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  • richardmitnick 11:49 am on November 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory,   

    From Gemini: “Are All Stars Created Equal?” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    November 14, 2016
    Science Contacts:

    Alessio Caratti o Garatti
    Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies
    Email: alessio”at”cp.dias.ie
    Office: +353 1 4406656 ext.342
    Cell: +353 87 1091628

    Bringfried Stecklum
    Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg
    Email: stecklum”at”tls-tautenburg.de
    Office: +49 36427 863
    Cell: +49 179 38088401

    Media Contact:

    Peter Michaud
    Gemini Observatory
    Hilo, Hawai‘i
    Email: pmichaud”at”gemini.edu
    Cell: (808) 936-6643

    1
    Artist’s impression of an accretion burst in a high-mass young stellar object like S255 NIRS 3. Image Credit: Deutsches SOFIA Institut (DSI)

    Astronomers using critical observations from the Gemini Observatory have found the strongest evidence yet that the formation of more massive stars follow a path similar to their lower-mass brethren – but on steroids!

    3
    Pre-outburst (left) and outburst (middle) near-infrared images (K, H, J bands) of the high-mass young stellar object S255IR NIRS 3, taken
    from 2009 UKIDSS archive data and the PANIC camera (Calar Alto Observatory, Man-Planck Society) in 2016, respectively, as well as
    outburst mid-infrared images (right) taken with FORCAST / SOFIA at 7.7, 19.7 and 31.5 microns (2016). Copyright: Caratti o Garatti.

    The new findings, that include data from Gemini, SOFIA, Calar Alto, and the European Southern Observatory, show that the episodic explosive outbursts within what are called accretion disks, known to occur during the formation of average mass stars like our Sun, also happen in the formation of very massive stars.

    “These outbursts, which are several orders of magnitude larger than their lower mass siblings, can release about as much energy as our Sun delivers in over 100,000 years,” said Dr. Alessio Caratti o Garatti of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (Ireland). “Surprisingly, fireworks are observed not just at the end of the lives of massive stars, as supernovae, but also at their birth!”

    The international team of astronomers (led by Caratti o Garatti) published their work in the November 14th issue of the journal Nature Physics, presenting the first clear case that massive stars can form from clumpy disks of material – in much the same way as less massive stars. Previously it was thought that the accretion disks seen around lower mass stars would not survive around stars of higher mass due to their strong radiation pressure. Therefore, some other process would be necessary to account for the existence of more massive stars – which can exceed 50-100 times the mass of our Sun.

    “How accretion disks can survive around these massive stars is still a mystery, but the Gemini spectroscopic observations show the same fingerprints we see in lower mass stars,” said Caratti o Garatti. “Probably the accretion bursts reduce the radiation pressure of the central source and allow the star to form, but we still have a lot of explaining to do in order to account for these observations.”

    According to team member Dr. Bringfried Stecklum of the Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg (Germany), “Studying the formation of high-mass stars is challenging because they are relatively rare and deeply embedded in their natal cloud, thus not visible in optical, or visible, light. This is why we need infrared instruments like the Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph (NIFS) at Gemini North on Maunakea in Hawai‘i.” The outburst events are also very rapid, probably lasting only a few years or less – which, for a star, is the blink of an eye, adding to their rarity.

    “The birth of truly massive stars has been a mystery that astronomers have been studying for decades. Only now, with large, infrared-optimized telescopes like Gemini, are we able to probe the details of this short-lived and, now it seems, rather explosive process,” notes Chris Davis, Program Director at the National Science Foundation which supports the operation of the Gemini Observatory and the development of its instruments. “These NIFS observations represent yet another coup for the Gemini Observatory.”

    The developing star observed in this study, S255IR NIRS 3, is relatively distant, some 6,000 light years away, with a mass estimated at about 20 times the mass of our Sun. The Gemini observations reveal that the source of the explosive outburst is a huge clump of gas, probably about twice the mass of Jupiter, accelerated to supersonic speeds and ingested by the forming star. The team estimates that the outburst began about 16 months ago and according to Caratti o Garatti it appears that the outburst is still active, but much weaker.

    “While low-mass stars, and possible planetary systems, can form basically next door to our Sun, the formation of high-mass stars is a complex and relatively rapid process that tends to happen rather far away in our galaxy, thousands, or even tens of thousands of light years away,” said Caratti o Garatti. He adds that the formation of these massive stars happens on timescales of 100,000 years, whereas it takes hundreds of times longer for lower mass stars like our Sun to form. “When we study the formation of higher mass stars it’s like watching a timelapse move when compared to less massive stars, although the process for massive stars is fast and furious, it still takes tens of thousands of years!”

    “While this research presents the strongest case yet for similar formation processes for low and high mass stars, there is still lots to understand,” concludes Stecklum. “Especially whether planets can form in the same way around stars at both ends of the mass spectrum.”

    Original Publication:
    Disk-mediated accretion burst in a high-mass young stellar object, A. Caratti o Garatti, B. Stecklum, R. Garcia Lopez, J. Eislöffel, T. P. Ray, A. Sanna, R. Cesaroni, C. M.Walmsley, R. D. Oudmaijer,W. J. deWit, L. Moscadelli, J. Greiner, A. Krabbe, C. Fischer, R. Klein and J. M. Ibañez , Nature Physics Journal Nov. 14 th 2016, DOI: 10.1038/NHPYS3942.

    See the full article here .

    Deutsches SOFIA Institute Release

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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 6:29 pm on October 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Cluster’s Advanced Age in Razor-sharp Focus, Gemini Observatory, NGC 6624   

    From Gemini: “Cluster’s Advanced Age in Razor-sharp Focus” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    October 11, 2016
    Science Contacts:

    Sara Saracino
    Department of Physics and Astronomy
    University of Bologna, Italy
    Email: sara.saracino”at”unibo.it
    Office: +39 051 2095788
    Cell: +39 3201607913

    Douglas Geisler
    Departamento de Astronomia
    Universidad de Concepción, Chile
    Email: dgeisler”at”astroudec.cl
    Office: 56-41-2203092
    Cell: 56-9-93078848

    Media Contacts:

    Peter Michaud
    Gemini Observatory
    Hilo, Hawai‘i
    Email: pmichaud”at”gemini.edu
    Cell: (808) 936-6643

    Manuel Paredes
    Gemini Observatory
    La Serena, Chile
    Email: mparedes”at”gemini.edu
    Phone: +56 (51) 2205671

    1
    Gemini Observatory GeMS image of NGC 6624 revealing individual stars to the cluster’s core. The Cluster’s age as determined with this study is between 11.5-12.5 billion years old, which confirms that it formed when the Universe was only a fraction of its current age of about 13.8 billion years. Composite color image by Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage. Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA.

    An international team of astronomers, using the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) and the high resolution camera GSAOI, brought the ancient globular cluster NGC 6624 into razor-sharp focus and determined its age with very high accuracy - a challenging observation even from space.

    Gemini/GeMS
    Gemini/GeMS

    Gemini GSAOI instrument
    Gemini GSAOI instrument

    In addition to producing a beautiful image, this work ultimately helps astronomers to better understand the formation and evolution of our Galaxy during its earliest development when the Universe was less than two billion years old.

    Researchers using advanced adaptive optics technology at the Gemini South telescope in Chile probed the depths of the highly compact globular cluster NGC 6624, revealing pinpoint images of thousands of stars. The sharpness of the near-infrared images is competitive with that obtained from space with the Hubble Space Telescope in optical light. “With images this sharp, astronomers can do things that we never dreamed were possible from the ground,” says team member Douglas Geisler of the University of Concepción in Chile.

    The team obtained the imaging data using two filters that are sensitive to specific wavelength bands of near-infrared light, then plotted them on a color-magnitude diagram – a technique that reveals details about the evolutionary history of the cluster’s stars. According to first author Sara Saracino from the University of Bologna, this is the most accurate, and deepest, near-infrared color-magnitude diagram ever produced of this cluster and indeed perhaps the best-ever made for any bulge cluster. The results of this research will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    The observations provide a clear detection of the so-called “main-sequence knee,” a distinctive bend in the evolutionary track of low mass main-sequence stars (those that burn hydrogen into helium at their cores). This feature is extremely faint and therefore difficult to detect, requiring very precise photometry (measuring the brightness of individual stars). Photometry is generally a problem with most adaptive optics data.

    2
    The color-magnitude diagrams of NGC6624 obtained from the Gemini observations. All the main evolutionary sequences of the cluster are easily visible. These NIR diagrams turn out to be comparable to the HST optical ones, both in depth and in photometric accuracy. The photometric errors for each bin of Ks and J magnitudes are shown on the right side of the panels.

    This is the first time the main-sequence knee has been identified in this globular cluster. “Analysis of these razor-sharp images, and the very deep color-magnitude diagram, allows us to determine the age of the cluster to extremely high precision,” says Saracino. In turn, this helps to better understand the formation and evolution of our Milky Way bulge, which may well be the oldest component of the Galaxy. The new Gemini data reveal that the age of NGC 6624 is between 11.5-12.5 billion years old, almost as old as the Universe itself - estimated to be about 13.8 billion years old.

    NGC 6624 is also interesting because it has been classified as what astronomers call a post-core collapse cluster, meaning that this is a highly evolved system. The high quality of the data also allowed the researchers to perform a detailed study of the distribution of main-sequence stars of different masses outward from the center. As expected for such a highly evolved system, the team found evidence of a significant increase in low-mass stars at increasing distances from the cluster center.

    This study is part of a much larger research program aimed at shedding new light on the still debated processes that formed the Milky Way’s bulge using its globular cluster population. Due to the large amount of absorption by material between the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, detailed studies of bulge globular clusters have been severely hampered until now. Geisler notes that the advent of the GeMS instrument now allows astronomers to penetrate the dust and study these clusters in the great detail they deserve. “It will certainly continue to provide us with very important clues about how our Galaxy formed and evolved,” he says.

