Observations for each survey are being obtained using JCMT’s submillimetre continuum detector, SCUBA-2 and / or its main heterodyne receiver, HARP. The surveys are operated jointly by Canada, the UK, and the Netherlands. All survey data will become public within two years of the semester of observation. Descriptions of all seven Legacy Surveys, with links to further information about each survey can be found at

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Kirk, Di Francesco, Matthews


Gemini Planet Imager Campaign

The Gemini Planet Imager is the next generation adaptive optics instrument for the Gemini Telescope. The goal is to image extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. In 2011, the GPI Exoplanet Survey team was selected to carry out an 890-hour survey campaign from 2014 to 2016 to search and characterize exoplanets around ~600 stars. GPI will produce the first comprehensive survey of giant exoplanets in the region where giant planets exist in our solar system – from 5 to 40 astronomical units radius. Dozens of these exoplanets will be bright enough for high signal-to-noise ratio spectroscopy, moving our studies of extrasolar planets into the realm of detailed astrophysics.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Marois, Matthews

Official URL:


The Outer Solar System Origins Survey

The Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) is a Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) Large Program designed to push the state of the art in outer Solar System minor planet observational science: it will double the currently known sample of Kuiper Belt objects with precisely measured orbits. The 560 hours of r’-band queue-based observations at CFHT for OSSOS started in 2013 and will continue each dark run with MegaPrime through 2016. The objects discovered by OSSOS will help to piece together the past conditions in the outer Solar System.

A major collaboration of some fifty researchers based around the world are working on the discoveries.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Kavelaars, Bannister, Gwyn, Fraser, Lawler


Colours of OSSOS

The “Colours of OSSOS” (ColOSSOS) is a Large Program of 386 hours of mixed classical/queue time on Gemini North from 2014 through 2017, measuring the optical and near-infrared g’, r’ and J-band colours of the brightest OSSOS discoveries (m_r’ < 23.5). These colours will be used in combination with the dynamical information from OSSOS to infer the surface properties of trans-Neptunian objects, and build our understanding of the formation history of trans-Neptunian objects and the structure of the Solar System’s primordial disk.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Fraser (PI), Bannister, Kavelaars, Gwyn


The Global Magneto-Ionic Medium Survey (GMIMS)

The magnetic field is a significant energy-carrying component of the Interstellar Medium (ISM) of the Galaxy; it participates on large and small scales in most of the processes that shape the Milky Way. Linearly polarized synchrotron emission is generated throughout the Galaxy and carries the imprint of the magnetic field at the point of origin and along the entire propagation path. GMIMS sets out to improve our understanding of the magnetic field in the Milky Way by mapping polarized radio emission over the entire sky, in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, using large single-antenna radiotelescopes around the world. Complete coverage of the frequency range 300 to 1800 MHz is planned with thousands of frequency channels. Rotation Measure Synthesis and other RM estimation techniques are being used to analyze the data.

Three GMIMS datasets have been completely observed:

(a) The DRAO Galt Telescope (26-m) 1270-1750 MHz, all RA, declination range -300 to +870. Data reduction is 95% complete as of December 2014.

(b) Parkes 64-m Telescope, 300-480 and 660-870 MHz, all RA, declination range -900 to +200. Data reduction of the 300-480 MHz data is 95% complete as of December 2014.

(c) Parkes 64-m Telescope, 1200-1800 MHz, all RA, declination range -900 to 00. Data reduction will begin in 2015.

See Papers:

Wolleben et al. (2009), “GMIMS – the Global Magneto-Ionic Medium Survey”, IAU Symposium 259, page 89

Wolleben et al. (2010), “Rotation Measure Synthesis of Galactic Polarized Emission with the DRAO 26-m Telescope”, Astronomical Journal, volume 139, page 1681

Wolleben et al. (2010), “Antisymmetry in the Faraday Rotation Sky Caused by a Nearby Magnetized Bubble”, Astrophysical Journal Letters, volume 724, page L48

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Landecker (PI), Gray, Kothes


Cryogenically Cooled Phased Array Feeds

PAF_collage The cryoPAF4 project is a technical demonstrator for the application of cryogenically cooled phased array feeds (PAFs) on large astronomy reflector telescopes. PAFs are a new field in astronomical instrumentation at radio and millimeter-wave astronomy observatories to increase the field of view of single-pixel feed receivers, while maintaining the very high sensitivity and resolution currently delivered from low-noise systems on large diameter reflectors. This receiver system also requires excellent low-noise amplifiers, a composite-based radome, and digital beamformer to collect the data from the 96 elements (48 dual linear polarization). Covering the 2.8 – 5.18 GHz band, cryoPAF4 is in the design process in house at DAO and DRAO, with final testing and implementation to be performed on the DVA-1 reflector at DRAO Penticton.

Herzberg Astrophysics Staff: Locke, Henke, Jiang, Niranjanan, Knee, Loop, Halman, Wierzbicki, Veidt, Lacy, Hovey, Gunaratne, Carlson, Rupen