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Gemini e-Newscast June 2020

In This e-Newscast:

Dazzling in the Dark

Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/B. Tafreshi
This dazzling image — taken on Maunakea, Hawai’i at the northern site of the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab — shows the Milky Way in vivid detail, allowing us to see not only the stars, but the dusty regions which block their light. Tiny flecks of mostly inorganic matter make up cosmic dust which in turn forms enormous obscuring clouds.

COVID-19 Update

Although Gemini North has been conducting operations in a minimal fashion since 19 May (as described below), Gemini South and the other NOIRLab facilities have remained closed in light of the continued pandemic. Even at Gemini North we are keeping a close eye on what's happening on Oahu, which at the time of writing has seen a small resurgence of cases as the state relaxes some restrictions.

Gemini North Resumes Operations – Update

Gemini North restarted night-time observations on 19 May. The Hawaiʻi State stay-home order was still in place but we had received permission from the governor to resume limited operations. We therefore began with a very minimal startup (designated “Phase 1”), sufficient only to operate at night but with no instrument changes and no project work on the mountain. Two day crew staff went to the mountain three times per week, and our night crew (limited to two) were each provided a separate work space in our two buildings so that they were able to stay physically isolated but remain in constant contact with each other and the remote observing teams through videoconferencing. The great majority of staff continued to telework, and the Hilo office was largely empty during daylight hours. 

More recently, Hawaiʻi relaxed its restrictions on businesses allowing more staff on the mountain during the day, and the night staff to work in the base facility’s single large control room where the workstations are more than 6 feet apart. Everyone is continuing with social distancing and using personal protective equipment as appropriate. With more staff on the summit, we are able to resume limited instrument changes, and a switch from MAROON-X to NIRI is imminent as we write this. MAROON-X had an excellent period on the telescope (more details below) and our popular speckle instrument, ʻAlopeke, has also just completed a highly successful run, happily coincident with good weather, and supported by the instrument team remotely. Steve Howell, the ʻAlopeke PI, said it was one of their best runs ever at Gemini!


 
Members of the MAROON-X team (David Kasper and Andreas Seifahrt, Univ of Chicago) join Gemini staff Trent Dupuy, Jose Cortes, Jesse Ball and Alison Peck by videoconference. The anticipation is clear on everyone’s faces as Jose and Trent work to restart Gemini nighttime observations after the unexpected closure. Credit: A. Peck, Gemini/NSF’s NOIRLab

MAROON-X Helps Restart Science Observations

MAROON-X is the new fiber-fed, red-optical, high precision radial velocity spectrograph installed last year on Gemini North. We are pleased to announce that MAROON-X was ready and able to observe straight out of the gate when the telescope reopened on the evening of 19 May.  A scheduled observing run at the end of March was postponed when the telescope closed due to COVID-19, and so the instrument team, led by Andreas Seifahrt from the University of Chicago, worked with Gemini IT staff to establish the appropriate connections and processes for remote observing so that when the Gemini Science Operations Specialists (SOSs) were able to return to the control rooms to operate the telescope, the team would be able to operate the MAROON-X instrument from their homes in order to carry out the observations. The observations went very smoothly thanks to great weather, a fast connection, a stable instrument, robust software, and the patience and flexibility of the Gemini Queue Coordinator and SOSs. The seeing was so good on two nights, in fact, that these data will be used to estimate the fiber coupling loss and measure the efficiency, important steps for characterizing the instrument as we prepare to make MAROON-X available to the community starting in the 2020B semester.
This image shows the MAROON-X guider interface, exposure meter flux counter, and in the background, the two GUIs for the science cameras with a typical stellar spectrum and etalon calibration.  Credit: A. Seifahrt, University of Chicago

Fast Turnaround Reopens with June 30 Deadline

After three months of hiatus, Fast Turnaround (FT) at Gemini North is back in business! The June 2020 Call for FT proposals at Gemini North is currently open, with a deadline of 30 June. For details see here.

The monthly FT Call at Gemini South remains on hold until sometime after the restart of science operations in Chile. Updates will be provided on the FT News page.

Inaugural Issue of “The Mirror” Released

The inaugural issue of the magazine-style NOIRLab publication christened “The Mirror” was released on 1 June 2020. Targeting the astronomical user community, the new semi-annual publication will feature science, technology, operations, and user support developments from across all the NOIRLab Programs, including the international Gemini Observatory. Although less focused on Gemini than the much beloved and recently retired GeminiFocus, The Mirror represents a broader net, cast into the community to draw in a wider and more diverse potential user base for our twin 8-meter telescopes. If you are already a seasoned Gemini user, in addition to catching up on the latest Gemini news, we suggest perusing the pages of The Mirror to see if it sparks some ideas for utilizing other NOIRLab facilities in support of your Gemini programs.  And if you’d like to showcase your own exciting Gemini results before a diverse audience of Mirror-gazers, please let us know!

You can access The Mirror here: https://www.nationalastro.org/products/newsletters/. Contact email: pio_inquiries@gemini.edu

Satellite Constellations Workshop

The National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab and the AAS, with support from NSF, are hosting the Satellite Constellations 1 (SATCON1) workshop virtually from 29 June to 2 July 2020. The first two days are open to people interested in mitigating the impact of satellite constellations on astronomy. Registration is free. Registration is free. Follow the link for more details.

The GEMMA Podcasts

Caught up on the GEMMA podcasts? GEMMA interns Chance Spencer and Odysseus Quarles have interviewed scientists on topics including multi-messenger astronomy, Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov, and Gemini on Jupiter. Click here to listen.
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