    The Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS), combined with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI), delivers near diffraction-limited images of near-infrared light (0.9-2.5 microns), over a field nearly as large as the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Using five artificial laser guide stars, and up to three natural guide stars, GeMS/GSAOI can correct for atmospheric turbulence at an unprecedented level, making it the most powerful wide-field adaptive optics system currently available to astronomers.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on September 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory, Lyman-alpha blobs, Mysterious 'Blobs' Can be Closer Than We Thought   

    From Gemini: “Mysterious ‘Blobs’ Can be Closer Than We Thought” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    September 20, 2016

    1
    Gemini/GMOS images of the LAB host galaxies, taken in gri filters. The images reveal a broad variety of gaseous outflows driven by the AGN. The green color is caused by [OIII] narrow-line emission in the gas.

    Astronomers studying a mysterious phenomenon known as Lyman-alpha blobs (LABs) have discovered several of these high-energy objects in galaxies that are much closer than previously known. The discovery is significant because these closer specimens are much easier to study, and because they live at a time when the Universe was much older and more mature, allowing astronomers to study their evolution with cosmic time.

    The observations are of a rare type of relatively nearby galaxy, engulfed in large clouds of ionized gas as a result of violent, energetic activity in their cores. These closer specimens were first described in 2013, catching the astronomers’ attention with their luminosities and sizes. Data taken with the Gemini Observatory quickly revealed that these galaxies are unparalleled by any other objects known in the nearby Universe. To understand their nature and formation, observations with the Chandra X-ray observatory, the GALEX UV satellite, and the mid-infrared WISE satellite were included to augment the Gemini data.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/Galex telescope
    NASA/Galex telescope

    NASA/WISE Telescope
    NASA/WISE Telescope

    “Looking at the far ultraviolet images taken with GALEX, we realized that these huge ionized clouds of gas are similar to the Lyman-alpha blobs, or LABs,” says Mischa Schirmer of the Gemini Observatory. “So far, LABs were only known in the young Universe, at a time when galaxies were forming much more vigorously than today. It’s an exciting discovery that LABs may still exist 4-7 billion years later in the Universe, albeit in much lower numbers.” Schirmer adds that the existence of these objects has been postulated, but due to their scarcity they were difficult to find.

    LABs have puzzled astronomers since they were first discovered in 1999. They emit copious amounts of energetic far-ultraviolet radiation, yet their power sources often remained unknown. Hai Fu of the University of Iowa, and a co-author of the study, says that various explanations exist, “yet, taken together, they could still not explain all the data at hand.” The main problems are the LABs’ great distances, making them very dim. “Furthermore, their high redshifts make it difficult to access these parts of the spectrum from which we gain most information about their physical state”, adds Fu. “Having identified LABs at our cosmic doorstep makes our analysis so much easier.”

    One of the team’s surprising results is that the active galactic nuclei (AGN) in their sample are weak. AGN are supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, actively accreting material from their immediate surroundings. This process can release enormous amounts of energy and radiation, making AGN amongst the most luminous objects in the Universe. “Given the luminosity of the ionized gas in the LABs in our study, we expected the most powerful AGN in their centers. However, when we directly measured the energy output of the AGN with the Chandra X-ray telescope, we found the AGN 10 to 1000 times less powerful than required,” says Nancy Levenson of the Gemini Observatory. This means that the AGN must have rapidly faded within the last few 1000-10000 years. The ionizing radiation from their previous high state is still propagating through the galaxy, powering the gaseous nebula. Several such “ionization echoes” have been found by the Galaxy Zoo project in nearby galaxies, albeit none of them as powerful as in the objects of this study.

    “The most exciting result about our research is that the fading AGN naturally explain the absence of powerful sources in many LABs,” says Sangeeta Malhotra from Arizona State University. “The ultraviolet Lyman-alpha photons cannot leave the cloud of gas in a straight line like most other photons. Performing a random walk in the gas, the LAB can easily trap them for hundreds of thousands of years.” By the time the photons manage to escape, the central AGN may have long faded from the astronomers’ view, causing the apparent energy deficits.

    “It’s amazing that we could finally identify this missing piece of the puzzle,” says Schirmer. “However, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, now that we can embark on the details and the bigger picture with further observations.”

    The research included imaging and spectroscopic observations taken with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrographs (GMOS) at both of the Gemini telescopes.

    GEMINI/North GMOS
    GEMINI/North GMOS

    Nearby LABs are extremely rare, with only about one found for every 1000 square degrees of sky. Once identified, the Gemini observations were straightforward because these LABs are very bright despite their light travel time distance of three billion light years. For comparison, the high redshift LABs that have been known so far, are typically 100 times dimmer and 2-3 times smaller. To unlock the LABs mysteries, the astronomers had to include further observations in X-ray, UV and infrared wavelengths, using the Chandra, GALEX and WISE satellites, respectively. The core team includes Mischa Schirmer (Gemini Observatory), Sangeeta Malhotra (Arizona State University), Nancy Levenson (Gemini Observatory), Hai Fu (University of Iowa), Rebecca Davies (Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestial Physics), William Keel (University of Alabama), Paul Torrey (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), and James Turner (Gemini Observatory). The research has been published at Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:58 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Could Gravitational Wave Events Flash in Visible Light?, Gemini Observatory,   

    From Gemini: “Could Gravitational Wave Events Flash in Visible Light?” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    August 16, 2016

    Gemini explores the possibility of short-lived optical emission (visible light) from the violent events that produce gravitational waves.

    Even before the announcement of the first gravitational wave detection by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in February of this year, theorists wondered if the extreme energy required to produce strong gravitational waves might also produce a detectable optical flash.

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib
    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    Currently the most widely accepted explanation for gravitational wave events is the collision of black holes.

    SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project
    SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    The impact would send gravitational waves rippling through space at the speed of light. Thanks to LIGO the existence of gravitational waves is now confirmed, but unknown is the extent to which they might be accompanied by the emission of optical light or radiation at higher energies such as x-ray or gamma-rays.

    LSC LIGO Scientific Collaboration
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    A recent study headed by Stephen Smartt at Queen’s University in Belfast and Ken Chambers from University of Hawai‘i could help answer this question. “We were looking for the perverbial needle in the haystack,” says Chambers. “The area of sky was about 290 square degrees, and while we found several potential sources, in the end none could be associated with the LIGO discovery source.” Smartt adds that the coordination of observations between wide-field telescopes like Pan-STARRS1 and deep spectroscopic follow-ups with Gemini were critical to the research which ultimately proved the concept for future gravitational wave events.

    Pannstars telescope, U Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    Pannstars telescope, U Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    “With this effort we’ve demonstrated that we can tile out the big sky area that LIGO thinks the source originated, find anything that is transient or variable to quite deep limits and then trigger a range of other powerful facilities like Gemini,” said Smartt. “It’s a big team project and I’m very excited about it’s potential. We have the tools to discover the sources in the next couple of years.”

    The paper, titled: A Search for an Optical Counterpart to the Gravitational Wave Event GW151226 has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is also on astro-ph.

    The Gemini Observatory followup observations – to provide spectroscopic classifications of transient sources – were made with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini North telescope on Maunakea in Hawai‘i. One interesting source is a supernova that occurred at roughly the same time as (within a few days of) the gravitational wave source, but it is too distant to be the counterpart. Data were also provided by Pan-STARRS1, the University of Hawai‘i’s 2.2-meter telescope, the ATLAS survey telescope, the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey of Transient Objects (PESSTO), and an additional observation using the Hubble Space Telescope.

    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:49 pm on July 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory, ,   

    From Keck: “More Than 100 Planets Confirmed in Single Trove” 

    Keck Observatory

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

    Keck Observatory

    MEDIA CONTACT

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

    MEDIA CONTACT

    Ian Crossfield
    University of Arizona
    (949) 923-0578
    ianc@lpl.arizona.edu

    1
    An artist’s impression of Kepler-78b, an Earth-sized rocky exoplanet discovered by Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda (MIT) using Kepler Space Telescope data, and confirmed by University of Hawaii astronomer Andrew Howard using W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea. Courtesy of UH-Manoa.

    An international team of astronomers have discovered and confirmed a treasure trove of new worlds. The researchers achieved this extraordinary discovery of exoplanets by combining NASA’s K2 mission data with follow-up observations by Earth-based telescopes including the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, the twin Gemini telescopes on Maunakea and in Chile, the Automated Planet Finder of the University of California Observatories and the Large Binocular Telescope operated by the University of Arizona. The team confirmed more than 100 planets, including the first planetary system comprising four planets potentially similar to Earth. The discoveries are published online in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler Telescope

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

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

     UCO Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope
    UCO Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    Large Binocular Telescope,  Mount Graham,  Arizona, USA
    U Arizona Large Binocular Telescope, Mount Graham, Arizona, USA

    Ironically, the bounty was made possible when the Kepler space telescope’s pointing system broke.

    In its initial mission, Kepler surveyed a specific patch of sky in the northern hemisphere, measuring the frequency with which planets whose sizes and temperatures are similar to Earth occur around stars like our sun. But when it lost its ability to precisely stare at its original target area in 2013, engineers created a second life for the telescope that is proving remarkably fruitful.

    The new mission, dubbed K2, has provided the capability of observing a series of independent target fields in the ecliptic plane with greater opportunities for Earth-based observatories in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Additionally, in contrast to the Kepler mission, K2 is an entirely community-driven mission with all targets proposed for by the scientific community. K2 now looks at a larger fraction of cooler, smaller, red dwarf-type stars, which are much more common in our Milky Way than sun-like stars.

    “Kepler’s original mission observed a small patch of sky as it was designed to conduct a demographic survey of the different types of planets,” said Ian Crossfield, a Sagan Fellow at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, who led the research effort. “This approach effectively meant that relatively few of the brightest, closest red dwarfs were included in Kepler’s survey. The K2 mission allows us to increase the number of small, red stars by a factor of 20 for further study.”

    One of the most interesting set of planets discovered in this study is a system of four potentially rocky planets, between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth, orbiting a star less than half the size and with less light output than the Sun. Their orbital periods range from five-and-a-half to 24 days, and two of them may experience radiation levels from their star comparable to those on Earth.

    Despite their tight orbits — closer than Mercury’s orbit around the sun — the possibility that life could arise on a planet around such a star cannot be ruled out, according to Crossfield.

    “Because these smaller stars are so common in the Milky Way, it could be that life occurs much more frequently on planets orbiting cool, red stars rather than planets around stars like our sun,” Crossfield said.

    To validate candidate planets identified by K2, the researchers obtained high-resolution images of the planet-hosting stars from Keck Observatory’s near infrared camera (NIRC2), the Gemini and Large Binocular Telescope (among others) as well as high-resolution optical spectroscopy using Keck Observatory’s high resolution spectrograph (HIRES) instrument and the AUtomated Planet Finder. By dispersing the starlight, the spectrographs allowed the researchers to measure the physical properties of a star — such as mass, radius and temperature — and infer the properties of any planets orbiting it.

    Keck NIRC2 Camera
    Keck NIRC2 Camera

    Keck HIRES
    Keck HIRES

    “Our analysis shows that by the end of the K2 mission, we expect to double or triple the number of relatively small planets orbiting nearby, bright stars,” Crossfield said. “And because these planets orbit brighter stars, we’ll be able to more easily study everything possible about them, whether it’s measuring their masses with Doppler spectroscopy — already underway at Keck Observatory and APF — or measuring their atmospheric makeup with the James Webb Space Telescope in just a few years.”

    For a full list of authors and funding information, please see the research paper, “197 Candidates and 104 Validated Planets in K2’s First Five Fields,” available for download at https://www.lpl.arizona.edu/~ianc/docs/crossfield….

    NIRC2 (the Near-Infrared Camera, second generation) works in combination with the Keck II adaptive optics system to obtain very sharp images at near-infrared wavelengths, achieving spatial resolutions comparable to or better than those achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope at optical wavelengths. NIRC2 is probably best known for helping to provide definitive proof of a central massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Astronomers also use NIRC2 to map surface features of solar system bodies, detect planets orbiting other stars, and study detailed morphology of distant galaxies.

    HIRES (the High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer) produces spectra of single objects at very high spectral resolution, yet covering a wide wavelength range. It does this by separating the light into many “stripes” of spectra stacked across a mosaic of three large CCD detectors. HIRES is famous for finding planets orbiting other stars. Astronomers also use HIRES to study distant galaxies and quasars, finding clues to the Big Bang. 


    See the full article here .

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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 4:54 pm on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anaïs Bernard, , , Gemini Observatory,   

    From Gemini: Women in Science – “Capturing “Shocking” Young Stars in N159W” Anaïs Bernard 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    29 Jun 2016
    alexis

    1
    Anaïs Bernard

    The world’s most advanced adaptive optics system reveals “shocking” details on star formation in a new image released by the Gemini Observatory. Benoit Neichel of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, worked with PhD student Anaïs Bernard on the research behind the image. Bernard came to Gemini South with Neichel as part of Gemini’s Bring One, Get One program, and plans to complete her PhD based on this work in 2017.

    Bernard’s trip to Gemini was her first experience at a large telescope facility.

    “I was impressed by the laser guide stars propagating in the direction of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), pointing to the field that we had carefully selected in the previous months,” says Bernard.

    Perfect Conditions

    Gemini systems were performing well, but the seeing conditions for the first three nights of their run weren’t great. Bernard said she and Neichel were anxious at the beginning of their observing night, but the sky was extremely clear. That particular night happened to be the best of the run, and they were lucky enough to capture N159W in the LMC with the Gemini Multi-object Spectrograph (GeMS) lasers and the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) right from the first part of the night.

    Gemini/GeMS
    Gemini/GeMS

    Gemini GSAOI instrument
    Gemini GSAOI instrument

    Bernard emphasizes that those data represent a major step in her PhD program. She spent months selecting targets and adjusting all the observation parameters, learning how to position the field, where to take the background image, which star should be used for the photometric calibration.

    “I was impressed to see that everything ran exactly according to our plan, and the results came out even better than what I would have expected!”

    4
    Gemini South GeMS/GSAOI near-infrared image of the N159W field in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image spans 1.5 arcminutes across, resolves stars to about 0.09 arcseconds, and is a composite of three filters (J, H, and Ks).

    Data Analysis

    Apart from the scientific analysis of the data, Bernard also used the images to develop new data reduction tools.

    “Those images are also the key data set that we are using to define and test new data reduction tools. As the level of details and the large field provided by GeMS/GSAOI are unique, new data reduction and analysis tools must be developed. This is also exciting because even once we are back in our office, far from the telescope, we can still significantly improve the quality of those sharp images, and optimize the scientific return of the instrument.”

    See the full article here .

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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 10:34 am on June 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gemini Observatory, Innovative Gemini/CHFT Partnership Explores a Hot Jupiter, Newborn Giant Planet Grazes its Sun   

    From Gemini and CFHT: “Innovative Gemini/CHFT Partnership Explores a Hot Jupiter” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    CFHT icon
    Canada France Hawaii Telescope

    June 20, 2016
    Dr. Claire Moutou
    (CFHT, Hawaii)
    1-808-885-7944
    Dr. Lison Malo
    (CFHT, Hawaii)
    1-808-885-7944

    Dr. Jean-Francois Donati
    (IRAP, Toulouse, France)
    Phone: +33-561332917
    jean-francois.donati”@”irap.omp.eu

    The novel collaboration between the Gemini Observatory and Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope (CFHT) called GRACES (Gemini Remote Access to CFHT ESPaDOnS Spectrograph), helped to characterize a “hot Jupiter” around the T-Tauri star V830 Tau. The work appears in the current advanced online issue of the journal Nature.

    GRACES uses an innovative 270-meter fiber cable to transport light from the Gemini 8-meter telescope to the ESPaDOnS Spectrograph at CFHT. The system began operating in late 2015 and now is a popular option allowing Gemini and CFHT users to perform high-resolution optical spectroscopy with Gemini North’s larger mirror.

    The Nature paper is available online (subscription required) and is summarized in the press release from Observatoire Midi Pyrenees in Toulouse, France and CFHT that follows (release is reproduced verbatim from original):

    Newborn Giant Planet Grazes its Sun

    1
    Artistʻs view of a newborn giant planet like the one newly discovered at the immediate vicinity of the very active infant star V830 Tau, as might be seen by an observer located close to the giant planet. Credit: Mark A. Garlick markgarlick.com

    For the last 20 years the giant planets known as hot Jupiters have presented astronomers with a puzzle. How did they settle into orbits 100 times closer to their host stars than our own Jupiter is to the Sun? An international team of astronomers has announced this week [1] the discovery of a newborn hot Jupiter, orbiting an infant sun — only 2 million years old, the stellar equivalent of a week-old human baby. The discovery that hot Jupiters can already be present at such an early stage of star-planet formation represents a major step forward in our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve.

    For this discovery, the team monitored a 2 million-year-old infant star called V830 Tau, located in the Taurus stellar nursery, some 430 light-years away. Over the 1.5 months of the campaign, a regular 4.9-day “wobble” in the velocity of the host star revealed a giant planet almost as massive as Jupiter, orbiting its host star at a distance of only one-twentieth that of the Sun to the Earth distance. “Our discovery demonstrates for the first time that such bodies can be generated at very early stages of planetary formation, and likely play a central role in shaping the overall architecture of planetary systems” explains Jean-François Donati, CNRS astronomer at IRAP / OMP [2] and lead author of a new paper in the current issue of the journal Nature.

    The team used the twin spectropolarimeters ESPaDOnS and Narval to monitor V830 Tau for a total of 47 hours.

    CFHT ESPaDOns preferred
    CFHT ESPaDOns

    4
    Narval, mounted at the 2-meter Télescope Bernard Lyot [4] (TBL) atop Pic du Midi in the French Pyrénées

    ESPaDOnS is mounted at the 3.6-m Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope [3] (CFHT) on Maunakea and can be fiber-fed from either CFHT itself, or via GRACES, a 300-m optical-fiber link from the nearby 8 meter Gemini North telescope. The team used ESPaDOnS in both modes, providing the opportunity to monitor the star using light from the Gemini North telescope when the instrument was unavailable at CFHT. The team also used Narval, mounted at the 2-meter Télescope Bernard Lyot [4] (TBL) atop Pic du Midi in the French Pyrénées. “Using all three telescopes was essential for monitoring regularly V830 Tau throughout our campaign and for detecting its giant planet” stresses Lison Malo, CFHT astronomer, a coauthor of the study and leader in coordinating the observations.

    In our Solar System, small rocky planets like the Earth are found near the Sun, whereas gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn orbit much further out. “The discovery in 1995 of a giant planet flying very close to its host star took us by surprise and revolutionized the field” recalls Claire Moutou, CNRS astronomer at CFHT and a coauthor of this new study. Theoretical work indicates that such planets can only form in the cold and icy outer regions of the protoplanetary disc in which both the central star and surrounding planets are born. Some, however, migrate inwards without falling into their host star, thus becoming hot Jupiters.

    “Planet formation models offer two competing explanations of how and when this migration of hot Jupiters occurred. Either it happened early while these planets were still forming, or much later, with some planets being kicked closer to their stars due to the interaction of multiple planets, or both” explains Clément Baruteau, CNRS astronomer at IRAP / OMP and a coauthor of this study. “Our discovery demonstrates that the first, earlier option is taking place; it revives the long-running debate about how and when this migration occurs, and brings us one step forward in our understanding of how planetary systems form”.

    Among the known hot Jupiters, some feature strongly-tilted or even upside-down orbits, suggesting they were knocked into close orbits by interactions with other planets or neighboring stars. Others orbit above the host star’s equator, hinting at a more gentle formation process in the form of an inward drift through the disc. “The young hot Jupiter we just detected comes as the first evidence that early disc migration is also happening” says Andrew Collier Cameron of the University of St Andrews, a coauthor of the study.

