Celebrate the Large and Long Program: Validating K2’s Habitable and Rocky Planets with Adaptive Optics (AO) Imaging

Celebrate the Large and Long Program! is a series of blog posts which showcase the high-impact science under the Large and Long Program of Gemini Observatory.

What is the Large and Long Program?

The Large and Long Program (LLP) is one of five observing modes Gemini offers to users of our telescopes. These five modes categorize projects based on length and weather conditions required for the observations. Classically, Gemini accepts proposals on a six month basis and recipients awarded with observing time complete their observations within that given semester. Large and Long Programs, on the other hand, provide more flexibility for long term research and last anywhere from one to three years. This extended time frame promotes collaboration across communities and produces significant and high-impact science. Here, we ask past and present Large and Long Programs to share a little about their research and experience with Gemini Observatory.

Validating K2’s Habitable and Rocky Planets with Adaptive Optics (AO) Imaging

1. Principal Investigator: Name and Affiliation?

Ian Crossfield, UC Santa Cruz,

2. How would you describe your Large and Long Program?

K2, the repurposed Kepler mission, offers a golden opportunity to find a wide diversity of new planetary systems orbiting bright stars. We are executing a large-scale collaboration using K2, the updated Kepler mission, to find these new systems around all stellar types in the K2 fields. We anticipate finding dozens of potential targets suitable for atmospheric studies with HST and JWST, and many more for which RV spectrosopy will further elucidate the low-mass planetary mass-radius relation. Over the next two years, we are observing system using AO (adaptive optics) and speckle imaging to eliminate false positives and continue validating our K2 planetary systems. Eventually, our program will measure the occurrence rates of planets across the sky, optimize target selection strategies for NASA’s TESS, and find exciting new targets for early-science JWST atmospheric characterization.

3. Why is Gemini best suited for this research?

Gemini AO and speckle imaging achieve diffraction-limited imaging with high sensitivity, allowing us to detect (or rule out) a large fraction of any stellar companions near our planet candidate host stars.

4. What has been the best part of your experience with the Large and Long Program?

The ability to obtain quality data without spending time & money for many additional trips to the observatory.

Get to Know Gemini! Alexis Acohido

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name: Alexis Acohido

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Iʻm the Media Relations and Local Outreach Assistant at Gemini North in Hilo, Hawaiʻi

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I manage Geminiʻs social media channels, including our Facebook, Twitter, and blog. I also assist in soliciting, editing and locally promoting Gemini press releases, web features, and articles. One of my favorite parts of my job is coordinating and participating in local outreach events and activities like our Journey Through the Universe  program, and finally Iʻm also a back up tour guide. I do a little bit of everything!

How long have you worked for Gemini?

 I started as an intern in August 2015, and was hired full-time in March 2016.

What drew you to this job?

love math and science and like talking to people about STEM subjects in a relaxed, easily digestible way. Iʻm also a huge advocate of science literacy, and this job allows me to be an advocate of science literacy.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is getting out into the community to hype up students and their families about astronomy! When students approach me in KTA telling me how much fun they had in our StarLab, it makes my heart happy.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

 I was born on the island of Oʻahu and grew up in Kalihi.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Hard work. Technical skills and knowledge come with time, but taking initiative and being a hard worker will make you stand out.

Why is astronomy important?

Astronomy is important because itʻs awe-inspiring. I could list off myriad technological advances and scientific discoveries, and while thatʻs very cool, it gets pretty abstract for the layperson. But the experience of taking in the Milky Way on a clear night at the Visitorʻs Information Station on Maunakea canʻt be beat and is something anyone could experience. Astronomy is also important for me, personally, because itʻs also a way of connecting my Hawaiian heritage to my passion for science.

What is your favorite movie?

 [Insert Hayao Miyazaki film here]

What is the latest book you have read?

I read a lot. The last book I read and really liked was The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. I like sci-fi, fantasy, and have read an embarrassing number of romance novels.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

The Fool – Ryn Weaver
Puberty 2 – Mitski
Our Own House – MisterWives

What is one hobby of yours?

I play lots of video games (mostly console) although Iʻve been known to make sparse Steam appearances on my friendsʻ lists.

Favorite beverage?

Non-alcoholic: Barqʻs rootbeer

Alcoholic: White Mountain Porter from Big Island Brewhaus

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Celebrate the Large and Long Program: Dark Energy Survey Supernova Cosmology

Celebrate the Large and Long Program! is a series of blog posts which showcase the high-impact science under the Large and Long Program of Gemini Observatory.

What is the Large and Long Program?

The Large and Long Program (LLP) is one of five observing modes Gemini offers to users of our telescopes. These five modes categorize projects based on length and weather conditions required for the observations. Classically, Gemini accepts proposals on a six month basis and recipients awarded with observing time complete their observations within that given semester. Large and Long Programs, on the other hand, provide more flexibility for long term research and last anywhere from one to three years. This extended time frame promotes collaboration across communities and produces significant and high-impact science. Here, we ask past and present Large and Long Programs to share a little about their research and experience with Gemini Observatory.

