MagAO-X takes its first steps

It’s been a very busy 6 weeks since we passed PSR and received the approval to ship out MagAO-X. In those 6 weeks, we’ve been working on putting the final touches for the instrument. On October 2, we were scheduled for moving the MagAO-X instrument into its shipping crate, which means lots and lots of preparation for the big day.

It’s been all-hands-on-deck with many days and late nights in the lab carefully packing the instrument and the electronics rack. Alex H and Maggie have been helping Laird with locking down all the optics on the table for minimal shifting through the transport process. Joseph, Kyle, Alex R, and I have been helping Jared with migrating the electronics from the lab rack to the MagAO-X shipping rack. Jared, Joseph, and Kyle have been working on integrating the hardware and software from the newly migrated electronics rack to the locked down testbed. The XWCL room was raining zip ties, velcro ties, and cut styrofoam for weeks. We ran out of label maker tape on the day we were packing up the instrument.

In case you missed all the fun, here’s some photos from the shipping preparation in the lab:

The final touch for moving MagAO-X to its shipping crate was wrapping it in lots of plastic:

Jared coming around the instrument with the plastic roller, with Alex H and Laird holding the plastic down
The end of the MagAO-X packing eve, with the instrument wrapped and the clean room torn down

October 2 was a big milestone step for MagAO-X, the day it made its first move out of the XWCL room in Steward. However, it only moved down 1 floor (XWCL is on the 2nd floor, and the loading dock is in the 1st floor / basement). It may not seem far in MagAO-X’s journey, but it took lots of effort… in addition to the freight elevator breaking the day before. Jared, Laird, Alexes R and H, Kyle, Jamison, Nick, Victor, and I were present all day for the big event.

First thing we did was get the (new and lighter) cart onto the testbed:

Next, the riggers arrived to lift up MagAO-X from its legs and onto the cart:

Setting up the rigging crane to lift up MagAO-X off the table legs
MagAO-X PI supervising the lifted cart getting connected to the table
Cart is connected, time to remove the table legs from underneath

Then, it took a journey down the hallway to the freight elevator to go to the basement’s loading dock: (Shoutout to facilities for making sure the freight elevator worked that day no matter what!)

MagAO-X in the freight elevator to go to the basement

In the basement, it was carted to the loading dock area:

The shipping crate was waiting for the instrument inside the building by the loading dock. We needed to push the shipping crate outside to the loading dock first to make room for MagAO-X:

The unopened shipping crate

Out in the loading dock area, a crane came by and to remove the crate’s cover:

Crane getting ready to remove the crate cover

Inside the crate was the testbed’s shipping frame to maintain balance for MagAO-X. Jamison presented these at PSR. The PSR drawings don’t look fancy, but seeing them in person is super legit:

Behold, the shipping frame!

We wheeled out MagAO-X for it to be craned onto the shipping frame:

However, like all great projects, no matter the extent of our preparation, we encountered some issues with hardware. While fixing that, we encountered another issue – MagAO-X started overheating after exposure to the sun. The black metal panels absorbed lots of heat and the plastic wrap encouraged a greenhouse effect. So, we wheeled it back inside the building to let it cool down:

Touching the instrument was very hot!

When the hardware issues were cleared, we wheeled MagAO-X back outside and the exciting crane process began:

MagAO-X connected to the shipping frame, ready for the crate cover!

With MagAO-X craned onto its shipping frame and bolted down, the crate cover was craned back to enclose the instrument:

Crate cover incoming
Scary lift-up over the instrument

We boxed up the instrument and wheeled the packed crate back inside Steward, where it has stayed for a week before it ships out:

Post-instrument packing photo, which ended right at the predicted 5 PM.

Within that week timeframe, we continued on with the shipping process. Two days were spent in the Mirror Lab for getting the electronics rack in its shipping crate. We began packing and inventorying all the equipment to send down to Chile:

Laird and Alex R locking down the crate with the table legs inside

We modified one of the shipping crate’s side panels to add more viewing windows. Here’s one last look at MagAO-X in its crate, before it gets shipped off to Chile:

Clever use of extra foam found in previous shipping crates

I’ve been working off-and-on MagAO-X since January 2017 on the simulation side doing Fresnel propagation analysis. Working in simulation means you don’t get a lot of interaction with the hardware. I got to see the instrument close up while helping in the shipping process, and it has been a rewarding learning experience. (Plus, my arts and crafts hobby finally became useful with lots of foam cutting, my heart was singing in delight for days) I’ve learned a lot with the team, and I’m sure we’re going to learn more as we continue on the next step of the shipping process.

The MagAO-X PI has rules. It is not necessarily a rule, but rather a recommendation to have a quote:
Jared: Stop having fun, this isn’t fun

The rule is having a song. I picked this one because it’s so strange adjusting to the change of not having MagAO-X in the lab after 2 years:

Congratulations Maggie, Madison, and Chris!

The school year has wrapped up and we’re about to head into summer. Usually we’re excited we survived the year at all, but this time we are celebrating the XWCL undergraduates graduating and completing their bachelor’s degrees! Chris, Maggie, and Madison have worked with us for the past couple years assisting on MagAO-X.

Chris joined us in 2016 as a computer science undergrad. He started working with Katie doing data reduction. Jared then poached him away to work a lot in the lab doing mostly hardware coding and is the original Basler camera whisperer. He is going to stick around with us for a few weeks to wrangle some more hardware control programming before journeying off to a real job with Fast Enterprises.

Congratulations, Chris!

Maggie joined us in 2017 as an optical sciences and engineering undergrad. She’s worked primarily with Laird on MagAO-X optomechanical design and alignment. She came along with us to SPIE last year and is part inventor with Laird on the optomechanical mount patent. She will be suffering sticking around with us this fall at UA for a PhD in optical sciences, where she will also be an NSF GRFP recipient. She is off to a summer internship in Baltimore at STScI working on HiCAT.

Maggie with Laird at the Optical Sciences commencement

Madison joined us in 2018 as an optical sciences and engineering undergrad. She worked with us part time last summer to help Lauren with the MagAO-X pyramid wfs alignment and joined us for the past school year doing quantum efficiency testing for a light source. She will be partially suffering sticking around this fall at UA for a MS in optical sciences. She is off to a summer internship in Boston at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Madison with Jhen and Lauren at the Optical Sciences commencement

The MagAO-X PI has expressed an interest in the return of having a song with the blog posts. With the help of Joseph, we have a graduation-themed song for EACH of the undergrads:

For Chris, we have “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by the Ting Tings:

For Maggie, we have “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield:

For Madison, we have “Take Yourself With You” by Rose Linor Dougall:

Also, as tradition with the blog, here are quotes. The MagAO-X PI has some parting words for the graduating undergrads:

Jared: You’re here until you die*
*Source: “Look Down (Prisoners)” from Les Miserables

Congratulations again to the undergrads, XWCL is super proud of all the hard work you’ve done! Here’s to a fun and productive summer for everyone!

Congratulations to Dr. Miller, MagAO-X’s newly minted PhD!

This is a late post, but on November 16, 2018, Kelsey Miller successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation! Congratulations, Dr. Miller!

Kelsey and her Ph.D. Committee – Olivier, Jared, and Michael

Kelsey’s research is on Linear Dark Field Control (LDFC), a focal plane wavefront sensing technique where she monitors the bright field speckles and uses their linear nature to maintain stability in the dark hole. She has been developing LDFC using the MagAO-X pupil and vAPP coronagraph design. You can learn more about Kelsey’s work in LDFC (JATIS, arXiv) and how LDFC will work with MagAO-X (SPIE, arXiv).

Kelsey is off to cooler climates at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, who have been our collaborators with the vAPP coronagraph. She will be a postdoctoral researcher with Frans Snik, continuing her work on LDFC to get it working on sky. We will miss you tremendously!

MagAO-X @ SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2018

This past week, the MagAO-X team attended the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation conference in Austin, TX. Here’s a recap of all of our presentations at the conference.

