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Gemini Observatory

Gemini Observatory

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The Gemini Observatory is an astronomical observatory consisting of two 8.1 metres (26.6 ft) telescope
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

s at sites in Hawai‘i and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. Together, the twin Gemini telescopes provide almost complete coverage of both the northern and southern skies. They are currently among the largest and most advanced optical/infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 telescopes available to astronomers.

The Gemini telescopes were built and are operated by a consortium consisting of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. This partnership is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy is a consortium of universities and other institutions that operates astronomical observatories and telescopes...

 (AURA). The United Kingdom dropped out of the partnership in late 2007 before being re-instated again two and a half months later, but has recently announced its intention to end its role in the partnership in 2012. The Gemini Observatory has responded to this pending withdrawl by significantly reducing its operating costs, so that no new partners are required beginning in 2013.

Overview



The Gemini Observatory's international Headquarters and Northern Operations Center is located in Hilo, Hawaii at the University of Hawaii at Hilo
University of Hawaii at Hilo
The University of Hawaii at Hilo, UHH, or UH Hilo is one of the ten branches of the University of Hawaii system anchored by the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in Honolulu, Hawaii...

 University Park. The Southern Operations Center is located on the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory is a complex of astronomical telescopes and instruments located at 30.169 S, 70.804 W, approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile at an altitude of 2200 metres. The complex is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory along with Kitt...

 (CTIO) campus in La Serena, Chile.
  • One telescope (Gemini North, officially called the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope ) is located on Hawaii
    Hawaii
    Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

    's Mauna Kea
    Mauna Kea
    Mauna Kea is a volcano on the island of Hawaii. Standing above sea level, its peak is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. However, much of the mountain is under water; when measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is over tall—significantly taller than Mount Everest...

    , along with many other telescopes. That location provides excellent viewing conditions due to the superb atmospheric conditions (stable, dry, and rarely cloudy) above the 4200 metres (13,779.5 ft)-high dormant volcano. It saw first light in 1999 and began scientific operations in 2000.
  • The other (Gemini South) is located at over 2700 metres (8,858.3 ft) elevation on a mountain in the Chile
    Chile
    Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

    an Andes
    Andes
    The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

     called Cerro Pachón
    Cerro Pachón
    Cerro Pachón is a mountain located close to Chilean city of Vicuña and 10 km southeast of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, at an altitude of 2,715 m over the sea level in the foothills of the Andes. The location is exceedingly dry, making it suitable for infrared observations....

    . Very dry air and negligible cloud cover make this another prime telescope location (again shared by several other observatories, including the SOAR Telescope
    SOAR telescope
    The Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope is a modern 4.1-meter-aperture optical and near-infrared telescope located on Cerro Pachón, Chile at 2,738 meters elevation...

     and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
    Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory
    The Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory is a complex of astronomical telescopes and instruments located at 30.169 S, 70.804 W, approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile at an altitude of 2200 metres. The complex is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory along with Kitt...

    ). Gemini South saw first light in 2000.

Together, the two telescopes cover almost all of the sky except for two small regions near the celestial poles: Gemini North cannot point north of declination
Declination
In astronomy, declination is one of the two coordinates of the equatorial coordinate system, the other being either right ascension or hour angle. Declination in astronomy is comparable to geographic latitude, but projected onto the celestial sphere. Declination is measured in degrees north and...

 +79 degrees; Gemini South cannot point south of declination -89 degrees.

Both Gemini telescopes employ a range of advanced technologies to deliver the highest quality images, including laser guide star
Laser guide star
Laser guide stars are a form of artificial star created for use in astronomical adaptive optics imaging.Adaptive optics systems require a wavefront reference source in order to correct atmospheric distortion of light...

s, adaptive optics
Adaptive optics
Adaptive optics is a technology used to improve the performance of optical systems by reducing the effect of wavefront distortions. It is used in astronomical telescopes and laser communication systems to remove the effects of atmospheric distortion, and in retinal imaging systems to reduce the...

, multi conjugate adaptive optics, and multi-object spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

. In addition, the two telescopes allow very high-quality infrared observations due to the advanced protected silver coating of their mirrors, their small secondary mirrors (due to the f16 focal ratio), and advanced ventilation systems. Thanks to a high degree of networking
Computer network
A computer network, often simply referred to as a network, is a collection of hardware components and computers interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information....

, the Gemini telescopes can be operated remotely, and observations can be run when atmospheric conditions suit them best, reducing unnecessary travel by astronomers.

History


The history of the Gemini Observatory featured prominently in Giant Telescopes, a 2004 book by science historian W. Patrick McCray
W. Patrick McCray
W. Patrick McCray is a historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He researches, writes about, and teaches the history of science and the history of technology....

 http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog/MCCGIA.html. It details the technical and political challenges faced by scientists and engineers working to construct Gemini and other modern observatories.

It is estimated that the two telescopes cost approximately $
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

184 million to construct, and a night on each Gemini telescope is worth about $33,000.

The two 8 meter mirror blanks, each weighing over 24 short tons (21,772.4 kg), were fabricated from Corning's Ultra Low Expansion glass. Each blank was constructed by the fusing together of and subsequent sagging of a series of smaller hexagonal pieces. This work was performed at Corning's Canton Plant facility located in upstate New York. The blanks were then transported via ship to REOSC, located south of Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 for final grinding and polishing.

UK Funding Crisis


In November 2007 it was announced that the UK's STFC
Science and Technology Facilities Council
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy .-History:It was formed in April 2007 as a merger of the Particle...

 had proposed that, to save £4 million annually, it would aim to leave the telescope's operating consortium.
At a consortium in January 2008, the conclusion was made that the UK would officially withdraw from the Gemini Partnership and the Gemini Observatory Agreement effective December 12, 2007.. This decision significantly disrupted observatory budgets, and resulted in the cancellation of at least one instrument in development at that time (the Precision Radial Velocity Spectrograph).

Since the reason for the UK breaking its part of the agreement seemed to be entirely financial, there was public outcry, including the "Save Astronomy" movement http://www.saveastronomy.org.uk/ which asked citizens to speak up against the astronomy budget cuts. The UK rethought their decision to withdraw from Gemini, and requested reinstatement into the agreement, and were officially welcomed back on February 27, 2008. However, in December 2009 it was announced that the UK will indeed leave the Gemini partnership in 2012, as well as terminating several other international science partnerships, due to continuing funding limitations.

See also

  • Mauna Kea Observatory
    Mauna Kea Observatory
    The Observatories at Mauna Kea, , are an independent collection of astronomical research facilities located on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i, USA. The facilities are located in a special land use zone known as the "Astronomy Precinct," which is located in the Mauna Kea...

  • List of largest optical reflecting telescopes
  • Kronberger 61
    Kronberger 61
    Kronberger 61 also known as the "soccer ball" is a Nebula discovered by an amateur Astronomer in January, 2011, with the newer images having being taken by the Gemini Observatory. The nebula is named for Austrian Mattias Kronberger, who is a member of the amateur group Deep Sky Hunters. They...


External links