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.

Get to Know Gemini! Beverley Lidyoff

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: Beverley Lidyoff

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am currently the Gemini North Administration & Facilities Manager

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

I am responsible for health and well-being of our facilities, as well as facilitating the full environment of my staff, to ensure we provide our customers a World-class experience in our facility. I also coach and mentor my team to inspire continued growth and higher self-confidence.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

A little over 3 years

What drew you to this job?

The opportunity to manage a facility and team in a scholastic, not for-profit environment.

What is the best part of your job?

Working and interacting with staff members from all over the world.

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

I am originally from Southern California where I lived in El Segundo, a wonderful town hidden between LAX and Manhattan beach, as well as Redondo Beach & Torrance.

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

Active listening mixed with curiosity and forward thinking.

Why is astronomy important?

We live in a vast universe with a lot of amazing energy around us and Astronomy helps us to keep track of time and events.

What is your favorite movie?

I don’t have a favorite movie, but I do enjoy watching House of Cards on Netflix and action packed movies.

What is the latest book you have read?

Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

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

Sarah McLachlan – Afterglow
Jennifer Lopez – Dance Again – the Hits
Pink – Greatest Hits….So Far!!!

What is one hobby of yours?

Golf

Favorite beverage?

Iced Tea

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: Characterization of Active Main-Belt Comets and Main-Belt Comet Nuclei

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.

Observational Characterization of Active Main-Belt Comets and Main-Belt Comet Nuclei

The newly reactivated main-belt comet 238P/Read observed by Gemini-N on 2016-08-06

1. Principal Investigator: Name and Affiliation?

Henry Hsieh (Planetary Science Institute; Academia Sinica)

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

Main-belt comets are a subset of the class of active asteroids, which are objects with asteroidal orbits but which exhibit comet-like mass loss or activity in the form of a dust coma or dust tail, for example. This mass loss can arise for various reasons such as a recent impact by another asteroid or an asteroid spinning so fast that material on its surface, or even the entire asteroid, becomes unstable and is flung into space.  In the case of main-belt comets, their observed mass loss is believed to be due to sublimation of near-surface ice which then ejects dust into space, i.e., the same mechanism that causes activity on classical comets.  Unlike classical comets, however, which originate in the cold outer solar system, main-belt comets orbit in the main asteroid belt and so the fact that they have been able to preserve ice near their surfaces in such a warm location essentially over the age of the solar system is surprising.  They also present an intriguing opportunity to probe hypotheses that icy objects from the asteroid belt played a significant role in the delivery of water to the early Earth, and also trace the volatile ice content of the inner solar system in general. In this way, main-belt comet research may provide crucial insights into the formation of our solar system and the rise of life both here in our own solar system and potentially elsewhere. Using main-belt comets to trace volatile material in the solar system requires a detailed understanding of their physical characteristics and activity in order to constrain thermal and dynamical evolution models, and estimating the total abundance and distribution of icy main-belt objects, both active and inactive.  This Gemini Large and Long Program aims to obtain regular monitoring observations of eight of the currently known main-belt comets, seven of which are expected to be active between 2016 and 2019, in order to study the characteristics of both their activity and nuclei, allowing comparisons to previous occurrences of activity for a particular objects, to each other, and to other asteroids and comets.  This program is part of a larger observational program to characterize main-belt comets over the next three years utilizing several other telescopes around the world, including the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the Discovery Channel Telescope, and the Magellan Telescopes.

3. Why is Gemini best suited for this research?

Gemini’s queue-scheduled observing mode is ideally suited for the short series of observations we need to perform over long periods of time to monitor activity evolution over an object’s entire active period (~1-2 years) or determining an object’s phase function (which requires photometry to be measured for an object over a range of phase angles, which typically take several months to vary enough to provide good sampling of the phase function).  The small sizes of most main-belt comet nuclei and their often weak activity also makes the 8-m Gemini telescopes ideal for this program given their ability to obtain high-quality images of extremely faint objects.  Notably, Gemini-N actually made the key discovery of one of the first three main-belt comets to be found that ultimately led to their recognition as a new type of comet.

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

This Gemini LLP just began in August 2016 at the start of the 2016B semester, but we have already been able to announce the third confirmed reactivation of main-belt comet 238P/Read, whose activity we will continue to monitor as part of this program and use to understand how the comet’s activity has changed over its last three active periods for which we now have data.

 

Photos of LLP team members: [top row, left to right] Henry Hsieh, Planetary Science Institute; Nick Moskovitz, Lowell Observatory; Chad Trujillo, Northern Arizona University; [bottom row, left to right] Matthew Knight, University of Maryland; Masateru Ishiguro, Seoul National University; Scott Sheppard, Carnegie Institution of Washington

Get to Know Gemini! – Fernanda Urrutia

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:  Fernanda Urrutia

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Communication & Outreach Specialist / Gemini South

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

Foster the communication with the user and the general public. Support all the Public Information and Outreach (PIO) activities.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

9 months

What drew you to this job?

