MagAO-X 2023A Day 11: The Full Moon Can Only Be A Good Omen

So I’m still kind of reeling from and processing it because it’s been so long in the making but we got first light tonight with XKID (that’s the MagAO-X MKID Camera – don’t you just love an acronym that’s made up of nested acronyms? me too). We did it!

This doesn’t look like a whole lot, but that right there in the middle is the first starlight we ever put on our detector in this instrument. Things got better pretty quick.

Still not the best looking thing in the world, but we threw a corongraph in there, added a filter, and could actually see everything! After all the work it took to get the camera working, I’d say that’s pretty neat.

I’ll blog again, next time with more fun stuff, but right now I’m just riding out the emotional high of getting here to the telescope with this camera and actually looking at some stars with it. It’s not perfect but after all the twists and turns it’s taken to get here, all the times we had to perform surgery on the instrument that the manufacturers advised us not to (related picture below), all the modifications we made taking this part from that instrument, that part from this instrument, redesigning and refabricating parts until the last possible second, and all the times I really thought I (and the rest of the amazing team who has worked so hard on this) wasn’t going to be able to get it to work, I’m super happy about it.

Seriously, look at this. We had to yank out not 1, but 2 giant superconducting magnets from different instruments to get this working, and we did it a whole bunch of times. Turns out getting things super cold is super hard.

Stay tuned, because it’s only getting better. We’re just getting started here at LCO with MagAO-X, but it’s going up up up. Gonna do some real cool science.

Song of the Day

I wanted to do a song about light because we got first light and there’s a lot of great ones, but as I was walking back to my room I realized that for all the ideas I had (and as tempted as I am to list a bunch of them because I’m indecisive and want to give a bunch of options), I realized there’s a better option.

It’s partially cheesy ham-fisted metaphor because doing science is challenging and getting XKID working and sent down here to use it is one of the hardest things I’ve done, but in a more literal sense we’re at the top of some mountains here and each day I’ve been walking up and down a bunch of different pretty damn steep hills (seriously, my phone had to die on this mountain so XKID could live and I could get up to the telescope)

pic related

and – last but not least – this song is just an absolute banger.

This song is never going to disappear from YouTube because it’s fantastic so I’m tempted to break the rules and not mention that it’s The Climb by Miley Cyrus, but there ya go. There’s a million and a half reasons this song is great, be it the fantastically campy music video, how it’s impossible not to sing along to, and that it holds up even if you haven’t heard it in years (but let’s be real, it’ll never be that long between times hearing it because it’s excellent).

I saw Miley Cyrus at Austin City Limits in 2021. I tried to get to her set early to get a good spot and even showing up a half hour before start I was still stuck 150 rows back because everyone there wanted to see her show – and for great reason, it was awesome. There were old hits, new hits, she covered Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton (shout out Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton), it started raining mid-set and the whole concert turned into a mud pit but nobody left because it was just. so. damn. good. The last song she played was The Climb and it turned into a giant sing-along with me and my thousand or so best friends in that moment, it was a blast. I’d post a picture from the show but there are none, I was too busy losing my mind. I don’t care who you are, if you get a chance to see Miley in concert, do it, you won’t regret it, not even when you lose your voice rocking out to a live version of the Climb.


Thanks y’all from the MagAO-X team for being so welcoming, thanks to everyone who has worked on XKID who made its first light possible, and thanks to the three of you who made it this far in the post and listened to my sleep deprived stream-of-consciousness ramblings. It takes a village, and what a great village this is.