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Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI)

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star28-OCT-03: GSAOI Passes Critical Design Review

Tuesday, 28 October 2003

GSAOI Passes Critical Design Review

The GSAOI Critical Design Review was held on October 27-28 2003 at Mount Stromlo. Over the two days of presentations the details of the mechanical, optical, electrical, and detector designs were described and assessed. At the end, the panel expressed their high regard for the effort and gave their approval for manufacturing of the instrument to proceed.

star29-JAN-03: GSAOI Work Progresses Despite Bushfires

Wednesday 29 January, 2003


The damage to NIFS has freed up the RSAA instrumentation team to concentrate on the timely delivery of the Gemini South Adaptic Optics Imager (GSAOI). Already, GSAOI parts, not scheduled to be made until later in the year, are being manufactured in our temporary workshops. By making use of this opportunity, we are positioning ourselves to proceed with NIFS should damage assessment be favourable and the scientific opportunity still exist.

star02-DEC-02: RSAA Wins GSAOI Competition

Monday 2 December, 2002


Pictures as sharp as the Hubble Space Telescope's - but made from the ground. That's what astronomers will get from one of the world's largest telescopes with the help of equipment built at the Australian National University.

In a competitive tender, the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra has won an international competition to build a $6.3 million special camera for the Gemini South Telescope in Chile.

"The Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager project will generate sub-contracts with Australian companies that do high-tech optical design and make optical coatings and mirrors, " ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Chubb said.

"ANU scientists are leading the world in the production of precise instruments which will provide new insights about the formation of stars in galaxies beyond our own," Professor Chubb said.

"Mount Stromlo is known to hundreds of thousands of Australians as an important observatory, but it is also internationally renowned for its excellence in developing astronomical instruments."

Federal Science Minister Peter McGauran also welcomed the contract.

"The ANU's repeated success in winning international contracts to make precision astronomy instruments is great news for Australian science," Mr McGauran said.

"It is great to see Australia is playing a key role in delivering some of the clearest images of deep space ever seen."

Gemini South is one of two 8.1-m telescopes built and run by an international consortium of seven countries, including Australia. Its twin, Gemini North, is located in Hawai'i.

The telescopes work with both visible light and infrared radiation (wavelengths just a little longer than those of red light).

The Gemini telescopes are excellent 'light buckets'. But once the light is caught, it must be analysed or turned into images. This is the job of sophisticated instruments attached to the telescope.

Gemini South will be fitted with a special "adaptive optics" system that compensates for the way light is distorted as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere.

"When we combine the superb image quality of Gemini South and its revolutionary adaptive optics system with the GSAOI camera, we'll get infrared pictures as sharp as pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope," said ANU's Dr Peter McGregor, Project Scientist for the GSAOI.

GSAOI and Gemini South's adaptive optics system will allow astronomers to study in detail how, when and where stars formed in nearby galaxies.

They will also be superb instruments for studying how galaxies have evolved over the history of the Universe.

"Distant, young galaxies look quite different to the ones we see around us today," said Peter McGregor.

"By careful imaging of galaxies that are extremely distant, we hope to pin down when they took on their present day forms, and why."

"Understanding the formation histories of galaxies will be one of the most important astronomical legacies of our generation," said Dr Matt Mountain, Director of the Gemini Observatory. "We're very pleased to have ANU as a partner in this exciting endeavour."

GSAOI is the second instrument that ANU is building for Gemini. ANU already has a $A5 million contract to design and build an instrument called NIFS (Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph) for Gemini North.

NIFS will be used for studies such as looking at the regions around giant black holes in the centres of galaxies. The first observations are planned for 2003.

Designing and building instruments is a demanding, high-tech enterprise. Instruments are custom-built for the telescope they are to be fitted to. Only Gemini partner countries can bid to build Gemini instruments.

"I congratulate ANU on this successful bid, which emphasizes once again that Australia is at the forefront of high-tech instrumentation for world-class research," said Professor Vicki Sara, CEO of the Australian Research Council. Australian involvement in the Gemini partnership is supported by the Australian Research Council and by the Department of Education, Science and Training through the Major National Research Facilities component of the "Backing Australia's Ability" program.

The member countries of the Gemini Observatory partnership are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the UK and the USA.

Principle Contact: Dr. Peter McGregor, ANU (+61 2 6125 8033 (WH), +61 2 6247 2468 (AH);

GSAOI Website: NIFS Website: RSAA Website: Australian Gemini Project Office Website: Gemini Public Information Website:

Media Contact: Tim Winkler, ANU Media Office on (02) 6125 5001 or 0416 249 231