We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post…

Hey MagAO-X’ers we heard you all were at an observing run, and by coincidence the Space Forcers are too! We are at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands for sodium laser beacon testing. (Initial results shown at the end if you want to skip to the good part!)

This observing run actually started at Teide observatory on Tenerife. Myself and a fellow Space Forcer Robert Johnson were doing some mission reconnaissance to check out an empty dome as a potential location for some future laser beacon experiments.

For more information on future Space Force Space Lasers see our SPIE talks 😉

Next we headed to La Palma and headed up to the observatory. The road is really curvy. Luckily the wildflowers are in bloom here so we stopped a lot to take breaks and take in the views.

Lots of flowers and lots of cool birds. Excellent time for an observing run.

And finally, after over a day straight of traveling, the Starfire team arrived at the observatory!

Starfire Optical Range Team! From left to right: Robert Johnson, Ian Kingsolver, Lauren Schatz, and Lee Kann.

The observatory itself is very dramatic. The telescopes are on one side of the mountain and right across the peak is a huge cliff into the very deep and eroded caldera.

Now onto the telescopes…. The Starfire team is working with a group of Italian and German researchers to test the new sodium laser. We are working in one of the open control rooms in the William Hershel Telescope pictured below. Our job is to perform analysis on the beacon to determine the magnitude brightness and the extent in arcseconds without turbulence. I was told last minute I had to learn astronomy and write a data reduction pipeline so thank you to Joseph and Logan for answering all my frantic questions!

We aren’t observing with the WHT. But they have a really cool new multi-object spectrograph instrument they are comissioning!
Obligatory sunset photo. Grand Canarias Telescope on the right (bigger than Keck if you really want to compare…)

Now onto the best part! The laser beacon! Tonight we are propagating at 45 Watts and hope to ramp up to 75 Watts. This is the brightest sodium laser in the world! It is really amazing to see with the naked eye.

It’s so beautiful :*)

Hope your observing run is going as well as ours!

Song of the Day:

In honor of Brian May who did his PhD observing at the Willian Hershel Telescope.

As seen in the control room kitchenette.

MagAO-X Across the Pond Day 5: Beauty of the Netherlands

Today was the last day of the conference! We saw many great talks (mostly about PDS 70 and HR 8799…) and many of us have left excited to get back to work and Reduce! That! Data!

Today was a half day and that meant we were finally able to roam free and see the beauty of the Netherlands. Logan, Joseph and I headed over to Den Haag to check out another city.

We saw beautiful architecture…

… gorgeous flowers…

And some authentic Dutch boba tea~~~! ( ❛ ᴗ ❛ 🌸)

It wouldn’t be a trip to the Netherlands without seeing a Dutch art masterpiece so we went to the Mauritshuis museum of fine art…

…where we saw the famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer.

Seeing the painting in real life fell a little flat. We much prefer our own take on the Vermeer master work, so we fixed it. “Jared with a Pearl Earring” belongs in a museum don’t you think?

Switching out the paintings caused such a commotion that a protest rapidly formed outside the museum.

Or, was it just a coincidental and totally unrelated protest? Who is to say, really…

Jared and Logan are heading back tomorrow and we wish them safe travels! Joseph and I are on to the next adventure in Belgium.

Song of the Day:

“Pearl” — The Mamas and The Papas

Purrride and Prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune (lots of wet food), must be in want of a wife. An unprecidented whirlwind romance has budded between Katniss and my neighbor’s cat. His name is Bandit, and true to his name, he has stolen Katniss’s heart.

Monsieur Bandit from across the way.

Although it has been smooth sailing for them lately, they got off to a rocky start in true Elizabeth and Darcy style. When Bandit first started visiting he was only allowed to sit at the top of the stairs and admire Katniss from a distance.

Bandit pining after Katniss.

Failure to comply meant he recieved a rebuke in the form of angry hissing and meowing. He was persistent though, and after a couple of months he was allowed to approach the door.

Their romance caused quite the scandal as Bandit is known to be unpropitious, visiting at all hours of the day and night without regard for decorum expected of a proper suitor.

