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Gemini e-Newscast #112

October 18, 2018

In This e-Newscast:

Nearby Supernova Sheds Light on Ancient Dust

Thanks to two allocations of Director’s Discretionary Time and a successful Fast-Turnaround program, an international team (including Gemini Emeritus Astronomer Tom Geballe) used Gemini North/GNIRS to follow the evolution of the near-infrared spectrum of the core-collapse supernova 2017eaw over three semesters. The data obtained from this relatively nearby event may help us to better understand the existence of dusty galaxies in the early, much more distant Universe. Read more at
Image of spiral galaxy NGC 6946 and SN 2017eaw indicated by arrow. Photo courtesy of Damian Peach, obtained on May 28th, 2017, at 10:31 UTC from the Sierra Remote Observatory, California.

Gemini North TOPTICA Laser First Light

With the completion of the TOPTICA laser installation and system support services work, the commissioning team proceeded with on-sky testing of the laser upgrade project during the first week of October. The team is thankful for the support provided by Gemini South AO staff who assisted with the testing. A few more adjustments remain before we can resume regular laser operations. Watch for updates in early November and in the next e-Newscast.
First Light of the TOPTICA laser at Gemini North. The much anticipated propagation on-sky of the laser was captured in this image by Gemini astronomer Jason Chu during laser commissioning at Gemini North on October 1, 2018.
Gemini SOS Adam Smith (lower left), conducts laser commissioning tests as the laser team looks on. Photo Credit: Jeff Donahue

Second Binational AAA-SOCHIAS Meeting in La Serena

The Second Binational joint Argentine Association of Astronomy and Chilean Astronomical Society (AAA-SOCHIAS) meeting was held in La Serena, Chile during the week of October 8-12th. Participants could visit Gemini South and there were many exciting Gemini results presented. There were more than 250 participants at the meeting. Additionally, many Gemini staff attended and answered questions at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) booth.
Gemini South Staff, Fernanda Urrutia and James Turner (at right behind table), join Camila Ibarlucea (left behind table) from  AURA-O, in conversations with a participant at the AAA-SOCHIAS meeting in La Serena. In the foreground,  Gemini South fellow Gonzalo Diaz (back turned) and the Argentinian Gemini user Damián Mast, chatting during one of the breaks of the conference.

Gemini to Host IAU Symposium in 2019

We are pleased to post the first announcement for IAU Symposium 357, covering white dwarf stars and their roles as probes of exoplanet composition, stellar and galactic evolution and fundamental physics. Pre-registration is now open and details can be found at the Symposium’s website:  
Poster Credit: Joy Pollard and Jennifer Miller

Gemini North Engineering Shutdown Complete

Every year it is necessary to perform maintenance on the Acquisition and Guiding (A&G) unit at the heart of each Gemini telescope. With the Gemini South maintenance shutdown successfully completed in August, Gemini North’s turn came between September 17-27. The Engineering team extracted the A&G unit from the center of the Instrument Support Structure, carried out essential preventive maintenance, and returned it to the telescope. In the course of the work, a damaged spindle holder (see figure below) on one side of the linear stage of the science fold mechanism was discovered and a replacement quickly fabricated by a machine shop in Hilo.

While work progressed on the A&G, we also performed some remedial work on instruments, which included cleaning of imaging filters in the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), extracting the unused polarimetry unit (GPOL) from the A&G, fixing the Near-Infrared Imager (NIRI), and installing a large fluid cooler as part of our energy savings program. Finally, we carried out maintenance on dome bogies and completed work on the Primary Mirror Control System. The telescope resumed operations, on schedule, on September 28.
Left: the A&G slice holding the Science Fold mirror (central in this picture). Right: one of two lead screws which drive the science fold into position; the spindle holder which required replacement is indicated by an arrow.

GMOS Advanced Data Reduction Tips Now Available

A document is now available describing data reduction solutions to some of the more serious issues that arose due to problems with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) instrument or detectors. The document is based mostly on issues with the GMOS-South Hamamatsu data and for now only discusses imaging data. It will be expanded to cover spectroscopy in the future. Feedback is welcome at

Training the Next Generation with Visiting Instruments

Earlier this year, as part of a scheduled run of the 'Alopeke speckle instrument at Gemini North, Elliott Horch and his students at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) participated in a test of the remote observing capability of the camera. From the new astronomy control room in the science building on their campus, they logged on to the 'Alopeke control computer through a secure Virtual Network Computing (VNC) connection and were able to see and control the instrument Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) to take date in real time. A Skype connection was used to communicate with the telescope operator and the observers in the Hilo Base Facility control room so that staff there could select and point the telescope to the designated targets. Although that occasion was just a test to see how well the system would work, it was a success, and the team at SCSU is looking forward to participating in more remote ‘Alopeke observations in the future. “It is a great way for students at SCSU to take part in observing at one of the world's largest telescopes and still get to class the next day!” said Elliott Horch who led the event.
Elliott Horch (left) joins his students (left to right) Nicole Granucci, Rick Hahne, and Sam Weiss during a remote observing session with Gemini North. Also on hand is Bill van Altena, emeritus professor of astronomy at Yale University (right).

Chilean Students Explore the Universe During Viaje al Universo

During the first week of October over 30 observatory staff from Gemini South and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory participated in Viaje al Universo which is one of Gemini Southʻs most popular public outreach programs in Chile. The aim of the program is to share the wonders of the Universe and Gemini technologies with local classrooms in Chile. The observatory professionals visited classrooms with fun, interactive presentations to encourage interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Gemini South StarLab Operator, Dalma Valenzuela (background), taught the students of Saint Mary School in La Serena, Chile, about spectroscopy. Students decoded secret messages by peering through a color filter.

AstroDay West Hawai’i Strikes Again!

The West Hawai’i community asked for another AstroDay and the Maunakea Observatories answered. The second annual AstroDay West at the Kona Commons Shopping Center in Kona, Hawai’i attracted over 3,000 families and public on October 6. AstroDay West is a spinoff of the annual AstroDay in Hilo held at the Prince Kuhio Plaza. Both iterations of AstroDay are organized by the Institute for Astronomy Hilo and include booths and activities from the Maunakea Observatories and other scientific organizations such as NOAA, HI-SEAS etc. Live science performances were also part of the program (see figure below). Additionally, over 400 participants joined in Gemini’s StarLab potable planetarium tours of the night sky, while many more collected our Legacy Images, took photos in our Gemini “photo booth,” and were treated to carbon dioxide snow while learning about the cleaning of our mirrors.
Outreach Assistant Alyssa Grace (left) dressed in a clean room suit with her guest team of engineers practiced cleaning a mirror with carbon dioxide snow, just like we do with the larger Gemini mirrors.
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