I like to work at an observatory and  convey science to the public, because here I can combines my interest and experience in astronomy with my passion to spread astronomy with the general public and especially children.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with children and see their impressed faces when I show some images of the Universe.  Be all the time thinking and creating new projects and activities to catch the attention of the users and the public.

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

Santiago, Chile

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

As a PIO member you have to know how to work with people and specially with children.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

I studied Tidal Dwarf Galaxies, it are small galaxies which are formed in the tip of the tidal tails after an interaction between galaxies. This types of galaxies are very unusual in the universe and one of the main characteristic is that they don’t have Dark Matter to difference of traditional galaxies.

What is your favorite movie?

I don’t have a favorite movie, but recently I watch “Intouchables” and I recommend it 100%

What is the latest book you have read?

The Book Thief

What is one hobby of yours?

Running

Favorite beverage?

Pisco sour and Wine

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

Gemini Shoots Jupiter a Quick Look

Gemini Shoots Jupiter a Quick Look

NASAʻs Juno Spacecraft Mission

NASA’s Juno spacecraft has been in orbit around Jupiter a bit over a year, providing unprecedented views of the largest planet in our Solar System. Jupiter is named after the Roman deity that ruled over the Roman gods. In Roman mythology, Juno was Jupiter’s wife. It’s a fitting name for a NASA spacecraft that is designed to reveal the secrets of the giant planet. Juno’s suite of instruments are designed to probe how Jupiter formed and explore the planet’s internal structure and composition below the cloud tops and storms.

Juno is on an elliptical orbit that comes in very close to the planet and its intense radiated environment moving from pole to pole to study Jupiter’s internal structure, magnetic field, and composition. Every 53 days, the spacecraft repeats this swan dive with its instruments locked onto Jupiter. JunoCam, the outreach imager on the spacecraft, then beams stunning images back to Earth. With Juno’s orbit and JunoCam’s wide field-of- view, the mission is awarding us with never-before-seen views of the cloud tops and the polar regions. On July 10th, Juno zoomed across the giant red spot on Jupiter, snapping this image below.

Enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot snapped by Juno and processed by citizen scientist Gerald Eichstädt.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt.

 

Gemini Points Juno Spacecraft Toward Discovery

In support of the mission, astronomers around the world have been organizing ground-based campaigns to monitor Jupiter before, during, and after Juno’s closest approaches to give wider context for Juno’s observations. Gemini images provide a high-resolution spatial context for some of the instrument suite observations. From the ground, it’s also possible to observe wavelengths and regions of the planet not available to Juno’s instruments.  Glenn Orton, a co-investigator on the Juno mission at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is leading a program using the Gemini North Telescope to do just this.

Combining the Altair natural guide star adaptive optics system with the Near Infra-Red Imager (NIRI) f/32 camera on the Gemini North telescope high atop Hawai‘i Island’s Maunakea, Gemini Observatory has been busy taking crisp full disk images of Jupiter. These images, made with multiple filters to look at the composition of the cloud tops, and different cloud bands across the planet, as well as at the longitudes on the gas giant, reveal what will be beneath Juno during its close encounters.

A multi-wavelength near infrared view of Jupiter combining data from Gemini Northʻs Altair and NIRI. Photo credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/JPL-Caltech/NASA.

 

Taking a Quick Look at Jupiter

The Jupiter program has quickly become one of the favorite targets to observe for the Gemini North night crew because of the stunning views in the raw data previews coming from NIRI. So what do the Gemini North observers and operators who observe this program see? NIRI takes an image, writes the data to disk, which then pops up on the Gemini Observatory quick look tool. The quick look tool checks the observations taken in real time. The observers later do deeper checks using nighttime analysis scripts to view the raw data being taken on the telescope, but the quick look tool provides the first view of the science data. Most of the quick look views are not that interesting, maybe showing a star field or a bright line showing the collected spectrum, but with this Jupiter monitoring program, several of the quick look images are stunning.

Here are two screenshots taken a few months ago while observing Glenn’s Jupiter program. In this raw image of a single filter, the giant planet looks positively regal with its characteristic red spot ‘glowing’ in the scaling and color scheme of the quick look graphical user interface (GUI). Even in the raw data, the quick look view shows the complexity of Jupiter’s belts and storm systems.

A view of Jupiter from the Gemini North quick look tool. Image credit: Jen Miller/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF.

A view of Jupiter in a different near infrared filter from the Gemini North quick look tool. Image credit: Jen Miller/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF.

You can learn about and follow the Juno spacecraft mission on its website and learn more about Glennʻs observing program on our webpage.