MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 9: “I don’t think you want that data”

Thank you for tuning in for “Eden’s screenshots of the firewalled LCO weather page.”

Bright eyed enthusiam coming to you straight from the AO operator desk.

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that we are open! The bad news? The seeing is just on the edge of usable. And by “on the edge” I mean we’re getting something on the science cameras… but it’s the kind of data we dread to process. What a tease.

On top of that, the wind is whistling something fierce. Like living next door to a two-note pan-piper. Every 5 minutes, Maggie-O-X will announce that we’ve hit our wind limit, just for the wind to slink back down again. Like a threat that it could shut this whole operation down, clouds or not. We thank Carla for being a merciful TO, and we are planning on allocating portions of our empanada orders tomorrow to her, accordingly.

Seeing and wind plots at the time of reporting.

Did I forget to mention that I have worse news? In a novel first for this team, we are expecting rain. Yes, in the Atacama Desert, that gets an average rainfall of 15 mm a year. We found it, folks. The one day of rain a year. Stay tuned for the MagAO-X raincoat wrappings.

The first time I have seen precipitation on the LCO meteoblue weather page.

Weather like this could really get you down, but luckily we have a great team that keeps even these kinds of days full of laughs and good stories. Our night started with high hopes. Since the sky was clear and the winds were low, the walk to the telescopes was appealing for the first time in a week. Some of the team caught a crisp green flash on their way up.

As an early-shifter, I’m headed to bed, but I know the control room is staying merry with Alycia wisdom, Jared sea stories, Joseph whimsy, and Josh punchlines that are actually just events from his life. All as it should be.

A beautiful, cloudless sunset.

Best 15 minutes of the day? Filling out the night lunch for 4 whole empanadas. Just like the boss ordered.

Overheard at LCO

“I struggled with the scissors unit in kindergarten”

won most improved on MagAO-X scissor duty

“As long as I’m not playing a sport I won’t get injured”
“Why would you say something like that”

someone who could definitely get injured in offseason

“I will be Clay’s Gollum”

someone with career ambitions

“Keep the icc data away from the tea.”
“How about you keep the tea away from the icc data.”

not all of us have Sebastiaan level tea charisma

“I wasn’t allowed near the model trains because I kept wanting to touch them”

still let near our picomotors as a trust exercise

Song of the day

This one isn’t my pick. It’s Clay’s.

Danny Boy – Sinéad O’Connor

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 3: And the band comes marching in

We made it!
Some of us (one of us) lucked into the customs fastpast lane.
The traditional Starbucks renaming: Jren – Eden, Josh – Logan, Maggie – Maggie

Guess who’s made it to Chile? Everyone else! You know it’s almost time to put the instrument on the telescope because the brawn has arrived en masse. We were luckier than last run 5/5 of the expected graduates / Postdocs made it to Santiago unharmed and on time.

Photo evidence of everyone being a good sport after 24 hours of travel.

On our way from the La Serena, we all jammed into the mini van, with just the cubic feet needed to fit all of us and our luggage. It was the hardest jenga our sleep deprived brains could probably have accomplished at that point. Fortunately it was just for the quick jump to the halfway house for astronomers, the Pine on the hill. We had to wait here for a bit before our larger, more official van shepherded us the 2 hours to the telescopes.

Yep, the lounge is still here, and the snacks are revitalizing.
Taking the 2 hours at el Pino for a much needed stretch break.

Meanwhile, our compatriots up the hill were enjoying a luxurious empenada lunch, after a hard mornings work of calibration tests and computer construction. Some of us travelers were lucky enough to be visited by the masked empenada fairy, delivering the delicacy to our unoccupied rooms.

There times when a day shift overlaps with empenada days are few and they are treasured.

