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Gemini e-Newscast #129

March 20, 2020

In This e-Newscast:

Coronavirus Update

In response to the continued COVID-19 outbreak in the US and Chile, we are announcing the following changes at our facilities, effective immediately and until further notice:
  • The Gemini South telescope has suspended all scientific operations. The telescope and instruments have been shut down safely over the course of the past week with very limited staff on the mountain. 
  • Limited scientific operations continue for now at Gemini North with remote observing and limited daytime summit crews. Watch for updates on the Gemini North status over the next week.
  • In alignment with all facilities of NSF’s Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (OIR Lab), staff at base facilities are moving to telework arrangements.
  • All OIR Lab sites are closed to visitors; events, and all tours and classroom visits have been suspended.
  • No solicitation of Fast Turnaround Proposals for Gemini for the 31 March deadline.
  • Proposals for Director’s Discretionary Time are not being accepted for either Gemini North or  South until at least 15 April 2020.
  • Most Gemini partner Time Allocation Committee meetings have been changed from in-person to virtual, and some proposal deadlines may be revised. Please check with your National Gemini Offices for updates.
  • The Gemini Science Meeting scheduled for June 2020 is postponed. All who have paid their registration fee for this meeting will receive a refund. There are plans to reschedule the meeting in Korea next year. Updates for next year’s meeting will be sent to all who registered for this year’s meeting and we invite all others to subscribe to updates at:
We ask for the understanding of all those who may be affected by these measures. We are fully committed to putting the well-being and safety of people first. Read more, and find the latest updates on the AURA website.

Gemini Telescope Images “Minimoon” Orbiting Earth — in Color!

International Gemini Observatory image of 2020 CD3 (center, point source) obtained with the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Maunakea. The image combines three images each obtained using different filters to produce this color composite. 2020 CD3 remains stationary in the image since it was being tracked by the telescope as it appears to move relative to the background stars, which appear trailed due to the object’s motion. Credit: The international Gemini Observatory/NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA
Astronomers using the international Gemini Observatory have imaged what is most likely a rare natural rocky object in orbit around the Earth. The image was obtained on 24 February 2020 using the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Maunakea through a Director’s Discretionary Time proposal. Designated 2020 CD3, the “mini-moon” is quickly becoming fainter as it moves away from the Earth and is expected to escape from Earth orbit in April 2020. Additional observations may help unravel the mystery of the object’s origin. 2020 CD3 is believed to be the second known rocky Earth satellite other than the Moon; the previous one orbited for about a year in 2006-2007. Follow this link to read the full press release. Gemini’s image of 2020 CD3 was featured in a 27 February New York Times article linked here.

Update on MAROON-X

MAROON-X, recently constructed at the University of Chicago and integrated at Gemini North, is a new high-resolution (R~80,000) optical (500-900nm), bench-mounted, fiber-fed echelle spectrograph. This visiting instrument is expected to have the capability to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of mid- to late-M dwarfs using the radial velocity (RV) method. 

MAROON-X has completed one commissioning run so far, using 20 hours of telescope time over eight nights in December 2019. Two critical components, the simultaneous etalon calibration, and the stability tracing of the etalon, were unfortunately not ready at the time of the December run. Although the RV performance tests will not yet reflect the final performance of MAROON-X, the data were very promising. Because the instrument performed well, we will offer MAROON-X for general high-resolution spectroscopy in 2020B! 

At this time, precision RV measurements are not yet fully verified, and so will be offered in a shared-risk mode requiring collaboration with the instrument team. If you are interested in using the RV mode in 2020B, please contact Jacob Bean ( Proposal information for other spectroscopy projects can be found here.
Plots of the signal to noise ratio (SNR) measured for two stars observed during the MAROON-X  commissioning run in December. For each order, the measured SNR is shown for the combined flux of all three object fibers. These data are not fully calibrated, but they provide a sense of what we may expect from a typical observation.

The Continuing Adventures of Zorro

Zorro, Gemini South’s resident speckle instrument, continues to be one of Gemini’s most popular visiting instruments. Nic Scott, a member of the instrument team, came to Chile in early March to make a few improvements to make Zorro even easier to use. While there, Nic installed an H-alpha filter which will allow users to search for hot accreting companions and winds in binary systems. For the March observing run, Zorro team members Zach Hartman and Crystal Glinka carried out a number of observations remotely, as they were not able to travel internationally due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. If you have not yet used Zorro, please refer to the 2020B Call for Proposals for more information.
Nic Scott works on the speckle instruments, Zorro (Gemini South) and‘Alopeke (Gemini North). Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA/ A. Peck

Gemini Observatory Archive Update

The Gemini Observatory Archive was updated on March 18th. While primarily sustainability updates, some improvements visible to the user include:  
  • Unicode support in search (for example, “/” in the target name for comets);
  • shift-click to select multiple rows in the table;
  • "Select all" is now aware of the selected tab (observations vs cals);
  • a self-service web form for users to change their email address.
For more information see the full announcement.  Please file a helpdesk ticket with the category “Gemini Observatory Archive” should you experience any issues.

Hawai‘i Students Take a Journey Through the Universe!

During the week of March 2 - 6, almost 300 classrooms in the Hilo, Hawai‘i area engaged with local Maunakea observatory staff and other astronomy STEM professionals during the 16th annual Journey Through the Universe program. Here, Scot Kleinman, Gemini’s Associate Director of Development, shares how a coronagraph helps scientists discover exoplanets with second-grade students from Hilo’s E. B. De Silva elementary school. Now in its 16th year, the annual Journey Through the Universe program, led by staff at the international Gemini Observatory, a program of the NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, brings hands-on science demonstrations into K-12 classrooms to inspire the next generation of explorers.
Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory/AURA/J. Pollard.
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