Copy
View this email in your browser

Gemini e-Newscast #122

August 15, 2019

In This e-Newscast:

Discovering Patterns in Ioʻs Volcanoes


Jupiterʻs volcanic moon Io brought astronomers and geologists together to reveal that this moonʻs hot spots fluctuate on unexpected timescales. The Gemini observations, which provided about 80% of the data for the study, employed the high-resolution adaptive optics system ALTAIR combined with the Gemini Near InfraRed Imager and spectrograph (NIRI). Learn more here.
 

GNAOI Announcement of Opportunity Released

Gemini released an announcement of opportunity for a new instrument destined for Gemini North. The Gemini North Adaptive Optics Imager (GNAOI, a generic name for now) will be the principal imager for GNAO.  See the details of the announcement at: http://www.gemini.edu/gnaoi-rfp

Maunakea Access

Since July 15th, the Maunakea Access Road has been blocked by protestors seeking to prevent TMT construction equipment from moving to the Maunakea Astronomy Precinct. By the 16th it was clear that no observatory had safe or reliable access to the summit, and the observatories took the collective decision to bring all our staff down and not return until that changed. This is the longest interruption of operations for the MK Observatories in the 50-year history of astronomy on the mountain.

One week after the situation started, Gemini North had planned to go into a maintenance shutdown; in total eight nights of observing were lost, seven of which were clear. We are now in Semester 2019B. The first major milestone in the semester is a visiting instrument run (TEXES, starting around September 11th). That run supports a number of highly-ranked science programs and cannot be moved due to target distribution. To protect that run, and to minimize the impact on 2019B as a whole, we decided that the primary mirror will not be coated this year as originally planned. This shortens the shutdown to two weeks. The rest of the work cannot be skipped; a key activity is the replacement of helium hoses in the Cassegrain wrap. 

On August 12th, having received assurances of support from Law Enforcement and statements from the protestors of their intent not to block access for staff of the existing observatories, and with some improvements made to the side road via which we now have to access, we returned to the mountain. We are now engaged in the planned maintenance work and will soon post a schedule for Gemini North’s return to night-sky observing. 

Instrument PI Andy Shearer (left, NUI Galway), with colleagues Nicholas Devaney (center, NUI Galway) and Christian Gouiffès (right, CEA Saclay) checking GASP before installation at Gemini South

Last Gasp?  No, First GASP!

In July, Gemini South hosted a new visiting instrument, the Galway Astronomical Stokes Polarimeter (GASP).  GASP is a unique instrument, unlike anything else on Gemini. This ultra-high-speed imaging polarimeter simultaneously measures both linear and circular

polarisation on times scales down to 0.5 msec. This provides a means to measure magnetic field geometry and strength, as well as asymmetries in radiation production and transmission, in sources ranging from active galactic nuclei to compact binary systems and neutron stars. Fast polarimetry permits the team to study stochastic or periodic variability on short timescales, and Gemini has the light-collecting capability to allow very short integration times.

For this first visit, the schedule was quite compressed, with assembly in Chile, integration to the telescope (including the installation of their own GPS system to permit accurate timing for the very fast observations), and the science time allocated by the ITAC all compressed into just a few days. This was made possible by the outstanding instrument team, PI Andy Shearer and Nicholas Devaney (both from NUI Galway) and Christian Gouiffès (CEA Saclay), and by the dedicated and skilled staff at Gemini South, led by Electronics Engineer Assistant Mariah Birchard, Science Fellow Erik Dennihy, and including Javier Fuentes, Manuel Gomez, Vicente Vergara and their teams.

With the success of this project, we hope to be able to invite GASP back in the future for more exciting electromagnetic exploration!

Gemini South staff Mariah Birchard and Laridan Jeria check all of the connections before lifting the instrument up to attach to the instrument support structure
Getting first light on schedule always brings a combination of joy, relief and a bit of surprise, as displayed by Andy Shearer and Nicholas Devaney,
Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
Twitter
YouTube
YouTube
Instagram
Instagram
Gemini.Edu
Gemini.Edu
Email
Email
Copyright © 2019 Gemini Observatory, All rights reserved.


unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences