GPI Prepping First Light at Cerro Pachon

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Since the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) at Cerro Pachón, the GPI team had busy September and October months.  The instrument was reassembled, aligned, and cooled on September 6. The first “Chilean” image was collected on September 11 and on September 25 the system was bolted on the flexure rig. This is a useful configuration to test the flexure of the instrument and properly correct them before mounting it on the Cassegrain focus of the Gemini South Telescope.

GPI set up on the flexure rig on September 25. (credits: Gaston Gausachs)

GPI set up on the flexure rig on September 25. (credits: Gaston Gausachs)

Marshall Perrin from STSCI and  lead co-investigator data analysis & Archiving team is currently in Chile to help with the integration of the system. He sent us this video illustrating the flexure tests being done in the integration lab.

Additional tests, including software and performance testing, will be conducted by the GPI team and the Gemini Observatory for a  few more weeks. When one of the three instrument positions on the Cassegrain focus is freed up by removing the wide-field AO IR camera GSAOI in late October, GPI will be lowered off the flexure rig onto a wheeled cart, then attached to the telescope. Although if the U.S. government shutdown continues into November, of course, this may be delayed.

GPI I&T visitors looking into the Gemini South primary mirror.

GPI I&T visitors looking into the Gemini South primary mirror. (credits: Jeff Chilcote)

This is an exciting time for the GPI team, and we can’t wait for the first data to be recorded. All bets are opened off the first targets, what do you think?

Clear skies

Franck M.

About Franck Marchis

Dr. Franck Marchis is a Senior Researcher and Chair of the Exoplanet Group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since July 2007. Over the past 19 years, he has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. More recently, he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes. He has developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of images, both astronomical and biological. His currently involved in the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging exoplanets using an extreme AO system for the Gemini South telescope. This new instrument is capable of imaging and recording spectra of young Jupiter-like exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars.

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