MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 17: The People’s Cheese

Well, it’s nearly time to add another MagAO-X night under our belt and be greeted by the calls of the exceedingly uncommon black-billed shrike-tyrant (identified by Prof. Close!) from atop the lodge. I won’t be able to top the wonderful post by our skilled telescope operator, but the show must go on.

The Magellan Clay looking magestic as heck during today’s sunset.

Tonight was an engineering/Sebastiaan night and our awesome Dutch postdoc is probably in full-on zombie mode as he has been up for nearly 24 hours getting the VIS-X instrument up to speed, which is a MagAO-X fed, visible wavelength, integral field spectrograph to the eXtreme. In addition to that, he and Josh have been hard at work commissioning implicit-Electric Field Conjugation, which is just a fancy term for “black magic speckle zapping”. Speckles are a type of noise in high-contrast imaging that are easily mistaken for planets or other point sources of interest, so it’s really important that they are suppressed as much as possible.

The above images demonstrate the power of iEFC coupled with our knife-edge coronagraph, which blocks the host star in the middle of the frame. See how speckles are actually very effective exoplanet interlopers (top right)? No bueno.

Let’s break for a moment to appreciate the various Equidae who take residence on the mountain. I would like to point out that these photos were shot by the wickedly-talented Jialin Li, who also demanded I stop the car I was driving us in halfway up the road to the telescopes take these pics. No biggie, just 6 complete stops on measly 50 degree incline while driving a stick-shift…!

I regret to inform our blog followers that a crime has been committed here at the Clay telescope. Josh was quickly apprehended as the prime suspect and soon confessed to accidentally taking a massive honkin’ bite out of the middle of the cheese block. The honorable Judge Logan made the remark “This is a public cheese. Everyone has to use this cheese.” before sentencing him to eat his mistake. Apparently everyone took pity on Josh and decided to help him carry out his punishment because this was a full block of cheese at the beginning of the night…!

Ok, ok. Josh didn’t *actually* take a big’ bite out of the cheese.

We’ll end with a pretty picture of the burros during golden hour.

Hi, Harley and Savannah!

…aaaaand a sweet picture of Magellan Clay basking in the moonlight during prime time.

Another J. Li original

Song of the Day

We can all thank Josh for brieing cordial and introducing all of us to the GOAT, Ricardo Queso, who is sharply relevant today, may he rest in cheese. The original is a song some us might have gruyere up listening to or have fondue memories of, as it’s a gouda song, made beddar by the ripe wit of R. Cheese. Though good music is best spotted by the rind’s eye, it’s never a bleu day when the bad vibes are sliced off by creamy melody. After all, it just ain’t a party without havarti.

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 16: Summer time at LCO

After a long time, MagAO-X has arrived at Las Campanas, bringing the full team and others partners. It is a crowd that keep you alert all night long. 

This past Summer 2024 we were visited by several “friends” coming from the valley and also from high mountains. Apart from burros, vizcachas, we had “crias de cóndor y guanaco”, also a solitaire zorro. 

They were flying over our heads and moving around us without caution as if they knew we were not going to hurt them.

The condors are young as you can notice, on the neck will became a thick white collar and the guanaco, more than five at that time, you can see the fur is curly, later it will became smooth keeping almost the same colour.

This zorro was looking for something to eat, I can imagine, far from his home.

As you can see on these pictures and videos, they look so magnificent living on their natural environment, clear blue skies, pure air.

Guanacos were protected by others adult guanacos. Condors, we did not see adults, those are rare to came down.

There were almost four months of warm days and pleasant nights. It would explain why so many “visitors” we received.

And we still can see all of them around the site !!!

Some of those are here:

I have you to enjoy the song of the day, which is of course, El cóndor pasa.

It is a well known song whose original version from 1963 belongs to Los Incas voices. Remind you the Andes mountains, here at South America, involves the whole latin america people at this side of the world.


MagAO-X 2024Aa Bonus Blog: La Serena, Chile

It appears precedent has been set by An astronomer’s guide to Valparaíso and Bonus Feature: Santiago de Chile. So here is the chronicle of Katie’s and my traipse through La Serena, Chile on our way back to Tucson.

First and foremost we hit the beach! Just like California on the other side of the equator, the Pacific Ocean is not warm, but majestic as always.

We went to the historic shopping center and craft market, La Recova. Great food, great souvenirs, great sleepy pups. Knowing full well we would be missing the 2nd empanada Sunday at LCO, we took advantage of our time in proximity to Chilean restaurants.

The most exciting part of our trip was undoubtedly our tour of the Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve. The folks at El Pino Lodge (Carnegie’s base camp in La Serena) were able to set us up with an amazing bilingual tour.

In case any future astronomers would like to attempt this expedition, I will lay it out. First, you drive about 1.5 hours north of La Serena to Punta de Choros where you will board a boat. Katie and I don’t really know what we were expecting, but we weren’t expecting this:

You begin by cruising around Isla Gaviota in hopes of maybe seeing a whale or dolphin. We didn’t have that luck but we were not in for disappointment. The main part of the tour is slowly taking the boat around Isla Choros and taking in all the wildlife and crazy rock formations. The only people allowed on Isla Choros are biologists studying the animals. However, several sea lions popped into the water to study our boat!

Did we get to see the bell of the ball? The South American Humboldt Penguin? You betcha.

In the final portion of the tour, you get off the boat and wander around Isla Damas and take in the unique flora and fauna.

Finally, on our way out of the city we had to take a look at Faro Monumental de La Serena, the distinctive lighthouse 25 meters high (hey that’s how big GMT will be!).

Welcome to grad school Katie!

Song of the Day:

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 15: Night of Data Reduction and Science Yields

Around sunset, two of our finest graduate student AO operators took time lapses of the dome opening. Jay covered the inside of the dome, providing us with a view of the primary mirror cover opening. Eden on the other hand, set her phone on the tripod outside the dome and managed to get a video of the telescope turning, louvers opening, and also DIMM opening. If you spotted the abnormal blockage of the telescope view in the beginning of the video, you have witnessed the little bird that delivered a surprised gift for Eden – its guano. Thank you for your sacrifice, Eden’s phone.

Little bird also enjoying the sunset… and we mourn the lost of the cleanliness of Eden’s phone.

And of course, the blog doesn’t quite feel complete without photos of viscachas.

The night started off with 3 hours of engineering lead by Sebastiaan and Jared, and there are no photo evidence of such event because a majority of us were too amused by the newest entertainment channel at Clay: the window into the supporting astronomer room. As the engineering block ends, the telescope is then handed over to the observers of the night, Logan and Jay. The seeing conditions were non-ideal, but they are still hopeful of their data.

Logan and Jay sharing their work and experiences on an outreach program remotely with Steward grad student.

The rest of us spent the night reducing some of the data we have obtained from the past few nights. We are all excited about the science yield in disk and substellar companion imaging. So keep your eye out for our papers on astro-ph and/or ADS!

Jared sharing his reduction of disk observations.
Laird sharing his reduction and results on a super secret project.
Logan and Sebastiaan overjoyed with their discovery of the Xoomies 1B!

And I am bring back a segment of the blog that I enjoy every much: quotes of the day! Enjoy the selected anonymous quotes.

“Oh, its so good to have Maggie back”

“Sebastiaan likes his cars like he likes his AO loop closing: operated at unsafe speeds”

“No. It’s not yellow. It’s just a golden hour butt.”

Song of the Day

For the song of the day, I, with the assistance of Eden, have selected a song that well fits with the weather of the night: wispy clouds.

MagAO-X 2024Aa Day 14: A Happy Accident

Every MagAO-X morning begins with a hearty breakfast.

Jialin and Logan enjoying their pigs in a duvet. Jialin constructs a finderscope.
Jay constructs a breakfast hot dog.
Sebastiaan makes an interesting face.

Following a scrumptious meal and a full night of observing, I entered hibernation.


While I was in my state of low activity, the other group members observed a wild horse and some Vizzies.

“If I were meant to be controlled, I would have come with a remote.” ~ A common wild horse quote
A high pixel count Viz.


I emerged from a long day’s slumber just in time for dinner. Unfortunately there were no food action shots this time.

Eden had an opportunity to experience the LCO flora and fauna before heading back up to the telescope.

The culprit.
A PSA from the desk of Eden ‘Sparkles’ McEwen: Cacti do not make a good chair substitute.

Tonight’s observing run got off to a bit of a dramatic start when the operator discovered a strong amount of coma on the telescope. Although I forgot to collect photographic evidence of the events that immediately followed, I constructed an artistic depiction for everyone’s benefit.

Trouble at the telescope!

After we recovered from the early evening drama, the night progressed very smoothly. In fact, things were going so well that Jared began regaling some MagAO-Xers with tales from his seafaring youth.

“When I was a young warthog…”

And then…a happy accident occurred! Twins!!!!!

We discovered two companions within this image. Can you spot them? Hint: Look to the upper left.

To close out this fine day (or evening…I have lost all sense of time), I have included a song by my high school band (per Jialin’s request) that I feel is aptly named.

Song of the Day: