Gemini Planet Imager Begins On-sky Integration at Gemini South

Adapted from Gemini Observatory e-Newscast #53

Gemini’s powerful new instrument for studying planets beyond the Solar System, the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), has successfully received its first starlight for engineering and testing on the night of November 11-12. On-sky observations are currently ongoing for technical integration with the Gemini South telescope. The GPI team (Figure 1) began the 7-night observing run began with a head start, since preliminary pupil and pointing alignments were completed early, due to extensive preparatory work and smooth integration since the instrument arrived at Gemini South in August.

Figure 1. The GPI commissioning team at the Gemini South control room assembles for the first night of commissioning on November 11, 2013. From left to right: Naru Sadakuni, Andrew Cardwell, Marshall Perrin, Stephen Goodsell, Fredrik Rantakyro, Bruce Macintosh, Jeff Chilcote, Dave Palmer, Dmitry Savransky, Sandrine Thomas, Les Saddlemyer, Jennifer Dunn, Ramon Galvez, Carlos Quiroz, Markus Hartung. Not shown, working from the La Serena Base Facility: Kayla Hardie, Pascale Hibon, Andrew Serio, and Cristian Urrutia.
Figure 1. The GPI commissioning team at the Gemini South control room assembles for the first night of commissioning on November 11, 2013. From left to right: Naru Sadakuni, Andrew Cardwell, Marshall Perrin, Stephen Goodsell, Fredrik Rantakyro, Bruce Macintosh, Jeff Chilcote, Dave Palmer, Dmitry Savransky, Sandrine Thomas, Les Saddlemyer, Jennifer Dunn, Ramon Galvez, Carlos Quiroz, Markus Hartung. Not shown, working from the La Serena Base Facility: Kayla Hardie, Pascale Hibon, Andrew Serio, and Cristian Urrutia.

Major milestone for GPI. The exoplanet camera hunter is mounted on the Gemini South Telescope

Yesterday was a major milestone for the Gemini Planet Imager Project!

Gaston Gausachs, mechanical engineer at Gemini Observatory, sent us this great picture ofGPI, our exoplanet camera hunter, mounted on the Gemini South Telescope. The team reported that it was a flawless and smooth operation.

First picture of GPI mounted on the Gemini South Telescope. (c) Manuel Paredes
First picture of GPI mounted on the Gemini South Telescope. (c) Manuel Paredes

GPI Prepping First Light at Cerro Pachon

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)

Special delivery for the Gemini South telescope. GPI has arrived!

Special delivery for the Gemini South Telescope: a 2-ton planet imager called GPI (credit: Stephen Goodsell and Gaston Gausachs)
Special delivery for the Gemini South Telescope: a 2-ton planet imager called GPI (credit: Stephen Goodsell and Gaston Gausachs)

Stephen Goodsell, Gemini Instrumentation Manager, surprised most of the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) team on August 16 at 3am when we received in our mailbox his email announcing that GPI  landed to Chile. The crates containing the dismounted instrument (see our previous post) had been loaded in a Boeing 747 from Lan Chile and flew to Lima then Santiago (LA601). After quickly clearing customs, the local GPI team could inspect the crates and determined that they arrived in excellent shape and condition.

Packing a planet imager instrument for a trip to Chile

Packing a planet imager instrument for a trip to Chile
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It is happening! The Gemini Planet Imager has been being dismounted, wrapped, and packed for a long trip to Chile. After so many years working on this project, the entire team shared   the anxiety of the principal investigator, Bruce Macintosh: GPI is going away…

Bruce Macintosh, Principal Investigator of the instrument having a little moment of separation anxiety during the packing.
Bruce Macintosh, Principal Investigator of the instrument having a little moment of separation anxiety during the packing.

After a successful pre-shipping review, the instrument has left UCSC, where it was being integrated and tested, for its new home: the Gemini South Telescope on the top of Cerro Pachon in the Chilean Andes.

GPI is ready for its new location in Chile

It is now official, The Gemini Planet Imager (“Gee-pi”) is ready for shipping to Chile. This decision was taken on July 19 after the positive pre-delivery acceptance review. From its current home at the University of California Santa Cruz, the instrument’s Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS) began its warm-up a week later (July 25th), and the computers were shut-down two days ago (July 31st).

Ifs_install
The Integral Field Spectrograph (the “eye” of GPI) being installed in the GPI instrument (archive picture from 2012)

GPI is going to be carefully packed for a long trip to Chile. The instrument will be shipped to the southern hemisphere by plane and should arrive by the end of August.

A blast from the past – GPI kick-off science meeting March 2 2007

Astronomy is not only about the study of stars, the search for exoplanets, the characteristics of detectors, and the size of telescopes, it is also about human interactions. While digging through my old email for a document, I found this group picture that was taken during our first GPI Science meeting at University of California at Berkeley in 2007.

Group picture from the GPI Kick-off meeting (March 2 2007). From left to right, back: M. Perrin, XXXXX, C. Marois, R. Doyon, X. Song, J. Graham, G. Marcy, G. Serabyn, L. Palmer, R. Makidon, XXXX, F. Marchis, P. Kalas, B. Macintosh
Group picture from the GPI Kick-off meeting (March 2 2007). back row, from left to right: M. Perrin, XXXXX, C. Marois, R. Doyon, M. Shao, J. Graham, G. Marcy, G. Serabyn, L. Palmer, J. Wright, J. Jensen. On the front row, from left to right: F. Marchis, P. Kalas, B. Macintosh

Progress on the GPI exoplanet imager integration

The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a next generation adaptive optics instrument being built for the Gemini Observatory. This is an ambitious project with the goal of directly imaging extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The instrument is currently being integrated at the University of California at Santa Cruz. After more than a year of testing in a fixed orientation in a clean room, on March 7, 2013, the 2,030 kg instrument was set up on a crane and flexure rig. In collaboration with the UCSC team, we prepared this time lapse video showing GPI being set up in its new position.

GPI instrument being set up on its flexure jig mounting (Credit: GPI consortium)