MagAO-X 2020A: New Year New Me

Happy new year from MagAO-X! The instrument is back in the lab, and today we opened the panels for the first time to find that no optics have been damaged! “Another happy landing,” as Obi-Wan would say.

On January 10, MagAO-X arrived at the University of Arizona. Southwest Rigging used the forklift to bring the boxes down to the Steward Observatory loading dock.

Southwest Rigging unloading MagAO-X from the truck.
Jared pointing at stuff to look cool.
Bringing MagAO-X down to the loading dock. Jared not leaving its side. Sebastian trailing behind.
All boxes were stored safely inside!

Eventually we managed to unpack MagAO-X and the electronics rack. We brought them up to the lab, rebuilt the clean room, and today we opened it up!

MagAO-X sitting safely in the clean room, ready to be unwrapped.
Welcome back!

We are just about ready to cable up the instrument and turn everything on. Over the next two months, we will do a lot of software testing and install a few new components into the system. By April 10, MagAO-X will ship back to Chile and we will return to the desert for the next telescope run on May 3 – 10.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 12: The End

Well it has been a long, exciting, and successful run for MagAO-X first light, but now it is time to say goodbye to LCO (until next time). We successfully closed the loop on-sky with MagAO-X and took plenty of data to take home with us, and now we are all packed and ready to ship MagAO-X back home! We expect MagAO-X to arrive in Tucson by January, so we will have a few months to work on the instrument before we return to LCO in May 2020.

Today, we finished boxing up MagAO-X and the electronics rack. We cleaned and organized the clean room and made sure all of our MagAO-X tools and equipment were stored safely, and then we were done! We finished just in time for a nice, relaxing dinner and now we only have our clothes to pack. Here are some pictures from today:

MagAO-X was moved onto a wooden pallet for shipping support.
Juan took a big hammer to the pallet to shim it to the center of the MagAO-X box.
The MagAO-X box lifted by the fork lift.
MagAO-X is ready for pickup!

After lunch, we spotted a family of guanacos! There seemed to be a mother, father, and two children in the family. I was quite pleased to see guanacos two days in a row after not seeing them the entire time I’ve been in Chile.

The suspected “dad” of the guanaco family.
The rest of the guanaco family (mother and children?).

We headed up the hill after lunch to pack up the electronic rack.

Juan and the mechanics lifting the electronics rack shipping box.
The shipping box lifted up.
The front cover removed.
The top cover removed.
The electronics rack being inserted into its shipping box.
The front and top panels were bolted on.
The box was laid down.
The fork lift was used to place the electronics rack next to MagAO-X
They are ready to go!

We were glad to finally see the instrument safely packed up and ready to go. The mechanics did a great job, so thanks to them!

We finished cleaning up the clean room and put all of our stuff away. Now the clean room looks super clean!

Now we are ready to go home. It’s been a great run LCO, we will miss you (the food). But no matter where we go, there is almost no place like home for the holidays.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 11: Packing Up

Yesterday, after our last night on-sky, we began moving the instrument off of the telescope to get it ready to ship back home to Tucson. This also meant that we had to shift back to a day schedule, so Laird and I woke up from a short nap to begin the move at 8:00 am while Jared, Joseph, and Kyle went to bed. The days get a bit mixed up when switching between night and day schedules, so today’s blog post will include events from yesterday and today.

We began building the cart around MagAO-X on the Nasmyth platform on the morning of day 10.

Building the cart around MagAO-X

We lifted the cart up to the instrument using the crane and bolted it to the instrument. Then, we lifted up the instrument off of its legs and rolled the legs away.

The mechanics carefully balancing the instrument.
Mechanics and Laird rolling the legs onto the elevator.
The legs were placed on dollies.
The legs were rolled into the Auxiliary building.

Then, we rolled the instrument into the Auxiliary building.

MagAO-X at the bottom of the elevator.
MagAO-X in the Aux building.

To ensure that MagAO-X is installed on the telescope exactly the same way in May 2020, we had the mechanics match-drill four of the table leg plates to the Nasmyth platform. This will help us find the exact alignment position of MagAO-X in the future, to make the alignment process faster and easier.

Laird and I wrapped up the instrument in saran-wrap and emergency blankets for the move from the telescope to the clean room (the emergency blankets are to protect the instrument from excessive heat exposure from the sun).

MagAO-X looking like it’s ready to go to space even though it’s just going down the road.

After waiting for several hours for the Isuzu truck, we finally moved everything to the clean room.

MagAO-X on the Isuzu.
The table legs on the Isuzu.
The electronics rack on the pickup truck (and the three stooges Laird, Jared, and Joseph).

