XWCL among the aliens

MagAO-X and the eXtreme Wavefront Control Lab are affiliated with the Alien Earths project, an interdisciplinary collaboration led by Dániel Apai. I was going to list off the disciplines that they are inter-ing, but they said it best on their website:

Our Alien Earths team includes experts in planet formation, exoplanet detection and characterization, planet formation, planetary atmospheres, astro- and cosmochemistry, meteorite and asteroid sample analysis, planetary interiors and atmospheres, and mathematical biology and ecology.

This week, they are holding their all-hands meeting in Tucson.

We are contributing a whopping five talks to the program, giving us a chance to not only overwhelm them with our direct-imaging jargon, but also keep it up over multiple days.

As a prelude of the coming flood, Logan Pearce gave our science and instrument status update early in the Wednesday program.

“Après moi le déluge” — Logan, probably

She also took the opportunity to advertise the MagAO-X Sirius-Like Systems Search (final logo pending):

After lunch, Sebastiaan Haffert gave an update on direct imaging plans with the upcoming Giant Magellan Telescope and the planned GMagAO-X instrument our group is developing.

Lest you think we gave every talk at this meeting, rest assured that there were other people on the schedule. (Organizer Dr. Kevin Wagner thankfully spaced us out so we wouldn’t overwhelm people.)

However, this is the Extreme Wavefront Control Lab blog, and we don’t claim to present the proceedings of the meeting here. On to the next! Avalon McLeod showed videos with enough of our instrument interfaces to terrify our theorist colleagues.

Black blazers are de rigueur.

Our last talk of today was Eden McEwen speaking about achieving mastery over the concept of TIME.


Dr. Sebastiaan Haffert closed out the session by giving us all permission to go, provided we return for free breakfast tomorrow.

Okay, Sebastiaan, if you really insist.

Song of the Day

“Diamonds on Neptune” by Old 97s

But who’s got time for heavenly things?

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.

Season’s greetings from the XmasWCL

There’s one upside to an atrocious windowless office in Steward: it makes your Christmas lights look nicer.

The Principal Investigators in place of pride at the top: Katie, Laird, and… Jay. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

The Xmas Wavefront Control Lab celebrates in style, with only the finest Dollar Tree Christmas decor. They weren’t selling stockings this year, so it’s good that Jhen Lumbres bought a bunch back in 2019.

I would also like to announce the mission patch sticker for 2021 (really putting the miss in mission):

I haven’t named this guy or gal yet. Maybe Robert Bobcat? (Bobby Bobcat to friends.)

As the saying goes: if you’re not queasy, you must not be paying attention!

If you’re lucky enough to have a 2020 mission sticker, you can make them do this:

It’s not much, but it’s something.

Note: Anyone spreading rumors that this will require a 2022 swing-and-a-miss-ion sticker design to complete the ‘ronamoon should be kicked in the knees.

Song of the Day

Today’s S.o.t.D. was chosen by Logan Pearce, nine time winner of the official Star Trek fan club “dankest memes” competition.

“Let it Snow” by, uh, Star Trek?

Happy Thsmksgiving!

If you haven’t learned by now, here in XWCL we like to get festive with decoration. We’ve posted our past Christmas decorations, but it doesn’t end there. We’ve also decorated for Thanksgiving, but it somehow never made it to the blog… until now.

Flashback to November 1st, 2017: Lauren and I decided that the office was in need of seasonal decor update. We put up a small Christmas tree and a door wreath. It was very lovely and festive. It didn’t last long, as we were immediately commanded to remedy the situation.

Back to the drawing board, I guess.

But, in this group, we do not easily give up. The next year, we came back with full Thanksgiving decor using contributions from members of XWCL and CAAO. I present to you, lovers of the blog, our beloved paper hand turkey decorations:

The 2018 paper hand turkey decoration wall, showcased on the bulletin board in front of Jared’s former office at N434. This is the same location we put up the Christmas stockings.

Paper hand turkeys are the epitome of Thanksgiving decor. For any person who attended elementary school in the United States, paper hand turkeys are the most probable fall craft on the agenda. In making our paper hand turkeys, we wanted to embody that same enjoyment from our childhood. I highly encouraged people to sign their name with their non-dominant hand and in crayon.

MagAO-X PI approves of the paper hand turkey crafting agenda.

Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to redo the paper hand turkey wall. In October 2019, Steward Observatory was undergoing its first renovation and relocated the entire 4th floor north side personnel to temporary office space on the 3rd floor. Additionally, the MagAO-X team was busy in Chile with their first light run. We didn’t get our offices back until December 2019. We had no paper hand turkey wall in 2020 due to the pandemic. In summer 2021, we experienced an office shuffle. We moved to the conference rooms and offices at the other side of the hallway, with no bulletin board easily accessible to post our creations up.

Despite these lost opportunities, the paper hand turkeys continue to live on. Jared likes to keep his paper hand turkey on the bulletin board inside his office, so he can look at it year round in the few moments he sits in there. We currently have a few old and new ones posted up in the XWCL graduate student office space:

Paper hand turkeys in N412. The creativity is boundless!
Photo credit: Logan Pearce

Happy Thanksgiving, from XWCL. If there’s anything I’m thankful for, it’s this research group – I’m making it to the finish line of graduate school strongly due to the assistance of everyone in XWCL and CAAO. I hope you, dear reader, get the opportunity to celebrate with who and what you’re thankful for.

Song of the Day

One of my staples growing up was the Charlie Brown holiday specials. My brother and I would watch them on VHS. I think at one point we accidentally had 2 copies of the Charlie Brown Christmas? I probably should watch this again, maybe today (if I don’t fall asleep halfway through from a food coma or writing my dissertation, whichever one comes first).

Vince Guaraldi Trio – Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Theme