MagAO-X 2020A Stay At Home Day 1: New life for MagAO-X, Earth and Space.

Let’s continue in the spirit of the blog post of yesterday with the introduction of another new member of the MagAO-X team. Last fall I finished my PhD at Leiden University in the Netherlands and I was lucky enough to get a fellowship to work at the University of Arizona. Now I do have to say that preparing for an emigration while finishing your PhD can be quite stressful. Luckily that is all done now so I could focus on settling in Tucson.

Settling in Tucson actually went a lot smoother than expected. We were a nervous about finding housing, because the housing market in the Netherlands is really in a tight spot at the moment. But it was really easy to find nice houses and apartments. Within two weeks of us arriving in Tucson we already found our current house. I would give the advice to everyone that is moving to Tucson to take an hotel / Air B&B / motel for a week or two so you can have a look at apartments and houses. You do not have to be afraid that you will not find something. After we signed the lease we needed a couple weeks to get all the standard things up and running (utilities and bank accounts etc.).

After settling in I could finally focus on working on/with MagAO-X! During my PhD in Leiden I worked most of my time on adaptive optics and high-resolution spectroscopy of exoplanets (some shameless advertisement of my thesis: ). In my remaining 2.5 years ( it has already been half a year since I left the Netherlands ?! ), I will add spectroscopic capabilities to MagAO-X. The idea is that spectroscopy can be used to increase the detection sensitivity to baby planets and to characterize the atmospheres of older more mature planets. The first case is something I have shown in an article that was published last year where we used spectroscopy to discover a second baby planet around the young star PDS 70! This was picked up by over two hundred of media articles( see for example an article by Fox News ). My favorite article is one from a Russian website (, where they discuss the process of cosmic IVF that aliens could use to make new planets.

Космическое ЭКО: Пришельцы искусственно «выращивают» планеты
Figure 1. An artist impression of cosmic IVF from

The possibility of life in outer space is something that fascinates us tremendously since people thought that other planets are in fact like Earth, a physical 3D spherical clump of matter instead of just something that brightens the sky at night. The next generation of giant telescopes will enable us for the first time to search for bio-signatures on planets around other stars than our own. The technology that MagAO-X is developing will enable such observations and I am glad that I can be part of the team to do this. While we are out trying to search for life on other planets, we should not forget that life on earth is also important and we all should contribute by staying home. And maybe that is also a place where you can find life.

Figure 2. A small bird nest in our backyard, with two baby birds.

Staying at home in Tucson is not bad. We have a nice spacious garden, which would not be possible in the Netherlands, and the weather is currently great (a good 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, I am not sure if I will ever get used to Fahrenheit). So we are enjoying our time at home, sitting on our patio looking at all the birds flying by and enjoying the nice weather while it lasts (I wonder whether our weak Dutch skin can handle the Tucson summer).

The song of the day has been inspired by the alien artist impression. The composition feels like a shot out of an alien boy band to me. Therefore, to keep some kind of connection to the blog post I have selected an iconic music video from the 90’s.