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!

Journey Through the Universe 2018

Journey Through the Universe

Gemini’s flagship astronomy education and outreach program, Journey Through the Universe (Journey), celebrated a successful 14th year with a week of educational programming from March 5-9.

“Journey Through the Universe would not succeed without the help of our community partners and sponsors, including the Department of Education, Hawai’i Island business community, Maunakea Observatories, and NASA, among many others,” said Janice Harvey, Journey Through the Universe program coordinator. “Their continued support is a demonstration of their commitment to our community and the future of science education for Hawai’i students.”

Day 1 – Monday, March 5th

Astronomy Educator’s Reception at the Hilo Yacht Club

The Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce (HICC) and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai’i (JCCIH) hosted a celebration for the astronomy community, the Department of Education and the business community. This annual event included Hilo-Waiākea/Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa (KKP) Complex Area Superintendent Keone Farias, Journey Through the Universe (Journey) alumnus Devin Chu, and Gemini Observatory director Laura Ferrarese as featured guest speakers.

UCLA Astronomy PhD student (and Hilo High alumnus!) Devin Chu shares how the Journey program was influential in his life.

Gemini Observatory Journey Team Leader, Janice Harvey (left) and Superintendend of the Hilo/Waiākea and Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa Complex Areas Keone Farias (right).

Hilo High School Career Panel

Journey Astronomy Educators visited classrooms in the Hilo-Waiākea/Kaʻū-Keaʻau-Pāhoa (KKP) Complexes, as well as schools in Honokaʻa and Waimea on Hawaiʻi Island. Along with classroom visits, several observatory professionals held a panel at Waiākea and Hilo High schools to discuss the diverse careers available at an observatory.

Left to right: Gemini Safety Manager John Vierra, UCLA Astronomy PhD student, Devin Chu, Gemini Interim Director Laura Ferrarese, Astrobiology PhD student Niki Thomas, W. M. Keck Observatory Software Engineer Liz Chock, and W. M. Keck Observatory Chief of Operations Rich Matsuda. Both John and Devin are Hilo High alumni!

Classroom Visits

Our Public Information and Outreach department followed Geminiʻs Science Operation Specialist Jocelyn Ferrera and Science Fellow Matt Taylor to Waiākea Elementary School. The pair taught classes of 4th graders about constellations, stories behind Orion and the Big Dipper, then built the constellations in 3D and observed them from different perspectives.

Jocelyn Ferrera (left) and Matt Taylor place students in order to construct 3D constellations, iterating how perspective affects how constellations appear on Earth.

Day 2 – Tuesday, March 6th

Classroom Visits

Journey educators (along with reporting crew from the Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald) followed former Gemini Public Information and Outreach intern and current NASA Solar System Ambassador Sylvia Kowalski to Waiākeawaena Elementary School. Kowalski taught the 3rd grade classes how to construct paper rockets – engineered using tape and plastic straws. Students also learned how rockets work, building their understanding of how humans get to space!

Third-graders use their breath as fuel to launch their handmade paper rockets at Waiākeawaena Elementary School in Hilo. Credit: Hollyn Johnson/Tribune-Herald

PlutoPalooza

This yearʻs Journey program included NASAʻs PlutoPalooza team. In July 2015, New Horizons reached dwarf-planet Pluto and captured incredible images, allowing us to study Pluto in stunning detail. The community was given a rare opportunity to meet the men and women who captured Plutoʻs “heart” with amazing images, personal stories, and fascinating science!

On Tuesday morning, the team met over 60 third graders at ʻImiloa Astronomy Center to explore Pluto and the features discovered by New Horizons during its flyby. That evening, the team gave a free, public talk at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

The PlutoPalooza team Veronica Bray, Alice Bowman, Marc Buie, and Randy Monroe (left to right) attended the Astronomy Educatorʻs Reception at the Hilo Yacht Club.

Hilo High School Career Panel

Gemini Web Architect Jason Kalawe (standing), shares his career path and advice with Hilo High School students. This panel also included (left to right) East Asia Observatoryʻs Acting Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey, Astrobiology PhD student Niki Thomas, UCLA Astronomy PhD student Devin Chu, and Gemini Safety Manager John Vierra (not pictured).

Day 3 – Wednesday, March 7th

Classroom Visits

We followed more of Geminiʻs Public Information and Outreach department into the classroom. Gemini Media Relations and Local Outreach assistant, Alexis Acohido, showed 7th graders at Waiākea Intermediate School the layers of a space suit, and explained the importance of each in protecting astronauts.

Acohido explains one of the many layers of a spacesuit and demonstrates how an astronaut “gets dressed” for work.

Jasmin Silva, Media Relations and Outreach intern, taught Waiākea High Schoolʻs AP Environmental Science class about exoplanet detection methods, including mathematical tools to determine the size of a planet, and the difficulty behind directly imaging planets that are outside of our Solar System.

Day 4 – Thursday, March 8th

Classroom Visits

Gemini Northʻs Safety Manager, John Vierra, visited Waiākeawaena Elementary School to teach students about our home, the Solar System. Vierra taught them about each planet and their place in the Solar System, leading to the construction of a “pocket Solar System,” which demonstrates the scale of the distance between the planets.

Students, representing planets, line up to demonstrate the order of celestial bodies in our Solar System.

