Update from the Canadian Gemini Office

Gemini Science Meeting

A very successful Gemini Science 2004 Meeting was held in Vancouver May 23 – 26 (see http://www.gemini.edu/science/gem_conf/). Approximately 120 participants from all over the Gemini partnership enjoyed 3 days of exciting science results from both Gemini telescopes. They were 60 oral presentations and approximately 15 poster papers presented during the three days.

Following the three days of science results a ½ day ‘users’ meeting was held. This session had presentations on various operational aspects of Gemini (e.g., “De-mystifying the Queue”) and updates on new and “soon to arrive” instruments such as GNIRS and NIFS. The question of queue versus classical scheduling generated a lot of debate with the general consensus that while Gemini’s queue process can be improved it is working quite well.

Aspen Process – New Gemini Instrumentation

In late 2001 the Gemini Board initiated the so-called “Aspen process” that would define Gemini's science and instrumentation plan for the next decade. Working groups were formed and National “pre-Aspen” meetings were held in several countries to discuss the future big science questions that Gemini is well-suited to address. This process reached a significant milestone in the small resort town of Aspen, Colorado, in June of 2003, when almost 100 scientists and Gemini users came together to discuss future goals. The Aspen conference resulted in the development of the formal science case and a detailed plan for future instrumentation. (See this article in the September Equinox 2003 issue of Cassiopeia: (http://www.casca.ca/ecass/issues/2003-se/news/gemini/cass0603.html) This plan was commented on by the Gemini Science Committee in the Fall of 2003 and forwarded to the Board. At its November 2003 meeting, the Gemini Board approved the recommendations of the Aspen conference.

The final version of the Aspen Report entitled: “Scientific Horizons at the Gemini Observatory: Exploring a Universe of Matter, Energy and Life” is available from the Gemini website: (http://www.gemini.edu/project/announcements/press/aspen_report/aspen_report.pdf). If you would prefer a hardcopy version of the Aspen report please contact Susan Firestone at HIA (Susan.Firestone@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca).

In December 2003 Gemini issued several Requests for Proposals related to the new instrumentation. These included design studies for and Extreme Adaptive Optics Coronagraph (ExAOC) and a High Resolution Near-Infrared Spectrograph (HRNIRS). In addition, the Gemini requested proposals for feasibility studies for a Wide Field Fiber Fed Optical Multi-object Spectrometer (WFMOS) and a Ground Layer Adaptive Optics System (GLAO). Canada is involved in one the ExAOC conceptual design studies, the GLAO and the WFMOS feasibility studies.

Contracts for these studies have been issued and the teams are hard at work to finish their design/feasibility studies in early 2005. These studies will be reviewed and recommendations forwarded to the Gemini Science Committee and Gemini Board in April/May 2005. The Board will make the final decision

Other Gemini News

Gemini released a Call for Proposals for Semester 2005A at the beginning of September. Details can be found at http://www.gemini.edu/sciops/ObsProcess/ObsProcIndex.html. In 2005A Canada has 162 hours on Gemini North and 175 hours on Gemini South. The Gemini community has access to five classical nights with HIRES on Keck this semester. The deadline for Canadian proposals is 16:00 PDT September 30.

During the initial cooldown of the NIFS science grade HAWAII-2 detector, it failed to readout in the final stages of reaching its operating temperature. Upon opening the dewar to troubleshoot the problem it was discovered that the science grade device was damaged and beyond any hope of repair.

Since this event Gemini has been working closely with Rockwell Scientific and ANU to devise a recovery plan. An engineering grade HAWAII-2 detector is being shipped this week to ANU, which we expect will allow ANU to complete most of its planned final integration tasks with NIFS. Gemini is also assessing options for replacing the science grade detector as quickly as possible. While the loss of the NIFS science grade detector obviously poses a major setback, thanks to the hard work of the NIFS team in Canberra, and Rockwell Scientific's exceptional responsiveness to helping us out, Gemini still expects to have NIFS operational on Gemini-North in 2005.

Hokupa'a-85 has completed its first commissioning run on Gemini South Hokupa'a-85 was successfully coupled with theABU science camera several days before the run and, despite concerns about the intrinsic image quality of ABU being a limiting factor in the system's performance, the intrinsic image quality of ABU's optics are in fact quite good.

Though seeing was poor (~1.0 -1.5") during the first night of the run, Hokupa'a-85 successfully locked onto a bright star immediately. However, soon thereafter many of the actuators in its deformable mirror (DM) failed, leaving Hokupa'a-85 unable to close its AO loop. The next ~1.5 nights were used to commission other aspects of the system (telescope + Hokupa'a-85 + ABU) that did not require the AO loop, while a back-up DM was sent from Hawaii to Cerro Pachon.

When the back-up DM arrived it was integrated into Hokupa'a-85, leaving effectively only the last 2 nights of the planned run for additional commissioning. Required interfaces between Hokupa’a-85, ABU, and the telescope were all tested and worked. Hokupa’a-85 loop operation, ABU exposure control, and telescope dithering all worked under automated control to  provide properly sequenced observations. The WFS control field was confirmed to exceed 30 arcsec and closed loop control was demonstrated on a R = 15.8 mag star. 

Gemini has decided to not offer Hokupa'a-85 in the general 2005A Call for Proposals. Instead Gemini will complete the commissioning of this instrument during the planned December 2004 run, then (assuming all goes well) release the instrument in 2005A through a special call for demo-science proposals to the Community.

Dennis Crabtree,Stephanie Côté,Tim Davidge