The travel crew arrived, some well napped, others full of podcast, to a chilly mountain top that feels a little more like home every time. After some necessary rest and recovery in our rooms, we finally joined the mountain team for a big dinner. We’ll be back to big work tomorrow, but for now we get to rest (on real beds, not half naps van or airplane seats). The clouds weren’t looking promising, but they sure did make for a pretty sunset:

These are the kinds of sunrays we expect in Tucson.
The only way we could possibly make the new glass stickers more majestic.

The best 15 minutes of the day was getting to see a friendly face from the past! Casey Lam, who was once upon a time a grad student working with Jessica Lu when I was a mere undergrad, just so happened to be the observers before us on Clay. She’s now a postdoc with Carnegie in Pasadena! With the buffer day we need to get the instrument on the telescope, I got to spend a good 15+ minutes catching up before Casey observes her last night and heads back down. Have clear skies and safe travels, Casey!

I am very excited I got to see Casey!

Song of the Day

To be completely honest, you’re getting a blog post from a pretty tired kid, just maybe the least tired and least busy. See you tomorrow where we’ll be a little more alive!

Dead Girl Walking – Jensen McRae

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 22: Home again, but not for long

And no, the solar farms that LOOK like lakes don't count.
First sighting of a large water body since early March.

Like any triumphant victory, the champions must eventually turn homeward. After an amazing few weeks of scientific discoveries, engineering miracles, and accidental binary friends, we packed up our many multi-terabyte hardrives and headed down all 8000 ft back down on our way home.

Both the tree, and the grass, and really anything green in this picture felt novel after the Atacama.
The pine that makes the lodge el Pino.
What does he see? And why does the hallway just end there?
Traveler above a sea of fog, colorized, 2024
Rough stuff when your world class proposed telescope's poster is sun-faded...
A dreamy model GMT, bigger than the ones we have back home.

We had an early morning bus filled with some napping, clear skies and a view of the bay. Post drive we got a quick break at El Pino, enjoyed the sights, touched grass, and confirmed that there was still that weird vizzy people were calling a rabbit. After a brief respite of healthier snacks and preferred beverages, we all packed back in the van and left for the La Serena airport. All except for Josh, who by a cruel twist of fate was the only lab member who got completely rebooked with a separate itinerary back to Tucson. We miss him to this day.

We bring so many grad students so that we have spares for moments like these.
Last known photo of Josh Liberman.

And then the whirlwind of luggage hauling, TSA searches, elite lounge scouring, airplane sitting, more TSA, and sleep-deprived airport navigation began. Despite the 36 hours in transit, we did make time for the important traditions.

Not all group members were made aware of the "pre-TSA" memo and we regret the omission.
Cervezas and papas fritas pre Las Serena TSA.
He's sure we will show up, any minute now.
Post-TSA Jay, plane watching.
Previous reports were rash, Josh was eventually found.
Inducting the uninitiated into the SCL Terminal E Ruby Tuesdays Pisco sour fanclub.

But just like that, or maybe “after all that”, we finally emerged blinking in the Tucson sun. After clunky suitcases were retrieved, goodbyes were brief. It’s hard to be sentimental on dubious amounts of red-eye sleep and to people you have just spent three weeks secluded mountain top, stepping on their toes.

Telescopes? At MY baggage claim?
One of the many attractions of Chile includes some friends, the Gemini telescope.

But like any epic tale, why not tell it twice? Your favorite AO squad couldn’t resist the encore to such a successful run, and we will be back in May for 24Ab. In the meantime we will be catching up on our sleep debt, hugging our loved ones, and quickly putting in a load of laundry.

Song of the Day:

Sing us out, Piano Man.

Vienna by Billy Joel.

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 6: The longest day

Do you have what it takes to be the next great AO operator? Well today is the day that tests your mettle. Starting as bright an early as our crane operators will let us, we do a little bit of everything this 24hr shift. We pack, we crane, we unpack, we unwrap, we level, we cable, and at the very end of it all we finally get to do a little bit of why we’re here: astronomy.

