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Gemini e-Newscast #94

April 19, 2017

In This e-Newscast:

A Kinder, Gentler Neptune

"It’s a kinder, gentler Neptune," says Gemini astronomer Meg Schwamb in describing a new result that leaves little doubt about how Neptune gently swept a class of planetoid pairs into the outer Solar System.

The research team, led by Wes Fraser of Queen’s University in Belfast, UK, used data collected from the Gemini North Frederick C. Gillett Telescope and Canada-France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) both on Maunakea in Hawai‘i. The team measured the colors of peculiar new Cold Classical Kuiper Belt Object (CCKBO) pairs as part of the Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS). The study focused on these loosely bound pairs of planetoids that are believed to have been shepherded by Neptune’s gravitational nudges into their current orbits in the distant Kuiper Belt. The paper is published in the April 4th issue of the journal Nature Astronomy (subscription required).

See the full Gemini press release and a link to the Queen’s University release here.
Artist’s conception of a loosely tethered binary planetoid pair like those studied by Fraser et al. in this work which led to the conclusion that Neptune’s shepherding of them to the Kuiper Belt as gradual and gentle in nature. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA, artwork by Joy Pollard.

Henry Roe Joins Gemini

Gemini is pleased to announce that Dr. Henry G. Roe has accepted the position of Deputy Director at Gemini. He will start on May 1 and will be based in La Serena at the Gemini South Base Facility beginning in late August.

Prior to joining Gemini, Roe was a Faculty Astronomer at Lowell Observatory from 2006 until his transition to Gemini this year. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech from 2003 to 2006. He earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in Chemistry from Williams College. His research interests include observational studies of surfaces and atmospheres in the outer solar system and is an active user of Gemini, most notably with his work on the atmosphere of Titan.

OCTOCAM Gemini’s Next Generation Instrument Commences

Gemini Observatory announces the development of a major new facility-class broadband optical and near-infrared imager and spectrograph named OCTOCAM.

"OCTOCAM provides Gemini with a unique capability as we look ahead to the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope era," says Stephen Goodsell who manages the instrument program for Gemini. "The instrument will be able to rapidly acquire transient objects and simultaneously obtain eight images or spectral bands from each target," according to Goodsell. "This is important because it provides a much greater level of information and detail, which will undoubtedly lead to transformational scientific discoveries."

More details are available on the Gemini press release.
OCTOCAM's near-infrared optical bench.

April Issue of Gemini Focus Available

The April issue of Gemini Focus is out in an easy to use e-publication format. In addition to the highlights shown below, don’t miss our current news for users, science highlights and more. Please access Gemini Focus at:
  • Director’s Message: A Look Ahead to the National Center for Optical Astronomy
  • Repeating Fast Radio Burst FRB 121102’s Host Galaxy
  • Persistence Pays Off in the Study of Shock-heated Gas
  • Gemini’s Next Generation Instrument: OCTOCAM (Gen4#3)
  • Recent Internships at Gemini
  • Gemini Outreach Spans Both Hemispheres


Seeking US representative for Gemini User’s Committee (UCG)

Gemini has an opening for a US representative on its User’s Committee. The main commitment is attending a yearly one- or two-day meeting during a 3-year term (travel paid by Gemini) - usually around mid-year - in order to provide feedback on your user experience. The meeting generally rotates between La Serena and Hilo. This year it will be in La Serena, the week of Aug 7, and will overlap with our Operations Working Group. In 2015 the UCG meeting was held in conjunction with the Future and Science of Gemini meeting, which will likely happen again in 2018. Self-nominations are welcome. Submissions (via email to Joanna Thomas-Osip) should include a CV and short statement of relevant experience and Gemini-related interests.

Shared-risk With New GMOS-N Detectors

The new GMOS-N Hamamatsu detector array has been used for first science observations since March 26. Observations are currently being carried out in shared-risk mode, while the detector characterization and update of the data reduction software are ongoing. A commissioning version of the data reduction package, compatible with the new detectors for the main observing modes, will be released this week. This release will not provide science-quality results, but can be used as a quick-look tool for a qualitative data assessment. The science commissioning team is currently focusing on measuring and testing the main detector parameters relevant for science-quality data reductions. The full release of the data reduction package, including final parameters for the GMOS-N Hamamatsu detectors, is expected to be available in July.

Phoenix Completes Run at Gemini South

Phoenix, the high-resolution near-infrared visiting spectrograph (PI Ken Hinkle of NOAO), returned to Gemini South for a 6-night run in April. The observing started well, but later parts of the run were affected by poor seeing and clouds, and a significant number of GMOS queue observations were folded in as backup. Phoenix data were taken for five science programs. Themes covered a range of stellar, pre-stellar and binary star areas, including the contribution of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars to the origin of fluorine, isotopic abundances and the evolution of binary stars, the evolution of magnetic fields during pre-main sequence evolution, the CO emitting region in a peculiar B supergiant, and orbitally-modulated accretion in pre-main-sequence binaries.

AstroDay Chile Draws Crowds

More than 1,300 people participated in this year’s AstroDay Chile, which was hosted by the Christ School in La Serena. Staff from many of Chile’s professional and amateur observatories from the Región de Coquimbo joined Gemini staff in sharing the Universe with our Chilean host communities.

AstroDay Chile is one of Gemini South’s most significant annual outreach events, attracting dozens of exhibitors who share the latest developments in the science and technology of astronomy in Chile. Gemini’s staff and Public Information and Outreach (PIO) group also prepared hands-on workshops, presented portable planetarium shows, scientific lectures, Family Astro workshops, 3-D movies, video games, and a large Star Party to end the day full of activities.
Gemini staff Adriana Gutiérrez and Joanna Thomas-Osip answer questions from visitors during AstroDay Chile.
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