MagAO-X 2022A Day 21: It was bound to happen eventually.

Whelp, here we are. After 20 days of the most excellent weather and 9 nights of impeccable seeing (last night was truly remarkable observing conditions!) we have finally hit a night with some clouds. We spent some time on a target for one of our collaborators and got her some good data, but as I write this (nearing midnight) the dome is closed and we are switching to the lab light source to do some engineering.

Here is a gif of the all-sky camera for about 10 mins, so you can see what we’re lookin’ at:

The LCO weather map showing clouds rolling in over our little red dot.

So MagAO-X got some engineering time and we took a sci-fi break thanks to Joseph’s projector he brought.

Featuring the incomparable Thomas Jane as Miller in S1 of the Expanse
Hernan the telescope operator joins us for some Expanse.
Jared says: “Photo capturing that the Grand-PI, PI, and Uncle Sagan Fellow are in the control room working while the grad students and T.O. watch a movie in the lounge.  #clouds #lifeatlco”
Jared gets a pic of the closed telescope with all the clouds.

So in lieu of data, I present to you, for no particular reason, viscachas as sad celebrities.

In honor of the peaches in syrup they like to serve for dessert here, which is delicious, the song of the day in Peaches by Presidents of the United States of America.

MagAO-X 2022A Day 16: Masking in masks

Today was a great MagAO-X day. We had great seeing and things worked well, we were able to get a lot done today and make some nice science-y images!

Engineering continued again tonight with a smattering of science. Tonight we worked on commissioning the non-redundant aperture mask (NRM), which is a technique for achieving high resolution images from the ground. Our collaborators Dr Josh Eisner and Dr Jordan Stone joined us via zoom to commission MagAO-X’s NRM observing mode on a bunch of their science targets.

Science camera 1 and 2 displaying NRM images.
Sebastiaan pilots the masking run sporting his KN95 mask.

The top image here shows science camera 1 (left) and 2 (right) during the NRM imaging run. The image on camsci1 is continuum (kinda like the baseline emission from the source) and on camsci2 is H-alpha, a hydrogen emission line that is very bright when the star is accreting (eating up gas and dust). It doesn’t really *look* like a star right now, and is all blurry-looking, because of how the masking works. Some fancy math is needed to reconstruct the images into more eye-pleasing and scientifically meaningful images.

A screen shot of MegaDesk NRM observations
Ooooh a nice pretty binary on the MegaDesk

We also got to look at one of my science targets. I am trying to detect some white dwarf stars. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star that remains after the star has evolved and shed all of its outer material (called the envelope). White dwarfs are interesting to me because they can serve as an important probe of planet systems at the end of a star’s life. The surface of a white dwarf is either pure hydrogen or helium, so if you see any other materials in the spectrum of a white dwarf (which astronomers call “metals”), it has been recently deposited there by planetary material or debris eaten by the star!

On the right-most monitor is my science target we hit tonight!

And we ended the night with some lovely images of Baade’s window, an area of dense stars towards the galactic center and with little dust that we use for measuring the astrometry, or the position of stars. One of the important things to determine about your instrument is how distances and angles in an image relate to distances and angles on the sky. To do that, we need to take images that contain multiple stars for which we already know their on-sky astrometry, and compare that to measurements in an image. So you want a crowded field with a lot of stars, so that you can have many stars fall within your image, and with existing well-documented measurements between the stars. Baade’s window is a good target for this, so getting many good images of it in all our filters is a top priority.

Our friend Carlos showed up for dinner again and struck a commanding pose in front of the sunset. Good boy.

The moon is waxing towards full and lighting up the mountains all night here. The song of the day is Who Built the Moon? by Shinyribs

MagAO-X 2022A Day 11: The Last Last Bubble

As Avalon so illuminated in yesterday’s post, she and I are the last group members to arrive and bubble at LCO. Today was the last full day of our bubble. Tomorrow is the big day: moving MagAO-X to the telescope and finally going on sky! Tomorrow morning we will get our brains poked, then get the ok to join the team in moving heavy things followed by staying up all night doing what we’re all here for. Can’t wait. I love observing, and it’s been so long.

I have been spending my bubble working on target lists for the run. I wrote a script to grab bright stars for getting the AO system up and running. And there are many folks who have targets they plan to hit with MagAO-X, both on our team (like Laird and I), and our collaborators from other institutions. The telescope control system (TCS) requires a very specific catalog set up to take our targets, so I’ve been working on getting mine and everyone else’s targets into the right format. You’d think that wouldn’t take too long but here we are. So my bubble has been quite full despite not joining the rest of the team yet.

As far as goings-on to report for the day, Avalon and I took a walk out to the other telescopes on site.

The 100″ Irenee du Pont telescope
The 40″ Henrietta Swope telescope

And saw a lot of burros

Look at the shaggy baby!

Alas we could not pet.

We also took copious mirror selfies as is required.

It was a pretty good walk with much uphill to get the blood pumping.

We returned just in time for the briefing on tomorrow’s MagAO-X moving evolution (that’s Navy-speak for “event”, or “a thing you will be doing”).

In other news prep for tomorrow went right along in the clean room. Jared shared some pics of folx in the clean room doing clean room things, and someone’s head is inside MagAO-X. I don’t know any more information that that dear readers, because I am bubbled.

Avalon discovered today that the XWCL daily-post-on-observing-runs blog tradition goes back to 2012, making this our 10th anniversary! Whoooo. So the song of the day is 10 Years, by Daði Freyr (Daði & Gagnamagnið). If you’re not familiar with this Icelandic group, you owe it to yourself to watch this one.

Things My Dog Distrusts

In the grand tradition of Things My Cat Hates, today I bring you Things My Dog Distrusts. My 3 year old lab Lani only cares about three things: throw the ball, spray with hose, chew on rawhides (swim in lake is a corollary to spray with hose, really just any water of any kind is a-ok). If you look up labrador retriever in the dictionary you see a pic of Lani.

However, as with all animals, she is not without her neuroses. Mainly, she is rather fearful. So here is a list of things my dog is quite afraid of.

Metal Floors.

Lani absolutely, positively, will not walk over a metal grating. Plants feet, stoic, if I try to pull her she pulls back harder. Metal floors are a HARD NO. The Loop near my house has some drainage ditches that pass underneath, so there is a metal grate covering the ditch. This renders the Loop non-navigable for us. If I succeed in getting her over the grate going out, we will not be able to go over it coming back. Trust me.

My favorite metal floor story is when we took a trip to Desert Pet, a local pet store. They have two rooms, one of which is slightly higher than the other, so you know what connects them… a metal ramp. We cannot enter the other room. She was so thrown off by the trauma of almost stepping on a metal floor that when we went to leave the store, she also refused to step on the slightly different colored tile near the door. I finally was able to leave the store by sliding the welcome mat over so she could step on that to get out the door.

Really any surprising or abnormal flooring is a mild trauma. One of our dog friends, the golden retriever Clover, loves to go down the slide on the playscape in the neighborhood (it is absurdly cute and wholesome). Lani cannot get to the slide because there is a lot of weird things to step on to get there. Way too scary.

Surprise Newspapers.

My neighbor, Mike, is lovely retired gentleman who takes care of things for people around the neighborhood, including getting my mail and leaving it on my porch. The other day he left some newspapers on the patio and kept them in place with a rock. When we left to go do our nightly necessary, this was quite a surprise.

Apologies for the darkness of the video, it was nighttime and I was not prepared for how hilarious it was going to be.


Oh Mike. So vexing to a confused pupper. He waters my lawn, drops off my mail, and does all manner of things outside the window. The audacity. She often barks at people when she sees them on leash, then is quite calm and happy to see them once they meet. Not Mike. I’ve tried to introduce them, but she knows the man who regularly invades her yard and she is not going to be friendly no matter the circumstance. Poor Mike.

The Neighbor Dogs.

Nothing evokes more blind rage.

The Word “Yep”.

Any Moving Object.

Anything that is not supposed to move, that then moves, is terrifying. Even if she sees me move it, or if she moves it herself. Unacceptable.

Here, the ball ended up behind the DVDs. She can’t get it herself, OBVIOUSLY, because that would make the DVDs move, and that’s too scary. So I have to get it. When I didn’t get the ball, she held vigil at the DVDs, staring, waiting for the ball to come out somehow. This went on for a while until I finally got the ball.

This story repeated yesterday with the ball under the kitchen shelving, and a few days ago with a chew toy under the dining chairs, and many many times going way back.

The Shower.

The “really just any water of any kind is a-ok” I said above was a bit of a lie. My dog wants to be blasted in the face by the water hose, swim to exhaustion in a lake, drink all the water out of my bathtub, but do NOT try to put her in the shower. Getting bathed in the shower, via detachable shower head, is a form of torture. What a strange dog.

Tootie Hedgehog.

Lani the Lab loves squeeky toys, OF COURSE. But one day Tootie Hedghog came home, because he was $3 at the HomeGoods (there was a half price sale).

Tootie Hedgehog makes a no stink tooting sound, a grunt. This was unexpected, and of course very scary.

For about an hour, we were quite scared of the tootz. But then, all was well, and Tootie Hedgehog was deemed not a threat. He lasted about 10 mins.

And as a sample of the tootz:

Rest in peace, Tootie Hedgehog. We hardly knew ye.

Song of the Day: Kathy’s Song, the Secret Sisters

The song of the day is my #1 Top Song on Spotify Wrapped for 2021. It’s a cover of a Simon & Garfunkle song.

New Lab Member

A beautiful Tucson sunset tonight + iPhone portrait mode + a smidge of the secret Adobe Lightroom sauce = impromptu photo shoot!

Please welcome the new member of XWC Lab, a new LAB member! Meet Lani, my new 2 year old yellow lab! Lani came to me via friend of a friend who was looking to rehome her.

She couldn’t be a more perfect dog! She’s still pretty puppy-like, has no bad habits at all, loves people, loves dogs, loves to chase the ball and bite the hose water. As I type she’s holed up in the bedroom devouring a rawhide chew. We even made a new dog friend in the neighborhood and they’re already besties.

Here’s a few more.

And here’s some derp:

Song of the day is in honor of Lani’s new name, which is Hawaiian for “Star” (I like stars ok?). Iz’s version of “In This Life”.