Dark Energy Survey (DES) Supernova Cosmology

1. Principal Investigator: Name and Affiliation?

Ryan Foley – University of California, Santa Cruz

2. How would you describe your Large and Long Program?

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is a large, multi-year program that is using the CTIO 4-m Blanco telescope to map a large portion of the sky and will further our understanding of dark energy.  About a quarter of the Dark Energy Survey’s time is devoted to repeated observations for a relatively small part of the sky (30 square degrees).  In these images, we search for new stars or supernovae.  A particular type of supernova, Type Ia, are precise distance indicators, and with them, we can map the expansion history of the universe.  With our Gemini Large and Long Program, we are making sure that the supernovae are Type Ia, measuring their redshifts, and improving their calibration.  Our program is critical to the reach the goals of the entire Dark Energy Survey.

3. Why is Gemini best suited for this research?

The supernovae that we are observing are very faint, and large-aperture telescopes, like Gemini, are necessary to observe them.  Supernovae also rise and fade in a matter of weeks, and change substantially in even a few days, so Gemini’s queue, which makes it incredibly nimble, provides the most efficient observations.

4. What has been the best part of your experience with the Large and Long Program?

The Gemini staff have been incredibly helpful and responsive.  We want to observe a supernova only a few days after discovery, which requires a lot of coordination to make sure the observation happens.  Everyone at Gemini has been extremely supportive and helpful.

Get to Know Gemini! John Bassett

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name: John Bassett

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Systems Engineer, at Gemini North, work applies to instruments and systems at both Gemini South and Gemini North.

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

Coordinate and track interfaces, requirements, design, and testing of instruments and systems for the telescopes.  Help to make sure that new instruments and system upgrades will perform as needed and expected.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

A year

What drew you to this job?

The opportunity to help with the exploration of the physics and the universe.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with the people here, seeing a system perform.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I grew up in Minnesota. Raised my family in Colorado.

Why is astronomy important?

It is the only viable way we have to explore the galaxy and universe.

What is your favorite movie?

Star Wars

What is the latest book you have read?

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

What is one hobby of yours?

Sailing with Na Hoa Holomoku
Flying with the Civil Air Patrol

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Celebrate the Large and Long Program: Followup of newly discovered Near-Earth objects from the NEOWISE survey

Celebrate the Large and Long Program! is a series of blog posts which showcase the high-impact science under the Large and Long Program of Gemini Observatory.

What is the Large and Long Program?

The Large and Long Program (LLP) is one of five observing modes Gemini offers to users of our telescopes. These five modes categorize projects based on length and weather conditions required for the observations. Classically, Gemini accepts proposals on a six month basis and recipients awarded with observing time complete their observations within that given semester. Large and Long Programs, on the other hand, provide more flexibility for long term research and last anywhere from one to three years. This extended time frame promotes collaboration across communities and produces significant and high-impact science. Here, we ask past and present Large and Long Programs to share a little about their research and experience with Gemini Observatory.

Followup of newly discovered Near-Earth objects from the NEOWISE survey

A Gemini observation of 2014 HQ124, a 400m NEO that passed within 3 Lunar distances of the Earth only six weeks after discovery by NEOWISE and followup by Gemini-South. Animated version here.

1. Principal Investigator: Name and Affiliation?

Joseph Masiero, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

2. How would you describe your Large and Long Program?

Our Large and Long Program focuses on rapid followup of near-Earth asteroids discovered by the NEOWISE space telescope survey.  NEOWISE is an all-sky thermal infrared survey, and excels at finding dark, large asteroids coming close to the Earth. But the NEOWISE survey doesn’t allow the telescope to go back and confirm its discoveries, so we need help from ground-based telescopes.  The southern hemisphere has very few telescopes dedicated to NEO followup, so our LLP provides us the critical ability to track down these newly found objects.  We use GMOS-South to acquire astrometry of NEO candidate objects, and thus improve the measured orbits for these objects.  This data help us better predict where the object will be in the future, and if it poses a hazard to Earth.

3. Why is Gemini best suited for this research?

Gemini offers us critical access to the southern hemisphere sky, and the ability to quickly take followup observations through its queue observing system.  We use these features to quickly track down objects before their positional uncertainty grows too large.  Gemini’s large aperture ensure that even our faintest targets can be observed in only a small amount of time.

4. What has been the best part of your experience with the Large and Long Program?

The best part of our experience with the LLP has been the rapid acquisition and dissemination of our time-critical data.  The end-to-end Gemini system ensures that we can submit triggers, get observations, download data from the Gemini archive, and submit measured positions to the Minor Planet Center quickly enough to ensure these newly discovered near-Earth objects are not lost.

More about NEOWISE can be found here.