News from Gemini

by Stéphanie Côté, Canadian Gemini Office, NSI, NRC

Gemini and Subaru Unlimited Time Exchange

Since a few years already Gemini users have been able to apply to a small number of nights, typically half a dozen, on Subaru, Japan's 8.2m telescope, thanks to a small time exchange program between the two telescopes, and several canadian programs have obtained Subaru time this way already. On October 19th the directors of Subaru and Gemini signed an open-ended agreement that greatly increases the available time for sharing. Starting in the spring of 2013, Gemini and Subaru astronomers can apply for time on each other's telescopes WIHTOUT LIMITS, and the amount of time swapped each semester will be determined by demand on each side. Japanese astronomers will now have access to the southern skies with a 8m and are looking forward to use GeMs+GSAOI and GPI especially. Gemini users will have access to ALL the instruments available in the Subaru suite including the new wide-field HyperSuprimeCam. Gemini director Markus Kissler-Patig said that he is working towards a day when all the telescopes on Mauna Kea can be integrated into a system. This new agreement between Gemini and Subrau is an important step in that direction.

Figure 1: Canadians will enjoy even greater time exchanges with the Subaru Telescope. Copyright Subaru Telescope, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. All rights reserved.

Eavesdropping Pilot Project now underway

A few canadian PIs of 2012B programs have been contacted by Gemini staff about their interest in participating in an eavesdropping pilot project to participate in the queue observing of their program at night at Gemini. All contacted PIs have enthusiastically accepted to participate to this project.

The way it works for the moment is that every two weeks the Queue coordinator will determine which program has targets available over these next two weeks and will email the PIs warning them to expect to be called. On a given night the Queue Coordinator will email again the PIs to warn them that their targets are in the coming night's schedule with some reasonable chance of being observed (depending on weather conditions). Where possible the observer will call the PI 30+-15 minutes ahead of slewing to their target. The PI will establish a 'skype' call with the observer, who will share the desktop via skype, so that the PI can follow what is going on the observer's workstation. The PI will also connect via a web browser to Gemini's data server so that he/she can access the raw data immediately after the frames are written. The PI would then be able to see, and comment on, the target acquisitions via skype, and to inspect the raw data. The PI will be able to request simple modifications, such as changing the exposure times, re-arranging the steps in a sequence, skipping a previously included filter, or finishing a sequence early when the desired S/N is reached. If the weather conditions deteriorate during the observations the PI may be asked if he/she wishes to continue nevertheless, and if he/she says yes then the data would be flagged as 'pass'. However the PI has to understand that all modifications to the program will be at the summit observers' discretion, and that at any given time the observations can be interrupted by a ToO (Target of Opportunity) alert.

We wish all the best of luck to the canadian PIs who will be eavesdropping on their programs soon, and we welcome your feedback on this new option.