MagAO-X 2023A Day 24: Homeward Bound

Well that was better. After our December run (trucking strike followed by extremely bad luck with the spatial power spectrum) we were all holding our breath for this run. This time, we got a good week in the cleanroom to tune MagAO-X up, and Cerro Manqui cooperated — delivering 0.27″ seeing at one point. As documented in previous posts, we got a huge amount of work done. We also detected a whole bunch of planets.

MagAO-X Phase 1 commissioning is now complete. XKID was the last thing on the official list, but we also got to the point where we can confidently act like a real instrument. We can point at a star, lock the high-order loop, align a coronagraph, lock the low-order loop, and start taking data, and do it all night long. We can target hop efficiently (for Alycia anyway). We’re achieving contrasts with “e-6” in them, and we are working within 2 lambda/D of stars (though not yet at the same time).

Don’t worry though, the excitement will continue. Everybody says the X in MagAO-X stands for eXtreme. But it really means eXperimental. Kinda like the the Billy o’ Tea, we’re never going to be done commissioning — because we don’t know what we don’t know and are still figuring out what works. The only way to find out is to keep coming back for more.

Here’s a viscacha doing an impression of the current state of the MagAO-X instrument and its keepers:

We’re all starting to blue shift.

After breakfast today we finished packing up. That meant putting the front door on the big box which holds the optical table, and then loading our electronics into its box and doing the always exciting dance with gravity to get it into the shipping position.

Smooth Criminal.
Apparently $1M worth of electronics being on a forklift isn’t as interesting as Sebastiaan’s footwear.

I was given permission to post a pic of myself “being PI”:

Look, if I bust out the label maker it was for a damn good reason and I f-ing meant it. T.B.C. the problem was bad threads on that lifting eye which make it extremely difficult to remove. To quote a wise man, “I’m not even mad…

After the exciting crane ops, the more tedious stuff has to get done. Applying shipping labels (which involves cleaning first) and bolting down various lifting fixtures we don’t want the shippers to use in transit (our entering assumption: if they can find a way to destroy it, they’ll do it).

Joseph cleans a spot for a new shipping label while I idiot proof some lifting fixtures that are for us only.
Eden attaching MagAO-X’s home address in case it gets lost and forgets.

After a quick tidy-up in the clean room, we’re finally bound for home.

LCO is an amazing place, with the best seeing in the world (… most of the time), gorgeous sunsets, comfy beds and great food, an awesome crew, and it somehow doubles as a zoo.

A pack of wild dogs ranged over the observatory this morning. I’ve seen a solitary dog run by up here before, but not a whole pack.
Right before I left an agave in our yard started to put up a stalk. I’m excited to get home to see how it’s going — even though it’s a bitter sweet display.
The internet knows this as “the spirit animal” pose. In my experience it’s actually kinda rare.

Laird hit the road after lunch:

Packing done, time to go.
Jay and Jialin are home. But studying needed to get studied even in the UA club in Houston.
Post-packing malaise.

Our last sunset for 2023A — 2023 in total — was as amazing as always:

We’ll be back — wait until you see what’s next.
One last breakfast.
Venus is still with us. Her friends have moved on after the spectacular “winter” display.

I brought up The Wellerman during our last-night-that-wouldn’t-end because I’ve been listening to Colm McGuinness a lot since my last “end of run” post. I think I gave Eden the wrong impression though: I wasn’t aware of whatever happened on Tik-Tok vis-a-vis sea shanties and t.b.h. am not at all disappointed that she wasn’t either.

Being even more honest, and probably ironic, I don’t actually like sea shanties as a genre. Mainly because it’s usually done in that comedic irish pub style where for some reason someone hiccups during each verse. But the songs are actually working songs, sung to pass the time or keep the beat during dangerous and hard work, far and long from home with only the hostile sea for company. (let’s leave aside that few of the songs we’re talking about here are actually shanties . . . )

I “discovered” Colm McGuinness last December because of his My Mother Told Me. Which is not a shanty, but I have to say Colm seems to get it the way I get it: these are songs that deserve a little bit of epic flare. Examples: Roll Boys Roll and Santiana. [Dude also does an amazing Jolene, background here].

Before going further, note that this all fits in my series of “music I rocked to with Ben” b/c I recently got into sea-oriented music when he sent this with the assertion that they are what we (including two other friends from high school) would look like if we decided to start a sea shanty band. YMMV. (longer story includes that Home Free recently played in Brookings South Dakota, the official hometown of MagAO).

Anyway, the song of the day is a ballad about the journey home from a long and arduous adventure at sea. I love this job, and we’re doing something amazing as a team. I think we’re on the road to achieving our very lofty goals. But every time we do this thing we do at LCO, I have to acknowledge that “it’s a damn tough life, full of toil and strife, we AOistas undergo…”

Colm McGuinness “Old Maui”

Thank god, we’re homeward bound.