MagAO-X 2020A Stay at Home Day 36: May Come She Will

We’ve had a string of high-quality, high-effort posts recently, so it’s time to restore balance to the blog with a low-effort post.

Other than my biweekly (in sense 1, not sense 2 [I question the value of a word that has to come along with a definition every time it’s used]) visits to the grocery store (and the long waits in line to gain entry), my primary source of excitement these days are walks on those rarest of days when it is simultaneously warm enough to be outside and not raining. My proudest discovery: a park a few minutes from my apartment that features bridges to not one but two river islands. Pictures below.

In my last blog post back in April, I chose a song about March. Now that it’s May, the only reasonable action is to choose “April Come She Will” by Simon & Garfunkel.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 19: Waters of April

It has long been my intention to use a XWCL blog post to spread the delights of Simon & Garfunkel with the watching world. But, well, I’m still not going to quite get around to it with this post (but halfway there!).

The song of the day is “Waters of March” sung by Art Garfunkel. Feel free to close your eyes as the melody sweeps over you.

MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 3: Lonely Walls, I’ll Keep You Company

It’s the first Saturday since the stay-at-home orders were announced, and I’m unwinding this weekend by, well, staying at home. Unlike most of the MagAO-X team, I’m sheltering not in Tucson but instead in my occasional residence in a corner of DC (where stay-at-home orders went into effect just a few hours after AZ). Fortunately, MagAO-X is set up for remote operation, and I can amuse myself by spinning filter wheels and commanding deformable mirrors from the other side of the country.

Since there’s relatively little of astronomical or optical interest within my apartment, and in keeping with blog tradition, I’m dedicating this short blog post to the flora and fauna found within my immediate vicinity (my apartment and the surrounding ~50 ft).


Since I can’t be in Tucson, I’ve been attempting to reproduce the Tucson biome on my desk with a collection of cacti and other succulents. It’s not quite spiky or perilous enough yet, so my next task will be figuring out how to relocate and squeeze a 30 ft saguaro into my living room.

succulents on a desk
Tucson in miniature


Wild beasts also roam these lands and occasionally drop by for treats. The most frequent visitor is a well-fed (but always hungry) tabby cat with one and three-fourths ears. His once-daily visits have dropped off recently, so the only reasonable conclusion is that he’s doing the responsible thing and staying indoors.

In addition to a small army of rats, the alley behind my apartment is home to what is possibly a groundhog, whom I’ve spotted only once from afar. Expert (and inexpert) opinions on the identification of this animal are welcome.

A good kitty
Bonus cat

In recognition of our collective newfound familiarity with the interiors of our domiciles, I leave you with “Hello Walls” by Willie Nelson:

MagAO-X 2019B Day 8: The Intermission Continues

We’re on the third and final night of the intermission between the MagAO-X on-sky nights. Tomorrow (which is now today), we’ll spin the tertiary around to feed starlight down the waiting maw of MagAO-X for the third time.

In the meantime, we’ve continued to work out bugs, close and refine the loop on our internal source, and argue about future improvements to be made on the instrument. This mostly just looks like fatigued astronomers and grad students frowning at their laptops, which has been covered in some detail in the last two blog posts. Instead, I present a modest selection of images taken around LCO in the last 24 hours:

The sky beginning to lighten behind the Clay and Baade this morning.
Alex captured this stunning photo of a burro silhouetted by the setting sun
Joseph and I went on a successful hunt for wild viscachas behind the Magellan telescopes. We felt a little bad about scaring this guy away, but the sight of his (surprisingly graceful) bounds was worth it. (credit: Joseph)
Zorrito has become a regular outside the dining hall at meal times. (credit: Joseph)

We managed to pull ourselves out of bed before dinner to run (well, drive) up to the Clay for a quick group photo in front of the instrument.

Today’s song is “Hang on Little Tomato” by Pink Martini.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 3: The Telescope Proper

Today marked MagAO-X’s last day in the clean room at the halfway house and its first night in the Magellan Clay dome.

The day started with a lift (now almost mundane) of the optics table off its legs and onto the transport cart. We pushed it out the clean room doors and onto the back of the waiting Isuzu flatbed for its journey of a few hundred feet up to the Clay.

The PI looks on (nervously) as the optics table is loaded onto the Isuzu

A few minutes later, the instrument was unloaded at the Clay and staged for its eventual afternoon trip up the elevator to the Nasmyth. In the meantime, the legs were put in position and the electronics found itself on the way up the hill shortly thereafter.

The goats were suspiciously absent today, but Gary materialized in the afternoon to satiate our wildlife-sightseeing needs. After a short break, the instrument table was elevated up into the Clay, craned into the air, and rejoined to its legs.

MagAO-X (minus the electronics rack) settled in on the Nasmyth.

Olivier arrived at LCO just in time for dinner (as well as a cup of coffee [or several?]). After a tour of the facility, a quick spin on the Nasmyth, and a demonstration of cart racing by Laird, the team stopped to watch the sunset, as is tradition.

With one day more to first light, the song of the day must of course be “One Day More” from Les Misérables: