MagAO-X 2022A Day 20: Excellent Seeing and Science

So today was day 9/14 of our on-sky run on the Clay telescope and it was a particularly awesome night! The seeing (how astronomers quantify the turbulence in the atmosphere) was very good all night. A great Easter Sunday treat (as were all the delicious empanadas).

A perfect night, excellent conditions all night long

The AO system ran very well tonight. We were able to stay locked for hours making excellent images– without really any attention being paid to the AO system once she was locked. This is an excellent sign that most of the difficult system of nested loops of MagAO-X are all now well understood and the hard work of everyone is really paying off!

There was also great science being done by Sebastiaan Haffert who was able to quickly (in 15min) detect the brown dwarf companion PZ Tel in a recent dataset (with cold -55C cameras this time). See below for his quick reduction of the brown dwarf companion:

The brown dwarf companion (at 10 o’clock) PZ Tel at Halpha (0.6563 microns), by Sebastiaan Haffert

We also looked for some protoplanets at Halpha (where young planets glow as they gather hydrogen gas onto their surfaces). We took data with our friends and collaborators at the University Michigan. And graduate student Logan Pearce made an exciting discovery!

Earlier today Jared took some great photos of the MagAO-X instrument on the platform at the Clay telescope

MagAO-X enjoying some rare sunshine through the open slit of Clay (Baade Telescope in background) photo by Jared Males

What probably got the most attention was the discovery that there are 3 culpeos (foxes) living at the observatory with us.

What a cute little face!

Readers of the blog will know that these little guys are very playful as can be seen from Joseph’s video below:

Song of the day

Well this night has been amazing and MagAOX has blinded us with her science (and laser sharp images), so that kind of leads to this song of the day:

MagAO-X 2022A Day 7: Lab Optical Alignment Comes to End?

So for the last 48 hours Justin Knight and I have been busy working hard at the optical alignment of MagAO-X. On Saturday, after 30 hours of travelling we arrived at LCO, and had a great dinner (delivered to our door here at LCO as we are in the bubble for the next 3 days). Then right after dinner we inserted the upper periscope mirror and aligned the upper optical table of MagAO-X to the lower table. This then allowed the rest of the team (led by Jared) to cable and optically test the Tweeter connections (with the PyWFS camera) on Sunday.

A rare “open” MagAO-X (dust covers off). The upper optical table has the Tweeter and Woofer DMs. The lower table has all the cameras and the coronagraphic optics. An optical periscope feeds the beam to the lower table.

After some much needed sleep we checked all the optical beam paths on Sunday afternoon. We also set up the PEPS II floating table control system — which is cool since it allows the whole MagAO-X to float on a cushion of air — eliminating vibrations from the lab floor. That allows for really excellent stable images (no burring due to floor vibrations shaking optics).

7.5 meters of optical path… now floating on a cushion of air. Laird Close for scale.

The optics were well aligned with our bright laser (or at least we thought so). But… later that night we looked with our default white light laser and found that there was slight “clipping” of one beam in one place somewhere in the 7.5 meter optical train. But it wasn’t obvious where it was on Sunday night (and we were tired since it was midnight).

Photo of Justin Knight with MagAO-X that he has been optically aligning for the last 2 days.

But by Monday morning (instead of working on my telescope proposal that was due at noon today) I realized where exactly the “clipping” was likely coming from. Indeed Justin and found this and fixed it (see photo below).

Too Close for comfort: beam (red circle) just clipping on one mount (black metal to right of red beam)

The beam was a few mm to far to the right and was just slightly clipping one of the mounts of the PyWFS optical train (there are 42 optical surfaces in MagAO-X’s science optical train –it can be exciting tracking just one slight optical clipping down!). But one way another we knew we’d find it eventually.

Much more room now after final alignment

Anyways MagAO-X is realigned with lots of room for the beam to move around without any similar clipping (see photo above). To test this Jared rotated the K-mirror so that we simulated the Magellan telescope to move from vertical pointing to just 30 degrees above the horizon (K-mirror rotated from -55 to -25 deg) . Even though the beam sweeps through a large volume in this full simulation of observing conditions –no other “beam clipping” were observed. So the optical alignment looks like it is ready to go on sky. Now MagAO-X is dust proof with all its panels on. Sebastiaan was able to very quickly make a nearly perfectly flat wavefront. So like MagAO-X is making “outer space-quality” images–at least in the lab (see photo below).

MagAO-X is now as good as a spaced-based telescope thanks to Sebastiaan’s flattening of the wavefront into the Pyramid wavefront sensor (PyWFS — the 4 circles, upper right). Photo by Sebastiaan Haffert. Look at all those Airy rings in the star image to upper left!

