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Gemini e-Newscast #43

Jan 18, 2013



In this release:
The Orion "Bullets" with GeMS/GSAOI
FLAMINGOS-2 update
Gemini Open House at the AAS meeting
Latest GeminiFocus released
AstroDay Chile
Congratulations to Gemini scientists

The Orion "Bullets" with GeMS/GSAOI

December's commissioning run of the Gemini Multi-conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS) with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) was a success, getting an unexpected start on some system verification programs. Observations of the “Bullets” in the Orion Nebula—gas outflowing from the star-forming region–are a beautiful example (Figure 1). Comparison with 2007 observations obtained with Altair and NIRI on Gemini North easily shows the motion of individual knots and demonstrates the larger field of view and improved performance of GeMS/GSAOI. Potential users can take advantage of the excellent system performance even in sub-optimal seeing; the natural seeing during these observations was about 1 arcsecond (optical), with delivered near-infrared resolution of 0.1arcseconds or better. The latest Gemini IRAF package beta release supports GSAOI data reduction. Additional images and information are available on the Gemini press release, which has been featured as an Astronomy Picture of the Day and on the websites of international news outlets including Nature.

Figure 1. GeMS/GSAOI image of the outskirts of the Orion Nebula, obtained on the night of December 28, 2012. The adaptive optics system corrects well and uniformly across the full 85 arcsecond field. Observations in [FeII], H2, and K(short)-continuum (2.093 microns) appear as blue, orange, and white, respectively.

FLAMINGOS-2 update

FLAMINGOS-2 (Figure 2) was aligned and assembled in December 2012, and the cool-down of the camera and MOS dewars started on January 4, 2013. Initial testing, after this first camera cool-down since the instrument began repairs in February 2012, shows that:

  • Mechanisms perform well and their repeatability is good (particularly the MOS wheel);
  • The detector functions fine. Dark current and readout noise are similar to past values, and the instrument’s internal background is within specification;
  • The gate valve baffle was not well positioned, and is being investigated further;
  • Optical alignment (after full disassembly of the optics barrels) is not yet within specification, and some aberrations are present (primarily coma). Another alignment iteration will take place in the next thermal cycle, scheduled in February 2013. A new method, with an optical CCD sampling the focal plane, will be used to converge on alignment;
  • A Lyot mask simulating the focal ratio from GeMS confirms that the image quality is good, indicating tremendous potential for future usage of both facility instruments together.
Assuming the remaining issues are fixed in the next thermal cycle, we will prepare to install FLAMINGOS-2 on the Gemini South telescope at the end of March.

Figure 2. FLAMINGOS-2 in the Cerro Pachón laboratory, now in the vertical position.

Gemini Open House at the AAS meeting

An informal Gemini Open House held at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, California, stimulated many lively discussions (Figure 3). Plans for visiting instruments and options for a rapid peer-reviewed time allocation process generated the most interest among participants. These conversations will continue at other partner astronomy meetings throughout this year, which Gemini Director Markus Kissler-Patig plans to attend. We do expect visiting instruments to be open to all soon, with plans for both the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) and TEXES at Gemini North during 2013B. Full details will be included in the regular call for proposals.

Figure 3. Gemini Open House at the AAS.

Latest GeminiFocus released

The latest issue of the GeminiFocus newsletter is posted. You should receive the printed table of contents from your National Gemini Office, which contains links to individual stories and the full electronic version. The Director’s message provides more information about plans for visiting instruments, and the DSSI team reports on their experience and shows some early results. Astronomers from across the Gemini partnership share science results, with a recurring theme of using integral field spectroscopy to elucidate relationships among star formation, accretion activity, and galaxy evolution.



AstroDay Chile

AstroDay Chile was held on Saturday, January 12, 2013 (Figure 4). This annual event provides an opportunity to share the fun and excitement of astronomy with our local Chilean community. Fifteen organizations from around Chile participated, including other professional observatories, tourist observatories, and academic institutions. The presentations in Gemini’s StarLab planetarium were extremely popular, as usual, and the more than 2,000 visitors were full of questions for the participating astronomers.

Figure 4. Gemini scienist Rodrigo Carrasco gets animated as he explains distances in the Universe.

Congratulations to Gemini scientists

Gemini scientists Richard McDermid and Bryan Miller share in the (UK) Royal Astronomical Society Group Achievement Award for 2013. They are both part of the SAURON project, which the award citation notes “was designed to understand the evolution of elliptical galaxies by using detailed observations of samples of nearby examples of these objects.” Congratulations to Richard and Bryan!


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