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Using open-loop adaptive optics to measure black hole masses
Davor Krajnović (Oxford University) and collaborators have used the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) with the adaptive optics (AO) system ALTAIR in laser guide star mode on Gemini North to determine the masses of black holes at the centers of two early-type galaxies. The data allow measurement of stellar kinematics over the 3 x 3 square arcsecond field, which yield masses when compared with three-integral models. Significantly, the team did not close all the AO loops. While the galaxy nuclei are sufficiently bright and concentrated to use for low order (tip-tilt) corrections, they are not suitable for focus corrections, so the focus loop was left open. See http://www.gemini.edu/node/11340 for more information, or read the complete story in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The most distant object observed in the Universe
Gemini observed the most distant object in the Universe, Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) 090423, within minutes of its discovery by NASA's Swift satellite on April 23, 2009. Now the full story has appeared in Nature, in an article by Nial Tanvir (University of Leicester) and collaborators. The afterglow was detectable using the Near-Infrared Imager/Spectrograph (NIRI), but only at wavelengths greater than about 1.2 microns. Intervening hydrogen prevented detection at optical wavelengths. These observations provided a photometric redshift z=8.2, which is confirmed with additional data. The original press release is available at http://www.gemini.edu/furthestgrb
Gemini observations of the LCROSS Moon impact of the moon
The Gemini North telescope successfully observed the impact of LCROSS,
the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, using NIFS. The
Gemini team, led by Charles Woodward (University of Minnesota), is
analyzing these data along with observations from neighboring
observatories as part of the Mauna Kea LCROSS Spectroscopy Team. They
aim to understand the composition and conditions of this region of the
Moon's surface. See an image of the impact site at
Gemini OT and PIT moving to Java 6
For many years the Gemini Observing Tool (OT) and Phase I Tool (PIT) have been using version 1.5 of the Java language. In order to take advantage of many bug fixes and new features, these applications will be moving to the current version of Java (version 1.6 or Java 6) starting with the December 2009 OT. It will not be possible to use the OT auto-updater for this release, but otherwise this change should be transparent to most users since the required version of Java will continue to be packaged with the OT and PIT for Windows, Linux, and Solaris. On recent Intel Macs (Core 2 Duo) Java 6 is available for the Tiger, Leopard, and Snow Leopard versions of OS X. Older Intel Core Duo Macs will need to be upgraded to Snow Leopard to get Java 6. Unfortunately, Apple does not provide Java 6 for much older PowerPC Macs. Users who must run the OT or PIT on these machines should look into running Windows or Linux in emulation. If you have any questions or concerns about this upgrade, then please submit a help desk ticket and we will help you with a solution.