2014A Day 25: A Photogenic Day

After another busy night, I didn’t put together a substantive post. Thankfully, today was a beautiful day, with plenty of both literal and eye candy for the blog.

Francois played Easter bunny and hid chocolate eggs around the control room for all to enjoy.

Thanks, Francois!


Jared spotted our friendly local Easter “bunny”

Jared spotted Vizz chillin’ in the rafters


And Jen had a new roommate when she woke up this morning

Much less intimidating than a mouse.
Jen’s pint-sized lizard friend


I took a few last photos of the local flora at sunset

Clay’s twin Baade is visible in the background
The sunset was fiery red
I finally reached the top after a long mozy up


Here are a couple more  stunning photos Jan Skowran and Yuri Beletsky took over the last few nights:

The twin telescopes: Clay and Baade by moonlight
Jan caught another sweet shot just as we were switching targets.
Before the moon rose, Yuri captured this beautiful deep exposure, with the Milky Way and airglow.

I feel like I’ve just arrived, and it’s already time to head home. It’s been a blast working with a great group of team members, telescope crew, and observers.

Until next time, MagAO!

My last chance to see a green flash

Though it’s about 24hr door to door, I remind myself that it’s not so far in the grand scheme of things:

2014A Day 23: It’s good to be back

Hi everyone!  With the beautiful weather and amazing avocados for every meal, it’s good to be back on the mountain again!

The obligatory selfie in the funhouse mirror.


Because MagAO is now open to the public (so to speak) and we’re executing a variety of programs, I’m learning about a wide range of science projects.

Of course, there’s the “run of the mill” high-contrast imaging with VisAO. See the ring around the star in the image? That’s not a disk of material around the star; it’s a sign of a beautiful AO image. With very high-quality correction, the star’s light in concentrated into the core of the star image, leaving a “dark hole” around the star. The better the correction, the deeper the hole. Outside the hole, at the “control radius,” is a ring of small uncorrectable residuals. They look really prominent here because of the stretch, but they’re actually incredibly faint. At the right edge of the picture is a faint reflection, or ghost, of the star; you can see how tight the core of the star image is and how very faint the ring is by comparison. As Laird put it, “We get better quality on our ghost than most people do on their images!”

Beautiful H-alpha image from VisAO. The wavelength of this light detected here is ~650nm, which your eye would see as red.

Switching gears, we also took wide-field images taken of stars toward the “bulge” in the central regions of the Milky Way. After spending so much time taking really sensitive images of single star systems, I’d forgotten Clio could take images like the one below! Subo, Ping, and Jen are following up “microlensing” target hosts with these data. Microlensing is a sweet technique for indirectly detecting planets around other stars. The gravitational pull of a massive object like a star or planet can actually bend light passing by it, creating an effect similar to how a glass lens bends light that passes through it. An everyday magnifying glass uses this bending of light to magnify objects. In the same way, a “gravitational lens” can magnify objects behind it via the gravitational bending of  light. So if a planet and star just happen to pass in front of a more distant star, they will briefly magnify the light of the distant star in a particular way that astronomers can use to measure the mass of the planet – pretty wild! High-resultion imaging helps to constrain the planet models, so we followed up several different planet candidates as part of this program.

I’ve never seen so many stars on Clio before!


AO was running very smoothly for most of the night tonight under Katie’s watchful eye (the screen saver went on several times because nothing needed adjusting for so long!). We also had our first guest AO operator tonight. Dave Osip stopped by for a while to check in, and we roped him into operating for a while. It’s a good sign for the usability of the system if we can start having guest operators – thanks to the AO team for all the user interface and hardware reliability improvements!

Dave takes a turn at operating AO.

And, of course, I went wildlife watching.  From the control room window at dawn I saw a couple vizzies hopping on the rocks below.

Good morning, vizzies!

And I’ll leave you with a very serious analysis of the vastness of the universe in song form. Including, perhaps, a postulate on multiverse theory: