MagAO-X 2019B Day 5: Second Light

Today marks another historic and successful night of MagAO-X First Light…First Light Part 2! By the end of the long 24-hour day yesterday, we were all falling asleep in our chairs (except for Olivier who has mastered the art of staying awake). But thanks to Joseph’s heroic efforts, we were still able to produce a worthy blog post for first light of the instrument!

Today we have switched to a night schedule, so our “day” technically started at 6:30pm for dinner and ended at 6:30am for sunrise. But before I continue with MagAO-X Day 5: Second Light, I have some bonus pictures to contribute from yesterday!

Here is a nice model of what MagAO-X and the electronics rack should look like next to the telescope:

Simulated model of MagAO-X and the electronics rack sitting next to the telescope.

The instrument was designed to be placed 1 inch away from the Nasmyth port of the telescope, but we started with the instrument a couple feet away from the telescope to give us room for our alignment procedure.

MagAO-X sitting on the Nasmyth platform a couple feet away from the Nasmyth port.

To align MagAO-X to the telescope, we needed to insert a laser into our instrument that would shine out towards the telescope. The laser light would travel through the Nasmyth port, reflect off of the tertiary mirror, reflect off of the secondary mirror, and return back to us. If light comes back and hits our instrument, then that tells us we are aligned! If not, well, then we have some work to do.

Laird used some handy dandy binoculars to look into the telescope and get an idea of what we were dealing with.

Laird using binoculars to look at the secondary mirror.

Below is what Laird’s view looked like. It is quite confusing, but we can see the tertiary mirror with the primary mirror covers cracked open, and the secondary mirror as the small black circle hiding behind the image of the mirror covers cracked open.

Laird’s point of view

Since we learned in elementary school that 2 points create a line, we needed to create an alignment target in the middle of the Nasmyth port to make sure that our laser beam goes through the center of the Nasmyth port. Then, we looked at the secondary mirror with binoculars to see if the laser was hitting the center of the mirror. Laird used an Italian trick learned by Armando (Laird and Jared’s old colleague from MagAO) to create an alignment target at the Nasmyth port. Laird mimicked the “Armando Pose” to commemorate this neat alignment technique.

Laird’s “Armando pose”
Laird’s alignment target.

Once the alignment target was setup, we inserted our alignment laser into the instrument. The key was to align the laser so that it was aligned to our instrument’s chief ray.

Me handing Laird the alignment laser.
Laird inserting the alignment laser into the instrument.
Lasers on, panels opened.
The alignment laser inserted into the instrument.
The alignment laser shining back through our telescope simulator, aligned to our chief ray.
Me with the alignment laser shining out towards the telescope.

The panels were put back on and the laser shined through the entrance window.

The entrance window with laser light shining through.
Laser light hitting the alignment target and hitting the tertiary to the right.
Laser light hitting our instrument!
Laird looking up at the secondary mirror to find the laser beam.

Since we proved that our alignment method would work, we moved on to the final alignment, which involved bringing the instrument close to the Nasmyth port. We had a fancy alignment rod that helped us keep the instrument centered in X.

Laird in the dark corner, guiding the instrument.
Laird’s picture of the return beam hitting the tertiary mirror and returning to our instrument.

The instrument was moved into place and aligned! We measured the angle of the table with respect to the instrument for future reference using the laser tape.

Laird using the laser tape to measure the distance to one side of the instrument.
Me measuring the other side of the instrument.

Part of the clever MagAO-X design involves a floating optical table…the instrument actually floats on a thin layer of air! No one has done something like this for an astronomical instrument before. The idea is that floating will minimize the amount of vibrations in our instrument. We did a “float test” (turning on the air and watching the instrument) to make sure MagAO-X doesn’t hit the telescope. The air system calibrates itself when turned on, so the table rocks around like a boat until it finds its position. We had to make sure we gave enough room for MagAO-X to do its thing!

The MagAO-X float test!

Finally, Laird removed the alignment laser from the instrument.

Laird removing the alignment laser while Maggie is holding a flashlight.

Jared and Kyle installed the tweeter cables.

Jared and Kyle mounting 2,000 delicate wires.
MagAO-X is here!
Nice wide field photo of the instrument next to the telescope (photo cred: Joseph Long).

And Jared caught in the moment of first light on MagAO-X!

Happy PI Jared Males yelps in celebration of first light.

MagAO-X Day 5: First Light Part 2

Now that I shared my bonus pictures from yesterday’s adventures, here is a quick summary of First Light Part 2! The day started out with a beautiful sunset and calming scenery.

Another beautiful sunset at Las Campanas Observatory.
View of South from the telescope.
View of North at the telescope (photo cred: Maggie Kautz)

Jared and Olivier worked on Olivier’s CACAO program to calibrate the 2K deformable mirror and optimize its performance. There were a lot of improvements from the previous night, and we saw our first on-sky Airy ring!

Laird, Jared, and Olivier putting their minds together.
Joseph, Kyle, and Maggie working on the science camera focusing script.

After a while of calibrations, we closed the loop and we saw our first Airy ring on sky! The left image is z’ band while the right is i band. The images look phenomenal!

First on-sky Airy ring for MagAO-X on HD_29291! Left: z’ band. Right: i band.
First vAPP images on-sky for MagAO-X! Left: Halpha continuum. Right: Halpha.

These are big moments for the MagAO-X team and we are proud of what we have accomplished so far. It feels good to look back and see how far we’ve come.