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Gemini e-Newscast #108

June 21, 2018

In This e-Newscast:

Can Exoplanets Form in a Binary Star System?

A new study using Gemini data reveals that the ratio of binary stars in Kepler’s K2 exoplanet host stars is similar to that found elsewhere in our neighborhood of the Milky Way. According to lead author Dr. Rachel Matson of NASA’s Ames Research Center, “While we have known that about 50% of all stars are binary, to confirm a similar ratio in exoplanet host stars helps set some important constraints on the formation of potential exoplanets seen by Kepler.” Read more here.
Artist interpretation of a close binary star system in which several planets orbit the brighter star. The fainter companion star looms brightly in the sky (upper right). A recent investigation confirms that the presence of a stellar pair does not interfere in planet formation. The study finds that approximately half of the stars harboring exoplanets are binary. Image credit: Robin Dienel, courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory Conference Only a Month Away!

The Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory (SEG2018) conference begins just one month from now! Have you registered? Have you paid? We still have lots of room in the workshops. The deadline for registration, payment, and workshop signup is June 30th.
SEG speakers! The Program is online so you can check your scheduled time. Please have the slides for your talk finalized and ready to post by July 13th. More information to follow later.
Care to participate in an extracurricular activity? Maybe a baseball game or an Exploratorium visit? If so, please click on the link(s) above to sign up by this week Friday.

Governance Meetings (and a Very Special Thank You)

In mid-May the STAC, AOC-G and Gemini Board met for a full week of meetings at the Hilo Base Facility. Both committees and the Board deserve a special thanks for all of their work on Gemini’s behalf. You can find the Science and Technology Advisory Committee’s (STAC’s) report here and the Board resolutions here.

Of special note, the AURA Oversight Committee for Gemini (AOC-G) met for its final time on May 15-16th. Henceforth, this function is consolidated under the NCOA organizational structure. Over the years the AOC-G has worked tirelessly to advise Gemini’s management and shape the Observatory’s future. We ask that you join us in thanking the current (and past) members for their efforts and considerable time commitments.
Members of the 2018 AOC-G and Gemini/AURA staff take time out for a group photo in the Gemini North Control Room during their May 2018 meeting.

SCORPIO: A New Name for a Powerful Future Gemini Instrument

OCTOCAM, a next generation astronomical instrument for Gemini South has a new name: SCORPIO, which stands for the Spectrograph and Camera for Observations of Rapid Phenomena in the Infrared and Optical. It is currently progressing rapidly through its design phase. In the words of project Principal Investigator Massimo Robberto, “This new name captures the capabilities of the innovative and powerful future Instrument, operating over a very broad wavelength range from the visible to near-infrared light.” The instrument also features both imaging and spectroscopic capabilities as well as fast readout modes.

Scorpio is the latin word for scorpion, a primarily nocturnal arachnid that has eight legs, like the number of channels (wavelength windows) available on the instrument. Scorpio is also a zodiac constellation that, in the winter, passes overhead at the Gemini South telescope facility where it will be used.

This name change coincides with the instrument development moving into its Critical Design stage. The project remains on budget and schedule and is slated for commissioning in 2022.

Please direct any further questions to Stephen Goodsell.

Gemini Cloud Camera Captures Volcano’s Dramatic Glow

A camera used at the Gemini North telescope to monitor sky conditions from Hawaii’s Maunakea captured a remarkable time-lapse sequence of the Kīlauea volcanic eruption. The sequence shows the glow from an extensive region of fissures over the course of a single night (May 21-22). During the sequence, multiple fissures expelled lava in the area in and around Leilani Estates in the Puna district of the Big Island of Hawai‘i. The lava also flowed into the ocean during the period of the video.

The video, which was featured in news stories across the world, is available at:
Star trail image showing glow from volcanic eruptions in Hawaii (bright glow right of center). A bright meteor and the greenish glow of the town of Hilo can be seen left of center. Image produced by stacking about 100 images (about one hour) from a time lapse sequence obtained from the Gemini North telescope's cloud camera on the night of May 21-22.  Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF star trail image compiled by Joy Pollard.

Maunakea iREx Graduate School Students Visit Gemini North

On July 12, 2016 the Mauna Kea Dunlap Graduate School, now the Maunakea iREx Graduate School, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CFHT and Gemini. The Gemini portion of this MoU allows, in essence, for up to eight students and their instructors Director’s Discretionary Time (DDT) on the Gemini North telescope each year. Gemini also provides accommodations both at Hale Pohaku (HP) and in Hilo.

On June 4th, six students and their instructors, enjoyed a day at the Hilo Base Facility filled with science talks and activities. Thanks to Meg Schwamb for developing the innovative schedule and for all the people who made it happen (Peter Michaud, Laura Ferrarese, Jason Chu, Mirko Simunovic, Trent Dupuy, Matt Rippa, and Alison Peck). The group even managed to find Jeff Donahue who chatted with them at length about the new laser system.

Joy Pollard also led the group around the telescope where they paused long enough to receive a mirror coating talk from Clayton Ah Hee.

2018B Gemini Observing Programs Announced!

Representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, USA, and the University of Hawai‘i met virtually for the International Time Allocation Committee (ITAC) meeting June 4th, 2018 to discuss and finalize the North and South queues for the 2018B semester. With most of the queue iterations already completed during the week prior to the meeting, the ITAC members were able to converge fairly quickly on final queues for both Gemini North and South. On June 15th, the Gemini 2018B observing programs were announced and notification emails sent to the successful PIs.

CASCA 2018

This year’s Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) meeting saw many Gemini staff participants. Laura Ferrarese presented a summary of Canadian participation to Gemini entitled, “Gemini – Access to Both Hemispheres.” At a Gemini lunch event five presenters discussed topics relating to the future of Gemini, which included:
  • NCOA
  • LSST
  • Visiting instrument program
  • Small instrument upgrade program
  • Development of the new data reduction pipeline DRAGONS
  • Changes in Gemini users support practices, and
  • Canada’s assessment point.
We appreciate the visible location of our booth which received many visitors. Thanks to David Bohlender and all the people in Victoria who organized such a special and successful meeting.

Oh, and happy 100th anniversary to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory!
Scot Kleinman (right) and André-Nicolas Chené (left) entertained the courageous participants who remained on the last day of CASCA with an impromptu ukulele concerto at the Gemini booth!

HIPPI-2 Comes Together

Jeremy Bailey, PI of the small, high-precision polarimeter HIPPI-2, paid a visit to Hilo in June in order to set up the instrument. The visit went well, the mechanisms all checked out, and test data was obtained. Measurements of a test light source revealed that the efficiency of the polarization modulation looks good. HIPPI-2 is likely the smallest instrument ever mounted on Gemini; its scale is seen in this photograph. We’ll need a *large* amount of counterweighting when it’s on the telescope for commissioning in July!
HIPPI-2 (in its entirety) in the Hilo Lab in June.

Tip of the Month

If you have been allocated a Gemini program (Congratulations!), we strongly encourage you to submit your OT phase II as early as possible. This is especially true if you want to observe early targets (e.g., R.A. ~17-20h), as the likelihood is significantly higher that your program will make it into the schedule in time for your targets. Band 1 programs will start as soon as they are ready, even before the start of the semester, due to the new policy of “persistent Band 1s” (see Supporting Information). Of course you can always request support from your NGO and Contact Scientist if needed.

Best of luck!
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