Code/Astro Day 1-2.5: Code, Code & Deep Dish Pizza

Both the non-Ph.D.ed KLIPers convened at O’Hare and ready to create a catalog of non-binary stars for the next MagAO-X run, we enjoyed the mild (relative to Tucson) sunshine on the Northwestern Campus. We spotted a nice garden with some cool spiders and Northwestern viscacha enjoying its nutritious meal.

Ready to explore the campus while it’s sunny!

We visited the old astronomy building on Northwestern Campus, which is also the site for the Dearborn Observatory completed in 1888. The 18.5″ refractor inside the dome as well as the entire building was closed to visitors during our visit on Sunday.

According to Wikipedia, this telescope was used to discover Sirius B!

In addition to the OG KLIPers or KLIPistas of MagAO-X, Gemma Gonzalez-Tora from ESO joined the team. We have made a decent amount of progress on making a code to find single stars within a given coordinate. Stay tuned for Jay’s post later this week to see our final product!

Cheers to our amazing team and congrats to Gemma on obtaining her Ph.D.!

We also spotted the third MagAO-X team member on Zoom! Hello Eden!

Oh yes, the title can very deceiving, but the rest of the post contains only Jialin’s review of the Chicago/Evanston food. Chicago deep dish is of course a must try for first timers. Jay and I stopped by the famous Labriola on our half-day off for a 12 inch Danny’s Special Deep Dish Pizza, which contained Russo Sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, and onion in addition to lots of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. (And half the pie is about to head back to Tucson!)

Look at that cheese pull! Thanks Jay for insisting on trying this place!

The Chicago Style hot dog is on par with the Sonora Dog, with fresh tomato and a good thick slice of dill pickle!

Portillo’s Chicago Style Hot Dog: Beware of the hidden picked peppers, they can really burn!

If you can’t wait until SPIE 2024 in Japan to try the famous Omurice or Japanese omelette rice, you can find a pretty good substitute in downtown Chicago. (Don’t bother getting the ramen, you can find better ones in Tucson, shhhhhh….)

We ordered the curry sauce instead of the more traditional option.

And I won’t be myself if I don’t recommend a good boba or bubble tea place.

Yes, this is indeed the third boba I’ve had since arriving and there will be more…

Song of the Day(s):

I wanted to catch a musical in Chicago Broadway during my time here, but unfortunately, July is the month of nothingness. Thus, I feel inclined to share one of the most famous numbers from the musical Chicago!

MagAO-X 2023A Day 20: Extreme Anarchic Observers (ExAO)

Obligatory aesthetic image of the sky/telescope as the 1st image of my blog posts 🙂

Recently, a tragic event occurred on the mountain and I am here to tell the tale of the “Empocalypse.” It all began with a hungry astronomer who walked into the kitchen, ready to heat up the favorite meal of the crowd… Upon opening up the fridge that was supposed to be filled with a mound of carefully wrapped empanadas, the astronomer discovered a fridge devoid of empanadas. As the news went around the telescope, the cries of the grieving observers filled the rooms. The empanadas are one of the few things that hold value within the MagAO-X group while we are at LCO, and their sudden disappearance almost started a riot. The dissatisfaction has been reported to telescope officials and hopefully, it will be taken seriously. On the brighter side of things, since the calamity, the snack selection has increased, one of which being a miniature version of the hangry astronomer’s favorite.

Mini Tritons and its #1 fanatic

On the contrary, we have been treated well on the science side, some might even say spoiled. The seeing read by Dimm dropped below 0.3″, which is a rare occurrence. The TO even called his buddy over to witness such an event. Just when we thought the night would continue to have spectacular seeing and a smooth sail, the seeing doubled by midnight. However, great spectral data were still taken with VIS-X.


Per the title of the blog post, I feel obligated to continue to share other moments of this run that embodies similar energy. Well, truth be told, I am feeling like an ExAO, thus, I am writing a blog post full of content that is deserving of some love and attention (according to me, BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

We have our second special visitor in the telescope. This bird scared me more than the occasional “Chicken Nugget.” In addition to almost giving me a heart attack, it brought a special gift of bird dropping. It was our unsung hero, Jay, who cleaned up after the surprise visitor.


As we are nearing the end of this observing run, it would not be proper to think the kids can still be considered “normal.” Ok, maybe I should only speak for myself, but I do have some evidence of abnormal behaviors.

Regular Animal Spotting

First time seeing a fox!
Burrows stopping at the stop sign

Song of the Day

During my last visit here in December, my music app of choice sent me a recap of my 2022 music journey. My top album was “Bad Mode” by Japanese Artist Hikaru Utada and its title track is my chosen song of the day. I first discovered them a decade ago through my older cousin’s iPod playlist, and ever since, their songs have been on my playlist. As they have risen to fame and become less active way before I was a fan, I have not been able to catch their live performance. It is, however, on my bucket list to be at their live performance at least once.

MagAO-X 2023A Day 14: A “Typical” Night at LCO

Clay with dome opened captured by Jared

Day 14 of this observing run marked my first full night and the first full MaxProtoPlanetS night. Despite having a few bumps, it was overall a 0.5″ seeing kind of night! This allowed us to take great data on a target without ADC tracking and driving the telescope to below 30 degrees, which I believe is the first in MagAO-X history.

I still can’t believe this is considered a typical night…
With the telescope pointing so low, Clay’s primary mirror can be really well seen from the dome floor

There were lots of interesting conversations going on in the control room. Jared shared a sailor story beginning with the mandatory opening phrase of “so, there I was”, slightly interrupting the “Would you rather” game that was happening among the junior graduate students. Here are a few prompts that I overheard thought were interesting:

  • No elbows or knees
  • Cold spaghetti or the smell of cold spaghetti
  • Receding or preceding hairline

When doing the customary “blinking” technique to see the small differences between two wavelengths in the data, the exoplanet imaginers and instrument builders in the control room turned into a group of paleontologists amazed by the recovery of a dinosaur skull.

“I might have been staring at this for too long… but it looks a lot like a dinosaur to me”

Happy International Women’s Day!

Selfie from the strong, independent, and intelligent gals on the mountains 😉

As a celebration of International Women’s Day, the chefs surprised us with a decadent chocolate cake for dinner. A big shout-out to all the women (and girls) of the MagAO-X team, guest observers, and telescope operators!

Special treat for their “favorites” prepared by the chefs.
“Dessert for MEN,” said Joseph, as he enjoyed his second plate of mashed potatoes.

Song of the Day

Song of the Day was a tough choice as there were so many great songs that are great representations of female empowerment. I have chosen the one that is considered one of the “fiercest female anthems” in the 2010s. Now comes the awkward part of me attempting to explain how I came to know this song. Truth be told, I do not recall when, where, how, and why. Whenever I think about the celebration of female strength and beauty, this first song pops up in my head.

One of the earliest memory I associate this song with is my schoolyard with the radio often blasting the hit songs. So I guess I know this song from the radio?

MagAO-X 2022B Day 12: Wait, we’re already doing science?

After an eventful 24 hour day, a record might have been broken at the Las Campanas Observatory; we have welcome 3 more University of Arizona scientists, making a total of 12 Arizonians on the Chilean mountains.

Clay telescope with opened dome

Second night on sky began with the customary group sunset viewing photo taken by UA Professor Xiaohui Fan.

“I don’t always drink. But when I do, it’s 2 Fantas and a hot tea.”

With Avalon’s efforts, 10 low order wavefront sensing modes were closed on sky for the first time! “10 might not seem like a lot, but don’t most close on 2?”

Avalon and Jared working together on closing the loop.

Science targets were observed while working towards engineering goals throughout the night. Sebatiaan captured beautiful images of R Aqr. If you’d like to see them, like, comment, and subscribe to this blog to hear the newest updates. Warren continued on PIAA alignment and tested it on a binary, possibly multiple star system, HD 20121.

One’s looking happy because of closed loop and the other because of science.

PDS 201 is the first target observed for the Max Protoplanet Survey on this run. With the great seeing around 0.4, the 3 hour observation through its transit resulted in the total of about 80K high quality images. This also means a grad student will be reducing data happily throughout the next day. And the night ended with some more effort in engineering, characterizing vibration and making Strehl measurements.

Aligning the pupils to observe PDS 201

While in the kid’s lounge… some might say they are having too much fun.

Apple pencil Mystery/Saga: “It’s like looking for your glasses when they are on your face.”
“Joseph looks like a puppy about to be kicked in the face.”
“That’s what tech support does to you.”
There’s always a new way to wear MagAO-X swag!

Since we went on a journey yesterday, let’s go on a getaway today!

MagAO-X 2022B Day 7: First Team Photo Captured!

First post from Jialin, a new astronomy grad of the MagAO team! As a part of the Gen-Z crew that arrived yesterday, I spent today in my “bubble” keeping myself busy with work and olive counting while waiting for the arrival of MagAO-X. We should be freed tomorrow at 10am after our final COVID test. Shout out here to Joseph for coffee delivery to everyone in the “bubble” and Sebastiaan for his generous donation of the spare coffee machine.

The number of olives served today was surpringly low, merely 10.

To balance the calories consumed and burned, Avalon, Eden, and I went for a scenic walk to the 100-inch after lunch. We spotted the first guanacos since our arrival and managed to capture them with just “5 pixels”.

MagAO tradition of excrement-covered mirror selfies!
Spot the guanaco(s)?
Putting some pretty flowers seen on the walk so not all photos are selfies.

With full attendance (of those who are physically here at LCO), we went for an expedition attempting to spot the green flash at the robotic telescopes. We witnessed the sunset as well as the opening of the HATPI telescope (video below), which can detect a variety of different objects, from near-earth asteroids and exoplanets around bright stars to novae and bright gamma-ray bursts.

Group viewing of the HATPI telescope after it opened.
Warning sign outside the robotic telescope.
Robotic telescope cover opening

With the help of Joseph’s tripod, here is the first 8-person team photo of this run! We are all smiling 🙂


Song of the Day

Non-mandatory explanation of my choice of song: first recommendation from Youtube after listening to yesterday’s song of the day!