MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 17: An Intercontinental Tale Told in Pieces of Cheese

Chanco Cheese:

Chilean cheese.

Rating: 4/10

This cheese tasted a lot better on the first day of the MagAO-X observing run. However, by day 17, the mild flavor of the Chilean Chanco cheese just did not speak to me in the same way.

Chanco Served With Jam

Chilean cheese with jam.

Rating: 7/10

My decision to combine Chanco with jam at the very last LCO breakfast of 2024 Ab turned out to be a MAJOR game-changer. The sweet and savory flavors proved to be the perfect pairing like peanut butter with jelly or Jay with disk images or Logan with hedgehog illustrations or Jared with the electronics rack or…well…you get the idea. It’s unfortunate that I made this discovery just before leaving, but perhaps the cheese + jam blend is something to look forward to during my next sojourn in Chile.

Actually butter.

I can’t believe it’s not cheese!

Rating: 2/10

This cheese at El Pino was rather disappointing, as it actually turned out to be butter. Jay misled me.

Dairy-free substitutes.

I interrupt my cheese-based recap to showcase some images that are lacking in lactose.

A view of The Andes from La Serena en route to Santiago.
Rumor has it, the Ruby Tuesday houses some orange + melty items.
Some fries in the La Serena airport.

LATAM Lounge Cheese

A slice of brie nestled between a strawberry and 3 pieces of lettuce.

Rating: 7/10

The main event of our travel day was none other than the LATAM airlines lounge cheese. Points were deducted for the hefty price of admission: Cash + a crumpled up boarding pass. However, points were added back for Jared being kind enough to invite Jay and me into the lounge. My favorite cheese from this experience was the red wine rind-washed (try saying that 3 times fast) parmesan. Unfortunately, this cheese is not pictured.

LATAM “Gratinated” Ravioli

Rating: 8/10

I was extremely grat(i)ful for the opportunity to partake of this perfect, pomodoro-based pasta. The high ratio of cheesy filling to starchy exterior made this dish particularly appealing.

May your parmesan be gratinated.

This dinner deserved its own bonus picture. I awarded additional points for the use of the word “gratinated” in the item description.

LATAM Flight Egg and Cheese Sandwich

Peep that cheese.

Rating: 3/10

Although the cheese wasn’t awful, this sandwich left something to be desired.

Maybe the real cheese was the friends we made along the way.

Say cheese!

After a long day + night of travel, Jay and I posed in the ATL airport train (it broke shortly after).

The best 15 minutes of the day:

The first piece of sharp cheddar I will eat when I get home.

P.S. This post was so cheesy that it was banned from the Atlanta airport’s public WiFi network.

Song of the Day:

There Are No Cats In America – An American Tale

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 8: Let there be light!

And there was light. After 3 tortuous days with nothing to look at but an internal source, we *finally* opened for business. However, as a member of the 2nd observing shift, I was MIA during this time. The below meme described my state of mind in the hours leading up to my shift:

A mood.

While I slumbered, various team members wandered the mountain in search of wildlife:

A cloud pic for our readers in the Cloud Appreciation Society.
Burro alert!
The smolest of Vizzies.

When the telescope opened, Jared described the mood as one of giddiness.

Alycia searches for a 6-letter word meaning “basic drum.”
Kian learns the ropes.
Jaylicia observes some disks.
Jared does Jared things.

At around 2 AM, we closed down once again due to high humidity. This allowed me to hone my skills in MagAO-X alignment, iEFC-ing, and bump mask removal on the internal source.

Scream if you involuntarily remove the bump mask!

With the telescope closed, Jared went back home in a car covered with ice.

The outside air may be cold, but our server rack always runs hot.

My brain is running out of real estate, so I’m going to wrap up this blog post.

Highlight of the Day

The best part of the day was being able to once again close the loop on-sky with MagAO-X.

Song of the Day

Upside Down-Jack Johnson

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 14: A Happy Accident

Every MagAO-X morning begins with a hearty breakfast.

Jialin and Logan enjoying their pigs in a duvet. Jialin constructs a finderscope.
Jay constructs a breakfast hot dog.
Sebastiaan makes an interesting face.

Following a scrumptious meal and a full night of observing, I entered hibernation.


While I was in my state of low activity, the other group members observed a wild horse and some Vizzies.

“If I were meant to be controlled, I would have come with a remote.” ~ A common wild horse quote
A high pixel count Viz.


I emerged from a long day’s slumber just in time for dinner. Unfortunately there were no food action shots this time.

Eden had an opportunity to experience the LCO flora and fauna before heading back up to the telescope.

The culprit.
A PSA from the desk of Eden ‘Sparkles’ McEwen: Cacti do not make a good chair substitute.

Tonight’s observing run got off to a bit of a dramatic start when the operator discovered a strong amount of coma on the telescope. Although I forgot to collect photographic evidence of the events that immediately followed, I constructed an artistic depiction for everyone’s benefit.

Trouble at the telescope!

After we recovered from the early evening drama, the night progressed very smoothly. In fact, things were going so well that Jared began regaling some MagAO-Xers with tales from his seafaring youth.

“When I was a young warthog…”

And then…a happy accident occurred! Twins!!!!!

We discovered two companions within this image. Can you spot them? Hint: Look to the upper left.

To close out this fine day (or evening…I have lost all sense of time), I have included a song by my high school band (per Jialin’s request) that I feel is aptly named.

Song of the Day:

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 2: The stars are (almost) aligned.

Gary Guanaco gazing into the abyss.
Gary werkin’ it for the camera.

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog post! Day 2 began with yet another Gary sighting–our good luck charm for the DM cabling and optical alignment to come. Following our daily dosage of guanaco, we got to work in the clean room.

Me wearing sunglasses in the lab because the future of MagAO-X is looking bright (they were actually hiding the heavy bags underneath my eyes).
Jared debugging a USB issue before we could start DM cabling.

Here at the MagAO-X secondary HQ, we always make sure to ground ourselves (both physically and emotionally) prior to handling expensive electronics.

Eden and Katie checking their grounding wires.
DM cabling requires a lot of concentration. This exercise is not for the faint of heart.

While the MagAO-X youth were hard at work cabling, Maggie and Laird were busy prepping the optical table for its lengthy stay on the Magellan telescope.

Maggie installing velocity sensors underneath the optical table. These sensors will help to keep the table stabilized when it experiences wind at the telescope.

Following a busy morning of cabling, some of us took a short-ish break to veg out in the Magellan library, while others remained busy at work.

Sebastiaan, Maggie, and Katie enjoy the peace and quiet of the Magellan library.
Jared got very upset with the observatory for replacing the cereal in the break room with nuts.

By late afternoon, the optics were aligned and the DMs were cabled, allowing us to close the loop! Laird, in particular, was very excited.

Jared closing the loop at 2kHz with 2400 modes as Laird looks on.
Our first on-off AO loop video of the 2024 Aa run! Narration by Laird.
A happy instrument makes for a happy Laird.

With the AO loop closed and the majority of the day’s work completed, we had ample opportunities to enjoy the sunset amongst our furry friends at LCO.

Katie and Eden taking a sunset selfie.
Bizzy–a busy viscacha.
YACS (Yet Another Carlos Sighting).
A slice of pie because today is Pi Day (I wasn’t going to forget).
Closing out a productive day 2 at LCO.

Tomorrow, we begin our instrument calibrations. Stay tuned!

Song of the Day:

Letting the Cables Sleep by Bush