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Gemini e-Newscast #93

March 16, 2017

In This e-Newscast:

First Evidence of Rocky Planet Formation in Tatooine System

Using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini South telescope, a team led by Jay Farihi (University College London) found, for the first time, a dust and debris disk surrounding a binary star with a white dwarf as a substellar companion. To date, almost all of the known planetary systems which include a white dwarf are single stars. Using GMOS spectra Farihi et al. identified critical metal features in the spectrum as well as the higher Balmer lines. From the Gemini data the team estimated a surface temperature of 21,800 Kelvin (about 3.5 times hotter than the Sun) and a mass of ~0.4 solar masses for the white dwarf star and a mass of ~0.063 solar masses for the companion.

The research is published in the February 27th online issue of Nature Astronomy.

See the Gemini Webfeature here. Also see the University College London press release.
A disc of rocky debris from a disrupted planetesimal surrounds white dwarf plus brown dwarf binary star. The white dwarf is the burned-out core of a star that was probably similar to the Sun, the brown dwarf is only ~60 times heavier than Jupiter, and the two stars go around each other in only a bit over two hours. Credit: Mark Garlick, UCL, University of Warwick and University of Sheffield.

It’s Time to Submit Proposals for 2017B Observations!

The Call for Proposals for semester 2017B observations is open. Proposals are generally due at the end of March, with specific deadlines depending on the partner country of the Principal Investigator. In addition to Gemini’s facility instruments, the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) optical speckle camera will be available as a visitor instrument on both Gemini North and South in 2017B.

GMOS-N CCD Upgrade - Commissioning Underway!

The Gemini-North Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS-N) is currently being upgraded with a new detector array, consisting of three CCDs manufactured by Hamamatsu Photonics. During February, the commissioning team successfully installed and aligned the new detector array in the Gemini North lab. Following the CCD installation GMOS-N was mounted back on the telescope in early March and the new detector array has now seen first light during on-sky nighttime commissioning observations. The new Hamamatsu CCDs are expected to show improved red sensitivity compared to the previous GMOS-N e2v deep depletion detectors and are similar to the detectors previously installed in GMOS-S. Further information and updates are available in the Gemini North night log summary pages and once GMOS-N is available watch for updates in this monthly e-newscast and on the instrument availability webpage.
Photo of the new GMOS-N detector array showing the three-detector array, which consists of two different types of detectors. The two outer detectors (left and right) have an improved red and blue response compared to the middle detector.

TEXES is back on Gemini North

TEXES, the visiting high-resolution mid-IR spectrograph, is back for another visit on Gemini North. This time the instrument is supporting a wide-ranging set of science programs, including summer-solstice observations of Saturn’s polar vortex, three programs studying Jupiter’s atmosphere, stratosphere and aurora, and (beyond the solar system) studies of the chemistry of the gaps in protoplanetary disks, organics in hot star-forming cores and the motions of gas in embedded super star clusters. At mid-IR wavelengths most of the seeing is due to image motion, which is removed by the rapid tip-tilt secondary mirror on Gemini, producing diffraction-limited images as small as 0.3 arcseconds without the use of adaptive optics.

The TEXES team has been sharing part of each night with GMOS CCD commissioning activities, reported in the previous story in this newscast, and the team is grateful for their flexibility in accommodating this TEXES visitor instrument run.
The TEXES team and Gemini staff preparing the instrument to mount on the up-looking port of Gemini North in March 2017. The beachballs are part of the instrument’s helium overflow system.
Jupiter in the 8-micron region, in a spectral scan taken by TEXES on Gemini North, March 2017. Note the cool wake of the Great Red Spot (lower right). For more details and a full color mid-IR image of the Jupiter weather layer, see the upcoming April issue of GeminiFocus. Image credit: TEXES team & L.N. Fletcher/University of Leicester, UK.

Astronomy on Tap Comes to Hawaiʻi

Gemini Public Information and Outreach intern Sylvia Kowalski along with Gemini astronomer Meg Schwamb put their heads together to organize the Big Islandʻs inaugural Astronomy on Tap at the Hilo Town Tavern. Astronomy on Tap is a worldwide program that “combines the powers of space and spirits,” according to Sylvia. Meg and her colleague Emily Rice started the Astronomy on Tap program in 2012 in New York City and it has since grown to more than 15 cities including sites in the US, Canada, and Taiwan.
It was standing room only as four Gemini astronomers presented mini-talks that were interspersed with astronomy themed drinks, trivia contests, and bar games! Talks from the February 23rd program included:
  • Tales from the Outer Solar System – Meg Schwamb
  • Asteroseismology: A Celestial Shake ʻn Bake – Atsuko Nitta
  • Star-Eating Monsters: Fact or Fiction? – Alison Peck
  • Vanishing into the Darkness… – André-Nicolas Chené
Gemini astronomer André-Nicolas Chené shares his passion for astronomy with a standing-room-only crowd at the Hilo Town Tavern.
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