2015A Day 41: Last MagAO Science Night of 2015A!

Well, the last FITS data files of 2015A have been read out, and MagAO is in the process of being tucked away for a cozy rest until 2015B. I had the last night of the entire run, and just like back in November, we observed well into morning twilight — no photon left uncollected! I’m so excited to see what these data have in store.

Here are some highlights from the last science night:

– We finished the last night on MagAO with nice steady 0.5” seeing — really great conditions, especially at the end of the night. Cerro Manqui and its surrounding atmosphere continued to smile upon us!

– Pyramidal chocolate (Toblerone): the ideal confection to consume while using a pyramid wavefront sensor. Thanks Katie and Laird!

(most of) The chocolate pyramid. Not so great for sensing wavefronts, but significantly more delicious.

– I got to run Clio and the AO system at the same time! (briefly.) I’m not up to TJ’s triple-threat AO-VisAO-Clio skills yet, but hopefully next time I can learn to run VisAO too. 🙂

– Jordan learning to run AO with Laird, and running the system for my program (awesome tiger hat sadly not pictured), which was super helpful.

– Sniffles throughout the control room… Not a positive highlight, but since almost everyone caught the same cold virus, we did have quite the symphony of sniffles going on.

– Jared unwittingly demonstrates his VisAO spidey senses: To start putting everything away, the team had staggered waking shifts: Laird at 8 am, Jared at noon, Katie in the afternoon (after she ran VisAO and AO for me at the end of night). Therefore, everyone departed the summit at different times during the night. Jared went back to the dorms and to sleep around 3-4 am, but woke up spontaneously a couple hours later and asked us how things were going… precisely when we ran into some camera/GUI issues with VisAO. The uncanny timing can only be attributed to his innate connection — shall we say a sixth sense — to VisAO and subconsciously hearing its cry for help.

After taking the last dark frames of the run this morning, I went up to the chamber to see what Katie and Laird were doing to put Clio away and start taking off the adaptive secondary mirror. Many hot-pink zip ties were detached (the zip ties holding up wires/cabling are color-coded, so you know exactly which ones to remove at the end of the run — so clever!)

Katie and Laird produce a zip-tie battlefield as they get ready to unplug Clio.

I also got to see the telescope tip down, as Laird and the many amazing engineering folks started to safely remove the secondary:

A snug fit within the telescope dome. Notice the curved handrail for the secondary.

Then, well into the morning, it was time to head back to catch a couple hours’ snooze before taking the van back to the La Serena airport.

9 am, after a good night of data collection.

Jordan and I had the same flight to Santiago, so we had some extra time to grab lunch at the airport (best place to get gigantic sandwiches!):

This photo doesn’t do justice to the immensity of his club sandwich. We sadly missed empanada day, but the airport restaurant was surprisingly good!

As Jared and Katie mentioned in the blog, I arrived a few days early to help with observing before my night. Other highlights have included:

– The first-ever sunny day I’ve seen in La Serena (from the Las Campanas Observatory headquarters, where the astronomers wait in between landing at La Serena and heading up to the summit):

LCO headquarters.
Sunny La Serena! Not so when we left.


– My first-ever Cerro Manqui viscacha sightings! So precious.

Lurking in plain sight…
Aww! The noble vizcacha, also known as “wise, weird rabbits with cinnamon bun tails”


– Some fantastic sunsets (Venus too), though not given proper justice with only my cell phone camera:

sunset1 venussunset

This has been an really exciting opportunity for me to learn lots more about MagAO! And it’s been great fun to overlap and interact with the other observers on Clay and at Baade: Alycia, Amanda, Atom, Jordan, Dave, Nestor, et al. And of course, a great experience to learn some new skills from the resident AOistas. Thanks again for having me, and for providing excellent support during my science night too. 🙂

Many thanks to Hernan for taking this photo — and to both Hernan and Jorge for their great telescope operation support during my night too!

Time for music! It’s probably safe to say that MagAO+VisAO+Clio2 is one of the “pride and joy”s of Magellan/Arizona, and so I leave the last science night with an excellent blues piece along these lines. But first, you MUST listen to the wonderful cover, performed on nothing less than a child’s Cars™-brand guitar from Walmart:

And the original by Stevie Ray Vaughan:

Alas, no Daughtry or Weird Al covers were available in this case. But never fear! There’s always some of that Weird Al brand of magic to be found:

Until next time! 🙂