ann21007 — Announcement
Virtual Card Game Allows Anyone to ‘Observe’ with Gemini
24 February 2021
The international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, is constantly making new astronomical observations that provide deeper insights into the nature of our Universe. But how do those observations actually happen? What is required to turn an observing plan into data that reveal new cosmic secrets?
NOIRLab Associate Astronomer André-Nicolas Chené, a member of the Gemini Science Users Support Department, worked with NOIRLab Information Systems Security Engineer Jerry Brower to create the Gemini Card Game as a fun way to demonstrate how observations are conducted with the twin 8-meter Gemini North and South telescopes (one located in Hawai‘i and one in Chile). Developed in 2018 as a physical game given out at science conferences (and available to all for printing), the Gemini Card Game has now been released as a virtual game that can be played online by anyone anywhere.
In the game, two to four players work together to complete as many observing programs as possible during a semester. Players are assigned team member roles, draw instrument cards to find out what types of science instruments are available, use time cards to designate the amount of observing time they have, play target cards to achieve the desired science goals, and are subjected to weather cards that determine how good or bad their observing conditions turn out to be. Players also run the risk of losing “reputation points” if they make poor planning decisions.
“The players learn the thought process staff have to go through to observe science programs, while working with instrument availability, weather, and timing of the targets,” said Chené. He added that real-world Gemini users have even benefitted from playing the game. “Now that the game is public, we get an increasing number of users thanking us for the game, because it has helped them make better decisions for their program to ensure they optimize their chances to get observations.”
Chené debuted the virtual edition of the game during the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January 2021. Online players wishing to try their luck at making observations with Gemini can find the virtual version of the game and play it for free on the website Tabletopia.  
Today on 24 February 2021, Chené will discuss the Gemini Card Game, describe its inspiration, share stories from players, provide a demonstration of the game, and answer questions about it during an episode of Live from NOIRLab. Watch the program live on YouTube at 5 p.m. MST (7 p.m. EST). 
 A free account with Tabletopia is required to play the game online.
 The rule book for the Tabletopia version of the game is available here.
 A recording of Live from NOIRLab will also be available to watch afterward.
- Play the Virtual Gemini Card Game
- Rule Book for the Virtual Gemini Card Game
- Virtual Gemini Card Game Website
- Live from NOIRLab
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