Finally, Laird and I crashed for the night and our first attempt to stay on a day schedule was somewhat successful.

Today, we woke up early for breakfast and said farewell to Kyle, Joseph, and Olivier as they left on the 8:00 am shuttle.

Kyle, Joseph, and Olivier leaving on the shuttle.

Then Jared, Laird and I headed up to the clean room to pack up the optics and make sure that everything was ready for shipping. When the mechanics arrived, we packed up MagAO-X!

The MagAO-X box opened.
MagAO-X getting ready to be crane-lifted.
Laird heroically balancing the instrument as it’s lifted.
Laird mounting the MagAO-X braces to help reduce impact forces from shipping.
The instrument was bolted to the shipping frame, and the cart was removed.
MagAO-X ready for shipping!

And after the 3 total weeks I’ve spent at Las Campanas Observatory hearing about “Gary the Guanaco,” I finally got to witness the true majesty of this creature up close and personal today. Gary gave me just enough time to take all the pictures I wanted, even posing for me while I was at it.

Gary the Guanaco majestically looking out into the distance.

There is but one day left for the MagAO-X team until we finally head home for the holidays. All we have to do is pack up the electronics rack and do some final organizing, so things are looking good!

Today’s song of the day will be Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity,” the first music video ever recorded in space. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out!

MagAO-X 2019B Day 7: The Eyepiece

Today, we present the eyepiece of MagAO-X!! Back in the day, astronomy was only ever done with an eyepiece. But now, we have far better technology than our own eyeballs to do science. If Galileo or Edwin Hubble were looking down at us, they would probably be jealous.

Hubble looking through the eyepiece of the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory in 1922

Nowadays, telescopes rarely have eyepieces, because the instruments use science cameras to take data instead. But if an instrument does have an eyepiece, it is probably just for fun, so we can feel like Hubble looking through a telescope with our own eyes. That is pretty much why we have an eyepiece for MagAO-X! So that we can see the power of extreme adaptive optics with our own eyes…it’s pretty cool!

The MagAO-X eyepiece was generously donated by the Close family, and it is a work of art. It has a shiny plaque that mimics the traditional tailpiece of a classic telescope.

Laird standing next to his beautiful donation.
Tailpiece of an 1882 6-inch Clark Telescope, very similar to the Steward Observatory 1888 5-inch Clark telescope.

Today, Laird, Maggie, and I tweaked the alignment of the eyepiece optics to make sure it is ready for our next nights on-sky (December 7 and 8). We are planning on using it to see the power of MagAO-X with our own eyes! I took a picture with my smart phone through the eyepiece with our internal light source on. The rainbows you see in the image are due to our 2,000 actuator deformable mirror. There are so many actuators over a small distance that the mirror acts like a diffraction grating!

A smart phone image taken through the eyepiece.
Eyepiece cover.

Jared and Joseph did some work on the electronics rack today. Now we have one additional GPU in the RTC specifically for predictive control calculations.

For the rest of the night, Jared and Olivier continued working on closed loop calibrations and predictive control while Laird, Maggie, Kyle, Joseph and I worked on other MagAO-X stuff.

Jared and Olivier working on AO stuff.
Olivier and his gourmet triple-decker cheese sandwich.
Us working in the break room.
Dr. Close’s “office.”

It is officially Christmas in Chile! They put up a Christmas tree in the lodge.

Christmas tree in the lodge.

Also someone has been feeding one of the zorros, so we have a friendly fox that hangs out by the lodge now. I managed to capture a picture of him hanging out.

The friendly fox.
View of the South from the lodge. GMT site is on the high peak to the right!

And of course, a picture of the sunset for the beginning of our “day.”

Another beautiful sunset at Las Campanas.
The beginning of our day.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 5: Second Light

Today marks another historic and successful night of MagAO-X First Light…First Light Part 2! By the end of the long 24-hour day yesterday, we were all falling asleep in our chairs (except for Olivier who has mastered the art of staying awake). But thanks to Joseph’s heroic efforts, we were still able to produce a worthy blog post for first light of the instrument!

Today we have switched to a night schedule, so our “day” technically started at 6:30pm for dinner and ended at 6:30am for sunrise. But before I continue with MagAO-X Day 5: Second Light, I have some bonus pictures to contribute from yesterday!

Here is a nice model of what MagAO-X and the electronics rack should look like next to the telescope:

Simulated model of MagAO-X and the electronics rack sitting next to the telescope.

The instrument was designed to be placed 1 inch away from the Nasmyth port of the telescope, but we started with the instrument a couple feet away from the telescope to give us room for our alignment procedure.