Let’s start off with the talks. Jared kicked off our presentation collection with a talk on the MagAO-X update:

Starting it off with the MagAO-X PI

Laird gave an update on MagAO:

We love MagAO!

Kelsey gave a fantastic talk on the vAPP for MagAO-X and Linear Dark Field Control:

Kelsey’s awesome presentation with excellent use of pictures

Lauren gave an awesome talk on her PyWFS PYRITE sims:

Lauren’s talk stepped through PyWFS really well, great job!

Justin presented PIAACMC designs for SCExAO/GMT/MagAO-X:

Despite being the last talk of the conference, it still had great attendance!

The rest of us had poster presentations:

Joseph presented on his CLIO data analysis

Maggie presented on her work with the MagAO-X kinematic mounts

Alex R (v1.0) presented his simulations work on Fraizen’s paper

Rachel Morgan (MIT) presented her work using the data Ewan collected with MagAO on 2017B

Alex H (v2.0) presented his work with the MagAO-X K-mirror mount

Laird presented the MagAO-X optomechanical design

Kyle presented his work characterizing the MagAO-X DMs

Jhen presented her work using POPPY to characterize the MagAO-X and LGS testbeds

Jared made a poster for GMagAO-X

Here’s some shenanigans from the conference and in Austin:

Jared’s talk crashed several times once during his presentation. It turns out, LibreOffice and the SPIE talk upload system disagree with each other, particularly with how to handle Lauren’s 700 KB flaming logo. When transitioning to the next talk, MagAO-X refused to leave the screen.

Free advertisement for MagAO-X!

According to Laird, later in the week, Lauren’s MagAO-X logo came back to shutdown another talk. The computer tried to “recover” Jared’s talk and so the solution was to kill it outright. MagAO-X came back with a vengeance it seems.

Laird is the best science dad

In accordance to the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2016 conference, this time Jared and Olivier were sitting together as opposed to being in the same room at the same time:

They showed up together for Kelsey’s talk!

Despite the heat and humidity, Austin was a great conference location.

I observed some Texas locals

Sunset dinner by the Colorado River

I did the millennial thing and ate avocado toast for brunch one day

And so concludes SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation 2018. It was a fantastic time seeing everyone, meeting new people, attending talks, and presenting research. To close off, here’s a quote from the MagAO-X PI:

Jared: “All deficiencies in your presentations have been noted and will be addressed in due course.”

Greetings from LBTI AO!

UA’s fall semester is done and the campus is nice and quiet. This means… time for an LBTI run!

I’m posting from the LBTI AO remote room in Steward Observatory. I’m helping out with driving the first shift AO for 3 nights. LBTI has two eyeballs (to use Amali’s terminology), so it requires 1 AO operator per eyeball. Tonight, I’m on SX (left eyeball).

Yesterday was the first night of the run and we were closed out due to nasty humidity. The best value last night was 99.8%. There was rain over the weekend and the clouds didn’t clear out until today.

Tonight is the second night of the run and it’s been going pretty well (so far)! I’m pretty rusty with the AO, so Amali has been bringing me back to speed. Amali made a really awesome cheat sheet for AO operations, and it’s been extremely helpful. Data collecting began at 6:30 PM. It’s been a smooth run so far with seeing below 1″ and very few problems. Hopefully this sets the tone for the rest of the run.

Clear skies ready for tonight!

The best part of observing is in the snacking. We have some fringe cookies as a good luck charm for getting null fringes. We also have these really good star sandwich cookies, just like how LBTI works!

Holiday cookies are best cookies.

We also saw something strange on the all sky cam!

CIA UFO sighting?

Anyways, a Christmas post is not complete without showing MagAO-X’s festive cheer! We have Christmas stockings pinned up on the board in front of the MagAO-X PI’s office. Isn’t it super cute???

Next year, we’ll have a fireplace, too.

And of course, a quote for tonight:
Phil: What’s going to happen to the observation run when the fringe cookies are gone?

Good luck LBTI on the rest of your run! Have a very merry christmas, everyone! Until the next blog post. 🙂