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A Decade of Discoveries. with the Gemini Telescopes. …by Canadian Astronomers !. Stéphanie Côté (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, NRC). Overview. Brief Introduction of the Gemini Telescopes My role with Gemini in Canada Major discoveries with Gemini:.

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A Decade of Discoveries

with the Gemini Telescopes

…by Canadian Astronomers !

Stéphanie Côté

(Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, NRC)



  • Brief Introduction of the Gemini Telescopes
  • My role with Gemini in Canada
  • Major discoveries with Gemini:
  • Planets around other stars
  • Center of our Galaxy
  • Supernovae
  • Formation of the first galaxies in the early Universe
  • The first Quasars
  • Gamma-ray Bursts
  • Discoveries at Gemini by non-professional astronomers
the gemini observatory
The Gemini Observatory
  • United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Australia.
  • Canada: 15% partner in the two 8m telescopes
  • TWO 8m optical/infrared telescopes infrared optimized
  • Located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and Cerro Pachón, Chile

The biggest questions in Astronomy:

  • How common are Earth-like planets,
  • is there life somewhere else?
  • How do stars form?
  • How do galaxies form?
  • What is the Universe made of?
10 years since gemini first observations
10 years since Gemini First Observations:

The Center of Our Galaxy, October 2000 with Gemini: first image of such a large area of the Milky Way core with such clarity

my role with gemini in canada
My role with Gemini in Canada
  • I am a Canadian Gemini Support Astronomer since 1999:
  • I help other astronomers (especially students) all over Canada to use Gemini
    • by answering their questions and helping them write successful proposals for Gemini time
    • by explaining them how the instruments work
    • by helping them prepare their observations, and after helping them work on their data
  • I also regularly go observing at Gemini-North (Hawaii) or Gemini-South (Chile) to help getting the data
  • Since 2007 I am the Group Leader of the Canadian Gemini Office

JohnBlakeslee Tim Davidge Eric Steinbring


Major Discoveries with Gemini:

1. Planets around other stars

Almost 500 planets around other stars have now been discovered, but not by direct imaging.

Indirect detection by ‘wobbling’ of parent star (technique pioneered by a canadian team)

Gordon Walker


1. Planets around other stars

  • To image directly an orbiting planet, one needs extremely good image quality:
  • “Adaptive Optics” to correct for the effect of the atmosphere

1. Planets around other stars

FIRST direct image of an exoplanet!

David Lafrenière & Ray Jayawaradhana

First published in 2008, confirmed in 2010 with proper motions

1RXSJ160929.1 -210524


1. Planets around other stars

And FIRST direct image of a planetary system!

Christian Marois

HR8799: 130 light-years away,

3 planets of 7 to 10 Jupiter masses, at 25 to 70 AU from the star


2. Center of our Galaxy

Tim Davidge

First time the Galactic region has been observed on such a large area and with such precision.

Gemini discovered that IRS-8 is a high velocity star, flung around by the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole. It plows through and heats up the gas in its way, causing it to glow.


3. Supernovae

Supernova are exploding stars:

-either a small white dwarf star accreting matter from larger companion

-or a massive star (more than 8 times the Sun) imploding when fuel runs out

Gemini has been excellent at studying Supernovae, because of it is capable of rapid-response observations, thanks to its queue-observations approach.


3. Supernovae

Rev. Rob Evans Doug Welch

Supernova SN2003gd, in M74:

First time a red supergiant star is identified “on its deathbed” before going supernova

Follow-up observations also showed that large quantities of dust is produced quickly after that explosion


4. Formation of the first Galaxies in the Early Universe



Leo A

Spiral galaxy NGC3370

  • There are different types of galaxies: small dwarf galaxies, spiral galaxies, and elliptical galaxies.
  • We think that many dwarfs merged to build a spiral galaxy; and that elliptical galaxies are formed by the mergers of spiral galaxies.

