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  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on October 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Whole Picture of Distant Supercluster in Three Dimensions", , , , , Gemini North, , The supercluster CL1604 is a large-scale 3-D structure extending over about 160 million light-years in the north-south direction   

    From NAOJ Subaru and Gemini Observatory: “The Whole Picture of Distant Supercluster in Three Dimensions” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    From Gemini Observatory

    NAOJ

    From National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

    October 22, 2019

    Using the Subaru Telescope [below] and Gemini-North Telescope [below], a team of astronomers has revealed that the supercluster CL1604, a distant supercluster located about 7.3 billion light-years away, is a large-scale 3-D structure extending over about 160 million light-years in the north-south direction.

    This is more than two times more extended than what was already known. Until now, we saw merely the “tip of the iceberg” of the supercluster. The wide-field capability of the Subaru Telescope enabled us to survey the whole of the supercluster and the Gemini-North Telescope played a critical role in confirming the structures. This is the outcome of the good synergy of the telescopes of the Maunakea observatories.

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    Figure 1: The 3-D and 2-D maps of the number density of galaxies associated with the supercluster. In the 2-D map, the large-scale structures of galaxies located in the slice at about 7.3 billion years ago are shown. The white areas show the structures already known from previous studies, and the yellow areas show the structures newly discovered by this study. The structures marked by the dotted ellipses are to be confirmed by future works. The white vertical line in the figure corresponds to a distance of about 30 million light-years (i.e., 10 Mpc). (Credit: NAOJ)

    Galaxies are distributed inhomogeneously in the Universe. It is well-known that nearby galaxies are strongly influenced by their environment, e.g., whether they are located in dense areas called galaxy clusters or less dense areas called voids. However, how galaxies form and evolve along with the growth of the cosmic web structures is one of the hot topics of astronomy. A wide-field survey of the distant Universe allows us to witness what actually happened with galaxies in the early phase of structure formation in the Universe. Among the few superclusters currently known, one of the best targets for study is the supercluster CL1604. Based on previous studies, its extent is 80 million light-years and its era is 7.3 billion years ago.

    The uniqueness of the data taken by Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) on the Subaru Telescope is the deep imaging data over a field wide enough to fully cover the known supercluster and the surrounding area.

    NAOJ Subaru Hyper Suprime-Cam

    A team led by Masao Hayashi and Yusei Koyama from NAOJ estimated the distances of individual galaxies from the galaxy colors using a technique called “photometric redshift.” Then, the three dimensional picture of the large-scale structures appears, which consists of several galaxy clusters newly discovered in the north-south direction as well as the structures already known (Figure 1).

    Furthermore, the team used the Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph (FOCAS) on the Subaru Telescope and the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on Gemini-North to confirm the precise distances of 137 galaxies associated with the galaxy clusters revealed by HSC (Figure 2).

    NAOJ Subaru FOCAS Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph

    GEMINI/North GMOS

    It is found that the supercluster is a complex large-scale structure not only over the vast projected area but also along the line-of-sight direction in 3D. The galaxies spread over the 160 million light-years seem to be independent due to the vast area, however, the spectroscopic observations tell us that the galaxies formed simultaneously and then evolve along with the growth of large-scale structures.

    Our Galaxy is a member of Local Group on the outskirts of Virgo Galaxy Cluster. A team led by an astronomer from the University of Hawaii recently revealed that the Virgo Cluster is a member of a more extended enormous large-scale structure named the Laniakea Supercluster. “The supercluster we discovered 7.3 billion years ago may grow to be a huge large-scale structure similar to Laniakea where we live” said Hayashi.

    Local Group. Andrew Z. Colvin 3 March 2011

    Virgo Supercluster NASA

    Laniakea supercluster. From Nature The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies R. Brent Tully, Hélène Courtois, Yehuda Hoffman & Daniel Pomarède at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7516/full/nature13674.html. Milky Way is the red dot.

    3
    Figure 2: The distribution of redshift (i.e., distance in the depth direction) of the galaxies confirmed by our spectroscopic observations. In each area, the histogram is color-coded by the distance of the galaxies. The same color for the histograms means that the galaxy clusters are located at the same distance in the depth direction irrespective of the location on the sky. (Credit: NAOJ)

    These results were published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan.

    See the full article here .

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    NOAO Gemini North on MaunaKea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,213 m (13,822 ft)


    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet


    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

    NAOJ

    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level


    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    sft
    Solar Flare Telescope

    Nobeyama Radio Telescope - Copy
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory

    Nobeyama Solar Radio Telescope Array
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory: Solar

    Misuzawa Station Japan
    Mizusawa VERA Observatory

    NAOJ Okayama Astrophysical Observatory Telescope
    Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

     
  • richardmitnick 4:57 pm on October 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Gemini North, TOPTICA FIRST LIGHT ACHIEVED   

    From Gemini Observatory: “Gemini North TOPTICA Laser First Light” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    From Gemini Observatory

    Watch for updates in early November and in the next e-Newscast.


