Get to Know Gemini! Jared Eckersley

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Jared Eckersley

What is your current position and at which telescope?

My current title is Web Application Developer and I am physically located at Gemini North in Hilo Hawai’i

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I am the subject matter expert for web technologies at Gemini Observatory. My day to day activities include writing new applications as the need arises, supporting existing web applications (inclusive of in house developed and third party applications), and providing support for the web stack infrastructure. A large part of my day is spent in front of a code editor. Being a web developer means that you have to know a lot of technologies. I spend most of my time developing in PHP, Python, SQL, JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

12+ years

What drew you to this job?

I was originally drawn to working for one of the observatories after I took a tour through Subaru telescope many years ago. I was amazed by the cutting edge technology and knew I wanted to be a part of it.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with a team of people that are actively adding to the knowledge of humanity.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I am originally from Greeley Colorado.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Communication. A lot of what I do involves listening to the needs and desires of people and figuring out how to make it a reality.

Why is astronomy important?

Are we alone in the Universe? Are there other habitable planets?

What is your favorite movie?

Star Wars! I remember standing in line at the Cooper Twin theatre in Greeley Colorado to see the movie when I was very young.

What is the latest book you have read?

I read “Before we go to bed” to my seven year old daughter last night – does that count? If not, the last grown up book I have read is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

1) Fat Freddys Drop – Based on a true story
2) Bob Marley – Legend
3) Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

What is one hobby of yours?

I really enjoy playing soccer. I play in a Sunday league called the Makule League. Makule is a Hawaiian word that roughly translates as old man.

Favorite beverage?

I really enjoy a good bourbon. My go to bourbon is Basil Hayden.

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Get to Know Gemini! Christy Cunningham

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Christy Cunningham

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am a Science Operations Specialist (SOS) at Gemini North.

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

1. Operating the telescope at night which entails slewing the telescope, setting up on guide stars, and fixing any problems that occur with the telescope.
2. Observing at night which includes determining what programs in the Queue are suitable to run in the current conditions, checking real-time data, and logging events.
3. Daytime data checks of the previous nights data and daytime calibrations to prepare the telescope for the night.
4. Project time, for me this includes helping with the installation of the new Toptica laser system.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I have been at Gemini for over a year.

What drew you to this job?

Originally I left the operator position at SMA to go to get my masters at UO. I missed the night owl hours, the amazing hiking Hawaii has to offer, and my friends in the astronomy community so I decided to join Gemini.

What is the best part of your job?

My favorite part is the variety of work I get to perform week to week ranging from night to day, from base to summit, and operations to engineering.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Communication. We have 10 different SOS members on the the team and it’s vital to know what is happening with the telescope and instruments between shifts and during the night between operations, science, and engineering staff.

Why is astronomy important?

Astronomy provides answers for the age old questions of who we are, why we are here, and what else is out there. It also enhances the development of new technology within other fields of science.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is 500 days of summer.

What is the latest book you have read?

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

I’m a rocker so the best of Albums for Blink-182, Slipknot, and Avenged Sevenfold.

What is one hobby of yours?

I’ve been fishing since I was a little girl and there’s nothing better than being on the boat or fly fishing for salmon!

Favorite beverage?

Sugar free redbull for the long nights running the telescope!

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Get to Know Gemini! Alysha Shugart

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Alysha Shugart

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am a Science Operations Specialist at Gemini South telescope.

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

I spend my time at Gemini switching between night and day shifts. I operate the observing queue at nights, work with classical and remote astronomers, and try to get the best data possible for the PIs. During the days I do data quality analysis, instrument checks, and write scripts and modify software code for the observatory’s infrastructure. I also volunteer as a diversity advocate for the AURA centers in Chile, working to improve the workplace culture and create an environment where someone from any background can find a place.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I have been here for three years in September.

What is the best part of your job?

One of the coolest things about this job is living in Chile. I always wanted to move outside of the U.S., and Chile has so many outdoor adventures. Traveling around South America in my free time has been incredible these past three years.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

 I was born in D.C., but I grew up and went to undergrad in Austin, Texas.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Problem solving.

Why is astronomy important?

To me, astronomy is the study of the history of everything. It’s the closest I can get to understanding existence (which is not close at all), and the grand scales of astronomy absolutely fascinate and astound me. It’s also very humbling.

What is your favorite movie?

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

What is the latest book you have read?

“Travels with Charley” – John Steinbeck

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

“Soon it will be cold enough” – Emancipator, “Greatest Hits” – John Denver, “Napalm and Silly Putty” – George Carlin.

