MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 19: The Happy MagAO-X Bunny

Today was our second to last night and our last engineering night. We all woke up (or went to bed) with a happy surprise because today was Easter. We all got some chocolates and some unknown piece of candy.

The bag of candy that everyone got.
The interesting textured candy that is not chocolate.

The night itself went all over the place. We did a lot of coronagraph engineering and EFC tests. These went well for the conditions that we had to work in. And, we were able to squeeze in some time for on-sky testing of the Holographic Dispersed Fringe Sensor (TM). It is the sensor that we are developing to phase the segmented primary of the Giant Magellan Telescope.

The HDFS showing off all its barberpoles. Each fringe here is sensitive to a differential piston between segments.

After the HDFS engineering, we went to A Cen. One might think that this is Alpha Centauri but this is definitely not true! We observed A Cen and it was not Alpha Centauri, it was a random other bright star. We only realized this after aligning the whole system. The telescope operator was quickly given a new catalogue that contained only Alpha Cen so that we did not make the same mistake again. We stayed on Alpha Cen for almost the whole night. The night was wrapped up with some Baade’s Window and another accelerating star with a low-mass companion. All-in-all a pretty good night, even though we had some setbacks.

Today, Carlos was sneaking around the lodge. Eden was on the ball and shot some incredible pictures of Carlos. It is trying to sneak around and find food around the lodge. A little bit up the road to the telescope, Jared encountered a horse together with its baby horse.

Today was a good day for animal viewing. In a couple of months you will find our Andean wild life documentary on Netflix.

For today we are going with an astronomy themed song!

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 4: A day of firsts and lasts

Today was an eventful day. Almost every blog post by me has mentioned VIS-X, the beautiful integral field spectrograph for MagAO-X. And, every run up to know had me doing optical alignment on the Nasmyth platform during morning shifts (after observing 🙁 ). This time the optical alignment finally did not drift during shipment! I only had to do some minor alignment of VIS-X to the MagAO-X output beam. Everything was aligned by the middle of the afternoon. No more mornings full of alignment for me!!!!

While I was doing the alignment on VIS-X, Laird was leading a small group to check on the MagAO ASM. The MagAO ASM is going back to Tucson after many years of living at LCO.

Cleaning the clean room before the ASM could be moved and inspected.
Laird is very happy while showing off the ASM to everyone.
One last look before it was put way again.

Laird invited everyone to have a last look at the ASM before it goes off to it’s new destination. Jared was not interested and tried to ignore the existence of the ASM. We now have MagAO-X which is a lot of fun! The MagAO-X OCAM2K was recently updated with new binning modes that should improve our performance on fainter targets. Jared was busy trying to figure out how the new binning modes could be calibrated. This was not straight forward.

Jared after dinner lamenting the bad performance of the new calibrations of the pyramid wavefront sensor.

The animal of today is Carlos and he showed up during dinner as a nice surprise.

After dinner, Eden took all the LCO first timers to see the other telescopes on the mountain top.

Much telescope so wow.

Song of the day:

MagAO-X 2023A Day 13: The night of exoplanet science.

Last night was an exciting night! MKIDS was working really well and we observed the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b. This was one of the first directly imaged exoplanets and its quite well studied. The picture below shows an animation of the orbit of Beta Pictoris b during a 5 year period. Hopefully we can add some images from the MKIDS to this animation!

Look at all them orbital motion.

The New York Times also visited us to take some pictures of us in the control room. Luckily, we were not prepared at all and we will look like astronomers a week into their observing campaign. It did seem like Avalon was the main character of the photo shoot. The photographer left as quickly as he came, leaving us with some dread about what they are going to write about us.

While we are waiting for a new picture of Beta Pictoris b, MagAO-X was able to take an image of YSES-1 b. This planet is orbiting around its host star at a very large separation. YSES-1 is a star in the Musca constellation. Today I learned that that is the Fly constellation. I don’t know why anyone would ever make the Fly constellation but we have the people in the past to thank for that. Okay I looked it up: Apparently we have the Dutch to thank for the Fly constellation. I apologize for the crime on astronomy of my fellow country man.

YSES-1 is a solar mass star and has two know companions orbiting around it, YSES-1 b and c. We could not image c because it is outside our field of view, which already tell you that it has an enormous orbit. The inner companion orbits the star at 162 AU, this is 31 times the orbital radius of Jupiter in our solar system. At such radii an orbit will take 2051 years. That means it completed 1 YSES-1 b year since Julius Ceasar was killed!

The LOWFS loop closing to remove NCPA. The closing of the loop is announced by Maggieo-X our new AI assistant.

