The Winning Image17 November 2011
The Grand Prize-winning image for the 2011 Gemini School Astronomy Contest has been released to the public!
The incredible picture of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 7552 was taken by the Gemini South telescope in Chile. The choice of this particular galaxy was made by the contest winner, Benjamin Reynolds, a Year 10 student at Sutherland Shire Christian School, in Sutherland, NSW.
A high-resolution version of the contest image can be downloaded here. [64 MB TIFF]
See the Gemini Observatory news release here.
WINNERS!24 August 2011
The Australian Gemini Office is excited to reveal the winners of the 2011 School Astronomy Contest:
- Benjamin Reynolds, from Sutherland Shire Christian School (Sutherland, NSW)
- Ryan Soares, from Trinity College (East Perth, WA)
- Eugenie Puskarz-Thomas, Rachel Augustyn, Phoebe Duncombe, Brooke Henzel, Matilda Williams, and Louise Graham, from St. Margaret's Anglican Girls School (Ascot, QLD)
Benjamin selected the spiral galaxy, NGC 7552, as the target Gemini South will photograph. When the weather conditions are right for getting a clear and crisp image, the observatory in Chile will use its GMOS camera to take Benjamin's picture.
All three of the top entries named above have earned their schools a chance to learn about the work Gemini does. Through a video link to the Gemini control room, the students will be able to talk to experts at the observatory and ask questions about the incredible discoveries being made with Gemini's twin telescopes.
The Australian Gemini Office thanks all of the groups that entered this year's competition. We had even more entries in 2011 than in the previous two years of the contest, and all of the great work done by the students made it a very hard decision for the judging panel.
Contest DetailsIn 2011, students in Australia have a chance to use an hour of observing time on one of the world's largest optical telescopes, the 8-metre Gemini South telescope in the Andes Mountains of Chile.
How? By picking an object in the Southern sky and writing a winning explanation of why it would be interesting to digitally photograph.
See below for more contest details, and keep checking our News page for updates on the contest progress and for the latest exciting discoveries announced by Gemini.
You can also follow the contest on Facebook.
Teachers: Please help us spread the word to your pupils about this exciting opportunity. Download our new flyer! [ PDF]
How to EnterIn one page, explain why your selected target would be a good choice to be imaged by the Gemini South Telescope. Justify your answer with reasons of scientific interest and visual appeal.
Submit both pages of the form:
- as an e-mail attachment to (firstname.lastname@example.org) [Recommended],
- or by fax (Attn: Dr. Christopher Onken; (02) 6125 0233),
- or by mail (Gemini Contest, c/o Dr. Christopher Onken, Mount Stromlo Observatory, Cotter Road, Weston Creek, ACT 2611).
Entries must be received by: Friday 13 May 2011
The contest is open to any Australian students in Years 5-12, as well as inter-school groups and clubs of students, provided each entry has a clearly designated submitting school and teacher. Entries may be written individually or in groups, but must be submitted by a teacher.Limit of two entries per school.
What You May WinThe best-ranked entry will have their object imaged by Gemini. The professionally processed picture will then be presented to the school by astronomers who will explain what the image reveals about the target.
The classes for the top three entries will be eligible to participate in a Live From Gemini program, an introduction to the Gemini telescopes provided via a video link to experts in one of the Gemini control rooms.
Selection of WinnerJudging of the entries will take place by a panel comprised of astronomers, educators, and science journalists. The selection criteria will be to find the entry that best describes both the scientific interest of the target and the visual appeal of the resulting image.
Target LimitationsTo be observable during the time frame of May-August, there are restrictions on the allowed position of the object. Like latitude and longitude on the Earth, objects in the sky have coordinates in Right Ascension and Declination (see this page for an explanation). The targets for this contest must meet the following requirements:
1. Right Ascension (RA) greater than 14 hours OR less than 1 hour.
2. Declination (Dec) between -60 degrees and 0 degrees.
Hints and SuggestionsHere are a few ideas and things to keep in mind.
One approach is to decide what category of object would be interesting to study, and then to identify a particular example within the positional limitations given above. What kind of target would you like to see in your image... a galaxy cluster? an individual galaxy? (a spiral galaxy? an elliptical galaxy? an irregular galaxy?) a star cluster? a nebula? Once you've identified the category of object you're after, you could try searching online for specific targets.
