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Status and Availability

1 Feb 2013: NICI available for 2013A

NICI will be available for the first several weeks of semester 2013A, mounted on the side-looking ISS port. In mid-March NICI is expected to be removed to make way for Flamingos-2 commissioning. We plan to remount NICI on the up-looking port for June and July, after GSAOI is removed for the winter.

Note that NICI is not planned to be offered in 2013B.

1 March 2012 - Open Call for proposals: NICI available for 2012B

In 2012B NICI is offered for community use for both coronagraphic and non-coronagraphic imaging. PIs may now apply to make observations of targets on the previously-restricted Campaign list. However, TACs will be asked to avoid granting time to observations which approximate the observing mode and depth achieved by the Campaign, unless the science case specifically justifies why these new observations are necessary. All Campaign observations taken before May 2011 will become publicly available via the GSA on 24-November 2012.

3 Jan 2012 - Semester 2012A availability

NICI is currently off the telescope due to GEMS and Flamingos-2 commissioning. NICI is expected to be reinstalled on the side port in late March and available for approximately three months (through late June).

The phase II deadlines for NICI programs are the same as for all 12A programs.

15 June 2011 - New Filters and Dichroics available. NICI moved to side-port.

New filters and dichroics have been installed in NICI and are available for the 2011B semester. Please see the filter and dichroic tables for details.

NICI is now currently installed on the side-port of the Gemini Instrument Support Structure.

March 1, 2011 - Open Call for proposals: NICI available for 2011B

In 2011B NICI is offered for community use for both coronagraphic and non-coronagraphic imaging. The L band is available on a shared-risk basis. AO guiding on extended targets (up to 0.8") is available on a shared risk basis. For coronagraphic imaging the occulted target should also be the AO guide target.  

Gemini will attempt to install new filters in NICI before the beginning of the 2011B semester: two K-band methane filters and an L-band Ice filter. See the filter tables for details. At the time of this Call for Proposals, the availability of the new filters cannot be guaranteed, but we invite proposals on a shared-risk basis.

The NICI Planet-Finding Campaign continues during the current semester. This program has been awarded 500 hours over three years to search for planets around a sample of nearby stars. The restricted targets of the campaign are not available for NICI observations by other programs.  Note the restricted target list has been updated on March 17 2011 - 102 targets have been removed and 10 added.

Program and target requirements:  

Starting in Semester 2011A NICI observations may be proposed for conditions as poor as IQ70 and CC70. However, due to the greater risks involved and poorer performance delivered when observing in CC70, the following restrictions will be imposed for CC70 proposals:

  • Sensitivity and contrast requirements must be modest, for example deep searches for planetary-mass objects will not be accepted in CC70 conditions; 
  • Guide stars (AO and PWFS2) must be bright enough to handle cloudy conditions; 
  • Observations will not be made when there is thick patchy cloud (operators will be trained for safe operation of the instrument).

CC70 NICI proposals will be assessed by the instrument team before time is awarded and successful programs will be on a shared-risk basis.  CC50 proposals are not affected by these restrictions. 

Because tracking and low-order correction of the primary mirror is controlled by the telescope peripheral wavefront sensor (PWFS2), an off-axis P2 guide star is required in addition to the NICI AO guide star.

For information on the availability during the semester see the Sky Visibility.

February 25, 2011 - NICI Removed from Telescope for Corrective Maintenance

The NICI Dichroic Wheel mechanism suffered a failure on the night of Feb 18th. Subsequent tests demonstrated that the motor or detent mechanism within the NICI cryostat has become stuck in an unusable position. A warmup of the instrument has begun and the instrument will be moved from the telescope to the instrument lab for corrective maintenance on Feb 28th 2011. The most-optimistic schedule for repair will have NICI returned to the telescope and ready for queue operations on March 14th 2011. Any complications, such as the need to procure additional replacement parts, will delay the instrument's return to the telescope. On a positive note, the observatory is exploring the possibility of using this unexpected maintenance period to install new dichroics and filters, if time and resources allow.

NICI Campaign Science Team

The NICI Campaign Science Team was selected January 2006.The Gemini Director, with input from the ITAC and a panel of independent experts, has chosen an international team led by Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii to conduct a major campaign to directly image planets around nearby stars using NICI. The team includes members of the instrument team building NICI and a number of other collaborators from across the Gemini partnership. The NICI Campaign will be carried out over two to three years using 500 hours of observing time. With strong observational, technical, and theoretical expertise, Gemini expects that the NICI Campaign will significantly advance our understanding of the properties and frequencies of extrasolar planets using this exciting new instrument.

The NICI Campaign team includes: Michael Liu, PI, Mark Chun, co-PI (University of Hawaii), Laird Close, co-PI (University of Arizona), Doug Toomey (Mauna Kea Infrared), Christ Ftaclas, Zahed Wahhaj, Beth Biller, Evgenya Shkolnik (University of Hawaii), Adam Burrows (University of Arizona), Neill Reid (STScI), Niranjan Thatte, Matthias Tecza, Fraser Clarke (University of Oxford), Harvey Richer (University of British Columbia), Jane Gregorio Hetem, Elisabete De Gouveia Dal Pino (University of Sao Paolo), Sylvia Alencar (University of Minas Gerais), Pawel Artymowicz (University of Toronto), Doug Lin (University of California Santa Cruz), Shigeru Ida (Tokyo Institute of Technology), Alan Boss (DTM, Carnegie Institution of Washington), Mark Kuchner (NASA Goddard), Chris Tinney (University of New South Wales), Tom Hayward, Markus Hartung, Etienne Artigau (Gemini Observatory).

Reference NICI Campaign: Request for Proposals (RFP)

 

20 February 2007 - First Light

NICI arrived on Cerro Pachon in early January 2007. Commissioning in the lab began immediately,led by Tom Hayward (Gemini Instrument Scientist), Doug Toomey (Mauna Kea Infrared) and Mark Chun (Univ.of Hawaii). The instrument was installed on the telescope February 14, 2007 and saw "first light" on the sky February 20th. The AO loop was successfully closed the second night (the first sufferedfrom very poor seeing). An intensive, and largely successful, six night commissioning run concluded on February 27th. Commissioning and performance optimization has been continued until end of 2008.