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    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:29 pm on October 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph on Gemini North, Gemini North, , Hawaii USA, , Sierra Remote Observatory, The core-collapse supernova 2017eaw   

    From Gemini Observatory: “Nearby Supernova Sheds Light on Ancient Dust” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    From Gemini Observatory

    October 16, 2018

    Thanks to two allocations of Director’s Discretionary Time and a successful Fast-Turnaround program, an international team (including Gemini Emeritus Astronomer Tom Geballe, who wrote this summary on behalf of the team) used Gemini North/GNIRS to follow the evolution of the near-infrared spectrum of the core-collapse supernova 2017eaw (ccSN 2017eaw) over three semesters.

    Gemini Near-Infrared Spectrograph on Gemini North, Mauna Kea, Hawaii USA

    The data obtained from this relatively nearby event may help us to better understand the existence of dusty galaxies in the early, much more distant Universe.

    One of the unexpected discoveries in studies of the very early Universe is that many high redshift galaxies are “dusty.” These dusty galaxies exist as recently as several hundred million to a billion years after the Big Bang. The origin of this dust is somewhat of a mystery, because stars with masses similar to the Sun, which constitute the vast majority of stars in a galaxy, would not have evolved to the dust-producing stage in such a short time. Thus, there must be another source of dust in these very distant and very young galaxies.

    __________________________________________________
    Where Does Interstellar Dust Originate?

    Interstellar dust constitutes about 1% of the mass of interstellar matter in our Milky Way and in many other galaxies. It is generally understood that the origin of most of that dust is stars with masses roughly similar to that of our Sun, that became red giants and ejected their outer layers into space. Although initially almost entirely hydrogen and helium, during the red giant phase the outer layers of those stars are polluted by heavier elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, and many others that are produced by thermonuclear reactions deep inside the stars and then mixed into the outer layers. Once the ejecta cool to temperatures lower than about 2,000 K, dust particles inevitably start to form out of these heavy elements. However, it is billions of years after these stars formed when this happens. On the other hand, core collapse supernovae live only a few millions to a few tens of millions of years before they explode, during which time they turn most of their hydrogen-rich and helium-rich interiors into vast reservoirs of heavy elements. Thus, unlike stars like the Sun, massive stars are potential dust-producers in the early Universe.
    __________________________________________________

    One possible source is the ejecta from massive stars that explode after only a few millions to a few tens of millions of years after they form, the so-called core-collapse supernovae (ccSNe).

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    Figure 1. Image of spiral galaxy NGC 6946 and SN 2017eaw indicated by arrow. Photo courtesy of Damian Peach, obtained on May 28th, 2017, at 10:31 UTC from the Sierra Remote Observatory, California.

    Sierra Remote Observatory in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a mountain range in the Western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin

    2
    The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, and Wyoming.

    While we cannot study individual supernovae in such distant galaxies, we can find examples of them in the nearby Universe. Infrared- and millimeter-wave observations of several “local” examples have revealed that ccSNe can produce copious amounts of dust — up to one solar mass for each event. Until now, however, detailed evolution of dust production in such supernovae, which can take place over several years, has only been followed in one object: the very nearby, famous, and rather unusual ccSN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Fortuitously, our recent observations of ccSN 2017eaw in the nearby galaxy NGC 6946 provided another rare opportunity to follow that evolution in detail over an extended period. NGC 6946 is located about 7 megaparsecs away and is popularly known as the Fireworks Galaxy, because it is a prodigious supplier of supernovae (see Figure 1 and a pre-SN 2017eaw Gemini Legacy Image of NGC 6946).

    SN 2017eaw was discovered on May 14, 2017, just as its host galaxy, NGC 6946, became observable in the eastern sky before dawn. Because of its high northerly location, we saw an opportunity to follow SN 2017eaw continuously from May until December (before it became too low in the western sky to observe from Maunakea) and proposed the idea to Gemini Observatory. Thanks to two allocations of Director’s Discretionary Time and a successful Fast-Turnaround program, the team led by Jeonghee Rho (SETI Institute) was able to follow the evolution of the supernova’s near-infrared (0.84-2.52 micron) spectrum in Semesters 2017A, 2017B, and 2018A. The team also includes Tom Geballe (Gemini Observatory), Dipankar Banerjee and Vishal Joshi (Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, India), Nye Evans (Keele University, U.K.), and Luc Dessart (Universidad de Chile).

    During 2017-18, we obtained Gemini North/GNIRS (Gemini Near-InfraRed Spectrometer) data on ten dates between 22 and 387 days after the discovery. It is believed that these data represent the highest quality and most extensive near-infrared time-sequence of spectra ever obtained for a Type II-P SN, the most common type of ccSN, whose light curve has a distinctive flat stretch (called a plateau).

    The first nine of these spectra, obtained in 2017, are shown in Figure 2. While they are a goldmine of information — revealing details on elemental abundances, nucleosynthesis, changes in ionization, and velocities of the ejecta — our major goal was to witness and model the formation of the molecule carbon monoxide (CO) and dust, which is quite hot when it forms. Information on these species is contained only at the long wavelength end of the spectra, from 2.0 to 2.5 microns.