The day started out with the projects greatest fiend, the cart. We build it around the table to help it roll from truck to the telescope. Every time we assemble and disassemble this 200lb or so beast, we grow closer as a team. And perhaps ever more resentful of it. The instrument and legs arrive separately at the telescope, after getting separated at this clean room lifting step. We make sure all these moves are safe by applying tension to big items to make them go slow.

Keeping MagAO-X safe, one arm workout at a time.

Next the PI takes a nice long walk with his million dollar baby up the hill. The rest of us know it’s best to let them have their space.

While the flatbed makes its slow ascent, the rest of the team prepares the platform and tools to make ready for its arrival.

MagAO-X returns to Clay after almost exactly a year! (2023A finished on March 17th, and we brought it back on March 18th 2024)
Wheeling the instrument to the scissor elevator.
Going up!

Once the instrument is in the telescope dome, there’s a set of reverse craning and anti-cart activities that need to quickly happen. Good thing we’re getting good at this. As long as we follow Laird’s carefully labeled baggies, we don’t go too wrong.

De-carting is at least a 3 person activity.

Juan and the guys went back to get our electronics while Maggie lead the table team in the fine grained work of leveling a two ton floating table. Maggie might just need to be our Laird on the May run, and under her guidance we leveled the table in record time!

The electronics rack gets its ride up, and is placed next to the table, and then we can start recabling all the things we unplugged just last night. It’s a big dejavu moment. By dinner, we have all but one DM connected. (We still eat fast though, because the less on sky time we waste, the better. )

Cabling, but this time, at even more altitude.

Meanwhile, our astronomer heavy contingent started to make their way out here. Out of three who were supposed to arrive today, only Jay made it, for a various calamitous reasons. Logan got all the way to La Serena, and will be joining us later this week. If all goes well, Jialin will make all the connections she needs and will be here by tomorrow.

Two more of us making it out of Tucson.

Dinner was quick, and we all raced back up the mountain to finish the last little bits. Since it’s our observing night, we finally got to claim the observer-reserved speedy red automatic. Now that all our cars aren’t manual, we aren’t limited by who can drive stick. Happy to report that no one even screamed as I took my first drive up the mountain!

Two cozy cleanroom Vizzies we spotted on our way up!

The final mad dash of cabling and clean up wasn’t captured, but rest easy, we once again worked a small miracle and got the instrument science ready on the platform. We even got our first sunset picture on the catwalk with nearly the whole team.

The first catwalk sunset, nearly everyone made it.
Logan might be in La Serena, but she did not miss the sunset.

Once the sun went down, we finally got to an open dome and down to science.

The team assembles for the excitement of the system getting online.

First up was commissioning some of the newest of our DM technology. These alignment patterns were made fairly recently by members of the lab to test our DM actuators on the light from the pupil.

After making sure everything was working, we returned to our old friend, pi Pup. This bright double star system is one of our favorites because it’s companion is bright enough to be seen as soon as we close the AO loop.

Z band, visible light, closed loop image on sky. The companion is on the left of the image, right next to one of the DM speckles. This image is about 0.74 Strehl.

We were lucky that in our first hours of engineering, we got solid and steady 0.5 arcsecond seeing. We were able to capture some great footage of MagAO-X in action. Below, you can see in real time how turning on the AO system gets us from a blob to a stellar PSF.

The Jared-cam, all four screens of our megadesk, closing the loop on pipup.

In another commissioning victory, we got FDPR working on sky with the NCPC DM. This technique probes phase and amplitude with defocus to reduce our non-common path errors. With our first round of testing, we were able to improve our SR from 0.77 to 0.86 with our rough calculations. (In case these numbers mean nothing to you, we were very pleased with our 0.63 last time, 0.77 got Jared smiling, and 0.86 nearly knocked our stinky socks off.)

FDPR (Focus diversity Phase Retrieval) initial results.

And with those victories, it was on to science. Katie got an hour or so to test ADC algorithms with Sebastiaan, and Jared tested some binning code. Both projects need a little more debugging time, and so we’ll probably revisit them later this week. We got back on sky for Sebastiaan’s target just in time for the seeing to explode.

