GeminiFocus July 2017 - Page 22

Winter Starts Early in Chile This year’s winter season has started early in parts of the Southern Hemisphere. While the past several years have adversely affected Chile with extreme drought and low pre- cipitation, this year has started off very wet. Precipitation levels reached the annual average to- tal within just a couple of days, bringing with it all of the cor- responding problems, as de- scribed in this article. Figure 2. Gemini South telescope winter landscape. Figure 3. Gemini South day-crew member Claudio Araya, who helped clear snow and ice from the dome. Figure 4. Blue bars show the percentage of time rendered unobservable by weather, for Gemini South over the period 2008-2016. The orange trace shows the average per month over that same period. 20 First, the road to Cerro Pachón was severely affected. Despite improvements, several areas were still washed away — mak- ing it impossible, once again, for the day crew to reach the summit for several days. The dome was also snowed-in several times (Figure 2); and the day crew did a fan- tastic job clearing the abundant snow and ice (once the summit road became acces- sible; Figure 3). Since we now operate in Base Facility Operations mode, we have learned to use our cameras to assess the situation with the dome and shutter. In doing so, we have detected some limitations; for instance, we have recognized that an in-situ inspection is mandatory after any severe weather event. Finally, despite several power cuts during this period, our systems responded very well. To further optimize our operations and reduce fuel consumption, we have now enabled re- mote switching back to commercial power, once normal power is restored. This avoids GeminiFocus running the generator for unnecessary peri- ods once commercial power is available but access to the summit is not an option. To put this in context, Figure 4 shows the weather losses at Gemini South over the period 2008-2016. The relatively reproduc- ible year-to-year variation in weather loss (at least until 2014) is why we started, a year or two ago at an International Time Allocation Committee meeting, to reduce the amount of schedulable time in the winter and in- crease the available time in the summer. 2016 was somewhat remarkable, and also had an early onset of winter weather. It will be interesting to see how the winter of 2017 turns out. Astroconda Now Recommended for Gemini Users Following some significant Image Reduction and Analysis Facility (IRAF) integration and testing work on Gemini’s data processing software, we now recommend that all new installations be performed using Astroconda, in place of Ureka; see instructions and further information here. New Version of GMMPS Released The recent release of the Gemini MOS Ma sk Preparation Software (GMMPS) version 1.4.5, offers full support for the new Gemini Multi- Object Spectrograph Hamamatsu detector array at Gemini North (GMOS-N), as well as support for FLAMINGOS-2 (F-2) at Gemini South. Commissioning for the MOS mode of F-2 is scheduled to commence in July 2017, boosting Gem- ini’s strength in the area of near-infrared spectroscopy. July 2017