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  • richardmitnick 4:48 pm on January 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini Observatory via UC Berkeley 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    UC Berkeley
    UC Berkeley

    January 7, 2016
    Science Contacts:

    Sukanya Chakrabarti
    Rochester Institute of Technology
    chakrabarti”at”astro.rit.edu

    Rodolfo Angeloni
    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini South Telescope, Chile
    rangelon”at”gemini.edu

    Media Contacts:

    Peter Michaud
    Gemini Observatory
    Desk: +1 (808) 974-2510
    Cell: +1 (808) 936-6643
    pmichaud”at”gemini.edu

    Alexis-Ann Acohido
    Media Relations Intern
    Gemini Observatory
    Desk: +1 (808) 974-2528
    aacohido”at”gemini.edu

    Temp 1

    Ripples in gas at the outer disk of our galaxy have puzzled astronomers since they were first revealed by radio observations a decade ago. Now, astronomers believe they have found the culprit – a dwarf galaxy, containing dark, unseen material, which skimmed the outskirts of our galaxy a few hundred million years ago.

    The research, led by Sukanya Chakrabarti of the Rochester Institute of Technology, presents the first plausible explanation for the galactic ripples. “It’s a bit like throwing a stone into a pond and making ripples,” said Chakrabarti at today’s press conference at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida.

    “Of course we aren’t talking about a pond, but our galaxy, which is tens of thousands of light years across, and made of stars and gas, but the result is the same – ripples!” Chakrabarti adds that this work is part of a new discipline called galactoseismology, “This is really the first non-theoretical application of this field, where we can infer things about the unseen composition of galaxies from analyzing galactic-quakes.”

    To reach their conclusion the research team studied a trio of stars, called Cepheid variables, which are part of the likely dwarf galaxy now estimated to lie about 300,000 light years away from our galaxy in the direction of the constellation Norma.

    Temp 2
    RS Puppis as imaged by Hubble (HST), example of a Cepheid variable

    “We have a pretty good idea of the distance to these stars because the intrinsic brightness of Cepheid variable stars depends on their period of pulsation, which we can measure,” says Chakrabarti. “What I wanted to know was how fast this speeding bullet was going when it passed by our galaxy – with that information we can begin to understand the dynamics, and ultimately how much unseen dark matter is there.”

    To do that, Chakrabarti and her team focused on three Cepheids in the tiny galaxy. Using spectroscopic observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory (as well as the Magellan Telescope, and the WiFeS spectrograph) the researchers found that the stars are all speeding away at similar velocities – about 450,000 mph (~ 200 kilometers/second). “This really implicates these stars as being part of an organized, fast-moving system which we believe is a dwarf galaxy. It’s also very likely that this dwarf satellite brushed our galaxy millions of years ago and left ripples in its wake,” said Chakrabarti.

    Magellan 6.5 meter telescopes
    Magellan Telescope

    ANU WiFeS Wide Field Spctrograph
    ANU/WiFeS spectrograph

    “This new, potentially powerful way to study how stars, gas and dust are distributed in galaxies is really quite exciting,” said Chris Davis, program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation that funds roughly 65% of Gemini as part of its international partnership, as well as this research program. “Known as galactoseismology, it can trace both visible and invisible materials, including the elusive dark matter. It’s a great way to better understand how galaxies and neighboring satellite dwarf galaxies interact as well.”

    Gemini Observatory astronomer Rodolfo Angeloni oversaw the observations at the Gemini South telescope in Chile. He adds that Gemini South is uniquely well-equipped to make these types of observations. “The combination of Gemini’s silver-coated mirror and the versatility of the infrared spectrograph Flamingos-2 really made this work possible.” However, he continues, “These were especially faint and remote targets – we really had to push the limits.”

    The team plans to continue this work by looking for more Cepheid variable stars in our galaxy’s halo. “There could be a population of yet undiscovered Cepheid variables that formed from a gas-rich dwarf galaxy falling into our galaxy’s halo,” said Chakrabarti. “With the capabilities of today’s telescopes and instruments we should be able to sample enough of the Milky Way’s halo to make reasonable estimates on dark matter content – one of the greatest mysteries in astronomy today!”

    The international research team includes Rodolfo Angeloni, Ken Freeman, Leo Blitz, among others, and RIT research scientist Benjamin Sargent and Andrew Lipnicky, a graduate student in the astrophysical sciences and technology program. The Gemini observations were made possible by an award of Director’s Discretionary Time, and the research was funded by NSF research grant #1517488.

    Additional background on this research on TEDx talk by Principal Investigator at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9tel-ZCswM.