Song of the day

For the song of the day I chose Per Spoor from Guus Meeuwis, who is a Dutch pop/carneval singer. He became famous in the late 90’s and my mother was a big fan of his at the time. My mother took me to a concert of his in my hometown when I was 5 or 6 years old. This was my first concert ever! He mainly makes very festive music.

Per Spoor (Kedeng Kedeng) translation “By train track (Kedeng Kedeng)”. I can’t really translate the Kedeng’s because it’s a onomatopoeia for the sound a train makes in Dutch.

In the beginning, Guus is disappointed that the train was delayed by no less than 10 minutes, because he would prefer to spend this time with his girlfriend. Several things happen to him on the train. For example, he is addressed about the fact that his feet are placed on the couch, which, although Guus had the entire couch to himself, is not the intention. From the train he discovers the world and places that are new to him. Guus is impressed by the train’s discipline and hard work. He is also offered something to drink, which he did not expect at first. Although he is thirsty, he does not take anything to drink because the train arrives at its destination. From that moment on he already lurks outside, looking for his girlfriend. Once at his destination, he expects his sweetheart, his girlfriend, on the platform, but unfortunately she is not present, which leads to great sadness for Guus. At least, so it seems. Soon enough, however, it becomes clear that his love was playing a trick. She had hidden behind a pillar for comic effect, to the confusion of Guus Meeuwis. Once reunited on the platform, the train departs again.

MagAO-X 2023A Day 7: Back for more

Warren and I took different paths to Santiago but were able to meet up at the infamous Starbucks in the domestic terminal.

The tradition of name swapping continues. We lost Warren today, but we are quite happy with his replacement Juan.

We continued our journey onwards took the plane to La Serena and then the bus to the observatory. It took me only 78 days this time to come back to LCO and it feels like I never left. Like a certain PI said: “home is where the wifi connects”. This rings very true for LCO.

Our days immediately started with work due to tight schedule because of the many projects that we are doing at MagAO-X. Warren dived into the clean room to assemble his new monstrosity to mount the PIAA lenses. And, I started aligning a laser into a single-mode fiber. This was necessary to take some calibrations to improve the reduction of data from our last run. Its quite tricky to get enough light out of a single mode fiber when not all axis of your mount work. After spending about 2.5 hours I finally got enough light through and I was able to finish my calibrations. I finished at 2 AM! However, the night sky at that time is always amazing.

The milkyway at LCO.

During daytime we were able to make big strides on the integration of the camera software of VIS-X IFU and MagAO-X. This will hopefully mean I won’t have to leave my laptop beneath the instrument again during the observations.

I choose a song from Bon Jovi which is one of the few artists I have actually seen IRL. This was part of the Royal Dutch Beach concerts almost 10 year ago.

MagAO-X 2022B Day 18: Prepare for trouble and make it double

Tonight started of quite well. We finally had average conditions, which much better than the 2 arcseconds seeing from before! The first target of the night is one from Logan. She is searching for white dwarf companions around main sequence stars. Stellar evolution tells us that there should be more white dwarfs than we can see. These white dwarfs could be hidden as companions close by brighter stars, which make it difficult to see them. MagAO-X is an ideal instrument to search for faint things next to bright things. We use coronagraphs to block the starlight of the primary to search for faint companions. Below is a video showing MagAO-X running at full steam trying to get maximum performance.

Sadly, we had to stop again around midnight. The seeing went through the roof.

Proof that the seeing went through the roof!

The seeing became so bad that we just gave up trying to get science data and we switched to sparkle engineering. This also allowed us to explore the more important things in life. Such as tasting all the different types of milk that LCO has to offer. The reviews and commentary are outside the scope of this blog post and will be part of later work.

The MagAO-X PI enjoying some milk.

At the end of the night the seeing became a bit better and Logan could take over again to search for her white dwarf companions. Somehow it looked like all stars we looked at were binary stars. After seeing 5 binary systems we realized that it was the system itself that created the binary components!

And during the lows of the night we also lost our dear friend Vizzy. As if the night had not been bad enough.

After the night ended I continued to work on some daytime engineering to get the new integrated coronagraph/wavefront sensor to work. This has been manufactured by the local manufacturista Avalon McLeod. Yesterday night we commissioned the coronagraph part of this optic. And today we did the lab tests of the wavefront sensor side. Now we only need to get the wavefront sensor on sky!

Here it is ladies and gentleman, the amazing Zernike Wavefront Sensor!

The last week has been though weather wise. So here we are hoping for better skies in the next couple of nights.