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Gemini Observatory Names New Director

March 26, 2012, 4:26 PM HST
* Updated March 26, 5:47 PM
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An astronomer with an extensive background in large-telescope instrumentation has been named to head the Gemini Observatory.

Markus Kissler-Patig will take over the observatory in August, said Peter Michaud, Gemini’s outreach manager. He will replace Fred Chaffee, who has served as interim director since May.

Kissler-Patig, a native of Switzerland, has served as project scientist for the European Southern Observatory Extremely Large Telescope, a 14-nation project involving a telescope with a 130-foot main mirror to be built in Chile. He has also worked with other very large telescope instruments, Michaud said in a statement.

Dan Clemens of Boston University, chair of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Board which operates Gemini under an agreement with the National Science Foundation, said Kissler-Patig’s appointment will make Gemini “one of the most productive large aperture telescope systems.”

Kissler-Patig earned his doctorate degre from the University of Bonn and the European Southern Observatory. Author of more than 85 papers, his research interests have included star clusters and their formation, intermediate-mass black holes and the detection of planets outside our solar system.

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“My passion for science and drive for excellence are my main motivations for taking up the challenge of Gemini Director,” Kissler-Patig said in the statement. “This is a time when the scientific output of the Gemini telescopes is expected to sharpen, and I’m anxious to focus on that goal with the help of the Gemini community.”

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Kissler-Patig, an avid hiker and cyclist, said that he and his family are looking forward to “discovering the great outdoors of the Big Island.”

The Gemini Observatory consists of two telescopes with mirrors 26 feet in diameter. The Gemini North telescope is located on Mauna Kea and Gemini South is in Chile.

 

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