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Gemini e-Newscast #101

November 16, 2017

In This e-Newscast:

Gemini Confirms Spiral Nature of Extremely Distant Lensed Galaxy

Gemini Observatory, using the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrograph on the Gemini North telescope in Hawai‘i, has confirmed the spiral nature of what is now the most distant known spiral galaxy. The galaxy's light, revealing how the galaxy looked some 11 billion years ago, is gravitationally lensed by a massive foreground cluster of galaxies to help reveal the distant pinwheel nature of the galaxy. See press release.
The massive galaxy cluster bends the light of the most ancient spiral galaxy behind it, producing two highly magnified images that allow astronomers to study the spiral structures in great details. Image credit: James Josephides.

Gemini South Laser Commissioning Underway

In late October the Gemini South TOPTICA laser commissioning project for the Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS) reached another major milestone. The laser commissioning was held from October 26th through the 30th, and in that timeframe the adaptive optics (AO) team obtained the first images using the new laser with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI).

“GeMS is working fine and the new laser is wonderful,” exclaimed Gemini’s Associate Scientist Gaetano Sivo who is part of the commissioning team. “When we come to the telescope and turn it on, 30 minutes later we are getting GSAOI images – it’s fantastic!”

Using a routine developed by professor François Rigaut, of the Australian National University (formerly at Gemini), the AO team quickly reduced data from the laser. The data was then used this to find the optimum wavelength to excite the upper atmosphere’s sodium layer in order to provide the brightest guide star images.

Other work included a study of the intensity of sodium guide star return light, and AO performance assessments using the two lasers of different technologies - the previous Gemini South laser and the new TOPTICA laser.
Photo Credit: Ariel López, GS Science Operation Specialist Group Manager

GHOST Update

The build of the GHOST Cassegrain unit is nearly complete. Last week, Gemini staff participated in the weighing and inspection of the fully assembled Cassegrain unit at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) lab in North Ryde, New South Wales. Testing of the Integral Filed Unit (IFU) positioner by AAO and Australian National University software staff will continue for another month in the lab. Once completed the Cassegrain unit will ship to Chile, where the team will begin preliminary testing and debugging on the telescope early next year in preparation for the arrival of the spectrograph from NRC-Herzberg in Canada.
AAO staff Vlad Churilov and Lew Waller steady the instrument as it is lowered onto load cells for mass and center of gravity measurements.  Gemini’s Gabriel Perez is in the background inputting the load cell data to calculate the center of gravity.  Photo credit: David Henderson

Speckle Imaging is Here to Stay at Gemini!

ʻAlopeke, a new high-resolution camera for Gemini North, completed its first commissioning run in late October. During the run it performed as expected, despite minor challenges including: difficult mounting between GCAL and the instrument cube, issues with the fold mirror, an out of focus red channel, and an interrupted run due to Target of Opportunity observations.
Despite these challenges, ʻAlopeke produced proper high resolution images in both “speckle” mode (a small 9X9 arcsecond field of view) and “wide-field” mode (nearly an arcminute wide). ʻAlopeke, a contemporary Hawaiian word meaning fox, is indeed small, fast, and clever. We anticipate high-usage for superb imaging, speckle interferometry, and technical diagnostics. The ʻAlopeke team plans to finish commissioning in mid-December for use at Gemini North during the 2018A semester.
The ʻAlopeke team (left to right: Rachel Matson, Steve Howell, Nic Scott, and Emmett Quigley) mounting ʻAlopeke onto the Gemini North telescope.
First speckle light image of a close binary (0.27 arcsecond separation) imaged in two colors simultaneously using ʻAlopeke.

Is Your Thesis or Publication listed?

Gemini now maintains a listing of PhD Theses based fully or partially on Gemini Observatory Data in addition to publications in refereed journals.  Please send the ADS records of any missing theses or publications to the Gemini Librarian, Xiaoyu Zhang (

New Features for the Gemini Archive

Programmatic information is now returned with Gemini Archive queries.  This includes the program abstract, the Co-Investigator list, and any publications if they are known in the database maintained by the Gemini Librarian.  Additionally, we have added the ability to search the Gemini Archive by Principal Investigator name and Program Title.  We now have more than 750 registered users although it is not necessary to register to access non-proprietary data.  With site hits up to almost 30 million for 2017 so far, typical usage is approximately 800 searches and 5GB of data downloaded per day.

Gemini Science Meeting Reminder

Remember to block your calendar for the 2018 Gemini Science Meeting – “The Science and Evolution of the Gemini Observatory.” The meeting will be in San Francisco from July 22 -26th and invites the Gemini community to review recent science highlights, identify needs in the context of Gemini’s evolving capabilities, and develop strategies for the future. Mark your calendar now and plan to join us for: user and staff presentations featuring science highlights, instrumentation, observing modes; informal discussions and breakout sessions; a conference dinner; and off-site visits.

Hotel reservations are open now for a limited number of rooms. Conference registration will open at the beginning of January 2018 and a call for abstracts will be sent shortly thereafter.

AstroDay Kona

The first AstroDay West Hawai`i event sponsored by the Institute for Astronomy - Hilo and the Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC) attracted over 3000 participants at the Kona Commons Shopping Center. AstroDay, which celebrated its 17th year in East Hawaii this May, provides an opportunity for the Big Island community to learn about the exciting science happening in Hawai`i through demonstrations and hands-on activities presented by observatory staff.
During the day-long event the Gemini display kept visitors engaged in grabbing images, posing for photos, taking a virtual tour of the Gemini North telescope, speaking with Gemini staff, and exploring the night sky in the StarLab portable planetarium. 
Gemini staff share images and answer questions with AstroDay visitors.  Photo credit: Joy Pollard
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