I’ll try to make up for my clickbait title by starting right off with the secret ramen seasoning that I’m uniquely suited to identify.
The last supper
It’s apparently very rare, but chefs from select regions of Japan will season tonkotsu (pork) flavored ramen with peanut dust or peanut butter to impart a special nuttiness to the savory soup. As many of you might guess, this didn’t turn out well for one of the resident peanut deniers in the group. But hopefully those who read this blog will help spread some awareness since, in general, Japanese food restaurants have been a very safe haven for peanut allergy sufferers…! And no, the restaurant made no mention of this additional ingredient anywhere on their menu :-/.
After a quick brush with my kryptonite, we were back the next afternoon exploring the surrounding Chicago area to seek out the healing properties of a slice of deep dish. Although the weather was less than ideal for most of Wednesday with a slight chance for multiple tornados.
As for the workshop, we (Jialin, Gemma of España, and I) shared a brief eureka moment when we successfully created and pip-installed our very own open-source Python package on our computers! To get everyone else up to speed, we utilized this workshop to get a head start on a collaborative, bright, most-likely-to-be-single star catalog for AO calibration purposes! All that’s really left to do is streamline the catalog querying and crossmatching functionality and then actually make the SQL database prior to our next observing run.
Big thanks to Logan for helping us refine this idea and make it happen in such a short timespan!
I always worry my posts end up evolving to be too too wordy so please enjoy a photo dump of the social activities that took place for the rest of the workshop and afterwards before flying back home to Tucson :-).
This is Ben from UC San Diego. We ran into Ben serendipitously and after some small talk he confessed to being a fellow Jared fan after seeing Jared’s talk at AO4ELT. Astro is such a small world.
Song of the Day
We had a Lyft driver who was literally the city of Chicago anthropomorphized. dApparently in his youth one of his favorite pastimes was staying at the bars in Downtown Chicago until closing. Well so, around last call, when they played this song at the end of the night it was his cue to antagonize the bouncers and convince them, as best as he could, that he makes his own rules, he owns this bar, they’d have to use force to get him to leave, etc. On more than one occasion he got the bouncers grinning and giving him the stink-eye while cracking their knuckles at ten minutes to closing. However, as soon as the clock showed 30 seconds to official closing time he was already 100 ft away from the building and power walking his way home. In between belly laughs he exclaimed “I was young, dumb, and I’m *still* only 5’5″ on a good day so what did you expect? I knew my limits!”
It was way funnier with the thick Chicago accent and euphemisms than is probably coming off typed out here.
On Thursday last week, Warren Byrum Foster of house XWCL, first of his name, Tzar of tubeless designs and the first picomotors, protector of PIAA lenses, cultivar of pineapple, breaker of linear shift-invariance, the unphased, and (most recently) Master of Science defended his thesis and restored peace and order to the 8th floor of the Optical Sciences building.
The public portion of the presentation detailed the many intricacies of the Phase-Induced Amplitude Apodization (PIAA) component of MagAO-X and I’m pretty sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that I learned a lot about the importance of this project for pushing the limits of the Magellan Clay telescope. Warren also had the foresight and kindness to distract us with tasty Mexican pastries and fizzy drinks while we awaited the good news during the “grilling” portion of the defense. We would all like to thank him for his work towards shrinking our inner working angle and furthering our long term science goals of becoming the best AO system in the world!
No windows were left with a cork-shaped hole, this clearly isn’t his first time…
Congratulations to Warren! Starting your grad school journey at the apex of the pandemic (Aug. 2020) and completing many of your core classes remotely and mostly solo was no easy feat (source: same cohort as me!) so extra kudos to you for sticking it out and finishing with a bang. We’ll definitely miss you and the positive vibes you bring; whether we’re on observing runs or just experiencing daily life on the UArizona campus. Here’s to the road ahead; may your hunts be fruitful and your arrows fly swift.
For now, Warren is continuing with the refinement of the PIAA setup with some fancy picomotors for finer control during operation. Further into summer, he is pursuing collaboration with the Roger Angel group to demonstrate his talents on the LFAST project.
A nice sunny day in the Summer of 1998 2023 provides the perfect backdrop for celebrating a successful Master’s defense on the 8th floor in Meinel.
For proper celebration shenanigans we found ourselves at 1912 Brewing Co. where we presented Warren with a super cool tee which he promptly and eagerly put on. (Thanks to Joseph for facilitating this!)
Song of the Day
The song of the day is an absolute classic and a known favorite of Warren. I chose this rendition because Ray Chen’s facial expressions while playing the violin more than make up for the lack of vocals here…!
There are a few hiccups to expect on a night-to-night basis, but in general at this point we’re pretty fine-tuned to the MagAO-X workflow. This means there has been more opportunities to enjoy the finer details of #LifeatLCO before and after our shifts. From going viscacha family spotting on the rocky ridge next to the Magellan telescopes…
…to taking neat synthwave/outrun inspired photos at sunset and twilight. Being my first time here at LCO, it’s a pleasant surprise that this place isn’t *just* a bunch of old telescopes in an extremely arid desert. Actually, not only are the accommodations really nice but the food is also pretty memorable too. If you missed it, check out Eden’s food blog post here. But apart from the nice rooms and good food, I’m happy to see some thought put into various amenities to make life here a lot more bearable.
For instance, there’s plenty of space to exercise and even a well-equipped gym near our rooms to help offset the sedentary nature of astronomizing. I also probably speak for the students among us still taking demanding optics and astro classes when I say that the lodge and astronomer support buildings have super nice libraries and areas to study/read/work.
But back to the telescopes! We were all sad to say our farewells tonight to Dr. Alycia Weinberger (it was nice to finally meet you in person, btw!) because she, in addition to bringing us many tasty snacks, brought a great aura to the control room and we all enjoyed hearing about her colorful experiences over the years here at LCO. She also graciously brought the interested among us to tour the Irénée du Pont and Swope telescope installations. Jialin, Noah and I were captivated by the rich history contained within these buildings and got to see some seriously cool old school machines, astro almanacs, and photographic plates. Thanks again, Alycia!
Of course, nothing beats the Magellan telescopes in terms of splendor but it was still really cool to see how smaller, older telescopes still contribute significantly to science. One evening, seeing estimates from the DIMM and our sister telescope the Baade varied significantly which prompted the idea to go straight to the Baade telescope control system and look for ourselves to see if the online reports were accurate. It then dawned on me and Eden was that we had never seen what is was like in our sister telescope…! So, utilizing the cover of night, we executed a bit of a spy mission to see if the grass was greener or not. Dude, they have a full size fridge, bookshelves filled with actual books, and their living room is way cozier with barely-used furniture, what’s up with that?
I also can’t ignore the times when we have the opportunity to take a break and let MagAO-X do all the heavy lifting for a bit. Although this may come off as us being lazy, rest assured it’s a sign that things are going incredibly well for science.
Song of the Day
Back when I was just a crouton in a wide-open baguette world, I went for glory cooking professionally for a few years before deciding to go back to college and pursue a more technical career. Back then, one summerly tradition was to go with a large group of Arizona chefs to cook for a 3-week long event at a resort deep in the NorCal redwoods for members of the infamous and secretive Bohemian Grove. We Arizonan chefs went to chase those California wages and sweet overtime pay (…aaaand that juicy double-overtime pay for the inevitable 12+ hour days) so in a way, our long hours of observing and the remoteness here at LCO reminds me of my Grove days. Every year, we joined a literal army of chefs in a huge kitchen cooking daily, near Michelin Star quality breakfast and dinner for about 2000 members. This sounds grueling, but actually looking back I really only remember the fun times of the 7 years I returned as a chef at the Grove. (Ehhh, for the most part, at least… well, there *was* a particularly bad year with a couple of very, very catastrophic mishaps concerning 200 pounds of beets and 15 gallons of garden pea coulis that I’m convinced gave me PTSD for a couple of months afterwards, and I to this day STILL get occasional nightmares about this, but we’ll save that for another blog post.)
The song of the day has special meaning to me and my good friend Big Mike. One tradition at the Grove is an employee-only talent show held during the last weekend of the event. Historically, it was ALWAYS a server, or bartender, or valet driver or something who won every year; never any kitchen staff. I guess it was natural that chefs never competed, because we were always exhausted and generally always had too much to do to really find the time to rehearse. But one year Big Mike and I set out to with a plan to finally change that. That morning, I remember bringing my guitar with me to the kitchen and safely stashing it in the dry storage area upstairs during breakfast service. Then, during the small afternoon lull before dinner service where everyone was either putting the final touches on that night’s dinner prep or prepping for next day’s breakfast, we snuck out of the kitchen and went to a quiet corner of the redwood-shaded outdoor dining circle, acoustic guitar and hastily drawn-up lyrics in hand, and did a cold rehearsal for no more than 30 minutes still in our chef whites and aprons. I don’t remember much between practicing and actually performing our skit being that this was back in 2014, but I’ll never forget the assistant general manager on the mic during the employee dinner announcing the winners of that years talent show to hundreds: “And the winners for this years talent show… for the first time in Bohemian Grove history…. are from the kitchen!”
So the song of the day is House of the Rising Sun by The Animals, because this is the song we had performed (in this style) almost impromptu in front of the entire Grove workforce and somehow did it well enough to win the talent show that year. It wasn’t the original lyrics though, we had modified lyrics to describe that year’s experience of being a couple of sleep-deprived cooks surviving in that insane kitchen. I think it actually came out pretty funny, which probably helped our performance out a whole lot. I’m sure those lyrics are still in one of Big Mike’s old notebooks, I really should find the time to ask him to find those pages again when we return back home.
Yesterday I arrived with Eden and one way to gauge how chaotic the journey to LCO was is the level of shin splints experienced the next day. That is to say, the trek was not without some hiccups. From semi-justified TSA traffic stops…
…to major flight delays. If anyone reading this has the clearance to retrieve security footage of ATL’s B Terminal you’d find two grad students running faster than a supercharged V8 and scattering many meandering airport families while doing so.
The language barrier was a bit higher than anticipated which caused a few more delays at SCL but nonetheless we made it! After a long rest we prepared to do the big move and install next.
The gory details might be left to future post but the first task of the day was to push MagAO-X onto the transport vehicle and drive it (slowly) up the hill from the clean room to the telescope platform.
Once it was at the telescope we made ample use of the many convenient tools integrated into the building to make our lives a lot easier.
The scariest part (for me) is always the crane operations, but everything went by without a hitch. After the table legs were placed under the floating MagAO-X it had to be lowered just right to ensure everything buttons up together nicely in the end.
One of the last steps before first light was the cabling procedures. Here we see our DM-cabling gurus hard at work.
The rest of the night didn’t offer many more photo opportunities and was honestly a bit of a blur (perhaps due to being awake for nearly 24 hours) but MagAO-X is being fed real stellar photons and it’s working great!
Well this “first light” post could have undoubtedly gone a bit deeper into the operations and science, except we’ve all been up since 7:30a and it’s well past 4:00a now with a few more hours to get through before we can call it quits. So we’re all very tired (except Warren apparently), so it’s time to sign off….
Song of the Day
As per the 2023A blog rules a song must be chosen for each day of the run. One stipulation is that you must recount who recommended the song to you. So today it’s “Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel. One realization that dawned on me today is that the compressor on the cool new kid on the block, XKID, pumps along to the tempo of this very song (or it’s dang close). So I guess you could say MagAO-X’s new friend XKID recommended this song to me. That counts, right?
I think I speak for all three of us MagAO-Xians that went to the AO workshop last week when I say that it was a blast! Between the beautiful campus at UCSC, fun hands on activities, and friendly participants there was always something to focus on (heh). Unfortunately it was probably the diverse group of international attendees that had COVID-19 prowling for victims, and I was one of the ones to get caught in the nets…! Thus I unfortunately had to miss the last few parts of the event, but the parts I did get to participate in was rich in really cool AO things.
I was mesmerized by lectures detailing all the non-astronomical applications of AO — who knew microscopists could benefit so much from AO? I also got a chance to converse with Dr. Phil Hinz who (to my surprise) contributed work towards the MagAO/Clio project. Astronomy is such a small world. I especially enjoyed seeing Prof. Olivier Guyon’s presentations on things going on over at the SCExAO project.