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Gemini e-Newscast #120

June 20, 2019

In This e-Newscast:

Based on preliminary results from a new Gemini Observatory survey of 531 stars with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), it appears more and more likely that large planets and brown dwarfs have very different roots. Read more at Click on the image below to play the GPI Exoplanet Survey animation.
Animation showing the 617 observations conducted during GPIES from November 2014 to April 2019 (right) and the location of the stars in the southern sky (left). Open circles indicate system (like 51 Eri at 2 o’clock) which have been visited multiple times. Stars indicated by a red dot have a disk of material. Blue dots are planetary systems (with one planet at least). Brown dot are binary systems with a brown dwarf. Credits: P. Kalas, D. Savransky, R. De Rosa and GPIES.

GMOS-S CCD Intervention

The Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS-S) instrument at Gemini South has, for some time, suffered from instabilities in the charge-coupled device (CCD) readout. Since the installation of the Hamamatsu CCDs, they have been performing sub-optimally. In particular, we have seen instances where the charge transfer efficiency became too large, causing smearing on the images, which affects the popular nod-and-shuffle mode of the instrument. We have been planning to tackle this issue by changing the existing electronics board inside the cryostat with one of a better design. This design has been proven to work for the GMOS-N instrument at Gemini North, which does not experience the same smearing effect. The critical and very sensitive intervention was carried out last week. The technical intervention went very well and the first lab tests show very promising results. We expect that GMOS-S will be back in normal operation shortly.
Gemini-N engineer John White working on the CCD focal plane array just prior to replacing the electronics board. Image credit: Luc Boucher.

A Successful (and Remote!) ʻAlopeke Run

ʻAlopeke, the “resident” visiting speckle imager at Gemini North, had a very successful four-night run in early June. All six science programs got data; the two Band 1 programs were fully completed and the Band 2 and Band 3 programs ended between 85% and 50% complete. The ʻAlopeke Team had just returned from their successful commissioning run with the (twin) Zorro instrument at Gemini South, they operated the instrument remotely from California – using the Remote Control Room at Stanford University, which was set up to enable the GPIES Campaign team to operate GPI remotely.

Gemini Planet Imager Temporarily in Lab for Testing

Recently the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) developed a problem with its Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) deformable mirror. Currently we are not certain about the cause of the problem, but evidence indicates a possible issue with the control electronics which is similar to an issue that occurred during GPI construction. For the time being, the instrument will remain in the lab and not be available for science.

Gemini Fast Turnaround Deadline: June 30, 2019

The deadline is at 23:59 Hawaiian Standard Time on June 30, 2019. The Fast Turnaround (FT) program has been used to conduct pilot studies, complete data sets, and follow up newly-discovered objects. However we welcome proposals for any kind of project with scientific value. In the last cycle (May 2019), we received 15 proposals and 8 of them are awarded.

Please note that specific proposal templates are REQUIRED for FT proposals. For more information on FT program, see the FT web page.

Upcoming Solar Eclipse over Gemini South

As this issue goes to e-press the nearly full Moon is rising over Cerro Grande, the emblematic mountain only a few kilometers away from the Gemini South Base Facility in La Serena (pictured). The Moon is slowly creeping closer to its alignment with the Sun every day. On the afternoon of July 2nd, we will experience a total solar eclipse over La Serena and Gemini South as well as other observatories on Cerro Tololo and Pachón.
Image credit: Rene Rutten.
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