MagAO-X Voyage à Montréal Day 1: My French isn’t that good

The SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation conference is the main event for instrument builders world-wide, and this year is held in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. The conference is held every two years (because one year is nothing in instrument project timelines) and the last one would have been in 2020. (But then, the plague.)

Anyway, we have a lot of new stuff to report from MagAO-X, and from our friends in UASAL, SCExAO, and beyond. See the schedule at the end of this post. (We’re just jazzed to be here.)

Today, the first team member to speak was our fearless leader with a status update on MagAO-X Phase II and future plans.

Olivier Guyon gave us a version of his Spirit of Lyot talk, which was fortunate, because that gave some of us a second chance to absorb and understand it. (There’s a lot going on over at SCExAO!)

Sebastiaan was tapped to present as a substitute for a team member who wasn’t attending, and he gave us an overview of image quality calibration from WFS PSF deconvolution (work by Jacob Trzaska) and his own predictive control algorithm (Data-Driven Subspace Predictive Control—DDSPC).

Blog Rules

It’s been a while since we had a Blog Rule, beyond the compulsory Song of the Day. So, here’s my rule for the week: les chansons doivent être en français.

(The songs must be in French.)

Bonus points for chansons Quebecois!

Song of the Day

“Je Veux” by Zaz

Today when I went to get a coffee en route to conference registration, I opened with a “bonjour,” following the advice for anglophones in a francophone world. Then, I asked “English OK?” and the barista said “Yeah, sure! My French isn’t that good.”

Maybe that advice is more for the rest of Quebec…

MagAO-X and Friends Schedule

Sunday, July 17
12:05Jared Males518aMagAO-X: current status and plans for Phase II
15:45Olivier Guyon (SCExAO)518aHigh Contrast Imaging at the Photon Noise Limit with WFS-based PSF Calibration
16:20Sebastiaan Haffert518aPSF evaluation using tip images in a modulated pyramid wavefront sensor
Monday, July 18
posterJaren Ashcraft (UASAL)516The Space Coronagraph Optical Bench (SCoOB): 1. Design and assembly of a vacuum-compatible coronagraph testbed for spaceborne high-contrast imaging technology
posterKyle Van Gorkom (UASAL)516The space coronagraph optical bench (SCoOB): 2. wavefront sensing and control in a vacuum-compatible coronagraph testbed for spaceborne high-contrast imaging technology
posterKevin Derby (UASAL)516Tolerance analysis of a self-coherent camera for wavefront sensing and dark hole maintenance
Tuesday, July 19
13:25Laird Close (for Alex Hedglen)518aFirst lab results of segment/petal phasing with a pyramid wavefront sensor and a novel holographic dispersed fringe sensor (HDFS) from the Giant Magellan Telescope high contrast adaptive optics phasing testbed
13:55Antonin Bouchez (for Rick Demers) (GMT)518Phasing the Segmented Giant Magellan Telescope: Progress in Testbeds and Prototypes
17:25Meghan O’Brien518aexperimenting with the g-ODWFS for use in extended source LGS wavefront sensing.
posterSebastiaan Haffert516Visible extreme adaptive optics for GMagAO-X with the triple-stage AO architecture (TSAO).
posterLaird Close516A Review of High Contrast AO Imaging of Accreting Proto-Planets
posterJoseph Long516XPipeline: Starlight Subtraction at Scale for MagAO-X
posterNoah Swimmer (UCSB)516?An MKID camera for use behind MagAO-X
Wednesday, July 20
posterJared Males516The conceptual design of GMagAO-X: visible wavelength high contrast imaging with GMT
posterMaggie Kautz516A novel hexpyramid pupil slicer for an ExAO Parallel DM for the Giant Magellan Telescope
Thursday, July 21
10:30Laird Close518aThe Optical and Mechanical Design for the 21,000 Actuator ExAO System for the Giant Magellan Telescope: GMagAO-X
14:10Lauren Schatz518aExperimental demonstration of a three-sided pyramid wavefront sensor on the CACTI testbed
15:40Andrew Szentgyorgyi519aG@M: Design of the Giant Magellan Telescope Consortium Large Earth Finder (G-CLEF) for operations at the Magellan telescopes.
posterSebastiaan Haffert516Advanced wavefront sensing and control demonstration with MagAO-X

MagAO-X Across The Pond Day 4: Let’s Talk It Out

Today I presented Kevin Wagner’s talk about searching for planets in 10 µm light. I think I did an okay job talking about things I know nothing about, but then, I do have plenty of practice.

All questions about Kevin’s part of the talk will be answered with viscacha noises.

Incredibly, people did ask me questions. In this rare instance, “beats me, ask someone else!” was a valid answer. (Actually, I’ve been running audience messages back and forth to Kevin on the Steward grad student Slack. Just not on stage.)

The only MagAO-X/XWCL member officially on the schedule for today was our fearless leader Dr. Jared Males.

GMagAO-* is strictly an improvement over MagAO-X as the * means it can wildcard match all Giant Magellan AO instruments.

I can’t speak for Jared, but I’m happy to be free of any further obligations beyond listening and enjoying the rest of the conference.

Themed Gallery 1: Pictures of PDS 70 b from SPHERE

It’s their fave.

Themed Gallery 2: Food in hand

Song of the Day

“La Vida Es Un Carnaval” — Celia Cruz

MagAO-X 2022A Day 29: Non-Working Title

We did it, folks. We made it the full 29 days. (Maybe there will be a blog post from Atlanta for Day 30, maybe not. Depends how tired we are.) Jared had the presence of mind to take a group shot on our transport down from Las Campanas to the airport.

The covid clinic we visted along the way (fortunately not pictured) was demystified by Justin’s blog post. The most difficult part was waiting for them to fix their printer issues.

At the airport, we saw an interesting macaroni-penguin-liveried plane. And we ordered the traditional papas fritas and Kunstmann Torobayo (on tap no less).

Then we left Laird in La Serena.

(Not really; he was on the next flight out.)

Once in Santiago’s airport we traveled, Lairdless, in search of food and drink. We ended up at notable South American eatery “Ruby Tuesday,” where we finally got Logan a pisco sour. (Due to Las Campanas Observatory’s status as a dry site, there wasn’t a chance previously.)

I dunno, this stuff could catch on. Maybe they’ll expand their franchise to the US!

We’re all about ready to collapse into our assigned seats now.

However, the blog must go on, so I leave you with your…

Song of the Day

The song of the day is “Say Goodbye” by Papas Fritas.

MagAO-X 2022A Day 24: Getting dispersed

Tonight was split 50/50 between Dr. Weinberger and Dr. Haffert. Once Alycia’s observations were done, Sebastiaan started commissioning his extreme, visible, high-resolution, MagAO-X-fed, integral field spectrograph VIS-X. There was a little bit of panic initially when the laptop pinch-hitting for “VIS-X instrument control computer” wouldn’t talk to the camera, but Sebastiaan shimmied up the ladder onto the instrument platform to debug.

It turns out that laptops are just like dogs. If you’re cold, they’re cold. Bring your laptops inside. (This also goes for post-docs.)

Once everything was working, he was rewarded with more mini-spectra than you can shake a stick at.

And, since the observatory advanced to “phase 3” of their COVID plan, we were able to have everyone in the control room for it!

Meanwhile, I was working on some astrometry with a field in Baade’s window that we imaged earlier in the run. (This very blog introduced it to the world as a calibration field for high contrast imaging, but for some reason the blog post doesn’t get the same number of citations as the paper by the GPI folks.)

MagAO-X imaging of HD165054 and its neighbors in z band, 30 second exposures, 10.5 min total. Left is scaled to show faint companions and the glare of the star, right is unsharp-masked to remove most of the glare.

We didn’t get a lot of field rotation to allow starlight subtraction this time, so the unsharp mask is the best way to see the stars hidden in the glare. We’ll be able to use them to calibrate the scale between angular coordinates on the sky and pixel coordinates in the instrument, using the measurements others (like our friends at GPI) have made of the field.

