Installation & setup

Get the installation files

  • Download the IRAF VM disk image file ( from Google Drive. This is 5GB in size, so will take a while to transfer.

    • If you’re using Apple’s Safari Web browser, it will probably unzip the file for you automatically. Otherwise, you can open a terminal window, go to the directory where the file was downloaded (usually cd Downloads) and type unzip (or use another archive manager) to extract it.
    • To ensure the integrity of the download, type shasum gemini-IRAF-CO7-2022.07.qcow2 and verify that the resulting checksum is 932d9db4224429cb326bfe969253ec9e75253dcc; if not, you should try downloading again.
  • If you don’t already have Anaconda installed on your host machine, download it from (noting the non-commercial terms of service for their repository). You may use Miniconda if you prefer.


    You should normally download Anaconda’s “64-Bit Command Line Installer” for Intel, even on Apple M1/M2 (ARM64) machines, not the “64-Bit (M1)” installer.

    Anaconda’s new M1 installer can be used, but there is no DRAGONS build for it yet (as of mid 2022), which is needed for reducing Gemini imaging (and eventually spectroscopic) data in Python. In the meantime, a small M1-native enviroment can be created within the Intel/MacOS version of Anaconda, allowing the IRAF VM to coexist easily with DRAGONS.

Set up Anaconda on your host machine

If you haven’t already done so, you should install Anaconda as for DRAGONS installation (or following Anaconda’s instructions). Make sure that the necessary conda channels are defined, as in the section “Set up Anaconda Channels” of that page – in summary, you should have done the following:

conda config --add channels conda-forge
conda config --add channels

It is not obligatory to install DRAGONS itself. Don’t install Gemini IRAF, since that’s provided by the VM (on MacOS 10.15+).

Install GemVM

With the Anaconda base environment activated (type conda activate) and Gemini’s public conda channel defined (see the DRAGONS link above), issue the following command to install GemVM and its dependencies:

Apple M1/M2 (ARM64) host machines:
CONDA_SUBDIR=osx-arm64 conda create -n gemvm gemvm
Intel host machines:
conda create -n gemvm gemvm

Set up the VM

  • Place the VM disk image that you downloaded earlier in a safe, permanent location (such as ~/GemVM/). If anything happens to this file, you will lose the entire contents of the VM. The file will initially occupy 14GB of disk space, growing to a maximum of 50GB as you create data files on the VM.

  • Run gemvm-config to assign a name/label (and any other parameters you want to tweak) to the downloaded VM image, eg.:

    conda activate gemvm
    gemvm-config add IRAF-2022.07 ~/GemVM/gemini-IRAF-CO7-2022.07.qcow2

    where IRAF-2022.07 is the name you wish to use. Referring to the VM image by an assigned name is both more convenient and safer than typing the file path every time, since it’s easy to work in another directory, with less risk of inadvertently deleting the image.