MagAO Commissioning Day 1: Left-Handed Vulture Droppings

We had an exciting day on the MagAO project here at Las Campanas Observatory.  There were bugs, birds, left-handed translations, a handoff, some solidified N2, and the sun got a little fainter too.

Today was the crew changeover.  See Katies’s post about how the next Turno was shown the workings of Clio’s dewar and LN2 refilling procedure.

The big excitement for the day was the solar eclipse.  See this post for more on MagAO’s first on-sky results.

We got a little done on the NAS today too.  Alan did a bunch of guider testing, and has declared victory. Jared and Katie tested the bayside stage motors, our very powerful X-Y-Z translation motors which move the entire W-Unit to align and focus.  These weren’t tested last night since we like to be careful and make sure we don’t destroy the project (as a general rule).  We tested their movement in 3 axes to verify that everything works smoothly and that no hoses or cables are pinched.  Now, in optics the Z-axis is traditionally along the optical axis, and positive in the direction of motion of photons.  Katie noticed that our X and Y axes then follow the “left-hand rule” for their coordinates, and was inspired to pose for a picture.  This is Katie’s way of saying, politely, that we do things a little backwards at Arizona.

Katie demonstrates the "left-hand rule" for the coordinate system of the X, Y, Z Bayside stages.

After getting the stages up and running, we could then align the system.  This means using the stages to get our artificial star on the optical axis of the W-unit.  With a pyramid AO system, we always feel good when we get a nice set of 4 round pupil images.

Our pyramid wavefront sensor pupils at left, and the VisAO spot on the left.
Here Jared is showing some relief that everything turned back on.

There have been a few animal sightings.  She’s the only one on the project to date, but Katie has seen a bunch of bugs.  It is spring, so maybe they are coming out.  We also saw a turkey vulture circling the summit.  Nobody got a good pic, but there was unambiguous evidence of its passage.

Our various mothers are going to be disappointed.

Quotes of the Day:
While discussing VisAO’s tiny field of view:
Matt Walker: “it would take a long time to do a sky survey with an 8 arcsecond field of view”
Alan Uomoto: “well, that depends, do you want to do it at 20 milliarcseconds?”
(good comeback Alan)

Tyson Hare: “Look how easy it is to entertain a room full of nerds.”  (during the eclipse)

After the eclipse, we were treated to yet one more amazing LCO sunset.

The Magellan 6.5m telescopes at sunset. Clay at left, Baade on the right.