I get to give an outsider’s perspective on the AO system as a guest blogger
tonight. It’s incredibly exciting to be here and see the AO working.
As best I can tell, the team was not intentionally showing off when just after
sunset, Alfio flattened the secondary, Gabriel our TO brought up the primary
mirror, TJ aligned CLIO’s masks and Katie was off and running for some CLIO
phase plate orientation tests on the Trapezium.
I spent the first part of the night trying to absorb how the three components
(secondary, visAO and Clio) all play nicely together. That’s 8 monitors of
information going at once. It’s mesmorizing to watch the pyramid wavefront
sensor, even if it’s just a slowed-down version of the real-time loop.
I have to admit to some dismay when I saw the bad cosmetics of the Clio
detector. Really, we’re working with that? I preserve it here so we can
reminisce about how ugly it was after it’s replaced next fall.
Katie and TJ quickly showed me that most of the centrally located blemishes
subtracted out well. And really, once I saw that lovely diffraction limited
image on it, I (mainly) forgave it its cracks, holes and delamination.
I’m enjoying watching TJ’s scripting efforts and his insouscience in the face
of guff from the VisAO/secondary crowd. Readout and usage of the detector is
pretty efficient, and getting better with every script that TJ writes. Maybe
if I can get up to speed on running Clio, I can provide a bit of a break to
the overworked commissioning team here who have been concentrating without a
break for over a week.
The optimism in the room is delightful. The weather helps; apparently the
commissioning team believes that Las Campanas is the Lake Wobegon of observing
sites. The telescope is strong, the skies are good looking, and all the seeing
is below average.
Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t note that we made awesome images of one of my favorite disks at not one, not two, but three wavelengths while running VisAO and Clio simultaneously. That jazzed me awake for several hours, but I have to admit that the travel fatigue finally caught up with me, and I had to head back for some sleep at about 3:15 AM. I walked down to the Lodge under a moonless clear sky, with the Milky way from horizon to horizon. The Galactic Center was rising. I actually had to look hard for Scorpius because there were so many stars that even Antares didn’t pop right out. Truly, the skies over Las Campanas are breathtakingly beautiful, so much so I almost woke up again. Almost.
Quotes from the night:
“You’re greedy, aren’t you? No, I see, you’re not greedy, you’re just spoiled” –Alycia to Jared who wanted to wait for the seeing to drop from 0.6 to 0.3″ before he did his favorite target.
“VisAO is going to melt” — Laird (you may have heard about its hot filter)