MagAO-X gets sporty

As originally reported on the Steward Observatory website, and archived here for posterity:

On Jan 17, NBA Hall of Famer, one of “50 Greatest Players in NBA History,” and iconic Deadhead Bill Walton came to town to be the color commentator for the UA-Oregon men’s basketball game. Whenever Walton is a commentator ESPN has a 2-minute feature called “Walton’s World.” In this episode, Bill visited the MagAO-X lab at Steward!

Taking delivery of the MagAO-X vAPP coronagraph

On September 17, 2018, we got our first look at the MagAO-X vAPP (that’s “vector apodizing phase plate”) coronagraph optic. Kelsey Miller had been working with the phase pattern for a long time, but there’s something special about holding it with your own hands. Or, at any rate, watching the P.I. hold it with his own hands.

Jared and Kelsey pose with an image taken through the vAPP coronagraph.
The vAPP slotted right into Kelsey’s coronagraph testbed, and we got the predicted pattern on our camera! Fourier optics works.

MagAO 2018A Day 17: The Wrong End of a Telescope

Proto3 has been detached from MagAO, and now MagAO is fully put away. Since this (northern hemisphere) fall will extremely busy with work on MagAO-X, it’ll be a whole year before we’re back here.

My check list for today:

  • Switch back to a day schedule all in one go
  • Take the last final exam for my first year of graduate school
  • Remove a 1000+ lb piece of scientific equipment from the top of a three-story tall machine

I’m happy to report that I accomplished all three, though it may be more accurate to say that I was a minor contributor to the last task. It takes a whole crew to remove the adaptive secondary mirror from the Magellan Clay telescope, and my main contribution was to help Laird keep all the various power, data, and coolant lines from getting away during the disconnect process. (Pink zip ties are the astronomer’s best friend.)

Since I was not operating a crane or lifting 80 lb load spreader bars by hand, I was able to document the process. Enjoy!

It's fun to stay at the Ell Cee Oh, yay!
The author, looking like a member of The Village People, prior to ASM decabling.

I felt like one of the monkeys my sister studies, climbing up there.
To swap secondary mirrors, the telescope points parallel to the ground. There’s a crane that rotates as part of the dome which can very gently lift the ASM out and transfer it to a storage cart while the static secondary is in place.

Tomorrow, we leave LCO for La Serena (and Santiago and Dallas and Tucson, hopefully without issue). We’ll be back next year!

Last, but not least, here’s a song of the day about looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

(Lucius – Turn it Around)

And here’s a cover version I dug up by someone with cool hair:

(Kaela Sinclair – Turn it Around (Lucius cover))

MagAO 2018A Day 14: Not just a phase

It’s the fourteenth sixteenth blog post for this run, but it’s my first ever post for the MagAO blog. I’m Joseph Long, a just-finished-first-year graduate student in astronomy working with Dr. (Astr.?) Jared Males. I’m helping out as an AO operator for part of this run, though it may be more accurate to say everyone else is helping me learn to operate MagAO.

Tonight is a bit of a change from the last few nights: Clio has gone on a vacation to the storage building and a new instrument has been installed. Brian McLeod and the rest of the Giant Magellan Telescope co-phasing prototype instrument team are all here, and we’re quickly running out of chairs. The instrument they bolted on today is designed to demonstrate the ability to phase the Giant Magellan Telescope’s primary mirror segments by treating the 6.5 m Regular Magellan Telescope’s single primary as if it were segmented. (“It had better be in phase!” — Jared) Dedicated readers may recall Derek Kopon’s post from December 2015, which explains some of the motivation and techniques for this project.

Come to the zoo at Las Campanas to see our selection of nocturnal mammals
Standing-room only crowd in the Magellan Clay control room (Photo: Katie Morzinski)

MagAO grew up with VisAO and is good friends with Clio, but is less well-acquainted with the phasing prototype. This means a lot of playing around with stage offsets and rotator angles to get light into the instrument. After fifteen or twenty minutes of manually commanding stage positions in 0.2 mm increments, one’s mind starts wandering to new user-interface paradigms that don’t involve punching in absolute stage positions every few seconds. (Fortunately, Laird and Jared have a workaround: get the graduate student to do it.)

This whole experience brings back memories of KAPAO and Pomona College, but I have to say Las Campanas has the superior facilities. I’m speaking, of course, about the lodging and food.

Un plato de la cena para mi almuerzo nocturno, por favor
Chef Andrés stands next to the outdoor grill at the Las Campanas lodge (Photo: Katie Morzinski)

I’m not sure I ate anything but fistfuls of chocolate-covered espresso beans while on Table Mountain as an undergraduate, so I feel very well taken care of here at Las Campanas.

As someone who grew up in a big city, I can sometimes forget what the night sky is supposed to look like. (Except for the occasional citywide blackout, I remember the night sky as a comforting dark orange.) The view of the Milky Way before moonrise here is spectacular. Of course, I spend most of my night looking at this kind of thing:

Yes, this is a GIF of a cellphone video of a screen. Get off my case.
Short video of the observer’s interface to monitor forces applied to the adaptive secondary mirror. The actuators are shown in their concentric rings, and color coded based on the absolute value of the force applied.

The night sky is hard to photograph (just ask the Clio and VisAO PIs), so instead I’ll leave you with a photo of the Magellan Clay telescope greeting the sunrise.

Close that slit! We didn't order any solar photons.
The Magellan Clay telescope greets the sunrise.

Because blog posts have rules, I have a thematically appropriate song by Spoon: “I Turn My Camera On”…

…and a cover, by Rock Kills Kid…