What is one hobby of yours?

Traveling with surfers

Favorite beverage?

Beer

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

Gemini Observatory Explores Makahiki with the Boy Scouts

Gemini Observatory Explores Makahiki with the Boy Scouts

The rising constellation Makaliʻi (also known as the Pleiades) at sunset marks the beginning of the Hawaiian new year, known as Makahiki. Makahiki is a period of peace, relaxation, and harvest, punctuated with celebrations and ceremony. This approximately four to five month period, aligning with the rainy season, is coming to a close as warmer weather ushers in the spring. Gemini Observatory celebrated the end of Makahiki season with the Boy Scouts of America on April 14th during the Ellison Onizuka Day of Exploration Scout Makahiki at the Edith Kanakaʻole Tennis Stadium in Hilo. The Ellison Onizuka Day of Exploration is a celebration of scouting and an adventure through the wide world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The participating troops presented a wide range of STEM activities and workshops, from rocket launches and pinewood derby car races, to making glittery slime.

Public Information and Outreach staff were present at our Gemini Booth, sharing information about the diversity of careers at the observatories, passing out Legacy Images, and teaching about the different aspects of the telescope and the Universe beyond.

A Scout peers through a Galileoscope.

 

Public Information and Outreach intern Hannah Blomgren demonstrates how mirrors in the telescope can distort light, and how we use this to our advantage through adaptive optics.

Get to Know Gemini! Laure Catala

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Laure Catala

What is your current position and at which telescope?

AO (adaptive Optics) science fellow at Gemini North

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

ALTAIR is the AO system at Gemini North. The goal of an AO system is to improve the image quality delivered by the telescope by removing the aberrations caused by the atmosphere. As the AO fellow I am in charge of making sure that ALTAIR works properly. This involves keeping track of daily calibrations and faults that may occur during night observations in order to find, understand and solve the issue. In addition I am also working on longer term upgrades of ALTAIR in order to improve its performances.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I started at Gemini early December 2016, so I’ve been part of the team for a bit over a year.

What drew you to this job?

After a phd in atmospheric turbulence characterization and AO simulations I was looking for a postdoc that would allow me to put in practice my acquire knowledge in AO on a system currently running on a telescope and Gemini offered me this opportunity.

What is the best part of your job?

After theoretical work, getting my hands on a real system… which can also be the frustrating part as one cannot poke it as much as in simulation or in the lab since the system needs to be running every night. Though, it also makes things interesting on how to combine the research and development aspect with the constraints of a running facility instrument.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I grew up in the South-West of France, near Toulouse, fed on sun, amazing food, rugby and good wine

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

I’d probably say adaptability, creativity and ability to work in a team.

Why is astronomy important?

As any fundamental science, it provides for cutting edge technologies that wouldn’t be developed otherwise. Those will ultimately end up being used in everyday life devices (GPS, MRI, digital camera …etc). On a broader perspective, I believe it is inherent to human beings to push boundaries and try and grasp a better understanding of ourselves and our environment all the way to the big question of where did everything begin. Astronomy is one aspect of that fundamental search for more knowledge, which is also universally shared across time and cultures.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

One aspect of my thesis, which involved instrument development, was to characterize the atmospheric turbulence causing image distortion at the Sutherland Observatory (South Africa). I then used those measurements into simulations in order to assess the potential image quality improvement that an Adaptive Optics system could provide on the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT).

What are your current research interests?

My main research interests are related to AO systems. Those include, the effect of vibrations and how to compensate for them as well as PSF-reconstruction of AO images. I have also some interests in galaxy dynamics and the use of gravitational lensing to resolve and study high-redshift galaxies.

What is your favorite movie?

Tough one… I’ll go for “La fille sur le Pont”, beautiful black and white movie from Patrice Leconte, definitely one of my all time favourite.

What is the latest book you have read?

Well I always have several ones going. At the moment I’m busy with “Petit Pays” by Gael Faye, “Barbarian Days” by William Finnegan and “The Nix” by Nathan Hill.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Only 3 is a hard choice, but I guess I’ll go for:

“Hombre et Lumiere” by Claude Nougaro… I grew up listening to him, can’t go anywhere without some of his songs.

“” Fela Kuti… I definitely need jazz, very difficult to pick 1 album but I’ll go for one that covers African music as well.

“My Generation” The Who, because one needs some great classic rock too.

What is one hobby of yours?

The latest on a long list is outrigger Hawaiian canoe.

Favorite beverage?

Well, it depends on circumstances, but coffee and wine will be my 2 liquids of choice!

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!