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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.
  • Charles Mattias Mountain
  • (202) 483-2101
  • Markus Kissler-Patig
Award Date:08/24/2006
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 339,445,460
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 312,388,248
  • FY 2016=$12,567,855
  • FY 2006=$19,289,580
  • FY 2007=$34,565,538
  • FY 2009=$33,064,199
  • FY 2008=$21,570,412
  • FY 2010=$36,027,790
  • FY 2014=$29,741,829
  • FY 2012=$22,906,869
  • FY 2015=$31,844,042
  • FY 2013=$34,433,075
  • FY 2011=$36,377,059
Start Date:01/01/2006
End Date:03/31/2017
Transaction Type: Cooperative Agreements
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.049
Primary Program Source:048960 NSF TRUST FUND
Award Title or Description:Management and Operations of the Gemini Observatory
Federal Award ID Number:0647970
DUNS ID:057905887
Parent DUNS ID:057905887
Program Officer:
  • Chris J. Davis
  • (703) 292-4910

Awardee Location

Street:1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Awardee Cong. District:00

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc.
Street:1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Cong. District:00

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Gemini Observatory is the US’s premier public-access observatory in the 8-10 meter class (currently, the class containing world’s largest telescopes). It operates two telescopes, one on Maunakea, Hawaii and one on Cerro Pachón, Chile. Both are world-class observing sites and the two telescopes are equipped with state-of-the art instrumentation for astronomical imaging and spectroscopy in the visual and infrared. Gemini serves an international partnership in which the US is the largest (~70% share) single partner, and which includes Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile - with Australia and Korea currently being limited-term partners. Its products are the publication of science results in peer-reviewed astronomical literature. Over the five years of the Cooperative Agreement reported on here, a total of 999 papers based on Gemini data appeared in the refereed literature, almost exactly divided between Gemini North and Gemini South. A total of 49 science programs produced full press releases, and nearly 80 were the subject of Gemini Web Features. More than 1000 individual Principal Investigators applied for Gemini time, from more than 300 academic institutions across the Gemini Partnership.

Over the course of the Cooperative Agreement, Gemini evolved significantly, becoming the most flexible, responsive observatory in its class. The Observatory developed and deployed new, worldwide unique, modes of applying for time, and for observing. It opened up to the scientific community in the Partner countries by welcoming visiting instrumentation and visiting observers. These innovations were achieved while responding successfully to a ~25% budget reduction resulting from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the formal Partnership at the end of 2012. While overhauling its operations, the Observatory also significantly reduced its carbon footprint.

The Observatory completed its transition to a lower budget, considered as the major managerial achievement of the last five years, by completing over 20 cost-reduction projects across the entire Observatory, as well as a ~20% staff reduction, making up the “transition program”. The projects involved significant savings in energy (e.g. via the installation of solar-cell arrays on both observatory sites). The staff reductions were achieved through a major reorganization in the Science Operations groups and a switch away from the majority of observations being carried out by research astronomers. Management oversight attested the Observatory not only with significantly leaner operations, but also greater budget responsibility and increased scientific productivity.

At the same time, the Gemini Observatory responded to the demand of its scientific community. It brought to the telescope exciting new instrumentation, including the two worldwide unique capabilities: the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI - Figure 1) - an exceptional instrument for the detection of planets around nearby stars and the characterization of their atmospheres; and the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive-optics System (GeMS - Figure 2) using artificial stars generated by five powerful lasers to correct the turbulence of the atmosphere, delivering images as sharp as the Hubble Space Telescope. Further, Gemini introduced GRACES, an innovative fiber-optic connection to a spectrograph located at the neighboring Canada-France Hawaii telescope on Maunakea. GRACES provides the Gemini community with the extremely competitive high-resolution spectroscopy capability that it has long desired. Several upgrades of workhorse instruments were performed as well. Finally, visitor instruments from the community were welcomed for week-long dedicated experiments, filling a long-awaited niche for the community.

New instrumentation is one way to provide scientific vitality, along with innovative ways of gaining access to it. Observing efficiently with this instrumentation is another innovation. In the period of this agreement, Gemini introduced Large and Long Programs, pooling 20% of the participating Partners’ time to enable very ambitious “flagship” science programs to be proposed and executed over a number of years. We also pioneered a “Fast Turnaround” proposal mode in which members of the community have the opportunity to propose observations every month, and to engage in the review of their peer’s proposals in each round. The publication count rose year on year during the period of this agreement, reaching a stable level of about four peer-reviewed papers per week by its end (Figure 3).  

A primary goal of Gemini’s Public Outreach effort is to support STEM education and observatory career engagement in our local host communities. To this end Gemini’s flagship annual outreach programs, Journey Through the Universe (Hawai‘i) and Viaje al Universo (Chile), continue to provide our host community schools with relevant STEM experiences, while engaging a broad cross-section of our staff in meaningful interactions with students and teachers. Additionally, we have produced substantial observatory career awareness resources (both electronic and printed), as illustrated in Figure 4.

Gemini is in a strong position - as an NSF led, internationally-attractive, observatory - to continue leading discoveries in all forefront areas of ground-based astronomical research. Having set up all the above initiatives, the Observatory moves into the next Cooperative Agreement with a clear strategic future.


Last Modified: 07/03/2017
Modified by: Markus Kissler-Patig

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