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Latest News

December 2017

  •  Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the Gemini Observatory appointed Dr. Alexander van der Horst of George Washington University as the Interim Principal Investigator (PI). More information provided here 

November 2017

  • The Preliminary Design Kickoff meeting was held on 17th October and project members from Southwest Research Institute, the Instituto de Astrofisics de Andalucia (IAA) and Gemini met at met at SwRI in San Antonio, Texas. This meeting was accompanied by a number of technical meetings.   

October 2017

  • The Preliminary Design Stage has started and the Kickoff Meeting will take place soon in San Antonio, Texas.
  • OCTOCAM is featured in the October 2017 edition of the Gemini Focus Magazine.

August 2017 

  • The OCTOCAM team met for the Conceptual Design review the first week of August. During the week, there were various meetings to help the team understand the nature of Gemini observing, and familiarize themselves with engineering and technical aspects of the telescope. The review panel is made up of 5 external evaluators who spent two days with both the Gemini team and the OCTOCAM team reviewing the conceptual design. 

July 2017

April 2017 

  • The Conceptual Design Kickoff is scheduled on April 19th at IAA in Granada Spain.
  • OCTOCAM is featured in the April 2017 edition of the Gemini Focus Magazine.

March 2017 

  • A contract between AURA and the Southwest Research Institute has been signed on March 6th. Gen4#3 is now officially OCTOCAM.

The OCTOCAM story

In 2015 based on the Gemini Instrumentation Feasibility Studies, Gemini assembled an independent Gen 4#3 Steering Committee to help guide the Observatory with the Gen 4#3 project. The committee produced a Science Assessment Report and Technical & Cost Assessment Report.

The reports summarized, compared, and contrasted aspects of the independent GIFS studies assessing the combined science-capability-cost trade space. Following STAC recommendations and Board resolutions, the Gen 4#3 Steering Committee made recommendations to the Observatory regarding drivers, requirements, and clauses relevant to the Gen 4#3 design and build contract.

Gemini considered the Gen 4#3 Steering Committee recommendation report, public community comments and feedback, financial constraints, time constraints, technical/interface constraints, Board resolutions, and STAC recommendations and released an RFP in May 2016. Evaluation and selection progressed through the fall of 2016 resulting in the awarding of a contract to the Southwest Research Institute. 

What is OCTOCAM? 

OCTOCAM is an 8-channel imager and spectrograph that will simultaneously observe the g, r, i, z, Y, J, H, and KS bands in a square field-of-view of 3'x3', or a circular one with a diameter of 4.24'. It will obtain long slit (3' long) spectroscopy with a resolution of R ~ 4,000, simultaneously covering the range between 0.37-2.35 microns. 

The eight independent arms in OCTOCAM allow the user to adjust exposure times in each bandpass for increased efficiency and the best match to observing conditions. By using state of the art detectors - frame transfer in the optical and CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) in the near infrared - OCTOCAM will have negligible readout times enabling high time-resolution observations.  

OCTOCAM Science Cases

A capable instrument for extremely broad-band observations (both in imaging and long-slit spectroscopy), OCTOCAM will deliver groundbreaking scientific output over a very broad range of topics that cover fields as diverse as trans-Neptunian objects and centaurs in the Solar System, exo- planets, neutron stars, X-ray binaries, active galactic nuclei, supernovae, tidal disruption events, and gamma-ray bursts.

OCTOCAM's multi-wavelength spectroscopy (and the possibility for simultaneous multi- band imaging) makes it the optimal machine for the efficient characterization of astronomical transients - similar to those expected to be discovered in the 2020s by LSST, which promises to play a leading role in advancing our understanding of these objects identified through their explosive variability. The availability of high time-resolution, coupled with Gemini's rapid response capability, will also allow researchers to use OCTOCAM to catch transient objects in their earliest phases and monitor their rapid evolution. OCTOCAM researchers will be able to use gamma-ray bursts to explore the earliest star formation events in the Universe. It will also be ideal for following up and characterizing kilonova signatures of neutron star mergers, and likely counterparts of gravitational wave sources.

OCTOCAM Instrument Design

Each of OCTOCAM's eight arms is an imaging spectrograph, based on the use of high- efficiency dichroics to split the light. The light arriving from the telescope first goes through an atmospheric dispersion corrector (ADC) that compensates for atmospheric chromatic aberrations. The light then enters the NIR cryogenic chamber, where it reaches the focal plane unit. After the focal plane, the light is divided by the first dichroic into NIR and Visible (VIS) light. The VIS light then leaves the cryogenic chamber through a second window to the VIS bench which is approximately at the same temperature as the telescope. From there, the light of both beams follow similar paths, where the light is collimated and subsequently split by additional dichroics. The collimated beam of each arm passes through either a filter or grism, depending on the observing mode, and is refocused by a camera onto the detector. 


  • Alexander van der Horst, George Washington University, Project Scientist and Interim Pincipal Investigator
  • Pete Roming, SwRI, Project Manager

The Gemini Team 

  • Stephen Goodsell, Project Manager
  • Jeff Radwick, Systems Engineer
  • Ruben Diaz, Instrument Scientist
  • Morten Andersen, Project Scientist
  • Andrea Blank, Project Support
  • Karen Godzyk, Contracts Officer
  • Scot Kleinman, Project Sponsor

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