General Announcement

Gemini Observatory is pleased to announce, as the culmination of the "Aspen Process", several exciting opportunities to participate in the Gemini instrument program in 2004. This activity represents the first steps in developing the next generation of advanced instrumentation for the Observatory and is intended to greatly augment the scientific capabilities at Gemini over the next 5-10 years. This web page provides general information about these instruments, links to a variety of information including links to the Aspen Science Report, various Announcements of Opportunities (AO's) to participate in design and/or feasibility studies for new instruments, and general information about the process used to define these new instruments. Additional background information will be available in the next Gemini Newsletter (released in December), though prospective instrument builders should find all the information they need through this set of web pages to determine if they would like to participate in this program. If you cannot find the information you seek, please contact Doug Simons (dsimons@gemini.edu) directly for additional information or clarification about Gemini's next-generation instrument development program.

Science Planned with New Instruments

The "Aspen Process" was an extensive effort to canvas the Gemini user community to determine which scientific avenues of research the Observatory's instrument program should support over the next 5-10 years. It is a key step in the strategic planning for the Observatory and, in collaboration with Gemini's partner National Offices, involved hundreds or astronomers worldwide during late 2002 and much of 2003. One of the most important products of this process was the report "Scientific Horizons at the Gemini Observatory: Exploring A Universe of Matter, Energy, and Life". This report articulates the "big questions" in astronomy that were identified in the Aspen workshop, including:

  • How do galaxies form?
  • What is the nature of dark matter on galactic scales?
  • What is the relationship between super-massive black holes and galaxies?
  • What is dark energy?
  • How did the cosmic "dark age" end?
  • How common are extra-solar planets, including Earth-like planets?
  • How do star and planetary systems form?
  • How do stars process elements into the chemical building blocks of life?
Matter, Life, & Energy

The Aspen science report provides an abundance of background science material behind these questions and maps them into proposed new capabilities at Gemini needed to help answer them. An Executive Summary of the Aspen science report is available now, and a final version of the entire science report will be available in early 2004.

Since the Aspen Workshop in June 2003, science, cost, programmatic, and technical issues for the potential new instrumentation that emerged from the Workshop were discussed during the October 2003 Gemini Science Committee (GSC) meeting. The GSC in turn recommended a core instrument set, from among the variety identified in Aspen, to the Gemini Director and Board for consideration during the November 2003 Board meeting. The output of that meeting, which is consistent with the recommendation made by the GSC, is reflected in the instrument set summarized below. This instrument set, with a total estimated cost of ~$70M, will enable the most broadly supported science missions discussed in Aspen, and represents an impressive array of new capabilities for our Community.

New Instrument Summary

In order to meet the scientific aspirations of our Community, as expressed through the Aspen Process, the GSC and Gemini Board recommended instrumentation development on multiple fronts. To quote directly from the Board:

"The Board endorses with enthusiasm the staged approach the Observatory has outlined for realizing the recommendations of future instrumentation formulated by the GSC. Specifically, the Board urges the Observatory to proceed as soon as possible with design studies for the Extreme AO Coronagraph and the High Resolution NIR spectrometer according to the schedule proposed by Observatory staff.

The Board also encourages the Observatory to launch feasibility studies for the Wide Field Fiber-fed Optical MOS and the Ground Layer AO system, consistent with the GSC's recommendation. The Board notes that the GSC differentiated between these two instrument concepts in terms of scientific priority, suggesting that the scientific goals of the WFMOS are potentially more extensive. In view of the broad context of the scientific evolution of the observatory, and considering the considerable technical risks, the Board agrees that the scientific and technical feasibilities of both instruments need to be more thoroughly demonstrated. The Board further requests that more than one feasibility study be carried out for each instrument concept. The Board urges the Director to identify and utilize the resources necessary to enable an in-house systems evaluation of both instruments and of all submitted feasibility studies."

As a result the Observatory is now starting design studies for:

  • Extreme Adaptive Optics Coronagraph (ExAOC)
  • High Resolution Near Infrared Spectrograph (HRNIRS)

In addition, the Observatory is beginning feasibility studies for:

  • Wide Field Fiber Fed Optical Multi-object Spectrometer (WFMOS)
  • Ground Layer Adaptive Optics System (GLAO)

Additional information about the relative scientific rankings of the instruments listed above and other components of Gemini's new development program are available as well.

Basic performance requirements for these instruments are summarized below.


