MagAO 2018A Day 9: The Universe

I don’t have much to say, so I figured I would title this “The Universe” as that covers anything I might be tempted to say. Actually, we were discussing Arthur C Clarke tonight, and Katie found this good quote from him, “I sometimes think that the universe is a machine designed for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers.” I hope I continue to be astonished. As I said in this interview for the DTM website — it’s a shame to lose a sense of curiosity.

Tonight is my last night, so it’s goodbye to LCO for at least a few months. Good luck to the rest of the MagAO users!

Here are some photos from dawn and sunset:

Dawn on Sunday. Note the conspicuous lack of clouds as soon as the Sun rose. But the dawn was a harbinger of empanadas at least.
Sunset on Sunday. Note that the sky is still clear. The dome was open early for some tests on the infrared camera.
The wild vizcacha of the hillside to the north of the Magellan Telescopes. He/She stayed still just long enough for a photo before hopping away. I like the stripe down his/her back.

The Universe makes us feel small, so that’s a link, perhaps tenuous to this song by one of my favorite singers, Suzanne Vega, called “Small Blue Thing.”

I hope someone strumming in her home studio counts as a cover:

MagAO 2018A Day 8: She blinded me with 73 clouds

Last night was my first night, and after I bragged about bringing the clear skies with me, the clouds rolled in. Nevertheless, we got some good data, if “good” can be defined as finding out a star is binary when I was hoping it would not be.

Note: It is possible to take 73 full frame coadds or cube images with Clio. Yes, 73. That’s tonight’s magic number, in case you’re entering the lottery.

This week has been exciting for the astronomical community, with the 2nd Gaia data release. We now know the distances to 1.3 billion stars, and some at fantastic precision. One of my favorite disk-hosting stars, HD 141569, was in the catalog of the Hipparcos mission with a parallax of 10.10 +/- 0.83 mas (that’s about 99 pc +/- 9 pc or 323 +/- 30 light years). The new parallax is 9.04 +/- 0.04 mas — yes, you read that correctly, a factor of more than 20 improvement in our knowledge of the distance (now 110.6 +/- 0.5 pc). There’s so much to do with the data for studying associations of young stars; it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Can I find a star that is 73 pc away you ask? Why, of course. There’s HD 89252 (actually 73.4 +/- 0.3 pc).

The fun here at Magellan is in studying individual stars’ environments in great detail, when the clouds stay away. I want to turn from clouds to science.

A cloudy sunset was followed by more clouds, some thinner clouds, and then more clouds.

I also want to educate Katie on 80s New Wave Pop:

And, yes, I read the rules, so here’s the cover.

2017B Day 9: Clouds

The most exciting thing to happen tonight, alas, was the return of our friend the owl. You can see her or him silhouetted nicely here against that white background known as clouds. Note the red and blue dots representing where the telescopes are pointing are straight up overhead — that’s because both domes are closed with both telescopes at rest.

Screen Shot 2017-09-03 at 1.18.34 AM

We were wondering tonight about the attraction of the all sky camera to the owl. Does it reflect some light so it looks like the eye of a small edible critter? Is the owl vain and looking at its reflection? Is the camera just conveniently located on the ridge where there are plentiful mice about? Is one of the staff baiting the camera to keep us entertained? In this era of fake news, my own son accused me of making up the Magellanic Horned Owl, because it seemed too much of a coincidence to him that I’d be sitting at Magellan and seeing the Bubo Magellanicus.

In other wildlife news, today I saw a herd of (loud) burros, one small vizcacha, and a lot of (loud) birds. I had a lovely walk this afternoon when the sun was out, the birds were tweeting, and I was still optimistic the clouds would clear. There seems to be an exceptional amount of greenery and flowers around, as you can see below. During a public outreach event a couple years ago I made a joke about how green plants were bad for astronomy, meaning of course, that plants need water and open domes don’t. OK, so it wasn’t funny and apparently also went over the head of at least one member of my audience who the asked why the stars cared about the plants.



“And there’s something bout the Southland in the springtime.” This wasn’t the South-land that the Indigo Girls had in mind (Texas this is not, and I’m happy to be a Yankee – but not for baseball!), but it does appear to be spring time.