    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 7:23 pm on November 10, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini: “Illumination of the Early Universe by Quasars: Korea’s 1st Result as Limited Gemini Partner” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    November 10, 2015

    1
    Figure 1. Color composite-image of IMS J2204+0111 at z=6 (about 1 billion years after the Big Bang). IMS J2204+0111 is the red object at the center and its distance from us is 12.8 billion light years. Because of the expansion of the universe, distant objects like IMS J2204+0111 move away from us almost at the speed of the light, making their light to shift into near-infrared wavelength (phenomenon, called “redshift”). This makes them look very red in comparison to other objects, and this special color feature enabled the team to identify distant quasar candidates.

    A team of Korean astronomers discovered a faint quasar in the early Universe which sheds light on the main sources of illumination about 1 billion years after the Big Bang. The team used the Gemini South telescope in Chile, and several telescopes on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, to make the discovery. This is the first published scientific result from the Korean astronomical community since the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) joined in a limited partnership with Gemini at the beginning of 2015.

    The history of objects we see today in the Universe started when the first stars formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. However, it has been unclear what types of objects illuminated the intergalactic medium in order to ionize neutral atoms (called the re-ionization of the universe).

    Quasars, because they are so bright, have been suggested as one of the main “culprits” for the source of re-ionizing energy. Quasars shine when supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies vigorously accrete gas and stars – they can blaze at up to 100 times the total brightness of their host galaxies. Knowing the number of quasars in the early Universe with moderate luminosity (from about a few to 10 times more luminous than our Milky Way galaxy) can provide an important clue to solving this puzzle, since moderate luminosity quasars dominate the available illumination provided by quasars.

    However, moderate luminosity quasars are faint (because they are so distant), and rare, so it is challenging to find them. So far, only two or three such objects have been identified. In order to find moderate luminosity quasars at a redshift of 6 (or about one billion years after the Big Bang), the team performed a moderately wide and deep imaging survey, called the Infrared Medium-deep Survey (IMS) using the data taken with telescopes on Maunakea, including the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope [UKIRT], and the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope [CFHT]. In a subset of these data, the team identified 7 faint quasar candidates. Subsequently, the spectrum of one of these quasars, obtained with the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) at the Gemini South telescope in July 2015, revealed that the object is indeed a much sought-after moderate luminosity quasar in the early Universe.

    United Kingdom Infrared Telescope Exterior
    UKIRT

    Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
    CFHT

    Gemini Multi Object Spectrograph
    GMOS

    The newly discovered quasar, named as IMS J220417.92+011144.8, is expected to harbor a black hole of about 10 million to 100 million solar masses. Its distance is about 12.8 billion light-years from us. The discovery of IMS J2204+0111 and the statistical results of the survey suggest that quasars can only contribute up to about 10% of the re-ionizing flux in the early Universe. This value is lower than expected and doesn’t provide enough energy to fully account for the re-ionization of the Universe. Additionally, the redshifts of the other quasar candidates are still unknown; if they turn out not to be quasars, this number would be reduced even further. Therefore, it is unlikely that quasars are the dominant sources of illumination in the early Universe: 90% or more of the light must originate from other objects.

    The discovery was made possible thanks to the GMOS’s high sensitivity to infrared light where most of the light of such high-redshift quasars is concentrated. This work was carried out by Yongjung Kim (lead author), Myungshin Im (Principal Investigator), and Yiseul Jeon of Seoul National University, Minjin Kim at Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, and 14 other collaborators. The result was published in the November 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters, and the paper is available on the astro-ph.

    2
    Figure 2: GMOS spectrum of IMS J2204+0111. A prominent break in the spectrum is visible at the wavelength of about 8500 Å. The feature corresponds to the Hydrogen Lyman-α line which has a wavelength of 1216 Å at rest. It is now shifted to 8500 Å, suggesting that this object is moving away from us at the redshift of 5.944. The sharp break is caused because neutral hydrogen around the quasar absorbed the light at the wavelength below the Lyman-α line.

    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 5:06 am on October 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory,   

    From Gemini- “Time Delay in Lensed Quasar: First Fast Turnaround Result” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    October 29, 2015

    A team of Norwegian and US astronomers, using data from Gemini North and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT), have measured the time delay in images of a quasar lensed by a foreground cluster of galaxies.

    Nordic Optical telescope
    Nordic Optical telescope interior
    NOT

    The Gemini observations are the first published result obtained with the innovative Fast Turnaround (FT) mode of observing.