We went from a 0.5 as night to a 1.5 as one way too quickly…

Sadly, this weather isn’t the kind our instrument was made to operate in, so in the late hours of our very long day, we gave up on scince targets and I got to sneak in a few more engineering tests. (Things have to be pretty hopeless for the team to let me test optical gain unchecked.) The team trickled down the mountain in twos and threes as we finally ran out of steam from our very big, very hard, way too long day.

But don’t let the ending spoil the fact that we just managed a miracle. We got from a truck to a beautiful, record breaking PSF in less than 24 hours. We have only had one night, and are already proving the robustness of algorithms that we weren’t even sure were going to work on sky. Plus, two new group members, Josh and Katie, survived one of the hardest days we go through. Congratulations team!

Song of the day:

How could I not pick this song for the first night of the run?

First Light – Hozier
a peaceful and unbothered Guanaco to end the day.

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 1: It lives!

The sun rising on a day of unpacking.

Is there anything more tantalizing than an fresh, unopened box of MagAO-X? This team just couldn’t resist. The unpacking festivities started at the first call of the returning night shift astronomers and did not finish until our good friend Orion had completely risen.

The very first gift of the day was an early morning Carlos Culpeo spotted by a Josh who’s sleep schedule hasn’t quite agreed with all the travel yet. This curious fox was later spotted at lunch, and we hope he becomes a regular.

After a reviving breakfast of the highest LCO standards, we shuttled up to the clean room and got to work on our hard hat activities. This includes the reverse of everything we did in Tucson (see Logan’s packing video) but enjoy these snapshots of cranes and dollys and etc. to jog your memory.

Geared up and ready!
Getting the instrument box in position.
The bolts are taken off the door.
Door is taken off the box.
Now we de-box the box.
MagAO-X freed and in good shape!
aaaand all the bolts had to go right back on the empty shipping box.

We were so fast and efficient, we had time to catch another fan favorite, Gary, who wandered up to the parking lot to check on what we were up to.

With another good animal omen bestowed upon us, and lunch in our stomachs, we got back to work freeing the electronics box from it’s larger, wooden box. Don’t try this at home kids, these are advanced crane moves best performed with at some two professionals and at least four grad students standing around in hard hats, looking anxious.

Workplace briefing with a view.
Grad student stabilization.

And all of a sudden, MagAO-X was out of it’s box and in the clean room, and it was only 3pm! Every time, it seems like we do it faster. Even our crane operator Juan was surprised. About at that time we all were ready for some caffine, and a break from hard hats.

The much needed 4pm coffee break

Woof. What a blog post. We’ve unpacked it, so we must be done, right? What, we still need to set up the clean room? You mean we’re only halfway through? Well… if this blog post is long, it’s only because you’re right there in it with us.

Before we could do anything else, the clean room had to get… actually clean. The youngest and spry-est of us took on the challenge. Special recognition to Katie for surviving the fumes of the glass cleaner long enough to finish the clean room mopping.

And still, everything looks alright!

Once Laird arrived, some initial optical inspection occurred! Welcome Laird! Turns out you can only do so much without the cameras on to tell you what’s misaligned, so the real alignment will have to wait for tomorrow.

We ran into some unexpected traffic on our way back up to the cleanroom from dinner at the lodge:

Once we were finally clear, we finished up with the nitty gritty of glycol and cabling

Checking that there are no leaks, and the coolant is running smoothly.
Passing on re-cabling secrets to the next generation.

The good news? ITS ALIVE. All of the computers have turned on, the new GPUS hare happily chugging along, and we are ready for the DM cabling and alignment tomorrow. If you made it this far, congratulations, you have gotten through what will probably be our second longest day of the run.

Wow, does it feel good to be back.

Song of the day

Maggie says we gotta have some nature? Here’s a cool condor shot I took today!

And in his majestic honor, the song of the day:

I, Carrion (Icarian) by Hozier