2014B Day 24: Observing ’til daybreak

The past few weeks have been full of exciting firsts* for me: first trip to South America, first real Spanish conversations, first taste of mote con huesillos, and especially exciting — first time observing at Magellan, and first time using MagAO!

*Unfortunately, there’s not been a first sighting of the famed viscachas — or any other high desert mammals, apart from astronomers and observatory staff! — but I don’t leave Las Campanas until this afternoon, so perhaps there is more time…
Taken during the middle of my first sunset at the Clay telescope.


A splendid afternoon view looking back toward the lodge, taken during the daily jaunt up the hill.
A splendid afternoon view looking back toward the lodge, taken during the daily jaunt up the hill.

I’m a graduate student at Arizona State, but am on a fellowship in Santiago until the end of January, so I was fortunate to arrive a couple days in advance of my run to learn the ropes and help Katie and Jared on their marathon MagAO run (so I had the lovely opportunity to overlap with Kate and Jordan too!) It was great fun training to operate Clio and learning about the AO system and VisAO.

Of course, I had to say hello in person!
Of course, I had to say hello in person 🙂

In terms of last night and tonight, everything went incredibly well — better than I could have expected! We had literally the best seeing I’ve ever encountered, anywhere. That number in the left upper corner is, indeed, 0.34 arcseconds:

Jared: "It's criminal how good this seeing is!"
Jared: “It’s criminal how good this seeing is!”

These fantastic conditions, coupled with a well-behaving AO system, meant that we powered through all my science targets for a whopping 38 targets — 22 of which were observed tonight! It seems this may be a record of some sort.

Slewing to lots of targets provided many opportunities to refine the sweet-spot landing between acquiring a star from the telescope with MagAO and placing it on Clio, and Jared and Katie worked on that in addition to running AO and VisAO while I was at the helm for Clio. Our quick observing cadence also meant little time for breaks during integrations, but I snuck outside to try some nighttime photos (difficult without a tripod!):

Inside, Clio and VisAO diligently integrate away under stunning skies. Can you recognize the asterism on the right?

Even at the end of a busy night, some late RA targets also meant observing well into (nearly beyond?) the morning twilight. Let no photon go unmeasured! Here is what it looked like immediately after I was finished observing this morning:

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 9.40.56 AM

I can’t believe how quickly these past few nights went by! I am sad to depart the excellent company of Katie and Jared, who are the most stalwart endurance observers I’ve ever met. They do an incredible job of keeping MagAO a well-oiled machine! I am so looking forward to coming back and observing, and helping out with future runs.

Katie and Jared follow their well-worn path back to a full day's sleep.
At dawn, Katie and Jared follow their well-worn path back to a full day’s sleep.
Every sunrise was breathtaking.
Each sunrise was breathtaking.

Finally, given the fact we finished at 6:17 am, I can think of no more appropriate song than this:

Until next time!

– Kim