    A distant quasar may have its light split into multiple images by a foreground galaxy cluster that acts as a gravitational lens. The light travels along different paths of differing lengths to form each of these images. Quasars themselves are intrinsically variable, so the observed fading and brightening of each image happens at different observed times. Measuring these “time delays” yields tight constraints on the mass distribution in the lensing cluster, as well as the lensing geometry, and hence cosmology.

    The team monitored the redshift z=2.82 quasar SDSS J2222+2754 over the course of three years, using the NOT and Gemini+GMOS-N. They found a time delay of 48 and 722 days for two pairs of the quasar’s lensed images. The Gemini data were instrumental in refining the time delay measurements for the quasar image that leads the other image by ~ 2 years and hence predicts the behavior of other images of the quasar; continuing monitoring of the system will now allow further observations that take advantage of that 2 year peek into the future.

    Under Gemini’s FT mode, users can submit proposals every month and (if accepted) receive data 1-4 months after their initial proposal idea. The mode can be used for any kind of scientifically valuable project that needs just a few hours of observing time. Since the program’s launch in January, it has been used to follow up discoveries of new solar system objects, obtain data sets needed to complete projects, and also for short, self-contained programs. For more information, see the FT web pages: http://www.gemini.edu/sciops/observing-gemini/observing-modes/fast-turnaround.

    This work is available on Astro-ph at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1505.06187.

    Paper Abstract:

    We report first results from an ongoing monitoring campaign to measure time delays between the six images of the quasar SDSS J2222+2745, gravitationally lensed by a galaxy cluster. The time delay between A and B, the two most highly magnified images, is measured to be τAB=47.7±6.0 days (95% confidence interval), consistent with previous model predictions for this lens system. The strong intrinsic variability of the quasar also allows us to derive a time delay value of τCA=722±24 days between image C and A, in spite of modest overlap between their light curves in the current data set. Image C, which is predicted to lead all the other lensed quasar images, has undergone a sharp, monotonic flux increase of 60-75% during 2014. A corresponding brightening is firmly predicted to occur in images A and B during 2016. The amplitude of this rise indicates that time delays involving all six known images in this system, including those of the demagnified central images D-F, will be obtainable from further ground-based monitoring of this system during the next few years.

    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 11:10 am on October 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory   

    From GEMINI: “The Deepest Ground-based Photometry in a Crowded Field” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    September 30, 2015

    Expecting to resolve stars deep into the crowded field of a globular cluster is a tall order for ground-based telescopes.

    1
    The Messier 80 globular cluster in the constellation Scorpius is located about 30,000 light-years from the Sun and contains hundreds of thousands of stars.[1]

    However, Paolo Turri (University of Victoria, Canada) and colleagues have used the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) with the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) to do just that.
    5
    Left: (Ks, F606W-Ks) color–magnitude diagram of NGC 1851; the detail of the double SGB is shown in the inset. Right: same as the left panel with average photometric (random) uncertainties indicated. Overlaid is the fiducial line with the approximate locations of the main sequence turnoff and main sequence knee highlighted by red dots.

    Gemini GeMS
    GeMS

    Gemini GSAOI
    Gemini GSAOI instrument
    GSAOI and instrument

    Their data present the most accurate and deepest near-infrared photometry from the ground of a crowded field. It also illustrates the remarkable potential of MCAO-equipped Extremely Large Telescopes of the future.

    Their Ks measurements of the Galactic globular cluster NGC 1851 are combined with HST photometry and the resulting color-magnitude diagram demonstrates that the ground-based data is of an unprecedented depth and precision for crowded field observations.

    3
    A Ultraviolet image of NGC 1851.
    Credit: NASA/GALEX

    NASA Galex telescope
    NASA/GALEX

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA HST

    The delivered image quality approaches Gemini’s diffraction limit, with an average measured full-width at half-maximum (FHWM) of 0.09 arcsecond. The work is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    Abstract:

    The Extremely Large Telescopes currently under construction have a collecting area that is an order of magnitude larger than the present largest optical telescopes. For seeing-limited observations the performance will scale as the collecting area, but with the successful use of adaptive optics (AO), for many applications it will scale as D4 (where D is the diameter of the primary mirror).

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO E-ELT Interior
    ESO/E-ELT 39 meter telescope

    TMT
    TMT Schematic
    UCO/Caltech Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)

    TMT Schematic

    Giant Magellan Telescope
    Giant Magellan Interior
    21 meter Giant Magellan Telescope at Las Campanas, Chile.

    Central to the success of the ELTs, therefore, is the successful use of multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MCAO) which applies a high degree of correction over a field of view larger than the few arcseconds that limits classical AO systems. In this Letter, we report on the analysis of crowded field images taken on the central region of the galactic globular cluster NGC 1851 in the Ks band using the Gemini Multi-conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS) at the Gemini South Telescope, the only science-grade MCAO system in operation. We use this cluster as a benchmark to verify the ability to achieve precise near-infrared photometry by presenting the deepest Ks photometry in crowded fields ever obtained from the ground. We construct a color–magnitude diagram in combination with the F606W band from the Hubble Space Telescope/Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS].

    NASA Hubble ACS
    ACS

    As well as detecting the “knee” in the lower main sequence at Ks ‘20.5, we also detect the double subgiant branch of NGC 1851, which demonstrates the high photometric accuracy of GeMS in crowded fields.

    1.The Hubble Heritage team (1999-07-01). Hubble Images a Swarm of Ancient Stars. HubbleSite News Desk (Space Telescope Science Institute). Retrieved 2006-05-26.

    4
    Hubble Images a Swarm of Ancient Stars
    This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located about 28,000 light-years from Earth, M80 contains hundreds of thousands of stars, all held together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Globular clusters are particularly useful for studying stellar evolution, since all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years), but cover a range of stellar masses. Every star visible in this image is either more highly evolved than, or in a few rare cases more massive than, our own Sun. Especially obvious are the bright red giants, which are stars similar to the Sun in mass that are nearing the ends of their lives.

    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 6:28 pm on October 1, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An intern's night at Gemini North, , , Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini: “A Gemini Intern’s Night on the Summit!” A Great Story 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    1 Oct 2015
    alexis

    Aloha! I’m a University of Hawai‘i at Hilo student interning at [NOAO]Gemini Observatory in the Public Information and Outreach department. In order to share more about what being an astronomer is like, I decided to live the days of a certain type of astronomer, a Science Operations Specialist (SOS), for a weekend at the Gemini North telescope.

    1
    hrough the criss-crossing beams of Gemini’s vents I could see Haleakala, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope [CFHT], both the Keck, and Subaru telescopes.

    CFHT Telescope
    CFHT nterior
    CFHT

    Keck Observatory
    Keck Observatory Interior
    UCO/KECK

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope
    NAOJ Subaru Telescope interior
    NAOJ/Subaru

    2
    Once the shutter (what the telescope “looks” through) and the primary mirror are open, we head back down to the control room where the science begins.

    Imagine sitting in a cold room with three other people and 29 monitors for 10 hours every night, all weekend long. Well that’s exactly what I did and it was awesome. Operating the eight-meter Gemini telescope is done via computers and when we were not immersed in our screens, numbers, and excitement, we were talking and laughing about everything from genetic expression, globalization of nations and cultures, 1980’s rappers, and German idioms (“Have you tomatoes on your eyes” is the German equivalent of the expression “Are you blind?/ that outcome was entirely obvious”). There was also much food and hot cocoa involved.

    “Observing” is most exciting to me when we are taking direct images of galaxies, supernovae, or comets (etc.) in the infrared. For example, at one point the observer took images of a comet at very short intervals in order to trace its path and in each picture we could see its movement against a background of streaking stars. Spectra are cool too, but not as instantaneously gratifying due to their needing further data analysis to really determine what exactly you are looking at (e.g. Does this galaxy have HII or H-alpha forming regions?) But by far, the best image I saw was from my SOS’s collection of awesome telescope pictures:

    3
    It’s a bright young star with its protoplanetary disk, saturating the charge-coupled device (CCD) in just the right way.

    During especially long exposures (data-collection periods in which the telescope’s instrument’s shutter remains open to receive more light), the other intern and I would bundle up in thick layers of jackets and scarfs and venture outside the observatory with a pair of infrared goggles. With those goggles we could see five times as many stars; sharp, green and beautiful. We could see Keck 2’s laser aiding its exploration of the night sky. Without the goggles, we admired the long dusty plane of our Milky Way.

    Some days I couldn’t sleep. Being nocturnal is hard. So I learned new things about Hale Pohaku as well: the pool table is slanted, always check the expiration dates on yogurt, I’m terrible at ping pong.

    Mild altitude sickness near the summit is common, but Gemini workers are accustomed to the elevation. I’ve listened to the experiences of other interns and I’ve heard horror stories (e.g. tour groups puking in the dome). Gemini is a great employer in terms of giving days off in compensation for time on the mountain. I was at the summit only three nights. So my transition back to a day schedule and lower altitude was not too bad. But others, after being on the mountain for five days, need at least one full day to readjust. On my second night of observing, my heart rate spiked after eating instant ramen. My SOS administered oxygen to me via a CHAD unit and cannula (nose tubes and mini O2 tank). I kept the nose tube as a souvenir.

    Knowing exactly how a specific science is done goes a long way toward being able to communicate its importance and function to general audiences, and I hope to one day teach Astronomy to grade schoolers here on the Big Island so that they might discover even more about our universe than we can currently imagine.

    4
    Me and Gemini’s primary mirror! Photo Credit: Conor O’Neill

    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 3:09 pm on September 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini North, Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini: “Searching for Orphan Stars Amid Starbirth Fireworks” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    September 25, 2015
    Science Contact:

    Bo Reipurth
    Institute for Astronomy
    University of Hawaii at Manoa
    reipurth”at”hawaii.edu

    Media Contact:

    Peter Michaud
    Gemini Observatory
    Hilo, HI 96720
    Office: +1 (808) 974-2510
    Cell: +1 (808) 936-6643
    pmichaud”at”gemini.edu

    1
    The HH 24 jet complex emanates from a dense cloud core that hosts a small multiple protostellar system known as SSV63. The nebulous star to the south is the visible T Tauri star SSV59. Color image based on the following filters with composite image color assignments in parenthesis: g (blue), r (cyan), I (orange), hydrogen-alpha (red), sulfur II (blue)) images obtained with GMOS on Gemini North in 0.5 arcsecond seeing, and NIRI. Field of view is 4.2×5.1 arcminutes, orientation: north up, east left. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/B. Reipurth, C. Aspin, Travis Rector.

    A new Gemini Observatory image reveals the remarkable “fireworks” that accompany the birth of stars. The image captures in unprecedented clarity the fascinating structures of a gas jet complex emanating from a stellar nursery at supersonic speeds. The striking new image hints at the dynamic (and messy) process of star birth. Researchers believe they have also found a collection of runaway (orphan) stars that result from all this activity..

    Gemini Observatory has released one of the most detailed images ever obtained of emerging gas jets streaming from a region of newborn stars. The region, known as the Herbig-Haro 24 (HH 24) Complex, contains no less than six jets streaming from a small cluster of young stars embedded in a molecular cloud in the direction of the constellation of Orion.

    “This is the highest concentration of jets known anywhere,” says Principal Investigator Bo Reipurth of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA), who adds, “We also think the very dynamic environment causes some of the lowest mass stars in the area to be expelled, and our Gemini data are supporting that idea.”

    Reipurth along with co-researcher, Colin Aspin, also at the IfA, are using the Gemini North data from the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), as well as the Gemini Near-Infrared Imager [NIRI], to study the region which was discovered in 1963 by George Herbig and Len Kuhi. Located in the Orion B cloud, at a distance of about 400 parsecs, or about 1,300 light-years from our Solar System, this region is rich in young stars and has been extensively studied in all types of light, from radio waves to X-rays.

    GEMINI North GMOS
    GMOS

    GEMINI North NIRI
    NIRI

    “The Gemini data are the best ever obtained from the ground of this remarkable jet complex and are showing us striking new detail,” says Aspin. Reipurth and Aspin add that they are particularly interested in the fine structure and “excitation distribution” of these jets.

    “One jet is highly disturbed, suggesting that the source may be a close binary whose orbit perturbs the jet body,” says Reipurth.

    The researchers report that the jet complex emanates from what is called a Class~I protostar, SSV63, which high-resolution infrared imaging reveals to have at least five components. More sources are found in this region, but only at longer, submillimeter wavelengths of light, suggesting that there are even younger, and more deeply embedded sources in the region. All of these embedded sources are located within the dense molecular cloud core.

    A search for dim optical and infrared young stars has revealed several faint optical stars located well outside the star-forming core. In particular, a halo of five faint Hydrogen-alpha emission stars (which emit large amounts of red light) has been found with GMOS surrounding the HH 24 Complex well outside the dense cloud core. Gemini spectroscopy of the hydrogen alpha emission stars show that they are early or mid-M dwarfs (very low-mass stars), with at least one of which being a borderline brown dwarf.

    The presence of these five very low-mass stars well outside the star-forming cloud core is puzzling, because in their present location the gas is far too tenuous for the stars to have formed there. Instead they are likely orphaned protostars ejected shortly after birth from the nearby star-forming core. Such ejections occur when many stars are formed closely together within the same cloud core. The crowded stars start moving around each other in a chaotic dance, ultimately leading to the ejection of the smallest ones.

    A consequence of such ejections is that pairs of the remaining stars bind together gravitationally. The dense gas that surrounds the newly formed pairs brakes their motion, so they gradually spiral together to form tight binary systems with highly eccentric orbits. Each time the two components are closest in their orbits they disturb each other, leading to accretion of gas, and an outflow event that we see as supersonic jets. The many knots in the jets thus represent a series of such perturbations.

    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 2:26 pm on September 18, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gemini Observatory,   

    From Gemini: “Gemini Pairs with CFHT to Launch Pilot Program” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    This year, the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in a partnership with the Gemini Observatory and the Hawai‘i State Department of Education is launching a pilot program, tentatively titled the Maunakea Telescope and Technology project.

    CFHT
    CFHT Interior
    CFHT

    Ultimately, the project will allow high school students on Oahu and Hawaii Island to obtain data with the CFHT telescope. Initially, students will use existing Gemini data to produce color images and begin investigations with the data as part of the Live from Gemini virtual field trip program. Earlier this month, teachers from local high schools and staff from Hawai‘i observatories discussed plans on what they hope to gain from the program and how the program will work.

    “We want to develop within the community a sense of pride and ownership in the observatories and STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math] programs,” said Doug Simons, Director of CFHT, “It’s a unique and powerful educational opportunity.”

    Students in high school classes at Waiakea (Big Island) and Kapolei (Oahu) will pair with mentors from CFHT, Gemini, and the Institute for Astronomy in Manoa to develop astronomy projects that are their own. These projects could be used for science fair and capstone projects, as well as STEM degree designation requirements. Mentors and teachers will then help students draft proposals vying for telescope time at CFHT. The students will be treated like principal investigators (PI’s) on their research project and will collect and analyze the data.

    Participating teachers said the project would help kids get exposure to the telescopes and tech fields. They want their students to have access to and awareness of the tools, resources, and careers available in Hawai‘i.

    “We want kids that are passionate as opposed to kids that are ‘the best and the brightest,’” said Naidah Gamurot, science teacher at Kapolei High School, “We want to provide opportunities for kids at all levels.”

    With the success of the program, Gemini and CFHT hope to make this an annual program that expands to more schools and observatories.

    1
    Mentors, teachers, and observatory staff discussing the pilot program.

    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

    The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.
    Gemini was built and is operated by a partnership of six countries including the United States, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for time on Gemini, which is allocated in proportion to each partner’s financial stake.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:08 pm on September 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From GPI: “What do we know about planet formation?” 

    GPI bloc

    GPI

    September 16, 2015
    Roman Rafikov

    1
    This artist’s impression shows the formation of a gas giant planet around a young star. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

    Understanding how planets form in the Universe is one of the main motivations for GPI. Thanks to its advanced design, GPI specializes in finding and studying giant planets that are similar to Jupiter in our solar system. These are the kind of planets whose origin we hope to understand much better after our survey is complete.

    We know that planets form within protoplanetary disks that orbit young stars, and gas giants need to be fully formed within 3-10 million years of the formation of their parent star as the gaseous nebula dissipates past this point. This very important time constraint is based on statistics of observed protoplanetary disks in nearby young stellar associations such as Taurus. At present there are two main rival theories of giant planet formation — core accretion and gravitational instability, which effectively represent the “bottom up” and “top down” routes to planetary genesis.

    Core accretion relies on the formation of a planetary core — a compact, massive object composed of refractory elements, similar to a terrestrial planet like Earth but typically more massive. Cores form by assembly of a large number of planetesimals — smaller asteroid-like bodies composed of rock and ice that collide with each other, merge and grow in size. This process is thought to be rather slow, especially if it happens far from the star, where the characteristic timescales, which are determined by the local orbital period, become very long. As protoplanetary cores increase their mass, their gravitational pull attracts gas from the surrounding nebula, forming atmospheres around them. Atmospheric mass increases quite rapidly, and at some point the whole gaseous envelope becomes self-gravitating. In theoretical models, this transition typically occurs when the core mass exceeds 10-20 Earth masses. Beyond this point rapid gas accretion ensues, turning the core into a giant planet in a relatively short period of time. This process is accompanied by a brief phase of high luminosity as the gravitational energy of accreted gas is radiated away. The final mass of the planet is likely to be set by how much nebular gas is available for accretion, which may be limited by the formation of a gap around the planetary orbit, or by the dispersal of the protoplanetary disk.

    Gravitational instability may operate in cold, massive disks in which random gas overdensities start growing under their own self-gravity, which neither pressure nor rotational support can initially resist. If this collapse of dense regions can continue deeply into the nonlinear regime, and their density come to far exceed the nebula’s, such clumps become self-gravitating objects — and, over time, contract, cool, and look like giant planets. Theoretical arguments and numerical simulations suggest that this is possible only when the collapsing gas is able to cool rapidly. Otherwise, pressure inside the contracting clump would increase so fast that it could stall collapse. Detailed analysis shows that in gravitationally unstable disks, conditions for such rapid cooling are realized only far from the star, beyond approximately 50 AU, which is in the range of separations probed by GPI.

    2
    A schematic illustration of the two main theoretical channels of the giant planet formation: core accretion (on the left) and gravitational instability (on the right). Credit: NASA and A. Feild (STScI)

    Both theories have their own virtues and problems. Core accretion is natural in the sense that it represents a culminating step in the formation of terrestrial planets (or massive cores). It nicely explains the overabundance of refractory elements and the presence of cores for giant planets in the solar system (although the latter is not so obvious in the case of Jupiter). It also naturally accounts for the so-called metallicity correlation — the tendency of more metal-rich stars to host a giant planet: higher abundance of metals in the nebula increases the availability of solids and speeds up core growth, facilitating core accretion. However, formation of the core is the Achilles’ heel of core accretion because it typically takes a long time. Standard theory predicts that far from the star, the core buildup by planetesimal coagulation should take much longer than the lifespan of a protoplanetary disk, which is several million years. This makes it problematic to explain the origin of directly imaged planets by core accretion at tens of AU from their stars. That’s why a number of ideas have been proposed recently for speeding up core formation, by efficient accretion of either cm- or mm-sized “pebbles” early on, or small fragments and debris resulting from planetesimal collisions at later stages.

    Gravitational instability nicely bypasses the nebula-lifetime constraint as it should operate on a relatively short dynamical timescale, which is about thousands of years at 100 AU distances. However, as mentioned above, conditions for this formation channel can exist only far from the star. It also requires very massive protoplanetary disks, typically tens of percent of the stellar mass, which may not be unusual early on but is not very common in later stages. High disk mass raises a number of important issues for gravitational instability. Bound objects produced by gravitational instability are expected to have rather high initial masses (of order 10 Jupiter masses), and can easily grow from planetary mass into the brown dwarf regime by accreting from the surrounding dense nebula. Tidal coupling to a massive disk may also lead to fast migration of forming protoplanets towards the star, where they can be efficiently destroyed.

    3
    A series of snapshots from a simulation of a gravitationally unstable protoplanetary disk. Bright objects seen at late stages are the self-gravitating clumps forming as a result of gravitational instability that may subsequently turn into giant planets. Credit: G. Lufkin et al (University of Washington)

    Discoveries of planets such as 51 Eri b are very important for understanding the efficiency of each of these two channels (their “branching ratios”) in producing the planets we have observed. With its small projected separation of only 13 AU and relatively low mass (possibly as low as two Jupiter masses) this object would have little problem forming by core accretion even at its current location, which is close to the orbit of Saturn in our solar system. At this stage, gravitational instability appears a more unlikely scenario for 51 Eri b. GPI and similar surveys will provide better statistics for directly imaged planets at different separations, and give us a much better understanding of how the majority of giant planets form in the Universe.

    See the full article here .

    Gemini Planet Imager
    GPI

    Gemini South telescope
    Gemini South

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    GPI: A scientific partnership between institutions from the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:55 pm on September 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini : “Joint University of Toronto and Gemini Observatory Press Release” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    Media Contact:

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

    Chris Sasaki
    Communications Coordinator
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    Email: media”at”dunlap.utoronto.ca
    Phone: 416-978-6613

    Science Contacts:

    Max Millar-Blanchaer
    Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    Email: maxmb”at”astro.utoronto.ca
    Phone: (416) 978-3146

    Fredrik Rantakyro
    Gemini Observatory, La Serena, Chile
    Email: frantaky”at”gemini.edu
    Cell: 9 – 995097802
    Desk: 56-51- 2205665

    A team of astronomers has given us our best view yet of an exoplanet moving in its orbit around a distant star. A series of images captured between November 2013 to April 2015 shows the exoplanet β Pic b as it moves through 1 ½ years of its 22-year orbital period.

    1

    First discovered in 2008, β Pic b is a gas giant planet ten to twelve times the mass of Jupiter, with an orbit roughly the diameter of Saturn’s. It is part of a dynamic and complex system that includes comets, orbiting gas clouds, and an enormous debris disk that in our Solar System would extend from Neptune’s orbit to nearly two thousand times the Sun/Earth distance. Because the planet and debris disk interact gravitationally, the system provides astronomers with an ideal laboratory to test theories on the formation of planetary systems beyond ours.

    Maxwell Millar-Blanchaer, a PhD-candidate in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, is lead author of a paper to be published September 16th in the Astrophysical Journal. The paper describes observations of the β Pictoris system made with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) instrument on the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

    Gemini Planet Imager
    GPI

    “The images in the series represent the most accurate measurements of the planet’s position ever made,” says Millar-Blanchaer. “In addition, with GPI, we’re able to see both the disk and the planet at the exact same time. With our combined knowledge of the disk and the planet we’re really able to get a sense of the planetary system’s architecture and how everything interacts.”

    The paper includes refinements to measurements of the exoplanet’s orbit and the ring of material circling the star which shed light on the dynamic relationship between the two. It also includes the most accurate measurement of the mass of β Pictoris to date and shows it is very unlikely that β Pic b will pass directly between us and its parent star.

    “It’s remarkable that Gemini is not only able to directly image exoplanets but is also capable of effectively making movies of them orbiting their parent star,” said Chris Davis, astronomy division program director at the National Science Foundation, which is one of five international partners that funds the Gemini twin telescopes’ operation and maintenance. “Beta Pic is a special target. The disk of gas and dust from which planets are currently forming was one of the first to be observed and is a fabulous laboratory for the study of young solar systems.”

    Astronomers have discovered nearly two thousand exoplanets in the past two decades but most have been detected with instruments – like the Kepler space telescope – that use the transit method of detection: astronomers detect a faint drop in a star’s brightness as an exoplanet transits or passes between us and the star, but do not see the exoplanet itself.

    NASA Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler

    With GPI, astronomers image the actual planet – a remarkable feat given that an orbiting world typically appears a million times fainter than its parent star. This is possible because GPI’s adaptive optics sharpen the image of the target star by cancelling out the distortion caused by the Earth’s atmosphere; it then blocks the bright image of the star with a device called a coronagraph, revealing the exoplanet.

    Laurent Pueyo is with the Space Telescope Science Institute and a co-author on the paper. “It’s fortunate that we caught β Pic b just as it was heading back – as seen from our vantage point – toward β Pictoris,” says Pueyo. “This means we can make more observations before it gets too close to its parent star and that will allow us to measure its orbit even more precisely.”

    GPI is a groundbreaking instrument that was developed by an international team led by Stanford University’s Prof. Bruce Macintosh (a U of T alumnus) and the University of California Berkeley’s Prof. James Graham (former director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto). In August 2015, the team announced its first exoplanet discovery: a young Jupiter-like exoplanet designated 51 Eri b. It is the first exoplanet to be discovered as part of the GPI Exoplanet Survey (GPIES) which will target 600 stars over the next three years.

    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

    The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.
    Gemini was built and is operated by a partnership of six countries including the United States, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for time on Gemini, which is allocated in proportion to each partner’s financial stake.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:47 pm on August 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Gemini Observatory   

    From Gemini Observatory: “Gemini Inspires Graduate Student” 

    NOAO

    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    24 Aug 2015
    alexis

    Last week, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) graduate student, Sarthak Dasadia, visited Gemini North. Sarthak, an amateur astronomer and staff person at a local planetarium near his home in India, would often collect scientific data to send to various institutes such as the American Meteor Society. He recounts,

    “Internet was a privilege back then, and my parents only allowed an hour a week which was enough to search and contact different astronomy institutes.”

    While researching astronomical images, he came across Gemini Observatory. Noting the address, he sent a letter expressing his interest in astronomy and got a reply. Xiaoyu Zhang, Gemini North’s Librarian, sent material including images, posters, and a copy of the Gemini Virtual Observatory tour.

    “I can’t express how important it was for me to receive mail from a foreign institute,” he says. “This encouraged me to pursue a degree in physics and astronomy.”

    That was in 2006.

    Currently, Sarthak is studying merging galaxy clusters at UAH. He also gave a talk at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly in Honolulu last week. “The day I heard [that the IAU was in Hawai‘i], I knew I wanted to visit Gemini.”

    “I’m thrilled that we encouraged Sarthak to work towards a degree in physics and astronomy,” says Zhang. “I wish him the best as he continues his education and leaves his mark on the universe!”

    1
    This image was taken at Gemini North. Photo credit: Sarthak Dasadia

    2
    Sarthak at the Mauna Kea Visitor Station

    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

    The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai‘i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.
    Gemini was built and is operated by a partnership of six countries including the United States, Canada, Chile, Australia, Brazil and Argentina. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for time on Gemini, which is allocated in proportion to each partner’s financial stake.

     
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