    References:
    1 The paper describing the discovery, published in Nature, is available here.

    2 IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie) is a research lab part of OMP (Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées) located in Toulouse (France), and under dual supervision from CNRS / INSU (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers) and UFTMiP / UPS (Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées / Université Paul Sabatier)

    3 CFHT is operated by the National Research Council of Canada, CNRS/INSU in France and the University of Hawaii

    4 TBL is operated by IRAP / OMP, CNRS / INSU and UFTMiP / UPS

    View CFHT release.

    See the full article here .

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    Gemini North
    Gemini North, Hawai’i

    Gemini South
    Gemini South, Chile
    AURA Icon

    CFHT Telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    CFHT Interior
    CFHT Telescope, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    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.

    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:21 pm on June 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory, Ultra-sharp Image Uncovers the Shocking Lives of Young Stars   

    From Gemini: “Ultra-sharp Image Uncovers the Shocking Lives of Young Stars “ 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    6.15.16

    The world’s most advanced adaptive optics system reveals “shocking” details on star formation in a new image released today by the Gemini Observatory.

    1
    Gemini South GeMS/GSAOI near-infrared image of the N159W field in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image spans 1.5 arcminutes across, resolves stars to about 0.09 arcseconds, and is a composite of three filters (J, H, and Ks). Integration (exposure) time for each filter was 25 minutes. Color composite image by Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage.
    Image credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

    An unprecedented view from the Gemini South telescope in Chile probes a swarm of young and forming stars that appear to have been shocked into existence. The group, known as N159W, is located some 158,000 light years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite to our Milky Way Galaxy. Despite the group’s distance beyond our galaxy the extreme resolution of the image presents researchers with a fresh perspective on how prior generations of stars can trigger, or shock, the formation of a new generation of stars.

    “Because of the remarkable amount of detail, sensitivity, and depth of this image we identified about 100 new Young Stellar Objects, our YSOs, in this region,” says Benoit Neichel of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, who worked with PhD student Anais Bernard on the research. Bernard expects to complete her PhD based upon this work in 2017.

    Bernard adds that YSO’s are very red objects, often still enshrouded in a cocoon of the natal material from which they were born. “What we are seeing appears to be groups of YSOs forming at the edge of a bubble containing ionized gas expanding from an older generation of stars within the bubble.” Astronomers refer areas of expanding gas as HII regions due to the abundance of doubly ionized (energized) hydrogen gas. “In a very real sense these young stars are being shocked into existence by the expanding gas from these more mature stars,” said Bernard. “Stars that formed between one to three million years ago.”

    “Without this advanced adaptive optics technology on Gemini we wouldn’t be able push our observations out to the distance of the LMC,” said Neichel. “This gives us a unique chance to explore star formation in different environment” He adds that part of the challenge is differentiating between “boring field stars” and the YSOs, which, he says “…are the gems that make this research possible!”

    The research team, led by Neichel and Bernard, published their work in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. The team used the Gemini South telescope with the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) combined with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI).

    Gemini/GeMS
    Gemini/GeMS with GSAOI

    The Gemini South adaptive optics system uses a multi-conjugated configuration with five laser guide stars that allow for exceptionally large adaptive optics fields of view, with great sensitive and high levels of correction to minimize atmospheric distortions (essentially to the theoretical limit, or “diffraction limit”).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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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 3:10 pm on May 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory, The observing team for the May 2016 GPIES run,   

    From Gemini: “GPIES May 2016 Observing Run: Women in Astronomy” Women in Science 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    May 30, 2016
    Katie Morzinski

    Hello GPI fans! We are just wrapping up our cloudy, snowy May 2016 GPIES observing run. While the weather wasn’t the best, we accomplished what we could in between the clouds. We also enjoyed the fact that this was the first all-woman run that any of the 5 of us had ever been on. It was a celebration of women in astronomy!

    Winter in Chile means snow in the high mountains to the East, as well as a chance of snow at the slightly lower telescope mountains. Here is a wintery view out my window on the plane ride in:

    1
    View out the airplane window from Santiago to La Serena

    When we arrived at Gemini we were happy to see the cute little zorro that hangs out around the dorms:

    2
    Here is a cute little zorro that hangs out by the dorms. Great picture by Kate.

    We got a tour of the telescope. It was the first time GPIES student Sarah Blunt had been to Chile, and the rest of us enjoy seeing Gemini again anyway.

    3
    Here we are dwarfed by the telescope. From left to right: Katie, Sarah, Jenny, Kim

    4
    Gaetano gave us a tour of the telescope. Here we are going up the stairs from the dome floor to the platform.

    5
    The observing team for the May 2016 GPIES run. From left: Kate Follette, Kim Ward-Duong, Sarah Blunt, Jenny Patience, and Katie Morzinski

    enny and Kate led the team and the run, while Kim and Sarah and I were there to help out. We also had assistance on-site from Gemini scientist and GPIES team member Fredrik Rantakyro, as well as other Gemini staff. Remote support was provided by GPIES team members Vanessa Bailey, Rob de Rosa, Jeff Chilcote, and Bruce Macintosh on the Polycom, and others by email and Slack. The reason for such a large complex team is that we optimize the observing campaign to maximize the chance of finding planets.