Wavelength Range: 0.9 - 2.5 µm

Field of View: ~3 arcsec

Spatial Sampling: 0.02" IFU sampling or 0.01" imaging

Spectral Resolution: R ~ 300 for IFU option and R ~ 100 for imaging option

1-shot wavelength coverage: J, H, or K

Comments: The use of either an IFU or direct multi-band imaging (e.g., dual channel) should be among the design options considered. A contrast ratio of ~107 within a 0.1-1.5" radius of the central target is needed to meet this instrument's science objectives. The instrument should also include a polarimetry mode, noting the availability of the facility polarization unit GPOL for design study purposes.

Wavelength Range: 1.1 - 5.0 µm

Field of View: 2 arcmin (MOS mode)

Spatial Sampling: 0.2" pixels (seeing limited mode) or 0.05" pixels (MCAO-MOS mode)

Spectral Resolution: 70,000 (single slit) and 30,000 (MOS)

Primary Modes:

  • Single slit cross-dispersed seeing limited spectrometer with R ~ 70,000 spectral resolution and providing 1-shot wavelength coverage of as much of the J+H+K or L+M windows as possible.
  • Multi-object MCAO fed cross dispersed spectrometer sampling targets across a 2 arcmin field with ~3 arcsec long slits and R ~ 30,000 spectral resolution. The 1-shot wavelength coverage should balance against detector format, science applications, number of targets in the field, etc. The instrument should be capable of recording simultaneous spectra of at least 15 targets at a time (30 goal).

Comments: Spectrometer includes a polarimetry mode, noting the availability of the facility polarization unit GPOL for design study purposes. Also includes an absorption cell to be used as a precision wavelength fiducial in the R~70,000 mode.

Wavelength Range: 0.39 -1.0 µm

Field of View: ~1.5 deg

Spatial Sampling: ~1 arcsec fiber entrance

Spectral Resolution: R ~ 1000 - 30,000

1-shot wavelength coverage: 0.4 µm (lowest resolution mode)

Simultaneous stellar targets: 4000-5000

Comments: Fiber fed prime focus instrument capable of enormous multiplex gains by independently positioning fibers across a large prime focus field on Gemini. Similar to the KAOS concept.

Wavelength Range: system transmits a corrected beam from ~0.6 – 2.5 µm

Field of View: ~10 arcmin diameter

Delivered PSF FWHM: ~0.2 arcsec, J-band, V = 0.5" seeing. If modeling by study teams indicates this specification is not feasible (e.g. because of the vertical distribution of turbulence), the emphasis on the design should be put on system field of view instead of angular resolution.

PSF FWHM Uniformity: ~10 mas rms across 10 arcmin field of view, J-band, for V = 0.5" seeing

Comments: Particular points to be addressed in this study include:

  • Use of a deformable secondary mirror vs a dedicated AO optical relay
  • Optimum conjugation altitude, variable or fixed.
  • Trade between field of view and angular resolution
  • Possibility of reconfiguration of the instrument to trade resolution for field of view depending on the science program
  • Use of Laser Guide Stars vs Natural Guide Stars
  • Use of Rayleigh vs Sodium Guide Star


Announcements of Opportunity

Consistent with the above summary of new instruments, Announcements of Opportunities are available now for the following development work:

General information about how instruments are developed within Gemini's instrument program is available and prospective instrument builders are encouraged to review this information as part of the process of determining if they would like to participate. We expect to fund a total of 8 studies, two for each of the instruments identified above. The intent of the design studies is to develop the instrument concepts to the point that firm fixed price contracts to fabricate them can be pursued. These will be formally competed against 2 teams for the coronagraph and NIR spectrometer. The intent of the feasibility studies is to establish (1) the technical feasibility of the instruments, (2) develop telescope impact assessments, (3) refine cost estimates, and (4) verify the science case for these instruments (e.g., through additional modeling). This extra step in the development of the Wide Field Fiber Fed Optical MOS and GLAO system is felt necessary, given the anticipated high costs and risks associated with these instruments. All of this activity is planned to provide the Observatory, around the end of 2004, with much better cost and performance estimates than are available now, which is key information needed before final commitments can be made to build any of these instruments.

Instrument teams interested in submitting a proposal for one or more of the design and feasibility studies mentioned above should send a Letter of Intent to Gemini's contract manager, Andy Flach, by 15 January 2004. Requests for Proposals (RfP) will be sent to any instrument builder that submits a Letter of Intent, which will include detailed instructions for submitting a proposal to Gemini to conduct design or feasibility studies. Interested teams should not work on proposals until receiving specific instructions through the RfPs and should not submit proposals in response to this Announcement of Opportunity.