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Gemini e-Newscast #114

December 19, 2018

In This e-Newscast:

Outer Solar System Object has Astronomers Seeing Double

Extremely high-resolution speckle observations by Gemini South deliver critical details on a star (or stars) lying in the apparent path of remnants from the early formation of our Solar System. Read more at

Gemini North TOPTICA Laser Availability

The TOPTICA laser has been successfully commissioned for nighttime operation at Gemini North. The Laser Guide Star (LGS) mode will be available for Fast Turnaround and Directorʻs Discretionary programs starting using the Phase 1 Tool released on December 11, 2018. The new laser allows us to move away from block scheduling and offer LGS mode on a greater number of nights. We are in the process of activating one LP program that was put on hold when our old LGS system failed.
During the on-sky commissioning, we confirmed the stability of delivered power by the TOPTICA laser. We also estimated the on-sky return at the equivalent of an ~8th magnitude star (Vmag), when propagating at zenith. This of course will vary as the sodium layer density fluctuates.
Jesse Ball (foreground) operates the Gemini North telescope during on-sky commissioning of the new TOPTICA laser. Joining him are (from left to right) adaptive optics science fellow Laure Catala (in hat), optical engineer Tom Schneider, and Gemini scientist Paul Hirst. Credit: Joy Pollard

AAS 233: Gemini Events, Personalized Support, and the Gemini Card Game

Gemini Observatory and its partners will be hosting several events at the 233rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Washington, January 6-10, 2019.  Events include the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and US National Gemini Office mini-workshop on high-resolution spectroscopy at Gemini (Tuesday, January 8th,  2:00-3:30 p.m., Room 305), the Gemini Open House (Tuesday, January 8th, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Room 305), and the Gemini Workshop on science with SCORPIO (Wednesday January 9th,  2:00-3:30 p.m., Room 310).

Full details can be found here (
We will also be offering personalized help at the Gemini booth. If you have Gemini data, an active program, or even a vague project idea, come visit the Gemini booth any time during Exhibit Hall hours. You can also book an appointment in advance by emailing

Also at the booth, we will be distributing full decks of the new Gemini Card Game! Get a taste of how Gemini operates in a fun, cooperative game, where players work together to complete science programs (


MAROON-X Front End Commissioning

MAROON-X is a radial velocity spectrograph being built at the University of Chicago which is expected to have the capability to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of mid- to late-M dwarf stars using the radial velocity method. In order for MAROON-X to come to Gemini as a Visiting Instrument, the team constructed a Front End which will fit on the bottom instrument port at Gemini North and hold the fiber that will run down to the spectrograph located in the pier lab below.
This Front End unit has recently arrived in Hawai‘i, and was installed on the telescope for testing in December. The commissioning has gone very well, thanks to the diligence and care that the instrument team has put into the design and construction, and the support of the Gemini day crew. We achieved first light on the same day as installation and spent a few hours over the ensuing evenings verifying that the software behaves as expected, and that the atmospheric dispersion correction and guiding meet specifications. Based on the success of the Front End, we are looking forward to the arrival of the spectrograph itself in early 2019. Watch this space for more news in the next few months!
Andreas Seifahrt (left) and Julian Stuermer (both University of Chicago, where MAROON-X is being constructed) beneath the MAROON-X Front End installed on the bottom instrument port at Gemini North.
Credit: Siyi Xu, Gemini Observatory
Julian and Andreas , along with Gemini staff Siyi Xu (left, foreground) and Alison Peck, get first light with the MAROON-X Front End on the summit of Maunakea. Credit: John White, Gemini Observatory


Gemini Observatory is again accepting Large and Long Program (LLP) proposals in 2019. LLPs are Principal Investigator-defined and -driven programs that, as a guideline, either require significantly more time than a partner typically approves for a single program or extend over two to six semesters, or both. Large programs are expected to promote collaborations across the partnership's communities, have significant scientific impact, and provide a homogeneous data set, potentially for more general use. The announcement of opportunity was released on December 15, 2018, and information on proposal submission can be found within the Large and Long Program webpages. All interested teams are required to submit a Letter of Intent no later than February 4, 2019, with full proposals due on April 1, 2019. In addition to the Gemini suite of instrumentation, Principal Investigators from LLP participating partners are invited to submit proposals for Subaru Intensive Programs via the Gemini-Subaru time exchange program.  

2018 Gemini STARS Awardees

Congratulations to Pedro Gigoux (Gemini South) and Jesse Ball (Gemini North) who are the 2018 Gemini STARS awardees. Both Jesse and Pedro exemplify Gemini’s commitment to our Working Culture and in support our users, staff and science.

The Gemini STARS award recognition program is based on the principles of the Gemini Working Culture. 2018 is the eighth year that we have the honor of recognizing one employee from each site who exemplifies the Gemini Working Culture in their everyday work. Recipients are nominated by fellow Gemini colleagues and hold the prestigious position of a Gemini STARS awardee for a term of one year.
John Blakeslee (left) and 2018 Gemini STARS award winner Pedro Gigoux. Pedro has exemplified all elements of the Gemini Working Culture with specific emphasis on “Treating others as we would like to be treated.”  Many nominations raved about Pedro, including one that stated that Pedro is, “ of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” and “...always willing to help you out.”  
Joseph D’Amato (left; 2017 Gemini STARS award winner) and Jesse Ball (2018 Gemini STARS award winner).  “Open, engaging, and respectful” are just a few of the words used to describe Jesse in this year’s nominations. In addition to being one of our Diversity & Inclusion advocates, Jesse is part of the Gemini team that spearheaded the first Gem-in-I day to celebrate the unique cultures that make up the staff of Gemini.
Copyright © 2018 Gemini Observatory, All rights reserved.

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