A midnight visiting from Bandit, how uncouth.

There is hope for him yet though, as of late his manners have been improving vastly as he has learned how to knock on my door to get Katniss’s attention.

In the beginning Katniss met Bandit with pride and prejudice. Now she spends a lot of her time in my living room, waiting for him to visit.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Purrrfect Birthday

I know what you all are thinking. We have hit triple digits in the number of days since this all began and Lauren still hasn’t made a blog post just about her cat. Don’t worry it is time to right this wrong, and what better time do to so than for Katniss’s 5th birthday!

I’ve heard of a wise philosophy that you should take any excuse to party. This year I decided to throw my cat a birthday party.

The preperations for her birthday began about a week before the party. I decided that since it was her special day, she should have a special outfit to wear. I picked up some cotton fabric at JoAnn’s and made her a little birthday dress. This was a great excuse to try out a ruffler pressure foot for my sewing machine. It is a neat little device that automatically pleats your fabric at a stitch interval of your chosing.

The ruffler pressure foot
Skirt of the dress ruffled by the ruffler

Once that was done the next part of party planning was to send out the invitations. Under normal circumstances, I would have loved to invite you all, but due to social distancing I kept the gathering small. Sorry you all missed it.

The last step was decorations. I went minimalistic this year, and bought two balloons from the dollar store.

They were a big hit with the birthday girl.

Now that everything is set it was time to party! We did Korean bbq on some tabletop griddles…

… forced Katniss to wear her party dress …

She hated it…

… and then ended dinner with some birthday cupcakes. I had to help Katniss blow out the candles.

My friend made special rainbow cupcakes!

But what would a birthday party be without presents? Katniss really got spoiled this year, Logan made her an abosultely amazing cross stich, and she got some treats from mom.

Had to censor the cross stitch…

Happy birthday Katniss! Hope you all have an excuse to party before the end of summer 🙂

Bonus Content: Katniss’s Origin Story

Katniss and I go way back. So far back, that I knew her mom as a kitten! Katniss was born on July 27th 2015 to single mom Legalos. Legalos is the cat of my friend in my hometown. I remember when she was a little kitten, and when she grew up to be a beautiful cat. So beautiful that I said off handedly that if the cat ever had kittens I would want one. My friend remembered it, and when irresponsible teen Legalos snuck out of the house and came back pregnant, I was first in line for one of the kittens. Katniss was born in a litter of two, just her and her brother.

I think Katniss is the one on the right, but who knows?
Baby Katniss with her mama.

So we know who the mom is but who is her father? My friend and I like to think her father was a cat we called Mountain Cat. He was a brown Maine Coon mix that belonged to my friend’s neighbors. The neighbors for a while were landscaping their front yard, and almost everyday my friend and I would see Mountain Cat sitting on top of the mountain of dirt in the front yard. Hence the name Mountain Cat.

When I first met Katniss she was a little bit older than the photos shown here. About two months old. She wasn’t quite ready to be seperated from her mother, so we decided to wait until Thanksgiving for my mom to drive her across the desert to me when she was visiting for the holiday. Below is the first picture I ever took of Katniss on her first night at my place. She was already making herself at home!

And this is the first photo I ever took together with Katniss!

To end I will share some fun Katniss facts:

  • She looks cross eyed but it is only one eye that is derpy.
  • Her goal in life is to be as chonky as possible.
  • If you walk past her while she is eating she will sad meow at you, and put on a very concerned face as if you are going to take her food away. Despite the fact that never once in her life has food ever been taken away from her.
  • Her favorite thing in the world is her most beloved wet food treats.
  • Everyday when I come home she runs up to me, starts meowing, and will only stop when I pick her up and give her a hug.

Song of the day: Some relaxing vibes

Quarantine Crafting

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Rona

A little over a year ago now I was moving back from France to Tucson. I decided to move into a two bedroom apartment, with the expectation of turning one room into a home office/craft space. Throughout undergrad and graduate school I kept some crafting hobbies like sewing, but it was almost ten years since gave up painting and quit pursuing my Art degree when I moved to France. I’m sure many have had the same experience of being inspired to paint when touring around France. It’s not hard, besides the famous ones in Paris almost every town in France has some sort of Art Museum. I had timed it right too, because if you are a student and 25 years old or under in France you get into most museums for free. So you better believe I went to a LOT of art museums during my work-cation (some much better than others…) Hence the decision to invest in an art space and try my hand at painting again.

