NSF PR 02-05 - January 18, 2002
Gemini Observatory Celebrates Historic First
The National Science Foundation (NSF) joined its international
partners today in dedicating Gemini South, the second
of the two Gemini telescopes to become operational.
From high atop remote mountains in Chile and Hawaii,
the twin telescopes for the first time give astronomers
access to the entire sky with state-of-the-art 8-meter
"International ventures such as the Gemini telescopes
project are vital to scientific progress," said NSF
director Rita Colwell. "Now more than ever, we need
these efforts that transcend national boundaries and
NSF provides nearly 50 percent of the Gemini project
costs on behalf of the United States and serves as
the executive agency for the partnership. The Gemini
Observatory is managed by the Association of Universities
for Research in Astronomy, Inc.
The telescopes, located on both sides of the equator,
provide complete sky coverage for astronomers within
the seven nations in the Gemini partnership--Argentina,
Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the United Kingdom
and the United States. More than 200 representatives
from those countries journeyed up the steep dirt road
to the summit of Cerro Pachon, Chile, for the dedication
of Gemini South.
"About a month ago, we reached a milestone when both
Gemini North and Gemini South made observations at
the same time but in parts of the sky inaccessible
to each other," said Gemini Observatory director Matt
Mountain. "Today's dedication celebrates a decade
of work by hundreds of people to build these two telescopes
that have now become one observatory."
"Now that both of the twin telescopes have begun operations,
astronomers throughout the United States will have
access to a unique 8-meter resource, no matter what
institution they're affiliated with. At NOAO, we're
particularly pleased to see Gemini building on the
infrastructure and heritage our pioneers have built
into NSF's Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory,"
said Jeremy Mould, director of the National Optical
Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Ariz., headquarters
of the U.S. Gemini Program.
Both Gemini telescopes incorporate new technologies
that allow large, relatively thin mirrors under active
control to collect and focus both optical and infrared
radiation from space. Adaptive optics correct for
the distortions caused by the earth's atmosphere.
Early discoveries from Gemini North, dedicated on Mauna
Kea, Hawaii, in 1999, include surprising conditions
surrounding a supermassive black hole at the core
of an active galaxy, and regions of gas and dust circling
stars where early planetary systems might be forming.
Other early observations from Gemini have revealed
the center of our Milky Way galaxy in unprecedented
detail, unexpected conditions at the core of a distant
active galaxy, the closest brown dwarf (or failed
star) ever imaged around a sun-like star and a spectacular
image dubbed "the perfect spiral galaxy."
For more information about discoveries with Gemini,
For photos of Gemini South and more information about
the dedication, see: www.gemini.edu/media/GSDedication/.
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