Day 5 – Friday, March 9th

Classroom Visits

On the final day of this yearʻs Journey week, we again followed more of the Public Information and Outreach department into the classroom. Christine Copes, Outreach Assistant and Hannah Blomgren, Media Relations and Outreach intern, demonstrate the timeline of the universe as scaled down to one calendar year. Students guess when the events occurred by placing them on the calendar, later explained by Blomgren.

Blomgren created this activity, aiming to teach important events that occurred as the universe formed and evolved, and to illustrate how brief human existence is in the scheme of time.

Copes (blue shirt) and Blomgren assist students who are determining when pivotal astronomical and biological events happened on a cosmic timescale.

Get To Know Gemini! Janice Harvey

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:  Janice Harvey

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I have been working in the Public Information and Outreach (PIO) Department at Gemini North for 17 years, currently the Community Outreach & Education Programs Leader.

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

I  manage and coordinate local community outreach for Gemini North, including the flagship Journey Through the Universe program. I also oversee all local outreach events, coordinate and facilitate presentations for the local community, attend and participate in community events. I assist and manage staff and interns in our PIO department.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

I have worked in the Gemini PIO department for 17 years. What a job!

What drew you to this job?

At the time I was hired, the objective of the position was to reach out to the community and provide educational opportunities in astronomy to both the public and the Department of Education. I have always been passionate about education and this was a natural fit for me.

What is the best part of your job?

You’ll often hear me tell others that I truly have the best job in the world. Having the opportunity to share the wonders of our universe with others is extremely fulfilling. I love the Journey Through the Universe program which brings astronomers/scientists/engineers into the classroom. The precious moments I have experienced over the years when a student has that aha moment – priceless!

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

I was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. My mother was a twin and she and her brother exchanged kids as we grew up, so I lived many summers on the farm in Olpe, Kansas, population 546.

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

By far, the most important skill is learning how to communicate with others in the most effective way.

Why is astronomy important?

It is my belief that we all have a personal responsibility to make good decisions for the betterment of all.   Astronomy provides us with a clearer understanding of our past, present and future. And, if we know there is even a faint possibility of life beyond earth, let’s find out!

What is your favorite movie?

ET. I saw it at a drive-in and will remember that night forever!

What is the latest book you have read?

Currently reading a Man called Ove.

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

1) R&B/Soul
2) Classical
3) Bruno Mars/Michael Jackson

What is one hobby of yours?

Taking care of my plants and orchids.   

Favorite beverage?

Martini on the rocks

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! David Sanmartim

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:  David Sanmartim

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Science Fellow at Gemini South

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

As a Science Fellow, half of my time is dedicated to support duties: I carry out observations a couple of nights during the year, construct nightly observing plans, act as a day astronomer and support our PIs with their projects. The other half of my time I work on my personal research.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

Over a year

What drew you to this job?

First thing is that Gemini is one of the largest and best ground-based observatories in the entire world. So be part of Gemini scientific staff is a great honor. Second thing is that as a user of Gemini facilities, I have always been curious about all the “invisible” work behind a large observatory. So in my actual job I saw a great opportunity to learn about and get involved in the operation of a world class telescope and to have a good fraction (half) of time to do my research.

What is the best part of your job?

Hard to say just one, but I really enjoy doing observations. It’s one of my favorite duties here at Gemini. It’s very exciting to operate the telescope instruments and get in touch with the real data of a lot of different and inspiring scientific projects. Another aspect I really enjoy is that we help astronomers to optimize their programs and to get the best data that our telescope can provide. It’s very rewarding and motivating when we see that our job is important to other people and science.

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

I was born in Porto Alegre, which is the biggest city of the southern Brazil, and there I also got my PhD degree. However, I grew up in a small town called Candelária, which is 125 miles from Porto Alegre

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

The main skill is the technical and observational experience, but the most import quality, in my opinion, is to be curious. It keeps the mind open to learn something new every single day and improve our work.

Why is astronomy important?

I believe all the basic research fields are very important, because they represent the necessary groundwork for all the human development and technological advances. Astronomy has a very fundamental role in this scenario, enabling and fostering in many ways the technological development in our modern society. However, astronomy is even more important than that, since it helps us to understand who we are in the cosmos, how big it is and how amazing are the mysteries we still don’t know about it and about ourselves. Astronomy is also very important, especially nowadays, because it brings people across the world and entire nations to work together in cooperation.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

I have studied the distribution of post-starburst stellar populations, the star formation history and the gas/stellar kinematics in the central region of a type of active galactic nucleus (AGN) called Post-Starburst Quasars. These galaxies are an excellent case to study the AGN feedback mechanisms and the influence of supermassive black holes (SMBHs) on their host galaxies, since they constitute a stage in the evolution of massive galaxies in which both star formation and nuclear activity have been triggered and are visible simultaneously before one or the other fades.

What are your current research interests?

I study the correlation between the growing of SMBHs and their host galaxies, which is a key issue to understand the evolution of the universe itself. This area has a lot of open issues to be answered and understood, so, in cosmic scales, I think I’ll be busy studying this topic for a while. One of my main interests is to understand the role of the AGN feedback in stopping the star formation in the host galaxy.

What is your favorite movie?

The Godfather.

What is the latest book you have read?

Ecce Homo, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

What is one hobby of yours?

Growing vegetables in my backyard.

Favorite beverage?

Red wine and sparkling water.

 

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