Turns out that decision has had a large payoff with the quarantine!

Craft One: Macrame

Before I show off the paintings, I thought I would highlight a new crafting skill I am developing: Macrame. Macrame is essentially the art of fancy knot tying. It’s really accessible as a new hobby because all you need is a wooden dowel, and some macrame cord. I’ve been learning through Youtube channels, and my favorite tutorials are from a South Korean crafter. I’ve discovered that pretty much all of macrame only uses two types of knots: the square knot, and the Diagonal Clove Hitch knot. You different patterns depending on the spacing between the knots, and how many times you repeat it etc.

Most of the time I do macrame on Logan’s couch, because it turns out cats love macrame even more than I do.

My first project was pretty successful, though it is a small one. Made with only square knots.

My second macrame project was not successful. Getting the tension of the cords and the spacings correctly is surprisingly hard!

I am currently working on my third macrame piece. I decided to wing it a bit, because the tutorial I was following was going to produce another small wall hanging and I wanted something larger. Time will tell if this was a mistake. I am currently working on this one at Logan’s place, but we are almost out of British Bakeoff episodes so I need to hustle!

Craft Two: Sewing

I have to admit I haven’t done a lot of sewing during quarantine. (Probably because sad eating ice cream for a month was a bad weight management decision but who is to say?)

Right at the beginning of quaratine I finished making this skirt. I had many great plans of running around in it during SPIE Japan… but alas.

Perhaps my greatest sewing triumph is this avacado shaped hidey-hole for Star. When she is inside she looks like the avacado pit!

But it is hard to tell if she likes it or not… look at that grumpy hedgie face!

I have also been making a Star War’s Rey costume but that has been on hold for a while now. I have the shirt mostly done.

Craft Three: Painting

I started painting last year way before coronavirus was even a thing. My goal back then was to produce an artwork for the Lunar and Planetary Lab’s art show. Which I did! Since then I have been doing some color studies of mountians. I finished the last in that series after quarantine began, though I started it beforehand.

Mountain Color Study: Orange. Acrylic on Canvas

This is the last work I’ve done trying to be ‘realistic’. I’ve been inspired by an impressionist Acrylic painter I found on instagram and since then I have been working towards a more impressionist style. Impressionism favors movement and color over realism.

Attempt one in new style:

Trail in the Rocky Mountains. Acrylic on canvas

This one was based on a photo I took when hiking in the Rockies with my best friend a year ago. I am still unsure if I like this painting or hate it. For now it lives on the floor in the corner of my office.

Attempt Two:

Sunset River, Acrylic on Canvas

For this one I decided to learn from the master. It is inspired a work from @atrusovaartist and I watched all of her timelapse painting videos over and over again to try to glimpse at some of her techniques. I am really happy how this turned out, but I acknowlege that it isn’t very original because it is inspired by another work.

Attempt Three:

Sonoran Desert Scene. Acrylic on Canvas

I am starting to get my stride here! This one was inspired by several photographs I found of our beloved sonoran desert.

Attempt Four :

I finished this one only a couple of days ago, and it is the last piece I have created so far.

A Peaceful Day on Lake Minaqua. Acrylic on canvas

This one is baded off of a photo I took during my family reunion in Wisconsin last year. We rented a boat and we all hung out on the lake all day.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I think the common inspiration to my artwork is ‘places I want to be right now’. I love the mountians, but lately I have been craving the water. My apartment complex has restricted access to the pool because of ‘rona. I have a feeling water will feature more heavily in what I paint from here on out, but who knows!

In case you were wondering, yes I am running out of wallspace to hang things up. Perhaps by the end of quarantine my house will look like my own personal art gallery.

Song of the Day: Some Dad music as Joseph would call it