Gemini Observatory Press Releases

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Gemini Public Information and Outreach Office
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For Release on January 18, 2002

Gemini Observatory Celebrates Historic First for Observational Astronomy

En Español

From high atop remote mountains in Chile and Hawaii, the Gemini Observatory gives astronomers access to the entire universe with twin state-of-the-art 8-meter telescopes. Today, Gemini South, the second of the Gemini telescopes to look skyward, was dedicated on its perch on Cerro Pachón in the Chilean Andes.

"About a month ago, we reached a milestone when both Gemini North and Gemini South made observations at the same time but in parts of the sky inaccessible to each other," said Gemini Director Dr. Matt Mountain. "Today's dedication celebrates a decade of work by hundreds of people to build these two telescopes that have now become one observatory."

The Gemini telescopes are located on both sides of the equator to provide complete sky coverage for astronomers within the seven-country Gemini partnership. The partnership includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, with each partner receiving research time in proportion to its level of funding for Gemini.

Today's dedication of the Gemini South telescope brought together over 200 representatives from the Gemini partnership who journeyed up the steep, dusty, dirt road for the ceremony. Included in the ceremony were Chile's President Sr. Ricardo Lagos and speakers from each of the funding agencies that fund the observatory.

Astronomers from around the world have already sampled Gemini's capabilities with discoveries from Gemini North on Mauna Kea. These include surprising conditions surrounding a supermassive black hole at the core of an active galaxy and the gas and dust encircling stars where early planetary systems might be forming. "With Gemini's fantastic resolution and light gathering power, we are now able to study dusty protoplanetary disks in remarkable detail, to trace the first steps of planetary birth. Our observations at Gemini utilized a technology called adaptive optics that removes distortions caused by turbulence in our atmosphere," reported Dr. Ray Jayawardhana of the University of California, Berkeley at the 199th American Astronomical Society Conference in Washington DC in early January, 2002.

Other early observations from Gemini have revealed the center of our Milky Way galaxy in unprecedented detail, unexpected conditions at the core of a distant active galaxy, the closest brown dwarf (or failed star) ever imaged around a sun-like star, and a spectacular image dubbed "the perfect spiral galaxy". More about these findings and others can be found at the "Press Release" page.

Dramatic early science images from Gemini South, as well as images of the observatory facility and dedication ceremony, are available at the Gemini South Dedication page. Watch this web site for the latest findings from Gemini and additional media resources from Gemini.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration that has built two identical 8-meter telescopes. The telescopes are located at Mauna Kea, Hawaii (Gemini North) and Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South), and hence provide full coverage of both hemispheres of the sky. Both telescopes incorporate new technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors under active control to collect and focus both optical and infrared radiation from space. Both Gemini North and Gemini South have begun science operations.

The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in each partner country with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocates observing time in proportion to each country's contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and the Brazilian Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). The Observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.


Peter Michaud / / January 18, 2002