Gemini Observatory research facility

The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1 metre-diameter optical/infrared telescopes located at 2 of the best observing sites on Earth. From their locations atop mountains on Hawai’i island and in Chile, Gemini Observatory's telescopes can access the entire sky.

The Observatory is funded and operated by an international partnership of 6 countries, including Canada, the United States, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Korea. Any astronomer in these countries can apply for time on Gemini, which is allocated in proportion to each partner's financial stake. Canada has an 18% share in Gemini.

The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) runs the Canadian Gemini Office (CGO), facilitating access for Canadian astronomers and playing an important role in collaborative research and technology development to expand the Observatory's power and reach.

Our capabilities

After nearly 2 decades of operation, Gemini has evolved into a renewed, agile observatory with competitive new instruments that facilitate improved responsiveness and connection to its users. Gemini offers many distinct benefits to the astronomical community:

  • Image quality – The Observatory's locations enjoy good natural seeing conditions, contributing to excellent delivered image quality
  • Full-sky coverage – Its twin sites on Hawai’i island(Gemini North) and in Chile (Gemini South) make it the only ground-based observatory capable of offering full-sky coverage
  • Flexible scheduling – The Gemini observing model offers flexible scheduling, enabling studies of transient events and targets of opportunity, and programs requiring special observing conditions
  • Unmatched sensitivity – Silver coatings and highly optimized telescope design give the telescopes unmatched ground-based thermal infrared sensitivity on the ground

Supplementing Gemini's established instrumentation suite, next-generation technology is being integrated into existing facilities. This includes:

  • GHOST (Gemini High resolution Optical SpecTrograph) – With very high throughput, GHOST gives users the ability to study faint sources that might be on the borderline of feasibility with other spectrographs at comparable facilities.
  • SCORPIO (Spectrograph and Camera for Observations of Rapid Phenomena in the Infrared and Optical) will provide simultaneous 8-channel broadband coverage spanning the full optical to 2-micron wavelength range. This is a workhorse instrument planned in part to enhance the growing field of time-domain astronomy.
  • Gemini North Adaptive Optics (GNAO) is a new state-of-the-art adaptive optics system for Maunakea, the first facility multi-conjugate AO system in the Northern hemisphere. When combined with a new dedicated imager it will have capabilities complementary to the James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Visitor Instrument Program (VIP) provides unique access, with support from the development teams, to a host of novel capabilities, including fibre-fed high-resolution spectrographs, spectropolarimeters, high-speed speckle cameras and future adaptive-optics-fed multi-object integral field units.

Access and use

The Gemini telescopes are scheduled on a semester basis following a semi-annual call for proposals. Canadian proposals are peer reviewed by a time allocation committee (TAC) and rated proposals are recommended to the Gemini director for scheduling.

Other proposal modes allow further efficiency and flexibility:

  • Large and Long Programs (LLPs) give Canadian users access to larger blocks of time that may span multiple semesters. Each participating partner allocates 20% of its time for a common LLP pool and proposals are reviewed together by a single international TAC
  • Fast Turnaround (FT) Program reduce the lag between the birth of an idea and acquiring the data. As of January 2015, monthly calls for smaller programs enable those passing peer review to get scheduled immediately
  • Director’s Discretionary Time (DDT) programs can be requested by astronomers worldwide anytime. It is a fixed amount of time per semester set aside for programs with a potential for high-impact scientific return.
  • Poor Weather (PW) programs can also be proposed at any time, or through the regular TAC process, and accepted into the queue if they can help fill gaps in observing schedule during poor conditions not usable by regular programs.

Canadian astronomers must use the Gemini Observatory Phase I Tool (PIT) to prepare and submit their proposals for observation time.

Call for observation proposals

The CGO is responsible for the technical assessment of proposals, which are then reviewed and ranked by the Canadian Time Allocation Committee (CanTAC). All data obtained is subject to the normal Gemini proprietary period of 12 months.