But perhaps the most import data I took so far this run (so far) is seeing two vizzys just hanging out at the clean room

A rare double Vizzy sighting at the clean room, I wonder if they are in bubble mode too…

Still lots of work to do, but the optical alignment phase is mostly over until we align to the telescope on Saturday!

Our baby burro “helper” taking a well deserved break from her work.

So here is my song of the day. One way or another we where going to align MagAO-X’s twin optical beams into parallel lines…

MagAO 2018A Day 18: All Packed Up

Hi All,

As is tradition the PI will finish off the run with the last blog. This run marked our 7th year operating at LCO making great images and science. This run was no exception with great science delivered (despite the many clouds we encountered as winter is definitely coming). I’d like to thank all the LCO staff that did a great hosting us and I’d like to thank all the observers that came out to work with MagAO.

I’d like to show some great photos of the packing up process that was done in just one day (a new record).

Below is the ASM ready to be packed up and driven down to the clean room (where it will wait a year for us to come back — but we will come back).

ASM in Daylight
ASM in Daylight

ASM coming off
ASM coming off

Joseph fixes the stuck pin in the ASM cart
Joseph fixes the stuck pin in the ASM cart

Jared and Joseph with th ASM -- end of run!
Jared and Joseph with th ASM — end of run!

Admin Edit:
Post failed to include a song of the day, please see 2018A Blog Rules.
Therefore the admin will choose a song of the day:

And the cover gave me goosebumps:)

MagAO 2018A Day 15: Fringe Science

Read Below to find out what this odd looking video is!

Hi All,

Yesterday we mounted the SAO’s Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) dispersed fringe sensor prototype (Proto3 — Brian McLeod’s 3rd version — it keeps getting better). This is a complex set of infrared cameras and optics that mimic 3 of the GMT primary mirrors boundaries. It is basically a 2 slit experiment that interferes light (to make “fringes”) from the edge of each primary (where they almost touch) of the GMT. In this manner we hope to measure if one primary is slightly higher (out of phase in piston) with respect to the other primary — this will be a critical measurement to enable a diffraction-limited GMT in the future.

So that means we turned Magellan/MagAO into just 3 pairs of slits and look at the interference between the pairs. See photo below of the Magellan pupil with these 3 slits pairs superimposed over it.

The Proto 3 pupil — basically 3 double slits

The fringes produced by the 2 slits are then dispersed in the vertical direction — in this way it can capture/measure up to ~40 microns of piston between GMT segments.

In the photo below you can see the 1.1-1.3 micron (infrared) spectra of the fringes, here MagAO was locked on 300 modes.

Fringes from Proto3 ! The fringes are dispersed from red to blue (in the J band) from top to bottom — if there was piston between the slits the fringes would twist and look like a “barber-pole”.

Jan Kansky took this great photo of Proto3 (the box above Derek) mounted on the back of the NAS

Derek Kopon and Proto3

The main test of the system is to understand the “fringe behavior” when Proto 3 looks far away from the guide star that MagAO is correcting. Below we show a video of what the fringes look like when the fringes come from a star that is 6 arcminutes away from the guide star.

Movie of the fringes 6 arcminutes off axis from MagAO's guide star
Movie of the fringes 6 arcminutes off axis from MagAO’s guide star

So in keeping with tonight’s theme — here is a Fringe song about the TV show of the same name:

Here is a different version:

MagAO 2018A Day3: Closed-loop On Sky !

Today was a long and exciting day for the team.

This afternoon we mounted Clio on the NAS (the telescope + MagAO) and Katie and Phil got Clio cold and working with its brand new computer.

Despite a cloudy start to the night we did open and Jared tested the new 64-bit computers for MagAO, there were a few surprises about how to set the shell with so many bits. Jared figured out the troubles and a work around. We then ran for the rest of the night just fine for MagAO. Marco and Alfio also helped remotely from Italy — thanks guys!

Phil and Katie also debugged much of the brand new Clio software with lots of remote help from Paul Grenz (in Tucson) all night long. Great progress was made.

Phil, Katie, and Paul (on Skype) worked all day and night on Clio software.

We did make great diffraction-limited images of Alpha Cen with VisAO in SDI+ mode as well as on Clio. The AO seems to be running great again.

Jared enjoying SDI+

In the afternoon after Clio was mounted I had some time to photograph a wild vizzy bouncing along the rocks — they really can bounce!

A Vizzy on the move — they can bounce!

Since it was full of dark clouds tonight, here is a song about thunder…

and again