AO Summer School 2022: Eye Day

Summer school posts were delayed due to blog server space, but we’re back with recap blogs!

It’s summer camp season. The older you get, the harder it gets to secure a summer full of bunk-bed living, bug spray, buffet lunches, and late night card games. The folks at Santa Cruz gave us a pretty wonderful approximation, chock full of AO knowledge to boot.

The accommodations were a mere minute walk from the conference hall.

All last week we started our days in campus apartments, wandered to breakfast in the nearby dining hall, and then took the short walk to the conference center. All in the idyllic redwood forest of Santa Cruz, of course.

Today it was the vision scientists turn to talk.

Possibly one of the most exciting part of the summer school was the vision science talks. The first two days we took deep dives on AO generically and AO for astronomers. The third day, we got the rundown on resolving the cells of our eyes, sorting by color receptor, and exciting them individually to mimic colors independent of the excitation laser.

An AO system for measuring the distortion of the eye, set up in the lecture hall. Used since the early days of the AO summer school.


We got the opportunity to measure the aberrations in our own eye! In real time Professor Austin Roorda was able to map the distortion in the SH and tell participants the magnitude of each Zernike polynomial. Of special interest were those of us who had glasses, where he was able to get uncannily close to their true prescription (from the focus term). He’s been teaching at the summer school since its inception in the early 2000’s

Austin taking a wavefront measurement of my eye. We were unfortunately not able to see the edge of my contacts.

In the lab section of the day, after lunch, we were lucky enough to get to see the aberrations in our own eyes. There were a few sized pupils we could check against, and we could convolve the distorted PSF with letters to check our vision.

My Eye distortions, decomposed by zernike polynomials (top left), plotted by phase (top middle), turned into a PSF (top right) and convolved with the letter E (bottom middle).

We also got to see a bare-bones AO bench, where we closed the loop and inserted a turbulence screen. They trusted us enough to take out some lenses and have us put it back together again. Even for those of us with experience in labwork, it’s still a treat to get to investigate a system with minimal hazard to research deadlines.

Warren (middle) and Jay (far right) study the AO bench kit.

On the last day, after some exciting HCIPy talks and hands on work, we were treated to a much anticipated event, the Visual Optics Awards! Catagories included the Thirty Meter Telescope award for largest pupil, The Hubble Space Telescope Award for the poorest optics, and a medal ceremony for best RMS WFE after defocus and astigmatism correction.

Top 3 smallest RMS errors in the class, with PSF displayed below. Our own Warren came in 3rd.

Suffice to say, the week was over too quickly. A huge thank you to the organizers at UCSC and CfAO! I learned more than I thought I would, have many foundational papers to start reading up on, and a whole new community of AO enthusiasts to look forward to at future conferences. Hopefully I will be back at some point to help out! For now, I’ll be fondly remembering Santa Cruz with all my sunset beach photos.

Almost full moon at the Memorial lighthouse down on the coast.

Song of the Post: Home by the Sea by Genesis

Bonus: Warren wheeling away on our last day.

The bike rental is in town.
He had to get it all down the hill somehow.

UCSC’s AO Summer School 2022: The Times That We Live In

I think I speak for all three of us MagAO-Xians that went to the AO workshop last week when I say that it was a blast! Between the beautiful campus at UCSC, fun hands on activities, and friendly participants there was always something to focus on (heh). Unfortunately it was probably the diverse group of international attendees that had COVID-19 prowling for victims, and I was one of the ones to get caught in the nets…! Thus I unfortunately had to miss the last few parts of the event, but the parts I did get to participate in was rich in really cool AO things.

Like Warren and Eden I got my eye’s aberrations measured by happily staring into every (very low power) laser they told me to.

I was mesmerized by lectures detailing all the non-astronomical applications of AO — who knew microscopists could benefit so much from AO? I also got a chance to converse with Dr. Phil Hinz who (to my surprise) contributed work towards the MagAO/Clio project. Astronomy is such a small world. I especially enjoyed seeing Prof. Olivier Guyon’s presentations on things going on over at the SCExAO project.

Super hike through the greater UCSC campus area with some UA friends! (ft. Hélène Rousseau from Steward Observatory)
Lunch was made interesting with aggressive squirrels wanting to go halfskies with everyone on the delicious cafeteria food!
One last stroll through the campus to spot more wildlife before making arrangements to stay off campus for the last day.

Onwards on the road to recovery…

Song of the Day

The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me

BONUS CONTENT: Santa Cruz Boardwalk

On the first night of the workshop we visited the beach and walked along the boardwalk which had a lot of fun carnival games.

MagAO-X Takes Montréal Day 5: La conférence d’espionnage

It is extremely illegal to smuggle Andean mammals of the high desert into downtown Montréal, but I have always wanted to try poutine, and MagAO-X already got me as far as Tucson anyway.

At the border, I tried to explain I was going to the SPIE conference but I’m not sure Google Translate was working.

Today, Laird and Lauren both gave their talks, which I’m sure were lovely, but I honestly had trouble staying awake after the long flight from Tucson. Here’s a picture of me trying to pay attention to a conversation between Olivier, Jared, and Laird.

It was worth the price of the ticket just to see all three in person, again. See you in November, señores!

Song of the Day

The Canadian Fish and Wildlife Service is hot on my tail, so I must return to Chile… but I don’t regret a thing.

“Non, je ne regrette rien” — Edith Piaf

MagAO-X Takes Montréal: Days 3 and 4

*A new grad student has entered the chat.*

Hello Blog! I’m Eden and I’ll be joining the MagAO-X team this fall as an OpSci grad student. This SPIE I’m presenting my wavefront profiling work on imaka, a GLAO demonstrator,  but I’ll be joining the high contrast crew in no time.

Happy to report that I survived my Wednesday poster session.

This conference is much more exciting, informative, and thrilling than any of the online approximations the last two years. So far, as a first time SPIE-ian, I think I could summarize the experience so far as a mix of:

  • Cutting edge talks illuminating the future of our field and fully inspiring me to start over my research from scratch.
  • Celebrity Spotting:
Jared spotting Olivier Guyon in the AO session.
  • Stalking the exhibition hall for the elusive free coffee and rumors of the best freebies:
The Dutch booth had 400 units of a LEGO JWST model. They ran out in a day and a half.
  • Extreme pride at the progress of the field, the creativity of research, and my own ability to understand some of it.
  • Crashing at 3pm and making use of the food and resources in the community lounge networking space.
Leftover beads from diversity sessions means an opportunity.
  • Rallying for the 6-8pm poster session, and being surprised when the admin needs to increasingly aggressively flip the lights to force us attendees to leave.

Over the last two days, many MagAO-X talks have graced the stage of the the AO talk session. The group is looking very good up there.

Laird presents his talk on holographic dispersed fringe sensor.
Sebastian presents on behalf of Meghan O’Brien.

We’ve also had a fully stocked schedule of posters, some of which *cough Sebastian* had an ever present line.

Joseph explaining computer optimization to the next generation.
Maggie presenting on GMagAO-X’s DM optical design.
Noah Swimmer from UCSB presented an MKID camera for use behind MagAO-X 
Sebastian’s poster before the rush.

A very special session on Wednesday paid tribute to a titan amongst AO, David L. Fried of the Fried parameter and the Fried geometry who passed away in May. One of his close collaborators gave a history of his career which ended up being a historical overview of the field itself. As a younger scientist, it was humbling to see how much one man had contributed to the science I work with daily as well as how many around had gotten to work with him directly.

Of note, the memoriam presenter was just as excited as the rest of us to receive the speaker gift for the AO session:

“We r-not limited by seeing” with a back of the Fried Geometry

Hope everyone can stay strong through the last two days of this intellectual marathon!

Double french Songs for your double day blog:

Dream catching, aka its a dream to be at SPIE.
The title is English but the lyrics are mostly French.

MagAO-X Takes Montréal: Meanwhile back home…

While the whole group is living up up north, those of us left behind in the sweltering heat and humidity of Tucson in July got a treat today:

Everyone safe and sound in the loading dock staging room. The big white box in the back is MagAO-X, the foreground is the electronics box, and the grey box is our control computer.

That’s right, that’s MagAO-X back home all safe and sound and looking none the worse for wear from her journey home from Chile! Delivery was kind enough to happen when literally everyone from the group is in Montreal or otherwise elsewhere, except moi and undergrad researcher Roz Roberts.

Your’s truly and Roz, dripping sweat

Folks it was a rough one. After about 30 mins of watching the crane and maneuvering the dollies in the 6 million degree heat and 5000% humidity (I measured), I was pretty wiped. And all we did was move it off the loading dock into the staging room. Unpacking comes next week, so stay tuned for the next update!

I attempted to replicate Joseph’s excellent video montages to middling success:

Apologies for the vertical video, I didn’t realize my error until it was too late. I will never apologize for hamster dance.

The real heroes in the sweltering heat while I take video.

Hope y’all are enjoying the cool Canadian weather.


The song of the day is Heat Waves by Glass Animals.