    CO is important because it is a powerful coolant of the ejecta, which aids in making dust formation possible. Its presence is clearly detected on day 124 by the sharp increase in signal near 2.30 microns, and we think it was already marginally present at day 107. The dust signature also begins at day 124, and is the flattening slope of the continuum from 2.1 microns to longer wavelengths, compared to the steadily decreasing continuum signal at shorter wavelengths, and across the entire spectrum at earlier times.

    We have used the spectra to estimate the CO mass produced by SN 2017eaw and find that it is qualitatively matched by models in the literature of a progenitor star of mass roughly 15 times that of the Sun. Fits to the continuum indicate that the temperature of the dust emitting at 2.1-2.5 microns is ~ 1,300 K and that the dust is mainly graphitic, which, unlike amorphous carbon, can condense at higher temperatures than this. Discussion of these and other results and analysis are reported in Rho et al., The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 864: L20, 2018.

    We are continuing our monitoring of SN 2017eaw in Semester 2018B; thereafter it will be too faint. In future semesters, we hope to measure additional nearby ccSNe that occur in order to estimate the frequency of CO and dust production by such SNe, as well as the masses of CO and dust produced by each.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


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    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:11 pm on August 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gemini Confirms the Most Distant Radio Galaxy, Gemini North, GMOS-N, Radio galaxy TGSS J1530+1049   

    From Gemini Observatory: “Gemini Confirms the Most Distant Radio Galaxy” Radio galaxy TGSS J1530+1049 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    From Gemini Observatory

    1
    Top: Two-dimensional GMOS spectrum of the strong emission line observed in the radio galaxy TGSS J1530+1049. The size of the emission region is a bit less than one arcsec. Bottom: One-dimensional profile of the observed emission line. The asymmetry indicates that the line is Lyman-α at redshift of z = 5.72, making TGSS J1530+1049 the most distant radio galaxy known to date.

    Using the Gemini North telescope in Hawai`i, an international team of astronomers from Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK has discovered the most distant radio galaxy to date, at 12.5 billion light years, when the Universe was just 7% of its current age.

    The team used spectroscopic data from the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS-N) to measure a redshift of z = 5.72 for the radio galaxy identified as TGSS J1530+1049.

    GEMINI/North GMOS

    This is the largest redshift of any known radio galaxy. The redshift of a galaxy tells astronomers its distance because galaxies at greater distances move away from us at higher speeds, and this motion causes the galaxy’s light to shift farther into the red. Because light has a finite speed and takes time to reach us, more distant galaxies are also seen at earlier times in the history of the Universe.

    The study was led by graduate students Aayush Saxena (Leiden Observatory, Netherlands) and Murilo Marinello (Observatório Nacional, Brazil), and the observations were obtained through Brazil’s participation in Gemini. “In the Gemini spectrum of TGSS J1530+1049, we found a single emission line of hydrogen, known as the Lyman alpha. The observed shift of this line allowed us to estimate the galaxy’s distance,” explains Marinello.

    The relatively small size of the radio emission region in TGSS J1530+1049 indicates that it is quite young, as expected at such early times. Thus, the galaxy is still in the process of assembling. The radio emission in this kind of galaxy is powered by a supermassive black hole that is sucking in material from the surrounding environment. This discovery of the most distant radio galaxy confirms that black holes can grow to enormous masses very quickly in the early Universe.

    The measured redshift of TGSS J1530+1049 places it near the end of the Epoch of Reionization, when the majority of the neutral hydrogen in the Universe was ionized by high-energy photons from young stars and other sources of radiation. “The Epoch of Reionization is very important in cosmology, but it is still not well understood,” said Roderik Overzier, also of Brazil’s Observatorio Nacional, and the Principal Investigator of the Gemini program. “Distant radio galaxies can be used as tools to find out more about this period.”

    The research has been published by Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


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    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:47 pm on October 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new type of Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called "Blue Binaries", , Gemini North, New clues about the early evolution of the Solar System revealed with simultaneous observations on Maunakea, OSSOS (Col-OSSOS) program   

    From CFHT: “New clues about the early evolution of the Solar System revealed with simultaneous observations on Maunakea.” 

    CFHT icon
    Canada France Hawaii Telescope

    4/04/2017 [Just found in social media]
    Media contact
    Mary Beth Laychak
    Outreach Manager
    Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
    +1 808 885 3121
    mary@cfht.hawaii.edu

    Peter Michaud
    Public Information and Outreach Manager
    Gemini Observatory
    Hilo, Hawai‘i
    Email: pmichaud”at”gemini.edu
    Desk: 808 974-2510
    Cell: 808 936-6643

    Science contacts:

    Wes Fraser
    Col-OSSOS principle investigator
    Queen’s University Belfast.
    Belfast, UK

    Michele Bannister
    Col-OSSOS collaborator, OSSOS Core member
    Queen’s University, Belfast
    Belfast UK
    +44 074 555 471 79
    m.bannister@qub.ac.uk

    JJ Kavelaars
    Col-OSSOS collaborator, OSSOS Co-PI
    NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics
    Victoria, BC, Canada
    +1 778 677 3131
    jjk@uvic.ca

    Meg Schwamb
    Col-OSSOS collaborator
    Gemini North
    Hilo, Hawaii
    +1 808 974 2593 (office), +1 808 315 8014 (home)
    mschwamb@gemini.edu

    Todd Burdullis
    QSO specialist, Col-OSSOS collaborator
    CFHT
    Waimea, Hawaii
    +1 808 885 3170

    An international team of astronomers led by Wes Fraser of Queen’s University in Belfast used CFHT and Gemini simultaneously to discover a new type of Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called “Blue Binaries”. The wide separation and color of these cold classical Kuiper Belt objects are providing important clues on the early evolution of the solar system. Their findings are published in the April 4 edition of Nature Astronomy.

    Gemini/North telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    CFHT, at Maunakea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Simultaneous observing on Maunakea. Both telescope are pointing at the same object at the same time. Coordinating observations like this between two major observatories is quite a challenge but provides big returns. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA, photo by Joy Pollard.

    The Kuiper Belt is a circumstellar disk in the outer Solar System extending from beyond the orbit of Neptune to about 50 AU from the Sun. The dynamical structure of the classical Kuiper Belt is divided in two components. The hot component is made of objects with eccentric and highly inclined orbits. They have a broad range of colors and about 10% of them are binaries. On the other hand, the cold component consist of objects with nearly circular orbits and low inclination. Their colors are typically red and have a higher occurrence of binaries, about 30%.

    In February 2013, CFHT started the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), a Large Program that was awarded 560 hours of observing time over 4 years to find and track objects in the outer Solar System using Megaprime. OSSOS was completed in January 2017 and was highly successful, discovering nearly 1000 Trans Neptunian Objects that inhabit the outer Solar system.

    The Colors of OSSOS (Col-OSSOS) program aimed to measure the colors of the cold classical Kuiper belt objects found by the OSSOS program. The team used CFHT and Gemini to gather colors from the ultraviolet to the infrared. The need for simultaneous observations came from the fact that these bodies rotate reasonably fast, on the order of one to a few hours so sychronous observations are important to ensure the team observed the same position at the same time in different colors. “Facilitating the simultaneous observations with the Col-OSSOS team and Gemini Observatory was challenging, but paved the way for a greater understanding of the origins of these blue binaries. In tandem, the two facilities observed all the colors of the outer solar system for the Col-OSSOS team” said Todd Burdullis, queued service observing operations specialist at CFHT who was in charge the CFHT observations and a coauthor of the study. Dr. Meg Schwamb, an astronomer at the Gemini Observatory and also a coauthor on the paper added: “Like synchronized swimmers, Gemini North and the Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes coordinated their movements to observe the Col-OSSOS Kuiper belt objects at nearly the same time. This created a unique dataset that the planetesimals’ brightness changes as they rotate, and led to this discovery.”

    Five of the OSSOS objects are blue, very peculiar for objects belonging to the cold classical Kuiper Belt which are usually red. Additionally, these blue objects are wide binaries. The presence of so many widely separated blue binaries in the cold classical Kuiper Belt is difficult to explain.

    In their Nature paper, the team explored different mechanism that would lead to this configuration and estimated that the best model reproducing the observations is a “push out” by the early phases of the outward migration of Neptune. In order keep the binary systems intact i.e. not splitting them apart, the outward motion of Neptune had to be very smooth and eventless. “This research has opened the window to new aspects of understanding the early stages of planet growth. We now have a solid handle on how and where these blue binaries originated” said Wes Fraser, first author of the study.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The CFH observatory hosts a world-class, 3.6 meter optical/infrared telescope. The observatory is located atop the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4200 meter, dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii. The CFH Telescope became operational in 1979. The mission of CFHT is to provide for its user community a versatile and state-of-the-art astronomical observing facility which is well matched to the scientific goals of that community and which fully exploits the potential of the Mauna Kea site.

    CFHT Telescope
    CFHT Interior
    CFHT

     
  • richardmitnick 3:11 pm on January 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Gemini North,   

    From NRAO: “Precise Location, Distance Provide Breakthrough in Study of Fast Radio Bursts” 

    NRAO Icon
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory

    NRAO Banner

    4 January 2017

    1
    Visible-light image of host galaxy.
    Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NRC.

    For the first time, astronomers have pinpointed the location in the sky of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), allowing them to determine the distance and home galaxy of one of these mysterious pulses of radio waves. The new information rules out several suggested explanations for the source of FRBs.

    “We now know that this particular burst comes from a dwarf galaxy more than three billion light-years from Earth,” said Shami Chatterjee, of Cornell University. “That simple fact is a huge advance in our understanding of these events,” he added. Chatterjee and other astronomers presented their findings to the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Grapevine, Texas, in the scientific journal Nature, and in companion papers in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Fast Radio Bursts are highly-energetic, but very short-lived (millisecond) bursts of radio waves whose origins have remained a mystery since the first one was discovered in 2007. That year, researchers scouring archived data from Australia’s Parkes Radio Telescope in search of new pulsars found the first known FRB — one that had burst in 2001.

    There now are 18 known FRBs. All were discovered using single-dish radio telescopes that are unable to narrow down the object’s location with enough precision to allow other observatories to identify its host environment or to find it at other wavelengths. Unlike all the others, however, one FRB, discovered in November of 2012 at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has recurred numerous times.

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA
    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA

    The repeating bursts from this object, named FRB 121102 after the date of the initial burst, allowed astronomers to watch for it using the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), a multi-antenna radio telescope system with the resolving power, or ability to see fine detail, needed to precisely determine the object’s location in the sky.

    In 83 hours of observing time over six months in 2016, the VLA detected nine bursts from FRB 121102.

    “For a long time, we came up empty, then got a string of bursts that gave us exactly what we needed,” said Casey Law, of the University of California at Berkeley.

    “The VLA data allowed us to narrow down the position very accurately,” said Sarah Burke-Spolaor, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and West Virginia University.

    Using the precise VLA position, researchers used the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii to make a visible-light image that identified a faint dwarf galaxy at the location of the bursts. The Gemini observations also determined that the dwarf galaxy is more than 3 billion light-years from Earth.

    Gemini/North telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    Gemini/North telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    “Before we knew the distance to any FRBs, several proposed explanations for their origins said they could be coming from within or near our own Milky Way Galaxy. We now have ruled out those explanations, at least for this FRB,” said Shriharsh Tendulkar, of McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

    In addition to detecting the bright bursts from FRB 121102, the VLA observations also revealed an ongoing, persistent source of weaker radio emission in the same region.

    Next, a team of observers used the multiple radio telescopes of the European VLBI Network (EVN), along with the 1,000-foot-diameter William E. Gordon Telescope of the Arecibo Observatory, and the NSF’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to determine the object’s position with even greater accuracy.

    European VLBI
    European VLBI

    NRAO VLBA
    NRAO VLBA

    “These ultra high precision observations showed that the bursts and the persistent source must be within 100 light-years of each other,” said Jason Hessels, of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and the University of Amsterdam.

    “We think that the bursts and the continuous source are likely to be either the same object or that they are somehow physically associated with each other,” said Benito Marcote, of the Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC, Dwingeloo, Netherlands.

    The top candidates, the astronomers suggested, are a neutron star, possibly a highly-magnetic magnetar, surrounded by either material ejected by a supernova explosion or material ejected by a resulting pulsar, or an active nucleus in the galaxy, with radio emission coming from jets of material emitted from the region surrounding a supermassive black hole.

    “We do have to keep in mind that this FRB is the only one known to repeat, so it may be physically different from the others,” cautioned Bryan Butler of NRAO.

    “Finding the host galaxy of this FRB, and its distance, is a big step forward, but we still have much more to do before we fully understand what these things are,” Chatterjee said.

    “This impressive result shows the power of several telescopes working in concert — first detecting the radio burst and then precisely locating and beginning to characterize the emitting source,” said Phil Puxley, a program director at the National Science Foundation that funds the VLA, VLBA, Gemini and Arecibo observatories. “It will be exciting to collect more data and better understand the nature of these radio bursts.”

    See the full article here .

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    The NRAO operates a complementary, state-of-the-art suite of radio telescope facilities for use by the scientific community, regardless of institutional or national affiliation: the Very Large Array (VLA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)*.

    ALMA Array

    NRAO ALMA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA
    GBO Radio Observatory telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA, formerly supported by NSF, but now on its own

    NRAO VLA
    NRAO VLA

    The NRAO is building two new major research facilities in partnership with the international community that will soon open new scientific frontiers: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA). Access to ALMA observing time by the North American astronomical community will be through the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC).
    *The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) comprises ten radio telescopes spanning 5,351 miles. It’s the world’s largest, sharpest, dedicated telescope array. With an eye this sharp, you could be in Los Angeles and clearly read a street sign in New York City!

    Astronomers use the continent-sized VLBA to zoom in on objects that shine brightly in radio waves, long-wavelength light that’s well below infrared on the spectrum. They observe blazars, quasars, black holes, and stars in every stage of the stellar life cycle. They plot pulsars, exoplanets, and masers, and track asteroids and planets.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:59 pm on December 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Binary T Tauri system known as V582 Mon (KH 15D), Gemini North   

    From Gemini: “Unscrambling a Complex Young Stellar System” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    Nicole Arulanantham of Wesleyan University (Middletown CT, USA) led a team that targeted the binary T Tauri system known as V582 Mon (KH 15D) with the Gemini Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (GNIRS) on Gemini North. Arulanantham et al. obtained data at three different orientations of the system’s two young stars – allowing the team to study a number of key aspects of this complicated system. These included; characterising the photosphere and magnetosphere of the companion star (B), exploring a jet of material associated with a bipolar outflow, and probing the scattering properties of the circumbinary ring. This led to the quantifying of an observed excess in near-infrared radiation that is likely the signature of a self-luminous hidden 10-Jupiter-mass protoplanet. While this unresolved planet displays the expected excess in infrared radiation, as well as a 2 micron spectral feature that may be due to methane or ammonia, other anticipated signs of these two compounds went undetected in the observations.

    The team’s spectroscopic observations also revealed spectral features indicating a mixture of water and methane ice grains within the circumbinary ring where the frozen methane exists close enough to the primary stars that it must be shielded by dust from direct radiation.

    In addition to determining that star B is an early-K type subgiant, the research revealed evidence that star B’s magnetosphere experienced variable helium I emission due to ongoing mass accretion. The team’s paper is accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. The preprint is available here.

    1
    The top panel shows the spectrum of KH 15D during its “bright” phase, when the amount of direct starlight was greatest. The middle spectrum (“intermediate” phase) was taken when star B was just below the edge of the ring. Both spectra in the bottom panel were obtained during “faint” phases from two different cycles, when both stars were near periastron and the contribution from starlight was minimized. The spectrum from November has been offset by 1.5×10^-15 W m^-2 μm^-1 for comparison to the data from December.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Gemini/North telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    Gemini/North telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Gemini South
    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile

    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:57 pm on August 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Gemini North,   

    From Keck: “Scientists Discover Massive Galaxy Made of 99.99 Percent Dark Matter” 

    Keck Observatory

    August 25, 2016

    SCIENCE CONTACT
    Pieter van Dokkum
    Yale University
    New Haven, Connecticut, USA
    Tel: +1-203-432-3000
    E-mail: pieter.vandokkum@yale.edu

    MEDIA CONTACT

    Steve Jefferson
    W. M. Keck Observatory
    (808) 881-3827
    sjefferson@keck.hawaii.edu

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    1
    The dark galaxy Dragonfly 44. The image on the left is a wide view of the galaxy taken with the Gemini North telescope using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS). The close-up on the right is from the same very deep image, revealing the large, elongated galaxy, and halo of spherical clusters of stars around the galaxy’s core, similar to the halo that surrounds our Milky Way Galaxy. Dragonfly 44 is very faint for its mass, and consists almost entirely of Dark Matter. Credit: Pieter van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham, Gemini; Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    Using the world’s most powerful telescopes, an international team of astronomers has discovered a massive galaxy that consists almost entirely of Dark Matter. Using the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope – both on Maunakea, Hawaii – the team found a galaxy whose mass is almost entirely Dark Matter. The findings are being published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters today.

    Gemini/North telescope at Manua Kea, Hawaii, USA
    GEMINI/North GMOS
    Gemini/North telescope at Manua Kea, Hawaii, USA; GEMINI/North GMOS

    Even though it is relatively nearby, the galaxy, named Dragonfly 44, had been missed by astronomers for decades because it is very dim. It was discovered just last year when the Dragonfly Telephoto Array observed a region of the sky in the constellation Coma.

    U Toronto Dunlap Dragonfly telescope Array
    U Toronto Dunlap Dragonfly telescope Array

    Upon further scrutiny, the team realized the galaxy had to have more than meets the eye: it has so few stars that it quickly would be ripped apart unless something was holding it together.

    To determine the amount of Dark Matter in Dragonfly 44, astronomers used the DEIMOS instrument installed on Keck II to measure the velocities of stars for 33.5 hours over a period of six nights so they could determine the galaxy’s mass.

    Keck/DEIMOS
    Keck/DEIMOS

    The team then used the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Maunakea in Hawaii to reveal a halo of spherical clusters of stars around the galaxy’s core, similar to the halo that surrounds our Milky Way Galaxy.

    “Motions of the stars tell you how much matter there is, van Dokkum said. “They don’t care what form the matter is, they just tell you that it’s there. In the Dragonfly galaxy stars move very fast. So there was a huge discrepancy: using Keck Observatory, we found many times more mass indicated by the motions of the stars, then there is mass in the stars themselves.”

    The mass of the galaxy is estimated to be a trillion times the mass of the Sun – very similar to the mass of our own Milky Way galaxy. However, only one hundredth of one percent of that is in the form of stars and “normal” matter; the other 99.99 percent is in the form of dark matter. The Milky Way has more than a hundred times more stars than Dragonfly 44.

    Finding a galaxy with the mass of the Milky Way that is almost entirely dark was unexpected. “We have no idea how galaxies like Dragonfly 44 could have formed,” Roberto Abraham, a co-author of the study, said. “The Gemini data show that a relatively large fraction of the stars is in the form of very compact clusters, and that is probably an important clue. But at the moment we’re just guessing.”

    “This has big implications for the study of Dark Matter,” van Dokkum said. “It helps to have objects that are almost entirely made of Dark Matter so we don’t get confused by stars and all the other things that galaxies have. The only such galaxies we had to study before were tiny. This finding opens up a whole new class of massive objects that we can study.

    “Ultimately what we really want to learn is what Dark Matter is,” van Dokkum said. “The race is on to find massive dark galaxies that are even closer to us than Dragonfly 44, so we can look for feeble signals that may reveal a Dark Matter particle.”

    Additional co-authors are Shany Danieli, Allison Merritt, and Lamiya Mowla of Yale, Jean Brodie of the University of California Observatories, Charlie Conroy of Harvard, Aaron Romanowsky of San Jose State University, and Jielai Zhang of the University of Toronto.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes near the summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrographs and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

    DEIMOS (DEep Imaging Multi-Object Spetrograph) boasts the largest field of view (16.7 arcmin by 5 arcmin) of any of the Keck Observatory instruments, and the largest number of pixels (64 Mpix). It is used primarily in its multi-object mode, obtaining simultaneous spectra of up to 130 galaxies or stars. Astronomers study fields of distant galaxies with DEIMOS, efficiently probing the most distant corners of the universe with high sensitivity.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Mission
    To advance the frontiers of astronomy and share our discoveries with the world.

    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
    Keck UCal

    Keck NASA

    Keck Caltech

     
  • richardmitnick 2:38 pm on August 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini North, Gemini Tracks Collapse of Io's Atmosphere During Frigid Eclipses, , Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (TEXES)   

    From Gemini: “Gemini Tracks Collapse of Io’s Atmosphere During Frigid Eclipses” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    August 1, 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    Artist’s concept of the atmospheric collapse of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, which is eclipsed by Jupiter for two hours of each day (1.7 Earth days). The resulting temperature drop freezes sulfur dioxide gas, causing the atmosphere to “deflate,” as seen in the shadowed area on the left. Credits: SwRI/Andrew Blanchard.

    Gemini observations show that the thin atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Io undergoes dramatic changes during frequent eclipses with the giant planet. The following press release, issued by the Southwest Research Institute, explains how the dramatic changes in temperature cause the moon’s atmosphere to collapse.

    SwRI Space Scientists Observe Io’s Atmospheric Collapse During Eclipse

    A Southwest Research Institute-led team has documented atmospheric changes on Io, Jupiter’s volcanically active satellite, as the giant planet casts its shadow over the moon’s surface during daily eclipses.

    A study led by SwRI’s Constantine Tsang concluded that Io’s thin atmosphere, which consists primarily of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas emitted from volcanoes, collapses as the SO2 freezes onto the surface as ice when Io is shaded by Jupiter. When the moon moves out of eclipse and ice warms, the atmosphere reforms through sublimation, where ice converts directly to gas.

    “This research is the first time scientists have observed this phenomenon directly, improving our understanding of this geologically active moon,” said Tsang, a senior research scientist in SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division.

    The findings were published in a study titled The Collapse of Io’s Primary Atmosphere in Jupiter Eclipse in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The team used the eight-meter Gemini North telescope in Hawai’i with the Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph (TEXES) for this research.

    Data showed that Io’s atmosphere begins to “deflate” when the temperatures drop from -235 degrees Fahrenheit in sunlight to -270 degrees Fahrenheit during eclipse. Eclipse occurs 2 hours of every Io day (1.7 Earth days). In full eclipse, the atmosphere effectively collapses as most of the SO2 gas settles as frost on the moon’s surface. The atmosphere redevelops as the surface warms once the moon returns to full sunlight.

    “This confirms that Io’s atmosphere is in a constant state of collapse and repair, and shows that a large fraction of the atmosphere is supported by sublimation of SO2 ice,” said John Spencer, an SwRI scientist who also participated in the study. “Though Io’s hyperactive volcanoes are the ultimate source of the SO2, sunlight controls the atmospheric pressure on a daily basis by controlling the temperature of the ice on the surface. We’ve long suspected this, but can finally watch it happen.”

    Prior to the study, no direct observations of Io’s atmosphere in eclipse had been possible because Io’s atmosphere is difficult to observe in the darkness of Jupiter’s shadow. This breakthrough was possible because TEXES measures the atmosphere using heat radiation, not sunlight, and the giant Gemini telescope can sense the faint heat signature of Io’s collapsing atmosphere.

    Tsang and Spencer’s observations occurred over two nights in November 2013, when Io was more than 420 million miles from Earth. On both occasions, Io was observed moving in and out of Jupiter’s shadow, for a period about 40 minutes before and after eclipse.

    Io is the most volcanically active object in the solar system. Tidal heating, the result of Io’s gravitational interaction with Jupiter, drives the moon’s volcanic activity. Io’s volcanoes emit umbrella-like plumes of SO2 gas extending up to 300 miles above the moon’s surface and produce extensive basaltic lava fields that can flow for hundreds of miles.

    This study is also timely given that NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter orbit on July 4th. “Io spews out gases that eventually fill the Jupiter system, ultimately seeding some of the auroral features seen at Jupiter’s poles,” Tsang said. “Understanding how these emissions from Io are controlled will help paint a better picture of the Jupiter system.”

    For more information, contact Robert Crowe, (210) 522-4630, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Gemini North
    Gemini North, Hawai’i

    Gemini South
    Gemini South, Chile
    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:36 pm on July 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Exploring a Frozen Extrasolar World, Gemini North,   

    From Gemini: “Exploring a Frozen Extrasolar World” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    July 6, 2016
    Media Contacts:

    Peter Michaud
    Public Information and Outreach
    Gemini Observatory, Hilo, HI
    Email: pmichaud”at”gemini.edu
    Cell: (808) 936-6643

    Tim Stephens
    University of California, Santa Cruz
    Email: stephens”at”ucsc.edu
    Phone: (831) 459-4352

    Science Contacts:

    Andrew Skemer
    University of California, Santa Cruz
    Email: askemer”at”ucsc.edu
    Phone: (831) 459-5753

    Jacqueline Faherty
    Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow
    Carnegie Institution for Science
    Email: jfaherty17″at”gmail.com
    Cell: (201) 694-0807

    Sandy Leggett
    Gemini Observatory
    Email: sleggett”at”gemini.edu
    Phone: (808) 974-2604

    1
    Artist’s conception of how WISE 0855 might appear if viewed close-up in infrared light. Artwork by Joy Pollard, Gemini Observatory/AURA.

    University of California, Santa Cruz press release. [This is definitely worth reading, but, finding the Gemini article, I was bound to use it.]


    First Evidence for Water Ice Clouds Found outside Solar System
    Access mp4 video here .

    Astronomers have “cracked” a very cold case with the dissection of light from the coldest known brown dwarf. In fact, the brown dwarf, named WISE 0855, is billed as the most frigid discrete world yet discovered beyond our Solar System. The research also presents the strongest evidence yet for water clouds in the atmosphere of an extrasolar object.

    The history of “failed stars” having masses between that of a star and planet – called brown dwarfs – continues to blur. Now, that distinction is even more ambiguous with the confirmation that WISE 0855 shares more of a likeness with Jupiter than many exoplanets.

    New evidence for this comes from the first spectroscopy, or light fingerprint, of the object, performed at the Gemini North telescope in Hawai’i. The spectrum presents astronomers with the most definitive evidence ever for water vapor in the atmosphere of an object outside of our solar system. The research also confirms that temperatures dip to about 20 below zero Celsius (-10 degrees F) in its cold atmosphere.

    WISE 0855 was discovered by Kevin Luhman of Penn State in 2014 using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite.

    NASA/Wise Telescope
    NASA/Wise Telescope

    WISE 0855’s relatively close proximity – it’s only about 7.2 light years away, the fourth closest extrasolar object to the Sun – provides an advantage in capturing the object’s miniscule glow; however, it is still remarkably difficult to observe.

    “It’s five times fainter than any other object detected with ground-based spectroscopy at this wavelength,” said Andy Skemer of the University of California Santa Cruz. “Now that we have a spectrum, we can really start thinking about what’s going on in this object. Our spectrum shows that WISE 0855 is dominated by water vapor and clouds, with an overall appearance that is strikingly similar to Jupiter.” Skemer is first author of a paper on the new findings to be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters and currently available online.

    “I think everyone on the research team really believed that we were dreaming to think we could obtain a spectrum of this brown dwarf because its thermal glow is so feeble,” said Skemer. WISE 0855, is so cool and faint that many astronomers thought it would be years before we could dissect its diminutive light into a spectrum. “I thought we’d have to wait until the James Webb Space Telescope was operating to do this,” adds Skemer.

    The spectrum, obtained using the Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Maunakea, was obtained over a period of 13 nights (about 14 hours of data collection). “These observations could only be done on a facility like Gemini North. This is due to its location on Maunakea, where there is often remarkably little water vapor in the air to interfere with the sensitive observations, and the technology on the telescope, like its 8-meter silver-coated mirror,” says Jacqueline Faherty of the Carnegie Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. “We pushed the boundary of what could be done with a telescope here on Earth. And the result is spectacular.”

    The resulting high-quality spectrum reveals water vapor and clouds in the object’s atmosphere, and opens opportunities to explore the atmosphere’s dynamics and chemistry. Gemini astronomer, and brown dwarf researcher, Sandy Leggett explains that the spectrum shows less phosphine than we see in Jupiter, “…suggesting that the atmosphere may be less turbulent, since mixing produces the phosphine seen in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

    Results from previous observations of WISE 0855, published in 2014, provided hints of water clouds based on very limited photometric data (the relative brightness of specific wavelengths of light). Skemer, also a coauthor of the 2014 paper, adds that with spectroscopy scientists are able to separate the object’s light into a wide range of infrared wavelengths, and probe the body’s molecular composition. “If our eyes could see infrared light, which is redder than the reddest light we can see, the data would look like a rainbow of colors.” He adds, “The relative brightness of each color gives us a glimpse into the environment of the object’s atmosphere.”

    The coauthors of the study include graduate student Caroline Morley and professor of astronomy and astrophysics Jonathan Fortney at UC Santa Cruz; Katelyn Allers at Bucknell University; Thomas Geballe at Gemini Observatory; Mark Marley and Roxana Lupu at NASA Ames Research Center; Jacqueline Faherty at the Carnegie Institution of Washington; and Gordon Bjoraker at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Observations for this work were made using the Gemini Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (GNIRS) which is mounted on the Gemini North telescope on Maunakea in Hawai‘i.

    3
    Gemini Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (GNIRS)

    The research team, and Gemini staff, are grateful to be able to observe from Maunakea, Hawaii’s highest peak, where conditions are ideal for these types of observations.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Gemini North
    Gemini North, Hawai’i

    Gemini South
    Gemini South, Chile
    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

     
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