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Gemini e-Newscast #96

June 15, 2017

In This e-Newscast:

Dr. Laura Ferrarese Appointed Interim Director

On July 1, 2017, Dr. Laura Ferrarese begins a one-year term as Interim Director of the Gemini Observatory. Ferrarese is currently a Principal Research Officer at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and an Adjunct Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Victoria.

“I could only imagine taking this one-year leave from my current positions because I believe so strongly in the Gemini Observatory,” said Ferrarese. ”As Chair of AURA’s Oversight Council for Gemini (AOC-G) for the past three years, I have had the privilege to watch Gemini flourish under Dr. Kissler-Patig’s leadership. I’m looking forward to building on the remarkable position that Gemini holds amongst astronomical research facilities, on its unique capabilities, and on its innovative observing modes.”

A Partly-cloudy Exoplanet

Observing the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), 51 Eridani b, Abhijith Rajan (School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University) and his team used GPI spectroscopy and determined that the planet is redder than similar brown dwarfs seen elsewhere. "This might be due to presence of clouds, similar to young L-type planetary mass companions," said Rajan. "A possible reason for the presence of clouds, is that the planet is still in transitioning from a partially- to patchy-cloudy atmosphere, with lower mean surface temperatures."

The GPI observations, part of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey (GPIES), was combined with mid-infrared photometry at the W.M. Keck Observatory. These data allowed Rajan and his team to conclude that 51 Eri b appears to be one of the only directly imaged planet that is consistent with the cold-start scenario. The result is a low temperature and low luminosity planet.

Learn more about this result on the Gemini website.

The full results are accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. A preprint is available here.
GPI images in the K1, K2, LP and MS bands, the emission of host star was blocked. The exoplanet 51 Eri b is indicated by an arrow.

Astroconda Now Recommended for Gemini Users

Following some significant IRAF integration and testing work, we are now recommending that all new installations of Gemini's data processing software be performed using Astroconda, in place of Ureka; see instructions and further information here.

GHOST Update

The Gemini High Resolution Optical SpecTrograph (GHOST) project continues to move forward. In mid-May, representatives from all four organizations involved with GHOST met at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) in North Ryde, Australia to plan the upcoming test phase of the project.  This was the first large-scale meeting of the project members since the critical design review in early 2016, and was considered a very productive week.  
Parts of GHOST will start to travel at the end of this year, with the AAO-built Cassegrain unit and prototype optical cable assembly heading to Gemini South for testing. The AAO-built slit viewing assembly and science-grade optical cable will travel shortly thereafter, along with the controlling computer loaded with software from the Australian National University, to NRC-Herzberg in Victoria, Canada for integration with the spectrograph and thermal enclosure built there.  A little over a year from now, we expect these assemblies to leave Canada on the final leg of the journey for Chile, where, coupled with Cassegrain unit, GHOST will begin testing and commissioning on the Gemini South telescope.
GHOST team in North Ryde, Australia. Clockwise around the table:  Jon Nielsen, Tony Farrell, Peter Young, Jennifer Dunn, Steve Margheim, Vlad Churilov, Ross Zhelem, Mick Edgar, Lew Waller, Richard McDermid, John Bassett, Greg Burley, Mike Ireland, John Pazder

Gemini Astronomer Meg Schwamb Honored

Gemini Observatory assistant astronomer Meg Schwamb is this year’s recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science. The prize is awarded annually by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Schwamb is being honored for the creation and development of new tools and venues to facilitate planetary science communication. She will receive the medal in October at the Division of Planetary Sciences’ annual meeting hosted in Provo, Utah.

Congratulations Meg!

Gemini North Hosts Col-OSSOS Observers

Visiting observers from the Large and Long program Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (Col-OSSOS) recently energized the Gemini North Control Room in Hilo! The program, led by Wes Fraser (see photo), aims to study the composition and surface properties of the sea of icy planetesimals orbiting beyond Neptune. The team obtained optical and near-infrared photometry with GMOS-N and NIRI to help to constrain the evolution of the giant planets and probe the conditions of the Solar System's early planet-forming disk.  Since 2014B, Fraser and his team have observed at Gemini North each semester to observe as priority visitors and execute their Col-OSSOS observations as weather permits. 2017B marks the final semester of the Large and Long program which has already revealed new insights into Neptune's migration, see press release.
Wes Fraser (middle – Queen's University Belfast), Michele Bannister (right – Queen's University Belfast), and J.J. Kavelaars (left – National Research Council of Canada-Herzberg and University of Victoria).

Phase I User Satisfaction Survey

Gemini staff is extremely grateful to our users! Over half of the 2018A PIs who submitted proposals replied to a short (2 question) survey about their satisfaction with the Phase I process. Such a high response rate presents a clear snapshot of the current situation, while providing us with many actionable items for the near-future which will improve the Phase I process. Short surveys like this are planned for launch every semester after the closing of the call for proposals, at the deadline for Phase II preparation, the end of the semester, and the end of the data proprietary period.
Response rate to the survey as a function of time. Many answers were submitted early after the call for proposal deadline! A significant number were also submitted after a reminder was sent.
Distribution of the themes covered by the comments received in the survey. The vast majority of responses commented on the PIT, and 60% of those comments focus on the observations component, where the targets and the requested time are defined.

Dunlap Institute Visitors

Between May 17-19 six graduate students from various Canadian Universities visited Gemini North as a part of the Maunakea Dunlap Graduate School Program sponsored by the Dunlap School of Astronomy at the University of Toronto. During their stay at Gemini the students participated in numerous presentations by staff, met with many of Gemini’s science staffers, and toured the Gemini North summit facility. In addition, the students were provided two hours of Director's Discretionary time where their GMOS targets included two Ultra Luminous Infrared Galaxies. Program representatives Stephane Courteau (Queen's University, Canada) and Suresh Sivanandam (Dunlap Institute) led the group, which coordinates these annual student visits to Gemini each year.

DSSI Revists Gemini South

DSSI, the suitcase-sized dual-channel speckle imager, returned to Gemini South for another mid-winter observing run in June (their last visit having been in June 2016). For 2017A, the TACs had approved  a set of five programs, totaling 70 hours on sky. The nine-night visiting block in early June was somewhat affected by clouds and some nights of poor seeing, but by the end of it the team had obtained a good amount of data on most of the programs, observing upwards of 100 targets on some nights. Science topics ranged from K2 follow-up validation of exoplanet candidates, to a search for wide-binary companions of exoplanet host stars, to a study of angular momentum in triple-star systems.
Observing with DSSI, from the Base Facility in La Serena. Bottom to top: Manuel Gomez, Nic Scott, Mark Everett, Nahir Muñoz, Joy Chavez.
DSSI PI Steve Howell (right) with Mark Everett (center) and Jen Winters (left) perform daytime checks at Gemini South.
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