Song of the Day

The most famous spectrally dispersed album in music history is obviously Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. (Plus, it has a celestial body in the title.)

Money is the main thing Sebastiaan needs to make VIS-X even more extreme, so thank goodness he’s got some coming. Stay tuned for 2022B.

Quotes of the Moment

We have not been logging memorable quotes day-by-day because, frankly, we’re all extremely tired by the time it’s time to blog. But here are a few that have been queued up for publication over the last weeks.

“That god damn viscacha shows up in every picture no matter what we do.”

on the appreciation of viscacha visages

“This is so exciting for visitor 3. Visitor 3 gets to go down the road like the big cars!”

on the trip to GMT

“Oh gosh, we might as well be licking each other up here!”

on infection control measures

“At some point, some of us will actually die from lack of sleep.”

on sleep

“I want there to be a cat.”

on the Magellan tertiary mirror

“But seven… seven is a thing.

on mirrors

“He doesn’t know that if he jumps in my lap I’ll give him anything he wants.”

on foxes

“Stop calling it second light!”

on second light

“Oop, that was a shrimp-and-pickle burp.”

on local dietary habits

“Gender is such a complicated thing.”

on the subject of connector pass-throughs

“Justin, are you on your nuts? Everyone check your nuts. [giggling ensues] There’s nothing funny about that. This is a professional environment here.”

on nuts

MagAO-X 2022A Day 22: A Hole Thing

Today we got up early (3:00 P.M.) for a tour of the Giant Magellan Telescope construction site, arranged by our fearless leader.

We met with architect Francisco Figueroa at the site, who was happy to show us around—as soon as we put on vests, hard hats, gloves, safety glasses, a high-visibility safety vest, and safety-toe boots. (We had foolishly left ours on the other mountaintop, but fortunately they had a whole closet full of brand-new safety-toe boots.)

Thanks to The Covid-19 Situation and These Unprecedented Times (and their friends Supply Chain Disruption and Financial Constraints), work has been stopped for a couple of years. This meant that the main thing to see was a hole, soon(ish) to be filled with a concrete giant telescope pier.

It was windy as heck up there.

After another delicious dinner, we went up to the Magellan Clay telescope to begin operations. It was still pretty windy… and seeing wasn’t great… so we listened to Magellan sing in the wind.

Listen closely for its song.

Our observer this evening, Dr. Alycia Weinberger, is a good sport, and was happy to hang out on Zoom with us even though we couldn’t get locked on to her target just yet.

After a while, we did get back on target, and Jared experimented with ways to push MagAO-X in poor seeing conditions. We can’t reach our most demanding performance targets, but we were pleasantly surprised by our performance in these challenging conditions (in these unprecedented times).

Even though we did not get our 0.4″ seeing (who do we talk to about a refund?), we were able to have some fun. For example, we were served butts for our night lunch sandwiches. (Perhaps tomorrow we’ll have grilled eggplants and peaches for dessert.)

Graduate Student Logan Pearce overcome by emotion at the sight of the sandwich.

As I write this Alberto, our telescope operator, has just asked us if pointing into 30 MPH winds is okay. Veterans of MagAO will recall that suspending a complex instrument over the primary led to some paranoia over wind speeds. Fortunately, MagAO-X is in no danger of being blown off the telescope.

Carlos Culpeo couldn’t make it but at least he’s zooming in.

The P.I. made a great discovery tonight! He just discovered that we have an extra night of telescope time (going by the official schedule), totally overturning the previous scientific consensus on which day we’re moving our instrument off the telescope. Stay tuned for the Nature paper.

Song of the Day

A recent Tucson Sentinel music column highlighted new music by a Tucson local band named Annie Jump Cannon, which I felt compelled to check out.

If you’re not familiar, their namesake was the first person to figure out a sensible classification scheme for stellar spectra, at a time when women were not offered the same opportunities in science as men. (We still use her classification scheme today.)

The band, as far as I can tell, has no professional astronomers in it. (Phew.) In possibly related news, the song’s pretty good too.

“Strawberry Fiona” by Annie Jump Cannon