CFHT UM2019 - 1st Announcement

Montréal, Canada - 19 - 22 May 2019

November 13, 2018

CFHT - An Evolving Legacy

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of CFHT’s first light, the landscape of modern astronomy has changed dramatically since those early days. CFHT has evolved and in crucial ways also stayed the same over these decades. The technology and sociology of modern astronomy has changed radically since the ‘70’s, yet the importance of imagination, creativity, and hard work remains the same. It takes powerful machines and exceptional people to drive a discovery “engine” like CFHT all these years. Luckily, we have benefited from plenty of both.

With the advent of SPIRou, CFHT now offers 5 modern instruments collectively capable of imaging, spectroscopy, and spectropolarimetry from UV to near-infrared wavelengths. SPIRou is the first instrument in astronomy to use a 1-2.5 µm H4RG detector and infrared transmitting fibers. Combined with a laser frequency comb, it truly represents a next-gen capability in exoplanet research. On the other end of our “spectrum” of instruments, MegaCam continues to be the “go-to” instrument for a large fraction of our community. CFHT pioneered wide field high-resolution optical imaging with 8K, then 12K, and finally MegaCam. Over its history MegaCam has been used to tune models of Dark Energy and map vast regions of Dark Matter, unveil faint wisps of stars flung far from interacting galaxies, and even helped navigate New Horizons on its voyage to the outer solar system. This diversity of instruments, combined with innovative operations and a focus on Large Programs that enable new science, helps make CFHT among the most scientifically productive observatories in the world, despite its venerable age. When CFHT was originally designed, none of these advanced instrumentation technologies existed. Today, CFHT has reinvented itself because of them. They are a prelude to even more dramatic evolution in our future.

Over the past ~5 years, with the launch of the MSE Project Office in CFHT’s headquarters, and the incredible growth of interest worldwide in developing MSE, we look forward to the transformation of CFHT into a new observatory, literally grounded in its historic past on Maunakea. MSE is being designed to take multi-object spectroscopy to a whole new level, rendering enormous datasets packed with information about everything from the composition and dynamics of the distant universe to the origins of stellar populations in entire galaxies. It is poised to be among the most important ground based research tools astronomers will have in the foreseeable future. Other comparable facilities are doubtless on the horizon, but MSE will be first in its class.

At this, the 12th Users' Meeting in CFHT’s history, as a community we are tasked with guiding CFHT forward and shepherding its transformation, as we have for decades. The difference is, this time, it is on an unprecedented scale in CFHT’s history. These changes will open a future unlike any imagined when those first photons were captured on 35 mm film so long ago at CFHT’s focus. How far we have come. How far we will go.

Chris Willott, Chair, CFHT Scientific Advisory Council
Chair, UM2019 Scientific Organizing Committee

Doug Simons, CFHT Executive Director
UM2019 Scientific Organizing Committee