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Gemini South 2011A Science Operations

Last week Gemini passed a major milestone with the beginning of on-sky engineering testing of the Gemini South 50-watt laser.  This event marks the start of commissioning for the Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS).  The plans through the first half of 2011 are intense, with commissioning runs scheduled to occur in one-week blocks from February to May of 2011A, as shown on the Gemini South telescope schedule.   This commissioning depends critically on taking advantage of the better weather season on Cerro Pachon, so it is the top priority at Gemini South for 2011A, as agreed by the observatory and the Gemini Board.

This commissioning time was built into the 2011A semester schedule. The engineering runs are scheduled in bright time, leaving dark time for GMOS programs that require it.  However, because commissioning is inherently uncertain, the dates of some commissioning runs could change.  The engineering and science staff at Gemini South will work closely together to minimize the impact on science users as much as possible. 

The overarching goal for the coming semester at Gemini South is to proceed with GeMS commissioning during the critical southern hemisphere summer and fall months, ultimately to provide GeMS for community use next year.  At the same time, we take our commitment to the science programs accepted for the 2011A semester seriously.  As we go forward with this ground-breaking and extremely challenging endeavor, we will aim to maintain the high program completion rates that our community has come to expect.

--Nancy Levenson