We review the multiple changes in Gemini Observatory operations over the past decade, and discuss their effect on scientific productivity. The initial mix of queue and classical programs, allocated by Partner-based Time Allocation Committees (TACs), has evolved to include “Large and Long” programs allocated from a pool by a dedicated TAC, a popular “Fast-turnaround” mode allocated by a novel “proposer review” system, and we are now receiving increasing numbers of visiting instruments, scheduled in blocks. Observations are carried out in queue (service), classical (visitor), and priority visitor (visitors execute both their own observations and the queue) modes. Gemini is already an important facility for following up time-domain discoveries. Looking ahead, Gemini South will be partnered by LSST on Cerro Pachón and both Gemini telescopes will put a significant fraction of observing time into responding to the LSST alert stream; we review Gemini’s positioning to fulfil this role and anticipate additional changes in our operational model, user software and data reduction to accommodate it.
With the advent of large-scale time-domain surveys such as the LSST, there is a strong desire for the 4-m SOAR Telescope to be able to respond efficiently and effectively to transient alerts. Enabling the required capabilities at SOAR will also support a greater variety of science programs than conventional telescope scheduling. These capabilities are best deployed with SOAR acting as one of several telescopes responding to alerts and supporting time domain programs. We outline how this might be done if SOAR is included as a node in the Las Cumbres Observatory network, at least part-time. This allows SOAR to make use of extensive existing software infrastructure, while adding a larger aperture to the existing network. Participation of SOAR also serves as a pathfinder for participation of other large telescopes in an evolved LCO network. The overall workflow is outlined. Required interfaces are described. Finally, the initial development efforts with this goal in mind are outlined.
After more than 4 years of operation it’s expected that the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) will move from Gemini South (GS) to the Gemini North (GN) telescope sometime in 2019. Though both telescopes are almost identical at a hardware and software level there are subtle differences. With the accrued knowledge from operations from both a software and hardware point of view we will be addressing the following subjects: Changes in software on the telescope control level to interface with the similar system at GN, changes in the user interface for both instrument operation, proposal management, and observation preparations by a PI. Adjustments and requirements to interface at a hardware level with cooling and power requirements, and changes in the hardware configuration of network interfaces. We also show the results from vibration measurements at both telescopes and these measurements indicate that the vibrations will not be an issues when moving from GS to GN. Using more than 600h of observations and performance measurements and weather conditions at GS, and correlating with several years of weather monitoring at Mauna Kea we show what improvements in performance we can expect. We expect a significant improvement in performance due to the less turbulent atmosphere at GN, with post-processed contrast improving by a factor of 1.3–2.6.
GeMS, the Gemini Laser Guide Star Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics facility system, has seen first light in December 2011, and has already produced images with H band Strehl ratio in excess of 35% over fields of view of 85x85 arcsec, fulfilling the MCAO promise. In this paper, we report on these early results, analyze trends in performance, and concentrate on key or novel aspects of the system, like centroid gain estimation, on-sky non common path aberration estimation. We also present the first astrometric analysis, showing very encouraging results.
Target of opportunity observations (ToO) are an integral part of multi-instrument queue operations at Gemini
Observatory. ToOs comprise a significant fraction of the queue (20-25% of the highest ranking band) and with the
advent of large survey telescopes (eg. Pan-STARRS, LSST) dedicated to searching for transient events this fraction may
reasonably be expected to increase significantly in the coming years. While some important aspects of ToO execution at
Gemini Observatory are managed automatically (eg. trigger alerts, data distribution), other areas such as duplications
checking, scheduling and relative priority determination still require manual intervention. In order to increase efficiency
and improve our commitment to ToOs and queue observing in general, these aspects need to be formalized and
incorporated into improved phase 2 checking, automated queue scheduling and on-the-fly nightly plan generation
software. We discuss the different flavors of ToOs supported at Gemini Observatory and how each kind is scheduled
with respect to existing queue observations. We present ideas for formalizing these practices into a system of dynamical
prioritization which automatically self adjusts as new ToO observations are triggered, high priority targets become
endangered, and timing windows near expiration.
The Gemini telescopes were designed to be queue scheduled and currently more than 90% of the telescope time is
devoted to queue observing. In queue mode observations are done in the conditions that are appropriate for them and it
is easier to accommodate programs that require flexible scheduling such as Target of Opportunity observations of
gamma ray bursts. Queue observing is most efficient when the number of available options is maximized. A small
number of programs usually cannot fill all combinations of RA/Dec and observing conditions constraints. One way to
maximize the available options is to allow the use of more than one instrument on a given night. The Gemini telescopes
were also designed with this in mind; two or three instruments are usually active on any given night. Large numbers of
programs and multiple instruments complicate the processes of planning, managing, and executing the queue.
Therefore, Gemini is developing software tools to aid the queue planning. This presentation will outline the Gemini
queue planning process and give an overview of the Gemini queue planning tool and the plans for its near-term
The Gemini Observatories primarily operate a multi-instrument queue, with observers selecting observations that are best suited to weather and seeing conditions. Queue operations give higher ranked programs a greater chance for completion than lower ranked programs requesting the same conditions and instrument configuration. Queue observing naturally lends itself to Target of Opportunity (ToO) support since the time required to switch between programs and instruments is very short, and the staff observer is trained to operate all the available instruments and modes. Gemini Observatory has supported pre-approved ToO programs since beginning queue operations, and has implemented a rapid (less than 15 minutes response time) ToO mode since 2005. We discuss the ToO procedures, the statistics of 2+ years of rapid ToOs at Gemini North Observatory, the science that this important mode has enabled, and some recent software modifications which have improved both standard and rapid ToO support in the Gemini Observing Tool.
The Gemini-North Multiobject Spectrograph (GMOS) includes a powerful capability for integral field spectroscopy - the first to be installed and used on an 8-10m telescope. GMOS is switched to this mode by the remote insertion of an integral field unit (IFU) into the focal plane in place of the masks used for multiobject spectroscopy. With 1500 lenslet-coupled fibres, it provides a total field of view exceeding 50 square arcseconds, including a separate field dedicated to background subtraction. We describe the design, construction and testing of the IFU and present performance results obtained during commissioning.