    What does observing for the GPIES campaign involve? Well, 1 person selects targets and directs the night (this was Kate and Jenny), 1 person runs GPI and takes the data (this was Kate and me), 1 person records the log and updates the team (this was Sarah and Kim and me), 1 person runs the pipeline and evaluates the quality of the data (this was Kim and Kate), and 1 person synthesizes and analyzes the progress and makes the big decisions about how best to optimize our time (this was mostly Jenny and a bit Kate).

    What are these big decisions about how to best optimize our time? For example, one night the clouds had cleared up a bit but the seeing wasn’t that great, so I took a few data sets while Kim, Kate, and Sarah evaluated the data quality. Then Jenny was comparing our data quality to histograms made by GPIES team members Rob de Rosa and Abhi Rajan to determine whether our data quality was good enough to improve the chances of detecting a planet around the star in question. It was not, so we decided to hand the next hour of observing over to Fredrik to run a GPI queue program. This optimizes use of the telescope for everyone, because we can try to observe that particular star on a different night, while Gemini can get some good science out of its poorer weather by observing targets for a program that doesn’t require the best conditions.

    6
    Jenny directs the May 2016 GPIES observing team

    7
    The May 2016 GPIES observing team at work

    Well, in astronomy as in life, you never know what Mother Earth is going to throw at you. Unfortunately, this run we had a lot of weather, meaning clouds that make for beautiful photos but poor observing:

    8
    Sunset

    9
    A beautiful backdrop is bad news for astronomers

    10
    Virgas* streaming down from the clouds (*A virga is an observable streak or shaft of precipitation, whereas a viga is a wooden beam characteristic of adobe buildings of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.)

    11
    Sunset through the louvers from inside the Gemini dome.

    Finally, on the second-to-last day it started snowing, so we had to write off our last night, and chose to head down the mountain a day early to ensure we would catch our flights, since the snow meant the dome would be covered and would not be able to open that night:

    12
    Snow on the hillside

    13
    Snow at Gemini

    The weather was disappointing, but I did have a good time helping out run GPI and discussing the finer points of AO with Vanessa and planet-finding with Jenny, Kate, Kim, and Sarah. The complex GPI instrument and GPIES campaign are made possible by a great collaboration that communicates well to make the best use of our time and observing conditions. Better luck next run, GPIES!

    About Katie Morzinski
    Katie Morzinski is a NASA Sagan Fellow, a member of the GPI instrument and GPIES science teams, and the MagAO Instrument Scientist at the University of Arizona.

    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 11:48 am on May 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory, , Resolving an Exoplanet’s Motion to Constrain a Young Planetary System   

    From Gemini: “Resolving an Exoplanet’s Motion to Constrain a Young Planetary System” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    May 24, 2016

    1
    Figure 1. (Left:) Zoom-in images on HD 95086 b obtained with GPI at the first and last epochs. The magenta crosses show the measured positions (for clarity, the size of the symbol is not representative of the precision). Significant orbital motion is detected within the GPI data. (Right:) Deepest image obtained on HD 95086 with GPI at K1 on April 8, 2015.

    2
    Figure 2. Schematic diagram of the HD 95086 system in the sky plane. The positions of HD 95086 b are plotted (black circles – VLT/NaCo L0, red triangles – GPI K1, blue squares – GPI H), as well as a hundred representative orbital fits randomly drawn from the analysis The inner and outer dust rings are indicated as the gray shaded regions (Su et al., 2015). For clarity, the astrometric measurements are also shown within an inset.

    Using the Gemini Planet Imager astronomers have successfully monitored the motion of a planet around the forming exoplanet system orbiting the star HD 95086 and suggest that more unseen planets are present.

    NOAO Gemini Planet Imager on Gemini South
    NOAO Gemini Planet Imager on Gemini South

    The large international team, led by Julien Rameau, a postdoctoral researcher at the Université de Montréal (Canada), used the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) at the Gemini South telescope in Chile to observe the system over a period from 2013 until early this year. “During this short time we directly imaged the exoplanet, known as HD 95086 b, a 4-5 Jupiter mass planet, and its motion,” says Rameau. With these data, Rameau and his team determined that this planet is orbiting nearly face-on from our perspective, at about 60 astronomical units or twice the distance between our Sun and Neptune, and it has a low eccentricity, or nearly circular, orbit. Rameau adds, “This extremely high-resolution imaging with GPI was critical to setting constraints on the overall system.” They suggested that this planet could not be responsible for the 50au-wide gap in the system’s debris disk inferred from previous observations in the infrared. ”Because of the orbital configuration of planet b, we conclude that another body, or bodies, are necessary to explain the architecture of the system”

    The team’s results are to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters (preprint on astro-ph).

    See the full article here .

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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.

     
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