2014A Day 26: Factor of a Million

Only one more night to go — I think we’re going to make it! Tonight was fun in a crazy busy kind of way. We did about 20 targets total, most of them were faint Clio targets. Vanessa had left at the end of the previous night, so this kind of a night kept me really busy and missing her. Here is a picture of Jared and Vanessa and me at the end of last night right before Vanessa left to go back to Tucson:

Me, Jared, and Vanessa on Vanessa’s last night

Tonight we bagged about 20 targets and spanned a factor of a million in guide star brightness. And that’s without any optics changes — we just bin the pixels on the CCD and adjust the gain, and we can lock on zero-th to 16th magnitude guide stars!!

Here we are locked on one of the brightest stars we can do:

Two bright stars on Clio. This is just about the brightest guide star we can guide on.

And on one of the faintest stars we can do:

Here we are locked on a 15.5-th magnitude faint binary (the bright one at upper left). And see the star about 5 arcseconds away, it’s still pretty round! Wow. OK yes, we did have amazing ~0.5” seeing tonight — yay LCO!

We also got some amazing images with VisAO:

A bright star in z’ on VisAO. What an amazing dark hole around the star, which means the AO correction is working so well that it is clearing out all the scattered light up to its control radius!

And finally, we imaged yet another faint substellar companion — Pluto!

Pluto and Charon! Our observers tonight, Amanda Bosh of MIT and Stephen Levine of Lowell Observatory, needed to get some data for their on-going program, and we were all so excited to image a (dwarf?) planet and its moon tonight! We are locked on Pluto itself.

Here we are in the control room at the end of the night, wrapping up our calibrations and data. From left: me, Amanda, Stephen, and Jared. Photo by Amanda Bosh.
Jared taking VisAO data
Laird keeping the AO system under control
Gorgeous star trails over the Clay telescope, courtesy Amanda Bosh. The dotted line is a blinking airplane flying by. Simply gorgeous. Click for high-res.

Quote exchange of the day:
“Ok, open the AO thing.” – Jen.
“Ok, the AO thing is open.” – Laird.

Video of the day: Amanda Bosh’s video of the Baade (left) and Clay (right) telescopes going on-sky for the night. Really cool! Thanks, Amanda!

Song of the day: