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Gemini e-Newscast #95

May 17, 2017

In This e-Newscast:

Adaptive Optics Used to Measure Proper Motion in Distant Star Cluster

Tobias Fritz (University of Virginia) and team combined images from Gemini South’s wide-field adaptive optics system (GeMS/GSAOI) with data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to determine the proper motion of a distant cluster of stars. The observations, the first to use ground-based adaptive optics to precisely measure the motion of a cluster at such a large distance, allowed astronomers to set a lower limit for the mass of our Milky Way while providing clues about the cluster’s origin.

The paper, titled: The Proper Motion of Pyxis: The First Use of Adaptive Optics in Tandem with HST on a Faint Halo Object is published in The Astrophysical Journal. The work is part of a Large and Long program at Gemini that is also targeting other clusters, dwarf galaxies, and individual stars in stellar streams. Read more at
Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS-South) of the Pyxis field (left image), with the center of the cluster marked with a red star. A zoom of the pseudo color image of Pyxis observed with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) used with the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) is shown at right. The field of view of GMOS is 5 x 5 arcminutes, 85 x 85 arcseconds for GeMS.

Flamingos-2 Standdown Completed

Last month the Flamingos-2 instrument on Gemini South came off the telescope for a few weeks to undergo a planned repair of its on-instrument wavefront sensor (OIWFS) and preventive maintenance on the multi-object spectroscopy (MOS) wheel. This standdown was also exploited to install a number of MOS masks as well as two new filters. The work went according to plan and the instrument is now back on the telescope. While Flamingos-2 is operational again, further on-sky work is still required to fully characterise the OIWFS, especially under good seeing conditions.

The completion of this work allows commissioning of the new filters, planned for later in May, and for the long-awaited commissioning of the MOS mode.
The two new filters installed in Flamingos-2.

OCTOCAM: What's Up; What's Next

The OCTOCAM team, including members from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA), Fractal, George Washington University (GWU), and Gemini, met in Granada, Spain on April 19th to formally kick off the project to bring the next new facility instrument to Gemini.  Everyone agrees that the meeting was a huge success and the entire team is anxious to get started.

Next up is the System Requirements Review - held on May 16th. The first stage will conclude with the Conceptual Design Review which will be held in Hilo on the 2nd and 3rd of August.
From left to right: Antonio de Ugarte Postigo, Principal Investigator (IAA); Ruben Diaz, Instrument Program Scientist (Gemini); Cathy Blough, Contracts Specialist (Gemini); Morten Andersen, Project Scientist (Gemini); Stephen Goodsell, Gemini Technical Representative; Alexander van der Horst, Project Scientist (GWU); Manual Maldonado Medina, Mechanical (Fractal); Christina Thöne, Deputy Project Manager (IAA); Ronnie Killough, Control Software (SwRI); Susan Pope, Systems Engineer (SwRI); Pete Roming, Project Manager (SwRI); Scot Kleinman, Gemini Associate Director, Development; and Jeff Radwick, Systems Engineer (Gemini).

Extreme Weather in Chile

The central and northern regions of Chile suffered a short but intense period of exceptionally wet weather during the second week of May. More rain fell in a single day than is normally measured in a whole year in much of Chile. Our colleagues in Hilo might laugh at this amount of rain, but for the mountainous desert area, where Gemini South is situated, the effects were severe. The access road will need serious repair work and the observatory was out of operation for several nights, but resumed operations on the night of May 16-17th.
The Andes mountains and SOAR telescope (at left, in distance) covered in snow, as seen from the Gemini South rooftop camera with part of the Gemini dome and solar panels visible at right.

AstroDay Hilo

On Saturday May 6, Gemini Observatory engaged hundreds of children and families at the annual AstroDay at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo, Hawai‘i. Gemini’s StarLab portable planetarium wowed audiences with views of the night sky visible over Hawai‘i as families made “Pocket Solar Systems,” “Spiral Galaxy Pinwheels,” and more. Gemini Public Information and Outreach Office’s Alexis Acohido demonstrated the parts of an astronaut suit while other Maunakea Observatory staff shared a variety of engaging science demos on the “Center Stage” throughout this amazing day of brains-on fun!
In the Gemini AstroDay room families fold pocket solar systems, trace constellations, and cut out galaxy pinwheels while waiting for the next StarLab planetarium program.
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