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Gemini e-Newscast #116

February 21, 2019

In This e-Newscast:
Astronomers using adaptive optics on the 8-meter Gemini North telescope have resolved, for the first time in near-infrared light, a giant elliptical galaxy with a young radio jet down to unprecedented scales. The observations also show how the jets, emanating from a black hole at the center of this galaxy, are heating the interstellar medium, which may have a significant impact on the evolution of the host galaxy. For more details see the webfeature.

Record Winds on Maunakea

High winds plagued Hawai’i for several days starting on Friday, February 8th, and the Maunakea observatories experienced the brunt of the fury. The screenshot below shows the Maunakea Weather Center’s webpage, which demonstrates the power of the wind on February 10th between 16:33 until 16:43 Hawaiian Standard Time. The wind buffeted the CFHT/Gemini weather tower at a speed of 110 mph at 16:40 (bottom frame); three minutes later the winds  peaked at 161 miles per hour (mph; top frame). Of the several weather towers on Maunakea, CFHT/Gemini’s provided the most consistent data; some towers were not operational, and others had enormous fluctuations over short periods of time. While it’s not the 191 mph winds that have been reported elsewhere*, 161 mph is still a record wind speed for Maunakea.

*Note: the 191 mph reading, which was reported widely on social media, was obtained with a suspect (highly fluctuating) instrument and is almost certainly erroneous.
This screenshot from the Maunakea Weather Center shows a wind speed of 96 knots (110 mph) recorded by the CFHT/Gemini weather tower on February 10 at 16:40 HST (bottom frame), just three minutes before the winds achieved a maximum speed of 161 mph (top table).
Despite these conditions, and the fact that the Maunakea access road was closed for most of that week, the Gemini North telescope facility checked out fine. Ice was cleared on the dome, and all enclosure functions were tested and verified. The relatively new solar panels also weathered the storm and remained firmly attached to the roof. The only minor issue was the domestic water supply line freezing in the -12˚ Celsius temperature on the morning of Sunday the 10th. The water line to the restrooms was quickly repaired, but some additional repair work is required for the remaining lines, and for the deionized water unit.

Registration Now Open for IAU Symposium 357

Hilo, Big Island, Hawai’i, USA – October 21st - 25th 2019

We are pleased to announce that full registration is now open for IAU Symposium 357: White Dwarfs as Probes of Fundamental Physics and Tracers of Planetary, Stellar and Galactic Evolution. Please use this link and select “Conference Registration.” Registration covers lunches at Grand Naniloa Hotel and coffee breaks from Monday to Friday. The deadline for registration is June 30, 2019. Space is limited so please register early.

Applications for travel grants are also now open. Please note the earlier deadline of May 31, 2019, to allow processing and approval by the IAU.
Full details can be found on the website -

See you in Hilo!

Gemini Observatory Archive Surpasses 1,000 Registered Users

The new Gemini Observatory Archive (GOA), released in late 2015, now has 1,000 registered users. (Note that you don’t have to register to access non-proprietary data.) Site hits have risen to more than 30 million per year, with typical usage consisting of approximately 800 searches and 5 GB of data downloads per day. Basic information on using the archive can be found on its help page. A more detailed example can be found in our new GMOS IFU tutorial.

Gemini Engages in Korea GMT Users Meeting

Gemini Director Jen Lotz, Chief Scientist John Blakeslee, and astronomer André-Nicolas Chené participated in the Korea Giant Magellan Telescope (K-GMT) Users Meeting from February 13-16, 2019, at the KASI headquarters in Daejeoung, Korea. This was the first such event held after Korea’s instatement as a full participant in the Gemini international Partnership. Gemini staff answered questions about Gemini capabilities and proposal opportunities. Korean astronomers presented a wide array of exciting science results from Gemini and other facilities, including the study of bulge globular clusters, outflows from active galactic nuclei, and the properties of high-redshift galaxy clusters.

New DRAGRACES Release (Again)

Since the recent GRACES repair work, the spectra on the detector are now positioned 15 to 16 pixels away towards the blue with respect to where they were before. This imposes a slight change to the DRAGRACES software, so the version 1.3 (that can handle data taken after December 2018) is now available.
WARNING: In 2-fiber modes, the wavelength solution seems shifted towards the blue. The source of that issue is still unknown. For immediate extraction, please use the \skip_wavel option. It will provide you with an extracted, uncalibrated spectrum of the target, and an extracted ThAr spectrum. You can then do the wavelength calibration using another tool. Note that we still recommend users always compare their DRAGRACES extraction with the reduced spectra processed with OPERA, available in the Gemini Archive.

Help Improve the Gemini Website

The purpose of the New Gemini Website project is to transition from our current website, which is more like an ad-hoc collection of references, to  a website that is User-centric. This will involve restructuring the website at all levels, so it better addresses the needs of our stakeholders. Numerous user experience tests have been done to inform the development of the New Gemini Website project. We are getting to the home stretch and have slated release of the new site for later this year.
You can help make sure we are moving in the right direction by testing the proposed navigation structure. It should only take a few minutes, and you get to have a preview of what’s upcoming for the Gemini website.

Participate today!


Gemini Visiting Instruments: Get In on the Action!

Gemini hosts a wide range of exciting visiting instruments every semester at both sites. With unique and diverse capabilities, these instruments enable science that can’t be done anywhere else. In the last two years alone, there have been 30 publications using Gemini visiting instruments, and several press releases or web features! So don’t wait. Make sure you check out the Call for Proposals in March and try your hand at using ‘Alopeke, GRACES, TEXES, Phoenix, POLISH2, or Zorro! Staff and instrument teams are available to answer your questions.
Left: Gemini South image taken with the visiting Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) of star pair occulted by Orcus’ satellite Vanth. See this link. Right: Artistʻs view of a newborn giant planet, like the one newly discovered at the immediate vicinity of the very active infant star V830 Tau, as might be seen by an observer located close to the giant planet. The art is based on data from the GRACES visiting instrument, which helped characterize the system. See this link (Artwork Credit: Mark A. Garlick).

Visitor From the Skies

All-sky cameras tend to have a good view of the skies, and thus provide an attractive resting place for birds. This nocturnal visitor landed on top of the Gemini South all-sky camera, providing Gemini staff with a striking view of its impressive claws. At the bottom left we can just see the Gemini South dome, and the Differential Image Motion Monitor (DIMM) tower to the upper left.
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