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Gemini e-Newscast #115

January 24, 2019

In This e-Newscast:
Observations from Gemini Observatory identify a key fingerprint of an extremely distant quasar, allowing astronomers to sample light emitted from the dawn of time. Astronomers happened upon this deep glimpse into space and time thanks to an unremarkable foreground galaxy acting as a gravitational lens, which magnified the quasar’s ancient light. The Gemini observations provide critical pieces of the puzzle in confirming this object as the brightest appearing quasar so early in the history of the Universe, raising hopes that more sources like this will be found. Read more at

Gemini South Earthquake Update

On the night of Saturday, January 19th, just as the GeMS team settled in to continue a highly successful observing run, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit just south of La Serena. The quake was quite deep (53 kilometers, almost the distance a crow would fly to get from the La Serena base facility to the observatory) but the shaking was violent. Systems at the summit behaved as they should, the secondary mirror powered itself off and observing came to a halt. After much hard work by the day crew on multiple systems the telescope is now ready for check-outs tonight (January 24th)!
One of the rock falls caused by the earthquake. Debris was quickly removed by NOAO staff allowing access to the AURA telescopes. Credit: Manuel Paredes.

Update on US Government Shutdown

Gemini, NSF and AURA are working closely to maintain and extend our facility’s operations as long as possible under the limitations of the partial US government shutdown. This effort is ongoing, and we remain hopeful that we can continue functioning at current levels. However, while we have sufficient funds on hand to continue operations in the short term, we cannot continue in perpetuity under this partial shutdown. We continue to be in close communication with the limited non-furloughed NSF staff who can help us determine how to proceed as the shutdown continues.

GEMMA Project Website Now Available

Gemini Observatory has received a multi-million dollar award from NSF to advance our leadership in the era of Multi-Messenger Astronomy.  The GEMMA program, funded by this award, is designed to maximize synergies with other transformative facilities coming online in the near future and will focus on the areas of high spatial resolution and rapid-response astronomy.  We are seeking input from our user community with ideas for scientific studies enabled by these new capabilities.  Please see the GEMMA web page to learn more and share your ideas and science requirements!

Reminder:  LLP Letters of Intent Due Feb 4

Letters of intent for new Large and Long Programs with observations beginning in 2019B are due Feb. 4, 2019.  Completed proposals will be due April 1, 2019.

GHOST Update

There is good news from National Research Council Canada Herzberg (NRC-H). The Gemini High-resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST) team recently bonded and mounted four major GHOST optical assemblies: the beamsplitter, fold mirror, and both red and blue gratings. The team is on track to start integrated testing at NRC-H in May, bringing in the optical cable from the Australian Astronomical Optics – Macquarie (AAO) and software from the Australian National University (ANU). The team also completed commissioning of the AAO-developed fiber positioner and optical cable, including ANU and Gemini software, at Gemini South in November.
The GHOST beamsplitter, fold mirror, and two gratings mounted in their cells at NRC-H.

GRACES Repair Completed

GRACES sustained damages from a lightning strike in August of 2018 and the first run scheduled immediately after the strike was made possible, but only in limited mode. To recover full capability, CFHT’s Greg Barrick and Tom Benedict along with Gemini’s John White carried out repair work late last year. We are happy to announce that GRACES is now back in operation and obtained good data in excellent weather this January. It should be noted that since the repair all spectra are shifted by 15 pixels on the detector (towards the blue orders). Both Opera and DRAGraces software packages have been tested, and only the later needs to be edited to successfully extract new GRACES spectra. Stay tuned for a new DRAGraces release.

GIRMOS Team Visits Gemini South

The Gemini InfraRed Multi-Object Spectrograph (GIRMOS) is a visiting instrument being designed to observe multiple sources simultaneously at high angular resolution while simultaneously obtaining spectra (Sivanandam et al., Proc. SPIE, 2018). It accomplishes this by exploiting the adaptive optics (AO) correction from both a telescope-based AO system (either the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System, GeMS, or the prospective Gemini North AO system) and its own additional Multiple Object Adaptive Optics system that feeds four 1 to 2.4 micron integral field spectrographs (R ~ 3,000 and 8,000) that can each observe an object independently within a two arcminute field of view.

In order to fully utilize the Gemini AO system, GIRMOS needs to be more integrated to the telescope than most visiting instruments, and so engineering and science teams from both sides have been working together extensively to make this possible. In January, GIRMOS Principal Investigator Suresh Sivanandam and Principal Engineer Darren Erickson came to Gemini South to work with the experts who perform observations using GeMS. They spent a few days at the base facility discussing design details and planning, and one night at the telescope on Cerro Pachón participating in a hands-on tour of Gemini’s AO system and operations. The night was very successful and productive and we are looking forward to bringing this exciting instrument to fruition. The GIRMOS Conceptual Design Review is slated for later this year, with continued Gemini staff participation.
 GIRMOS team leaders Suresh Sivanandam (left; Dunlap Institute, Univiversity of Toronto) and Darren Erickson (right; National Research Council Canada) learn about GeMS operations on Cerro Pachón from Gemini staff members Gaetano Sivo and Eduardo Marin.

AAS 233: Retrospective

Despite the rainy Seattle weather, AAS 233 was a great opportunity for the US Gemini community to learn about the exciting on-going science and future developments planned for the next decade. Recent results from the GPIES survey and other GPI programs were presented at the Gemini open house (by Q. Koponacky) and at the Future of Ground-Based High Contrast Imaging special session. Throughout the week, Gemini fans heard about the science case and status of SCORPIO, updates on GHOST and MAROON-X, recent science from GRACES and IGRINS, and the new program to advance high-resolution imaging and rapid-response observations at Gemini (GEMMA, Gemini in the Era of Multi-Messenger Astronomy). Many of these presentations are now posted on the Gemini AAS 233 webpage.

Gemini’s booth attracted hundreds of visitors as part of the National Science Foundation’s “pavilion.” Gemini users came with lots of questions, suggestions and joined in many impromptu help sessions. Another major draw for visitors to the exhibit area was the distribution of Gemini’s new playing card game which simulates the challenges and rewards of observing. Look for these game cards at future Gemini participant meetings and learn more about the game on its webpage.
Gemini Astronomer André-Nicolas Chené shares insights on the expansion of the Universe with Seattle area students visiting the 233rd AAS meeting exhibit area.

Planetarium Show Production Team Visits Gemini South

Recently, a film crew from the California Academy of Sciences visited Gemini South to secure several shots of the telescope and people. The team is working on a planetarium program and educational materials which is part of an NSF-funded project called Dome+. The program will focus on ground-based observatories supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the staff who enable the facilities’ cutting-edge science.
California Academy film crew during the footage that they will include in a world-wide planetarium show that will highlight NSF-supported observatories in Chile and their contribution to our understanding of the Universe. Photo by Manuel Paredes.
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