The MagAO-X Migration

To beat the harsh Canadian frost, most birds migrate south for the winter. In Tucson we have the opposite problem! As temperatures rose in the desert a group of us (Jared, Alex R., Kyle, Laird, and Lauren with alumna Kelsey Miller meeting us from Leiden) headed to Canada to beat the heat and present our research at Adaptive Optics for Extremely Large Telescopes 6 in Quebec Canada.

Sunset on the first day of Quebec City

Some of us were a bit thrown off from the sudden transition from English to French, but for me who just got back from Marseille, it was interesting to see the differences between Canadian French and Parisian French. One thing that was definitely the same was the amazing French cooking. The MagAO-X students had a truly memorable night with alumna Kelsey Miller, who took us to a gastronomy restaurant well above the grad student paygrade. $20 and five thin potato slices later the hungry grad students ended up at a French Canadian Irish Pub (does that make sense?) just in time to grab some real food and watch the Stanley cup finals.

Speaking of memorable dinners, the conference dinner was the best I’ve ever been too! Really good food followed by an incredible musical group. They could play any song on the spot on their classical instruments, and spiced things up with acrobatic displays (never missing a note!). Our very own Kyle Van Gorkom was even lucky enough to be chosen as an audience volunteer! They projected his face onto a screen for a very silly comedic dance.

But things weren’t all fun and games for the MagAO-X crew. We were all hard at working presenting our current results and building anticipation for our first light run. In order of presentation …

Lauren presenting her work on three-sided pyramid wavefront sensing.
Kyle presenting his mad skills at deformable mirror flattening.
Alex Rodack presenting his work on simulating the Real Time Frazin Algorithm that uses knowledge of your system to improve contrast through your coronagraph.
To finish out the conference P.I. Jared Males presents current MagAO-X progress and his vision for an extreme adaptive optics system on the Giant Magellan Telescope. We were all relieved that his presentation didn’t crash this time.

(Kelsey and Laird also had posters but we were bad students and didn’t take photos….)

We are all back in Tucson now, but I for one am missing the lovely weather. At least I have my heap of maple flavored snacks to remind me of cooler temperatures and a great trip. Although we didn’t see any Canadian Geese this trip, they are this post’s song of the day.


Summer in (and out of) the lab

MagAO-X integration and testing continues apace, with Jared shaving microseconds off the loop latency, Kyle working on making the world’s flattest DM, and Alex H. identifying holes in our hardware that were made in the wrong place. The rest of us are fighting with hardware more indirectly, getting our simulations to converge or our embarrassingly parallel jobs to be more than a (parallel) embarrassment.

Lauren Schatz, pyramid wavefront sensing person extraordinaire, has recently been the victim of delegation by the P.I. Her task? Arranging the weekly group meeting. In retaliation, she decided the venue would be outdoors. On a 95ºF (35ºC) day.

Our recent meeting was graced by a special guest: incoming graduate student (and NSF Graduate Fellow) Logan Pearce! She talked to us about research she’s been doing with Adam Kraus at University of Texas at Austin using data from the Gaia mission. This fall she plans to join the XWCL and MagAO-X team here at The University of Arizona. Welcome, Logan!

Several of us (but not this author) will be at AO4ELT6 next week, and everyone is diligently working on their posters and talks. If you’re there, keep an eye out for our group:

  • Monday, June 10
    • Development of the Three Sided Pyramid Wavefront Sensor — Lauren Schatz (poster)
    • Focal plane wavefront sensing and control with a vAPP coronagraph on MagAO-X using holographic modal wavefront sensing and linear dark field control — Kelsey Miller (poster)
  • Tuesday, June 11
    • Characterization and closed-loop laboratory testing of deformable mirrors for the MagAO-X project — Kyle van Gorkom (talk @ 9:40 AM)
    • Real-time estimation of NCPA and exoplanet detection in the face of wavefront measurement error in extreme-AO coronagraphs — Alexander Rodack (talk @ 5:40 PM)
    • Imaging habitable planets in optical/NIR with large ground-based telescopes: WFS/C challenges, opportunities and R&D activities — Olivier Guyon (poster)
  • Thursday, June 13
    • The Current Optical and Mechanical Design for the GMT High-Contrast Exoplanet Instrument GMagAO-X — Laird Close (poster)
  • Friday, June 14
    • From MagAO-X to GMagAO-X: extreme-AO performance demonstration and science case for the GMT — Jared Males (talk @ 10:00 AM)

In recognition of recent climatic developments in Tucson, Arizona, your author has selected this as the song of the day:

“Too Darn Hot” by Cole Porter, performed by Ella Fitzgerald.

Congratulations Maggie, Madison, and Chris!

The school year has wrapped up and we’re about to head into summer. Usually we’re excited we survived the year at all, but this time we are celebrating the XWCL undergraduates graduating and completing their bachelor’s degrees! Chris, Maggie, and Madison have worked with us for the past couple years assisting on MagAO-X.

Chris joined us in 2016 as a computer science undergrad. He started working with Katie doing data reduction. Jared then poached him away to work a lot in the lab doing mostly hardware coding and is the original Basler camera whisperer. He is going to stick around with us for a few weeks to wrangle some more hardware control programming before journeying off to a real job with Fast Enterprises.

Congratulations, Chris!

Maggie joined us in 2017 as an optical sciences and engineering undergrad. She’s worked primarily with Laird on MagAO-X optomechanical design and alignment. She came along with us to SPIE last year and is part inventor with Laird on the optomechanical mount patent. She will be suffering sticking around with us this fall at UA for a PhD in optical sciences, where she will also be an NSF GRFP recipient. She is off to a summer internship in Baltimore at STScI working on HiCAT.

Maggie with Laird at the Optical Sciences commencement

Madison joined us in 2018 as an optical sciences and engineering undergrad. She worked with us part time last summer to help Lauren with the MagAO-X pyramid wfs alignment and joined us for the past school year doing quantum efficiency testing for a light source. She will be partially suffering sticking around this fall at UA for a MS in optical sciences. She is off to a summer internship in Boston at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Madison with Jhen and Lauren at the Optical Sciences commencement

The MagAO-X PI has expressed an interest in the return of having a song with the blog posts. With the help of Joseph, we have a graduation-themed song for EACH of the undergrads:

For Chris, we have “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by the Ting Tings:

For Maggie, we have “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield:

For Madison, we have “Take Yourself With You” by Rose Linor Dougall:

Also, as tradition with the blog, here are quotes. The MagAO-X PI has some parting words for the graduating undergrads:

Jared: You’re here until you die*
*Source: “Look Down (Prisoners)” from Les Miserables

Congratulations again to the undergrads, XWCL is super proud of all the hard work you’ve done! Here’s to a fun and productive summer for everyone!