Australian Gemini Contest

With the Australian Gemini Contest students in Australia were given 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, by picking an object in the Southern sky and writing a winning explanation of why it would be interesting to digitally photograph. The Australian Gemini Contest was run by the ITSO office (then AusGO) from 2009 - 2014 (in 2015 we held the Cosmic Poll event instead).
The contest was 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. Students explained why their selected target would be a good choice to be imaged by the Gemini South Telescope and justified their answers with reasons of scientific interest and visual appeal.
The best-ranked entry each year had their object imaged by Gemini. The professionally processed picture were then presented to the school by astronomers who will explain what the image reveals about the target. These student contests were held from 2009 through 2014.
For the 2013 and 2014 years ITSO additionally offered an 'Amateur' category where amateur astronomers in Australia were allowed to compete under their own category. This resulted in two images for those years. The last Gemini event was the 2015 Cosmic Poll.

2009 Student Contest

NGC6751This image 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.

Students at PAL College (this school closed in 2011) helped to celebrate the public unveiling of the image of the "Glowing Eye Nebula" as part of the International Year of Astronomy. The nebula was observed with the Gemini South telescope at the suggestion of PAL College student Daniel Tran, whose Contest entry was judged as the best combination of scientific and artistic reasoning.

Daniel's attention was drawn to this particular nebula based on an image he saw in an online gallery. That earlier picture, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, captured only the innermost region of the nebula. As shown in this Quicktime movie, the image from Gemini South shows the full span of emission from the nebula, along with the surrounding environment.

The worldwide debut of the Contest image was held at PAL College, where Daniel is a year-10 student. To the cheers of Daniel's classmates, Dr. Christopher Onken of the Australian Gemini Office presented a commemorative version of the picture to Daniel and his teacher, David Lee (below). Chris Onken (middle) presents Daniel Tran (right) with the winning image

After the students were wowed by the appearance of the image, the science behind the nebula was explained to the students by Dr. David Frew (Macquarie University - below). Dr. Frew explained that the nebula is the result of a star reaching the end of its life. The remaining core of the star has a surface temperature of over 100,000 Celsius, and is ionising the gas in the region nearby. Different atomic elements in the gas light up at different wavelengths, and special filters in the telescope's imaging camera isolate particular wavelengths and show the individual elemental components of the gas.

Daniel and his classmates had previously taken part in the other component of the Contest prize package: a "Live From Gemini" session that created a video link between the class and the Gemini Observatory control room in Hawaii (below). Peter Michaud, Gemini's Public Information & Outreach manager, then gave the students an introduction to the observatory and answered questions from the class. The class had even more questions on the morning of the unveiling, which were answered by Drs. Frew and Onken, along with Helen Sim, Australia's Single Point of Contact for the International Year of Astronomy.

To cap off the morning's events, the PAL College students in Years 7 & 8 thanked the speakers with a rousing rendition of "The Galaxy Song" from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

Congratulations to Daniel Tran and his classmates at PAL College!

Technical details The Glowing Eye Nebula picture is a composite of images taken in three optical narrow-band filters, which isolated the H-alpha (yellow), [S II] (red), and [O III] (blue) emission lines. The observations used the imaging camera on the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS), and were acquired on the night of 24 July 2009.

Image Credits Glowing Eye Nebula (NGC6751): Daniel Tran (PAL College), Travis Rector (U. Alaska, Anchorage), Terry Bridges (Queen's University), and the Australian Gemini Office; PAL College presentation: David Marshall; Live From Gemini: Rob Hollow (CSIRO).

See the story on the Gemini Observatory website!

2010 Student Contest

NGC6872 The winners of our 2010 contest were the Astronomy Club of the Sydney Girls High School. Their image shows the colliding galaxies NGC 6872 and IC 4970.

The Grand Prize image was unveiled to the Sydney Girls High School (SGHS) Astronomy Club (supervised by Jeff Stanger), winners of the 2010 Gemini School Astronomy Contest. This image of the collision between two galaxies, NGC 6872 and IC 4970, was taken by the Gemini South telescope in Chile at the recommendation of the SGHS students. The Grand Unveiling took place at SGHS, where the Australian Gemini Office's Christopher Onken gave the girls their first glimpse of the image they requested. The Australian Astronomical Observatory's Ángel López-Sánchez then explained the fascinating science of galaxy collisions, and showed the students how the image had been put together.

Even "minor mergers" like this one, in which one galaxy is much smaller than the other, can have a dramatic effect on the shape, colour, and other features of the galaxy. The blue clusters of stars that have been formed in the collision will become redder as the most massive stars end their lives in supernova explosions. The giant spiral arms of NGC 6872 that have been stretched out by the interaction with IC 4970 will eventually be pulled back toward the main body of the galaxy. Ultimately, the two galaxies will merge together, but the image shows the first stages of that process, which will take hundreds of millions of years to complete.

Congratulations to the Sydney Girls High School Astronomy Club!

2011 Student Contest

NGC7552 Benjamin Reynolds receiving his framed copy of the Gemini image he proposed. Image credit: Amanda ReynoldsThe winning image from the 2011 contest shows the central region of the barred spiral galaxy known as NGC 7552. The target was chosen by contest winner Benjamin Reynolds, from Sutherland Shire Christian School in Sutherland, NSW. Image credit: Benjamin Reynolds (Sutherland Shire Christian School), Travis Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage), and the Australian Gemini Office.

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. At the unveiling event in October, Ben received a framed copy of his image from the contest coordinator, Dr. Christopher Onken (AusGO/ANU).

Zoom-in of the central region with Gemini's mid-infrared imager, T-ReCS. Image credit: Gemini Observatory

  Gemini also imaged the central region of NGC 7552 with its mid-infrared camera, T-ReCS. The inset shows dust being heated by stars that formed about 50 million years ago. The hot dust glows in infrared light.

See the Gemini Observatory news release here.

2012 Student Contest

NGC7232 On 12 February 2013, the winning image from the 2012 Gemini School Astronomy Contest was unveiled to the public. Contest winner Ryan Soares, from Perth's Trinity College (WA), received a framed print of his image at an event held at the Year 12 student's school. The image shows three spiral galaxies from Lyon Galaxy Group #455: NGC 7232 (upper right), NGC 7232B (left), and NGC 7233 (centre). Hosted by Jacinta Delhaize and Mehmet Alpaslan from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Perth, the celebration featured a video connection to the Gemini Observatory headquarters in Hawaii.

For images from the unveiling event and more details, see Gemini's media release.

2013 Amateur Contest

IC5332 The 2013 winning image was of the Gum 85 Nebula. The unveiling of the image to amateur category winner Paul Fitz-Gerald took place at StarFest's "Science In The Pub" event in Coonabarabran on 4 October 2013. Paul Fitzgerald receives image, Image credit: Helen Sim, CAASTRO At the unveiling Paul Fitz-Gerald received a framed copy of his image from Dr. Fred Watson at the event (Image credit: Helen Sim, CAASTRO). An account of the event was listed in the 2014 issue of Australian Sky and Telescope. The image of Gum 85 was featured on the October 2013 cover of the Gemini Focus Newsletter , which was distributed electronically by Gemini on the day of the unveiling.


2013 Student Contest

IC5332 2013's winning image is of the spiral galaxy IC5332. Magenta 'bubbles' show small bursts of new star formation. Each one is a newly forming star cluster, similar to the familiar Orion nebula, containing hundreds or thousands of stars.

On 17 September 2013, the winning image from the 2013 Gemini School Astronomy Contest was unveiled to the public. Contest winner Isobelle Teljega, from St Margaret's Anglican School (outside Brisbane), received a framed print of her image at an event held at the Year 8 student's school. The image shows the face-on spiral galaxy IC5332. Michael Drinkwater and Sarah Sweet from the University of Queensland gave an informative presentation to about 50 students from across years 8 to 12, on careers in physics in general, and astronomy in particular, with special emphasis on the equality of opportunities for women. The event featured a video connection to Peter Michaud at the Gemini Observatory headquarters in Hawaii.

The unveiling was mentioned in Gemini's eNewscast.

2014 Amateur Contest

IC5148 The winning amateur object of IC 5148 was proposed by Steve Crouch of the ACT, Canberra, Australia. IC5148This observation was done with the GMOS (Gemini Multi Object Spectrograph) instrument on 8 metre Gemini South.
The focus of the observation was to investigate the stunning structure of overlapping and interlocking shells present in IC 5148. In this amateur competition the winner Steve Crouch had the opportunity to be involved in the data reduction and image production, working together with Travis Rector from the University of Alaska. Steve Crouch is shown with his ITSO framed winning image on the right. For more astrophotography from Steve Crouch you can see his astronomical images website. For a description of the contest see the AAO 2014 Gemini Image Contest Amateur Division Announcement!


2014 Student Contest

NGC7727 The winning image of the 2014 Australian Gemini Image Contest (Student Division) is NGC7727.Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School This contest was jointly won by Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School Astronomy Club (Melbourne) and Samuel Carbone, Trinity College (Perth). Dr. Richard McDermid is shown with a group from the Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School (top right) as well as with the joint winner Samuel Carbone (bottom right). Samuel Carbone
The winners chose the peculiar galaxy NGC7727 which is located in the constellation Aquarius. It was obtained with the Gemini South 8m telescope in Chile, the image is composed of g,r,i ahd H-alpha filter images, with a total integration time of about one hour.
For more on this image see our news release at: 2014 Student Gemini Contest.
Image credit: Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School Astronomy Club, Samuel Carbone (Trinity College), Travis Rector, and the AAO.

2015 Cosmic Poll

NGC3310 For 2015 we had a totally different type of event. Instead of a student and amateur competition we opened voting up to all of Australia. This 'Cosmic Poll' allowed everyone to vote for their favourite object type and then the winner was observed with the Gemini North 8m telescope in Hawaii. The Australian Gemini Cosmic Poll 2015 winning object type was 'individual galaxy'. The individual galaxy observed by Gemini was spiral galaxy NGC 3310. For a full summary of the event see our news release at Australian Gemini Cosmic Poll . Image credit: AAO ITSO office, Gemini Observatory/AURA and T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage)