MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 2: Settling Into Winter

It’s cold. But, at least it isn’t windy anymore. A good omen has revealed itself this night and it’s that the domes are actually open at sunset.

Good night, sunshine. Orion says hello!

In terms of flashy #blontent, today was pretty sparse. But this is perhaps ideal for lab calibration days! For instance, yesterday was ripe with #blontent in comparison which meant we were tearing apart cabinets, peeling out of parking lots, searching the trunks of random cars all over the observatory to try and find our ESD kit for the DM cabling. It actually ended up being in one of our shipping crates in the clean room receiving area all along. So, it’s good that Jared has been able to focus on getting good calibrations and figuring out new ways to align our most critical components for the run, which is approaching at the speed of light seemingly.

Jared hard at work working on better alignment procedures and quality of life improvements for all the future AO operators.

I got a chance to briefly work on giving old ICC new life using some new computer parts Jared ordered. However we ran into a compatibility issue with the CPU cooler and it won’t fasten to the mobo without special adapters. Apparently this company quietly deemed these to be special order items sometime in last September instead of including them in the box like they have been doing. What the hay…!

Thankfully Eden was able to make an emergency stop at the lab back in Tucson to grab said adapters. Thanks Eden!

This past afternoon we were delighted to officially welcome UASAL’s Kian M. to the 2024Ab run.

Sorry, I forgot to get photographic evidence of Kian’s arrival.

The best 15 minutes of today was welcoming Kian to LCO and giving him a brief tour of MagAO-X in lab state, the ASB, and the lodge. Also stating the do’s and don’ts for the experience here. Like, DO max out your empanada order on Sundays. And DON’T desecrate the public cheese. Tomorrow we will probably get a chance to hike up to the telescopes and go swashbuckling or something. Anyone else remember their first time on the mountain?

We’re eager to meet most of the rest of the team tomorrow afternoon, safe travels!!!!

Song of the Day

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 0: Is hot sauce a vegetable?

“You’re back again, so soon…!” Said Hernan as we passed by him walking to the MagAO storage crate to retrieve some steel toe boots for tomorrow. Here’s a quick play-by-play of travel and arrival day for the first wave of the 2024Ab crew:

Flying over Safford we got to wave to LBT and the rest of Mount Graham Intl. Observatory.
‘Merica gave us a ride up today!

Well after the ride up we got right to work!

At the end of the last run we ran into an issue with one of the screw jacks in the legs. It became stuck to the point that any more torque applied to the bolt probably would have snapped the Allen wrench, but we managed to get the bottom of the bolt ~1 mm off the ground before it stopped moving completely. We then limped the legs back into the corner of the cleanroom, and here we are now with MagAO-X needing to be re-legged tomorrow morning which can’t be done in case the screw drags on the floor. Thankfully, Juan and his crew came to rescue and with a few squirts of some delicious WD-40 and with some TLC were able to remove the bolt! They even chased the threads with a die and tap to clean them up and applied some grease for good measure.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all W’s in the cleanroom today. We found out that one out of the two fancy new curved monitors meant for the observer station suffered some damage sometime during transit to the cleanroom.

Can this even be returned at this point?

2024Ab blog rules

We’ll stick to keeping it simple this time ’round for the blog rules, so, Song of the Day still applies (all posts must end with a YouTube embed of a song) *and* all posts must include a description of the best 15 minutes of that day/night. The description can include as much or as little detail as needed, and is subjective.

The best 15 minutes of Day 0 was probably meeting up with Juan’s crew in the cleanroom and freeing the stuck screw jack on one corner of MagAO-X’s legs. Having built and daily driven a 1973 VW Bug in my youthen years, I’ve lost many nights of sleep over stuck nuts and bolts. Seeing that bolt finally come free after fighting so hard with it at the end of 2023Aa was honestly a genuine feeling of relief. You had to be there, I guess.

Song of the Day

Folks, it’s cold up here on the mountain. Please bring some of the Tucson warmth with you, we’re gonna need it.

P.S. congrats to Logan, Maggie, and Katie (XWCL) as well as Jaren (UASAL) for going through commencement today!

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 17: The People’s Cheese

Well, it’s nearly time to add another MagAO-X night under our belt and be greeted by the calls of the exceedingly uncommon black-billed shrike-tyrant (identified by Prof. Close!) from atop the lodge. I won’t be able to top the wonderful post by our skilled telescope operator, but the show must go on.

The Magellan Clay looking magestic as heck during today’s sunset.

Tonight was an engineering/Sebastiaan night and our awesome Dutch postdoc is probably in full-on zombie mode as he has been up for nearly 24 hours getting the VIS-X instrument up to speed, which is a MagAO-X fed, visible wavelength, integral field spectrograph to the eXtreme. In addition to that, he and Josh have been hard at work commissioning implicit-Electric Field Conjugation, which is just a fancy term for “black magic speckle zapping”. Speckles are a type of noise in high-contrast imaging that are easily mistaken for planets or other point sources of interest, so it’s really important that they are suppressed as much as possible.

The above images demonstrate the power of iEFC coupled with our knife-edge coronagraph, which blocks the host star in the middle of the frame. See how speckles are actually very effective exoplanet interlopers (top right)? No bueno.

Let’s break for a moment to appreciate the various Equidae who take residence on the mountain. I would like to point out that these photos were shot by the wickedly-talented Jialin Li, who also demanded I stop the car I was driving us in halfway up the road to the telescopes take these pics. No biggie, just 6 complete stops on measly 50 degree incline while driving a stick-shift…!

I regret to inform our blog followers that a crime has been committed here at the Clay telescope. Josh was quickly apprehended as the prime suspect and soon confessed to accidentally taking a massive honkin’ bite out of the middle of the cheese block. The honorable Judge Logan made the remark “This is a public cheese. Everyone has to use this cheese.” before sentencing him to eat his mistake. Apparently everyone took pity on Josh and decided to help him carry out his punishment because this was a full block of cheese at the beginning of the night…!

Ok, ok. Josh didn’t *actually* take a big’ bite out of the cheese.

We’ll end with a pretty picture of the burros during golden hour.

Hi, Harley and Savannah!

…aaaaand a sweet picture of Magellan Clay basking in the moonlight during prime time.

Another J. Li original

Song of the Day

We can all thank Josh for brieing cordial and introducing all of us to the GOAT, Ricardo Queso, who is sharply relevant today, may he rest in cheese. The original is a song some us might have gruyere up listening to or have fondue memories of, as it’s a gouda song, made beddar by the ripe wit of R. Cheese. Though good music is best spotted by the rind’s eye, it’s never a bleu day when the bad vibes are sliced off by creamy melody. After all, it just ain’t a party without havarti.

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 9: Another Day, Another Disk

Now’s about the time of the run where the nightly routine just starts to become second nature; eyes are less bloodshot and twilight is here before you know it. We’ll start this post off with some sunset glamour shots…

Today we were all a bit sad to bid farewell to Katie and Maggie who are off to La Serena to rehydrate and relax at the beach. However, we gained a Logan who was eager to join the festivities and contribute her science.

Bye Maggie and Katie… hello and welcome Logan!
Logan confirms that traveling up the mountain is never a dull time — even the traffic is cool.

Tonight’s program featured Logan for most of the night and she definitely #nailedit, finding an impressive amount of white dwarf companions in a very short timespan. There’s probably more to come, as she still has yet to reduce her data and uncover what faint objects could be hiding in the bright halo of the host star. I think it’s safe to say that if finding binaries were a crime, she’d be on death row…!

While Logan was winning, the rest of us got to work on doing some networking and installing a bunch of fancy software to be able to control MagAO-X from our own computers. After a bit of labor, I successfully got my laptop connected and was encouraged to parade the fruits of my labor to the others to raise morale. This is needed because it’ll just make our nightly operations more efficient since anyone can contribute to an instrument procedure or data collection without needing to displace anyone in the control room.

The conditions tonight, especially in the later half, were a real treat and encouraged some challenging observations of circumstellar disk HD 145560 (for Dr. Alycia Weinberger at Carnegie) that we would have otherwise not been able to effectively observe. The only way to know if these observations were successful is to perform the full data reduction (coming soon), but we all have a really good feeling about this one!

Taking full advantage of the excellent seeing, we stayed on this target as close to sunrise as possible which presented some interesting photo opportunities.

I guess the morning sun was *just* beginning to perfectly glow through the louvers of the Baade telescope or something.

Song of the Day

Code/Astro Days 2.5-4: More Code, Some Astro, and the Super Secret Seasoning to Tonkotsu Ramen

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.

Selfie with all the Tucson kids! ft. Vikram (Steward) and Edgar (physics) and Gemma (Spain)

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.