¡Vámonos a Chile!

Last Friday, MagAO-X underwent a pre-shipment review. This is the process by which the Magellan Observatory ensures that we won’t waste everyone’s time by shipping our instrument to the telescope. It’s a multifaceted process, evaluating everything from “does your instrument work in the lab?” to “have you baked your shipping crate?”

I’m happy to report that we’ve cleared this hurdle, meaning we’re taking MagAO-X to Chile for the 2019B* run! Many thanks to all of our reviewers and the observatory staff for productive discussions and suggestions. We look forward to getting on sky with MagAO-X this December! (Since this is the MagAO blog as well, it bears mentioning that we’ll be there in November too.)

* We use ‘A’ and ‘B’ to refer to the former and latter halves of the year, since “winter” means different months depending on your hemisphere.

Also, this means Jared feels it’s finally acceptable to hand out the 2019B mission patches I designed:

Sunset scene with viscacha and diffraction spikes
Sunset scene with viscacha and diffraction spikes

The patch depicts a viscacha, one of the local fauna of Magellan, perched on a rock at sunset. (As they do.) In the sky above, a point source is diffracted by some telescope spiders to form a stylized Magellan PSF. (Or possibly a MagAO-“X”.)

As long as I don’t run out of South American animals, I plan to do a patch for every run. Then I’ll put them all on a vest and look like the world’s nerdiest boy scout.

Part of being in the XWCL is following the P.I.’s rules:

  1. No unauthorized use of the label maker
  2. No coding in MATLAB
  3. No circus activities
  4. No volunteering for Olivier
  5. No metric shit running around in the lab
  6. Every post must have a song of the day
  7. No unauthorized use of the label maker

I regret that I forgot rule #6 in my last post, so I will take this opportunity to rectify my mistake with two songs of the day.

I’ve been digging this song about not being too hard on yourself by Alex Lahey:

And if I had been thinking about a song of the day for the back-to-school post, it might have been “Restart” by Little Daylight:

Hasta pronto.

MagAO-X goes back to school

Tucson in the summer is a bit like this, only less exciting.

A tumbleweed crosses a barren desert scene in a repeating animation.

However, summer is waning. (Why, it’s only 99ºF at 7:00 p.m. as I’m writing this!) Tucson is filling back up with new and returning students, and I’m no longer guaranteed a table to myself at my favorite coffee shop.

This semester, we are happy to be welcoming two new graduate students to the group!

NSF Fellow Logan Pearce (whom you may remember from this special guest appearance) is joining us in the Department of Astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin. And Maggie Kautz, another NSF fellow (and recent graduate from The University of Arizona) will now be pursuing her Ph.D. in Optical Sciences here and continuing her work with the XWCL. She was in Baltimore all summer working on the HiCAT testbed at Space Telescope Science Institute. Welcome, Logan, and welcome back, Maggie!

Meanwhile, in the lab, we’re sitting in the dark and occasionally pointing at things.

Alex Hedglen, in full cleanroom getup, points to an image of the MagAO-X pupil on one of Jared's five screens full of MagAO-X control software.

The final integration of the software and hardware for MagAO-X continues at a breakneck pace, with the number of tasks remaining before first-light described as “countably infinite”. I’d elaborate, but there’s so much to be done! More to come soon.

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.