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University of Toronto Astronomers Receive $23M in Funding

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Astronomers from the University of Toronto's Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics have received $10 million in funding for the development of a radio astronomy data center and $13 million for a new IR spectrograph.

"The Dunlap Institute's main mission is to develop innovative new approaches to astronomy, and these two new large grants are a terrific endorsement that we're on the right track," said Bryan Gaensler, director of the Dunlap Institute. "In particular, these projects superbly position the Dunlap Institute for national and international leadership. We're excited to now flex our muscles and build big, new teams that will develop the tools and equipment needed for 21st century astronomy."

For Gaensler, $3.5 million in funding was granted by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) fund, with nearly $6 million coming from provincial and other partners. The annual CFI Innovation Fund awards support transformative and innovative research or technology development in areas where Canada currently is, or has the potential to be, competitive at a global level.

Gaensler, who became the Institute's director in January 2015, will be leading a project to build the infrastructure, computing capability and expertise needed to process the overwhelming flood of information being produced by next-generation radio telescopes. The goal is to turn raw data into images and catalogues that astronomers can use to investigate cosmic magnetism, the evolution of galaxies, cosmic explosions and more.

Gaensler's project will allow Canada to play a major role in the Very Large Array Sky Survey (VLASS), a new project to make a radio map of almost the entire sky in unprecedented detail. It will also help build the Canadian capacity needed to participate in the Square Kilometer Array, which aims to be the largest and most powerful radio telescope ever constructed.

Dunlap's Suresh Sivanandam will develop an IR spectrograph for the Gemini Observatory that will produce the most detailed and sensitive infrared images of the sky. With it, astronomers will be able to study some of the faintest, oldest and most distant objects in the Universe while probing the formation of stellar and planetary systems and investigating galaxies in the early universe. For Sivanandam, more than $5 million in funding comes from CFI, with $7.8 million from provincial and other partners.

The Gemini Infrared Multi-Object Spectrograph will serve as a precursor to a spectrograph for the Thirty-Meter Telescope, now under construction in Hawaií. The spectrograph is designed for use on the 8-m telescopes of the Gemini Observatory, the largest telescopes available to Canadian astronomers.

The awards are part of a CFI investment of more than $554 million in 117 new infrastructure projects at 61 universities, colleges and research hospitals across Canada.

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2018
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
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