4. Formation of the first Galaxies in the Early Universe

Elliptical galaxy: M104 “The Sombrero”


4. Formation of the first Galaxies in the Early Universe

Structure formation in the Universe: N-body simulations

See movie at:


4. Formation of the first Galaxies in the Early Universe

Bob Abraham Stephanie Juneau

Over 300 galaxies from when the Universe was 3 Billion years old:

Many more fully-formed massive galaxies are seen at this epoch than expected.

(this study is the most cited one of all Gemini discoveries)


5. The first Quasars

A quasi-stellar radio source ("quasar") is a very energetic and distant active galactic nucleus. They are the most luminous objects in the universe.

A quasar is a compact region in the center of a massive galaxy surrounding its central supermassive black hole. It can emit up to a thousand times the energy output of the Milky Way.

Quasars were much more common in the early universe.


5. The first Quasars

Chris Willott

Gemini confirmed the distances of the most distant quasars in the Universe.

These bright objects can also be used as beacons to probe the composition of the gas surrounding them a few hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang.


6. Gamma-Ray Bursts

Gamma-ray bursts are cosmic sources that emit an intense, short burst of gamma rays and X-rays.

Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent and powerful event in the Universe.

They may last from about one hundredth of a second to about ten seconds. GRBs are typically registered once or twice a day from random directions in space by orbiting spacecrafts.

Gamma-ray bursts can be divided into two classes:

-short bursts, which last between milliseconds and about two seconds, and produce very high-energy radiation

-long bursts, which last between two and tens of seconds, and create less energetic gamma rays.

Gemini queue-observations system has been optimised to catch these transient events “in the act”.


6. Gamma-Ray Bursts

Bob Rutledge

Gemini observed the after-glow of XRF060218, and revealed a supernova associated with the burst: this proved the link between gamma-ray bursts and supernovae (to explain long gamma-ray bursts).

Long-duration bursts are now generally reckoned to involve energy released along narrow jets during a specific kind of hypernova (a violent supernova) involving the final demise of stars that started their lives with masses of 40 to 100 times that of the Sun. In such cases, the remnant stellar core collapses immediately to form a black hole.


6. Gamma-Ray Bursts

Bob Rutledge

Gemini can observe gamma-ray bursts just a few minutes after the burst.

The after-glows are really faint because these objects are so far away, and they fade quickly.

Gemini observed the after-glow of the record-breaking GRB090423.

This is the most distant object ever detected in the Universe!

The Universe was only 630 millions of years old.


Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

The Canadian Gemini Office initiated as a public outreach activity a “Gemini GMOS Imaging Contest”

In 2002, open to schools in BC

The image revealed Herbig-Haro jets with great clarity.

Trifid Nebula, imaged by Ingrid Braul, 13years-old, from Southlands Elementary


Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

In 2004, we ran a contest open to amateur astronomy clubs across Canada.

This was to thank amateur astronomers for all the great work they do to inspire the public about astronomy.

G.St-Onge from the Dorval Astronomy Club imaged Ry Tauri.

Discovery of a jet associated with the young star in formation.

Ry Tauri, imaged by Gilbert St-Onge, Dorval Astronomy Club


Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

The story was published in many Astronomy magazines and newsletters and e-zines all over the world.

This is the second-most popular Gemini press releases of all!


Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

For IYA we ran a contest for high-school students across Canada.

Emily Storer,

Ecole Charlemagne

Owl Nebula


Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

  • The Owl Nebula is one of the most extended in the North Hemisphere, but despite this only two research papers have been devoted it since the invention of the CCD.
  • The Gemini data taken by Émilie Storer are the best data ever obtained on this object!
  • Dr Sun Kwok, dean of the University of Hong-Kong, world expert on planetary nebulae, was consulted:

“It was always believed that this nebula was a simple ball of gas, but these observations show that the external structure is in the shape of a cylinder. The pair of “eyes” are two cavities that were formed by the rapid gas outflow. This outflow was not along the cylinder axis, but along an angle of 36degrees.”

  • An Astrophysical Journal paper is in the works!

Discoveries with Gemini by non-professional Astronomers

The Canadian Gemini Office has helped the Australian and UK Gemini Office to launch their own Gemini Imaging contests last year.

There are many more discoveries to come!

Glowing Eye Nebula