To make sure the object is visible during the contest, you can search
for its coordinates
on SIMBAD, an
enormous online catalogue of celestial objects. The coordinates you
want to look at from SIMBAD are the ICRS coordinates on the first
line. For example, the entry for M31 reads:
00 42 44.31 +41 16 09.4
meaning its RA is 00 hours, 42 minutes, 44.31 seconds; and its declination is +41 degrees, 16 arcminutes, 9.4 arcseconds. Because M31's declination is greater than 0 degrees, it is not an eligible target for the contest.
Astronomers use images to learn about all of the types of objects listed above:
- They measure the sizes of objects and the locations of any companions. This can tell us about the masses of galaxies and the ages of nebulae.
- They study the colors of stars and the brightness at different positions within an object. This can tell us about stellar ages and compositions, and the history of the object.
- They examine the emission and absorption of light from various pockets of gas and dust. This can tell us about the physical processes going on in the gas.
Try to think about the kinds of astronomy images that you find awe-inspiring. Often, these have a range of colours and a mixture of stars, gas, and/or dust. What features do you want your image to have?
An important item to remember is that the instrument used for the contest, the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), will produce an image that is 5.5-arcminutes wide and 5.5-arcminutes high. Five arcminutes is about one-sixth the diameter of the Moon. That covers an area much larger than the cameras on the Hubble Space Telescope. So, whereas Hubble is great for seeing the details on small scales, Gemini excels in providing the larger context. The blurring effects of the atmosphere mean that the smallest features that will be resolved in the contest image will have angular sizes of about 0.8-arcseconds. With these constraints, most objects within the Solar System will not make good targets because the images would not be sharp enough. In addition, most stars visible to the naked eye would be problematically bright.
For even more examples of what Gemini and GMOS can do, check out the Gemini image galleries. If an object is already in the gallery, it's probably not a good choice for this contest!
Teachers: If your school has more than two potential entries, consider using the opportunity to re-create the process astronomers use to award telescope time. Allow the students to present a short argument in favour of their idea, and have everyone rank all of the proposals. Then submit the two entries with the highest average scores.
Previous ResultsThe image at the right shows the "Glowing Eye" planetary nebula, the Grand Prize winner in our 2009 contest. The winning entry was submitted by Year 10 student, Daniel Tran, of PAL College in Cabramatta, NSW. For more information about the 2009 contest, check out this page.
The winners of our 2010 contest were the Astronomy Club of the Sydney Girls High School. Their image below shows the colliding galaxies NGC 6872 and IC 4970. Find more details about the 2010 contest here.
- 13 May: submission deadline.
- early June: winner and runners-up will be announced.
- June-August: "Live From Gemini" interactive video sessions for top 3 classes.
- after 1 September: presentation of image to winner by astronomers from the Australian Gemini Office.
Contact InfoFor further inquiries, please contact Dr. Christopher Onken of the Australian Gemini Office by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone on (02) 6125 8039.
Details of ObservationsBecause the Gemini Observatory wants to make the best possible use of every part of the nighttime darkness, it matches the observations it obtains to the changing atmospheric conditions over the course of the night. As a result, it's not certain when any particular program will be observed. Therefore, we won't know precisely when the images for the contest will be taken, and the students participating in the winning program will not be able to travel to the telescope. When the observations are taken, the students will be notified and a message will be posted on the contest News page, which will be updated throughout the year.
The Gemini ObservatoryNamed for the constellation of Gemini, "the twins", the Gemini Observatory consists of a pair of telescopes. One of these is located atop Cerro Pachon in the Andes Mountains of Chile; the other is on top of Mauna Kea in Hawai'i. At 8-metres in diameter, the Gemini telescopes are among the largest optical telescopes in the world, and are the premier facilities to which the entire Australian astronomical community has access. The particular instrument used in the contest is GMOS, the Gemini Mulit-Object Spectrograph, which provides the ability both to take fantastic images and to study the spectra of several hundred objects at a time. Each of the Gemini telescopes has a copy of the GMOS instrument, and they are the most heavily used instruments in Gemini's toolbox. For more information about Gemini, visit the Gemini Observatory website, see the Gemini FAQ, or go to the home page of the Australian Gemini Office.
Contest OrganisersThe Australian Gemini Office
in conjunction with
Dr. Terry Bridges (Queen's University, Canada)
Mr. Robert Hollow (CSIRO/ATNF)
Ms. Helen Sim (CSIRO/ATNF)
Additional LegalitiesThis contest is open to Australian students in Years 5-12. The Gemini Observatory image produced in conjunction with this contest shall be made available to the press and shall be subject to the Gemini Observatory Image Usage Policy. All decisions of the judging panel and the contest organisers shall be final.
Australian Gemini Office, ausgo -@- aao.gov.au