Public Release: 

Major agreement provides access for Republic of Korea astronomers to Gemini Observatory

Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)

San Francisco, Tuesday, July 24, 2018 - An agreement between the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) and the agencies that own and operate the International Gemini Observatory was signed today that established the Republic of Korea as a full Participant in the Gemini Observatory.

"After being a part of Gemini for the past four years as a Limited-term Collaborator, the Korean astronomical community is thrilled to become a full partner in the twin Gemini telescopes in Hawai'i and Chile," said Narae Hwang, Head of K-GMT Science Group, Center for Large Telescopes of KASI. "We look forward to years of fruitful exploration of the cosmos with the powerful 8-meter Gemini telescopes!"

The signing ceremony closed the second day of The Science and Evolution of Gemini Observatory meeting being held this week in San Francisco, California. Over 100 scientists, many from the partner communities in the U.S., Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and now Korea, are participating in the meeting and most attended the signing ceremony. The ceremony ended with cheers, toasts, and much anticipation of the partnership's future potential.

"I am confident that the KASI's partnership with the Gemini Observatory will help Korean researchers to lead the exciting adventures to solve the mystery of the Universe," said Hyung Mok Lee, KASI President. "We are more than happy to share this opportunity with the entire Gemini community.

Matt Mountain, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) that manages Gemini through a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation commented, "We welcome KASI as a full Participant in Gemini Observatory. KASI's collaboration with Gemini has already yielded new scientific discoveries, and we anticipate exciting new projects to come from Korea's full participation."

"We know that this will be the start of a wonderful friendship as well as a fruitful and long-lasting scientific collaboration," added Anne Kinney, Head of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Division of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF funds approximately 70% of the Gemini Observatory along with Participants Canada, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. "With Korea joining Gemini we will see a fresh new perspective which I'm certain will result in a flood of great ideas and insights," said Kinney.

"In the four years since Korea entered into a limited-term partnership with Gemini, we have developed a very strong bond with our Korean colleagues," said Gemini Director Laura Ferrarese. "I could not be more pleased to see that bond cemented today." Ferrarese continued, "Gemini is only as strong as its user-base, and we are deeply grateful for Korea's willingness to join our long-standing partners and help us define the vision and future of the Observatory."

Rene Walterbos, Chair of the Gemini Board commented, "It is a testimony to the remarkable staff at Gemini that Korea decided to become a full Participant in the twin telescopes." Walterbos adds that Korea is a rising star in astronomy and rapidly establishing a leadership position in many areas of astronomical research, "I'm looking forward to watching as Korea's scientists find new and exciting ways to use Gemini, contribute to its capabilities, and further advance Korea to the forefront of modern astronomy."

"Another exciting aspect of Korea joining Gemini is the instrumentation experience they will bring to our community,' said Scot Kleinman, Gemini's Associate Director for Development. "IGRINS, developed in part by a team in Korea, has proven to be one of Gemini's most popular visitor instruments and we look forward to them bringing a similar instrument specifically for Gemini as part of their initial contribution to the Observatory."

KASI started its limited term collaboration with the Gemini Observatory in October 2014, which has enabled Korean researchers to access the twin Gemini telescopes in Hawai'i and Chile starting in 2015. Since then, and up to 2018, the Korean community has carried out about 100 science programs and published over 10 papers based on Gemini data, two of which were featured on the Gemini website. KASI is also a major partner in the team that operates the state-of-the-art near infrared spectrometer IGRINS jointly developed by the University of Texas, Austin and KASI. IGRINS was deployed at Gemini South from March to July 2018 as a visitor instrument, and established an historically high scientific demand from the community, rendering it the most popular science instruments at Gemini South for that semester.

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ABOUT THE GEMINI OBSERVATORY

The Gemini Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF-United States), the National Research Council (NRC-Canada), the Comisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Technológica (CONICYT - Chile), the Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (MCTI - Brazil), the Ministerio de Ciencia, Technología e Innovación Productiva (MCTIP - Argentina), and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI - Republic of Korea), operated under cooperative agreement by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA).

The international Gemini collaboration provides access to two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini telescope is located on Maunakea, Hawai'i (Gemini North) and the Gemini South telescope is on Cerro Pachón in central Chile; together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space. The Observatory provides the astronomical communities in each of the five participating countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country's contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources.

Contacts:

Peter Michaud
Public Information and Outreach Manager
Gemini Observatory, Hilo HI
E-mail: pmichaud@gemini.edu
Cell: 808-936-6643
Desk: 808-974-2510

Shari Lifson
Corporate Communications Coordinator
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)
E-mail: slifson@aura-astronomy.org
Cell: 914-400-7434
Desk: 202-769-5232?

Narae Hwang
K-GMT Project Scientist, Head of K-GMT Science Group
Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI)
E-mail: nhwang@kasi.re.kr

Kyoung-Suk Lee
Head of International Relations Office
Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI)
E-mail: cloth79@kasi.re.kr

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