Get to Know Gemini! Jason Chu

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

Photo copyright Jason K. Chu.

Name:  Jason Chu

What is your current position and at which telescope?

I am a Gemini Science Fellow at Gemini North Observatory.

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

I am a part of both the GMOS-N and GRACES instrument support teams.  I have several responsibilities including checking and helping PIs design their Phase 2 observations, support ongoing projects to maintain and improve the performance of both instruments, and also to observe the nighttime queue programs.  The other half of my time I spend on conducting my own research on the brightest infrared galaxies in the universe.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

About 10 months.

What drew you to this job?

Being a part of a team in running a world class observatory, while also conducting my own research.

What is the best part of your job?

See above :).

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

I’m originally from Orange County, California (between Los Angeles and San Diego).

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

Communicating clearly.  This is important for both disseminating new research findings, as well as helping PIs as a contact scientist or working with others to run the observatory.

Why is astronomy important?

Astronomy is the study of everything that isn’t on Earth, which covers a lot of things, but most importantly it is the study of how we and everything we know of came into existence.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

My dissertation focuses on understanding the nature of luminous infrared galaxies and their role in the overall picture of galaxy evolution, both in the local universe ( closer than 450 Mpc) as well as far away when the universe was only 3 billion years ago.

What are your current research interests?

My current research interest is to understand the spectral energy distributions of local luminous infrared galaxies, using data from Herschel, Spitzer, WISE, and IRAS.  Using these data we can construct the first-ever view of the infrared spectral energy distribution.  I am also interested in the nature of luminous infrared galaxies at high redshift, where they are many more times common than in the local universe.  I am currently using Keck MOSFIRE data to analyze the rest-frame optical spectra of luminous infrared galaxies at z~2.3.

What is your favorite movie?

Lots.  The Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar, Gladiator, the Bourne trilogy

What is the latest book you have read?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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

The Complete Mozart Piano Concertos, Complete Chopin Piano Works, God is an Astronaut (by self-titled)

What is one hobby of yours?

Photography (landscapes, astro-landscape, portraiture/weddings).

Favorite beverage?

Chai tea latte.

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

Weekly Mirror Cleaning

Dust, dirt, cinder, and other particulates on our  telescopes’ primary and secondary mirror surfaces can  significantly degrade their reflectivity and light scattering properties. To keep our 8.2-m primary mirrors  and 1.0-m secondary mirrors shiny and reflective between our recoating cycles (every few years we re-silver the top coat of our mirrors), we clean the mirror as  part of our weekly telescope maintenance.

This might be different from what you’re expecting. We’re not using soap and water or  isopropyl alcohol. We use carbon dioxide snow or dry ice instead.  The telescope is tipped over close to the horizon so the mirrors are nearly perpendicular to the ground. Using wands hooked up to liquid carbon dioxide kept under pressure, the day crew sprays the mirror. Once the liquid carbon dioxide leaves the nozzle it nearly instantly expands to become solid ice crystals. The these carbon dioxide ice crystals are typically on the order of the nozzle diameter (typically a few mm or smaller).

The crystals quickly sublimate (changing from solid to gas) when they hit the surface of the mirror. This impact and expansion blow off the dust and particles off the mirror’s surface.  Particulates on the mirror surface are carried away floating on top of the layer of gas created by the sublimating carbon dioxide ice particles.  This process in essence scrubs the mirror but is  gentle on the very thin silver coating we have on our mirror. They simply fall off, which is why w

Here’s a video captured  by Science Operations Specialist Christy Cunningham showing the Gemini Maunakea day crew cleaning the Gemini North mirror and spraying the carbon dioxide snow onto the 8.2-m primary mirror.

You can see how our next door neighbors at the Subaru Telescope perform their carbon dioxide snow mirror cleaning here.

Get to Know Gemini! Atsuko Nitta

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:  Atsuko Nitta

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Gemini North Head of Science Operations at Gemini North. I am also a “Scientist”.

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

Our job in science operations is to make sure we deliver the scientific data as the users requested so that they can make progress on the cutting edge research – which will help us better understand our Universe.  My role is to make sure the Gemini North Science Operation team are doing the right thing to make that happen and make sure the team has the resources to do their jobs well.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

12 years

What drew you to this job?

It is exciting to be at the forefront of science – to contribute new knowledge to human kind.  Observatory is where large number of people with various different background/skills come together for purpose of expanding our knowledge of the universe. I enjoy working with people with diverse background and I enjoy working  in a team to get exciting things get done/accomplished.

What is the best part of your job?

Being one of the first to learn about new discoveries. Seeing the team find solutions to difficult problems.  Because our team consists of people with different strengths, together, there is hardly any weakness. I think this is the strength of having intelligent diverse team and I am proud to be a part of it.

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

Tokyo, Japan.

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

To enjoy what you do both technically and socially i.e. if you don’t like working with people, then observatory is not a good place to be.

Why is astronomy important?

It is the field where we try to answer the fundamental question of our and our universe’s existence. Along the way, we also develop technologies that come handy.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

Seismological studies on a star to find out physics under extreme condition truly happens the way we think it does. Just like the geologists use earth quake to find out what the inside of the earth is like, I did seismological analysis on stars to find out what they look like inside.

What are your current research interests?

The relationship between mass and magnetic field of white dwarf stars. On the origin of the He atmosphere white dwarf stars.

What is your favorite movie?

Nauticaa of the valley of the wind

What is the latest book you have read?

I am currently reading “Principles”.

What is one hobby of yours?

Yoga

Favorite beverage?

Hot tea

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! John Blakeslee

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:  John Blakeslee

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Chief Scientist, based at Gemini South

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

I help with the long-term scientific planning for the Observatory, evaluate proposals for Director’s Discretionary time, write the Science Highlights for Gemini Focus magazine, act as science editor for Gemini web publications, prepare science reports for the Observatory governance committees, manage the research budget, and generally try to support science-related endeavors of the Gemini staff.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

9 months

What drew you to this job?

The opportunity to work with a dedicated staff at one of the world’s leading astronomical observatories.

What is the best part of your job?

Talking to members of the science staff (especially the young ones) about their research, proposals, career plans, and things along those lines.

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

Southeastern Pennsylvania

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

When an email doesn’t require an answer.

Why is astronomy important?

It’s the study of the universe, and we wouldn’t be here without the universe.  Plus, it provides some perspective for our species.

In three lines, explain your PhD thesis.

I developed a method to study the rich globular star cluster populations in the centers of galaxy clusters without directly detecting most of them. I found that the number of globulars scaled with the dark matter halo mass, a result that has pretty much held up and has been extended to more typical galaxies.

What are your current research interests?

The structure of massive galaxies, late stages of stellar evolution, precision distances and cosmology, making Gemini even more efficient at transient follow-up in the era of time-domain astronomy.

What is your favorite movie?

Kamome Shokudo

What is the latest book you have read?

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

What is one hobby of yours?

Running

Favorite beverage?

Agua con gas

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! 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!