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We are pleased to release version 2.0 of HSRED, a reduction package for Hectospec data. This update incorporates a number of significant improvements provided by the Telescope Data Center at SAO. Key changes include new support for the 600-line grating, fine-tuning the wavelength calibration, improved cosmic ray rejection and sky subtraction, support for offset sky observations, a model correction for the red light leak present in Hectospec data, and automatic correction for the A- and B-band telluric lines.
Arizona astronomers have used the MMT's adaptive optics system and the ARIES instrument to discover significant changes in the appearance of the variable binary star system UY Aurigae since 1994. The new spectrum is only the second ever published for one of the stars. The changes in brightness indicate increased interaction between the stars and their circumstellar disks. More information can be found here.
The final observing schedule for August - December has been posted along with Program Titles.
Due to rains, fire restrictions have been lifted for now by the Forest Service. Please continue to practice good fire safety rules, including disposing of cigarettes in ashtrays. For more details, read here. Fireworks and similar devices are prohibited year-round on federal lands.
Scientists using the MMT's Red Channel Spectrograph have discovered the most distant Milky Way stars known to date. The red giant stars lie almost a third of the way to the Andromeda Galaxy. Read more.
Researchers using the MMT's Blue Channel Spectrograph have discovered a pair of white dwarfs circling one another at high speed, taking only 20 minutes to complete one orbit. Only eight other similar pairs are currently known. The new discovery is a fast one, with the orbital period the second-quickest of those already found. The two white dwarfs are about one-third and one-tenth the mass of the Sun and are expected to merge completely in less than 9 million years, slowly losing their angular momentum through gravitational wave radiation.
Starting on June 25, the Mt. Hopkins Road will be open as normal until further notice. The currently scheduled roadwork has been completed. The next phase of work will resume later in the summer.
Dr. Trevor C. Weekes, pioneering figure in the study of very high energy gamma rays, passed away on May 26th. Dr. Weekes played key roles in the selection of the Mt. Hopkins summit as the site for the MMTO, and in gaining U.S. Forest Service permission for the summit access road to extend from the ridge to the summit. Dr. Weekes also led an observatory outreach program with the surrounding communities and started the Smithsonian Lectures on Astronomy series. Read more.
I. McGreer (Steward Observatory) and his collaborators have reported the serendipitous discovery of companion galaxies to two high-redshift quasars, one of which was identified with observations using the MMT's Red Channel Spectrograph! Both companions are among the brightest galaxies known at these large distances, and the detection of such objects is rare. Their new evidence suggests that the two pairs are enormous galaxies in the final stages of merging together. Read more.
Culvert work will be done on the Mt. Hopkins Road at the km 9.5 area this week. The road will be open at the following times only: 8:00-8:30am, noon-12:30pm, and 4:00pm-7:00am. It will be open over the weekend.