MagAO-X sitting on the Nasmyth platform a couple feet away from the Nasmyth port.

To align MagAO-X to the telescope, we needed to insert a laser into our instrument that would shine out towards the telescope. The laser light would travel through the Nasmyth port, reflect off of the tertiary mirror, reflect off of the secondary mirror, and return back to us. If light comes back and hits our instrument, then that tells us we are aligned! If not, well, then we have some work to do.

Laird used some handy dandy binoculars to look into the telescope and get an idea of what we were dealing with.

Laird using binoculars to look at the secondary mirror.

Below is what Laird’s view looked like. It is quite confusing, but we can see the tertiary mirror with the primary mirror covers cracked open, and the secondary mirror as the small black circle hiding behind the image of the mirror covers cracked open.

Laird’s point of view

Since we learned in elementary school that 2 points create a line, we needed to create an alignment target in the middle of the Nasmyth port to make sure that our laser beam goes through the center of the Nasmyth port. Then, we looked at the secondary mirror with binoculars to see if the laser was hitting the center of the mirror. Laird used an Italian trick learned by Armando (Laird and Jared’s old colleague from MagAO) to create an alignment target at the Nasmyth port. Laird mimicked the “Armando Pose” to commemorate this neat alignment technique.

Laird’s “Armando pose”
Laird’s alignment target.

Once the alignment target was setup, we inserted our alignment laser into the instrument. The key was to align the laser so that it was aligned to our instrument’s chief ray.

Me handing Laird the alignment laser.
Laird inserting the alignment laser into the instrument.
Lasers on, panels opened.
The alignment laser inserted into the instrument.
The alignment laser shining back through our telescope simulator, aligned to our chief ray.
Me with the alignment laser shining out towards the telescope.

The panels were put back on and the laser shined through the entrance window.

The entrance window with laser light shining through.
Laser light hitting the alignment target and hitting the tertiary to the right.
Laser light hitting our instrument!
Laird looking up at the secondary mirror to find the laser beam.

Since we proved that our alignment method would work, we moved on to the final alignment, which involved bringing the instrument close to the Nasmyth port. We had a fancy alignment rod that helped us keep the instrument centered in X.

Laird in the dark corner, guiding the instrument.
Laird’s picture of the return beam hitting the tertiary mirror and returning to our instrument.

The instrument was moved into place and aligned! We measured the angle of the table with respect to the instrument for future reference using the laser tape.

Laird using the laser tape to measure the distance to one side of the instrument.
Me measuring the other side of the instrument.

Part of the clever MagAO-X design involves a floating optical table…the instrument actually floats on a thin layer of air! No one has done something like this for an astronomical instrument before. The idea is that floating will minimize the amount of vibrations in our instrument. We did a “float test” (turning on the air and watching the instrument) to make sure MagAO-X doesn’t hit the telescope. The air system calibrates itself when turned on, so the table rocks around like a boat until it finds its position. We had to make sure we gave enough room for MagAO-X to do its thing!

The MagAO-X float test!

Finally, Laird removed the alignment laser from the instrument.

Laird removing the alignment laser while Maggie is holding a flashlight.

Jared and Kyle installed the tweeter cables.

Jared and Kyle mounting 2,000 delicate wires.
MagAO-X is here!
Nice wide field photo of the instrument next to the telescope (photo cred: Joseph Long).

And Jared caught in the moment of first light on MagAO-X!

Happy PI Jared Males yelps in celebration of first light.

MagAO-X Day 5: First Light Part 2

Now that I shared my bonus pictures from yesterday’s adventures, here is a quick summary of First Light Part 2! The day started out with a beautiful sunset and calming scenery.

Another beautiful sunset at Las Campanas Observatory.
View of South from the telescope.
View of North at the telescope (photo cred: Maggie Kautz)

Jared and Olivier worked on Olivier’s CACAO program to calibrate the 2K deformable mirror and optimize its performance. There were a lot of improvements from the previous night, and we saw our first on-sky Airy ring!

Laird, Jared, and Olivier putting their minds together.
Joseph, Kyle, and Maggie working on the science camera focusing script.

After a while of calibrations, we closed the loop and we saw our first Airy ring on sky! The left image is z’ band while the right is i band. The images look phenomenal!

First on-sky Airy ring for MagAO-X on HD_29291! Left: z’ band. Right: i band.
First vAPP images on-sky for MagAO-X! Left: Halpha continuum. Right: Halpha.

These are big moments for the MagAO-X team and we are proud of what we have accomplished so far. It feels good to look back and see how far we’ve come.