MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 15: Something is better than nothing

Hi! I’m Jensen, a PhD student at MIT and one of this run’s guest observers. This was my first time at Las Campanas Observatory (or any observatory, for that matter), so naturally the universe bestowed upon us the cloudiest, windiest, rainiest, and snowiest May week at LCO in recent memory. The usually featureless “Metro”blue forecasts were often filled with harbingers of astronomical doom. That being said, I’ve loved my time here and hope to come back for future runs!

Today started off strong. The clouds were sparse, the wind was mild, and humidity was low. The local fauna clearly noticed the improvement in conditions, because some grazing guanacos made an appearance for the first time this week.

A juvenile guanaco enjoying the sun. Credit: Gabriele Cugno.

To make the most of the good weather, and to commemorate my last (full) day at LCO this run, I took myself on a self-guided tour of the LCO grounds. It was fun to see the Irénée du Pont and Henrietta Swope Telescopes up close after several days of admiring them from afar.

The Henrietta Swope Telescope.

As frequently happens at LCO, a lovely sunset closed out our daylight hours. A mountain view like this is hard to beat.

My last sunset of the 2024Ab run.

Now, the moment we had all been waiting for: nightfall. The (relatively) clear conditions from earlier in the day had persisted, and after much anticipation, we were finally able to open the dome. The hunt for Hα companions could resume!

She’s alive! Finally some on-sky time with MagAO-X.

Unfortunately, just as the sky giveth, the sky taketh away. After a couple hours of patchy clouds and low- to mid-tier seeing, the clouds returned with a vengeance and forced dome closure. Thus ended our short-lived excursion into actually doing astronomy at a telescope. Some observing is better than none at all, though. At least we generated a few new .fits files in our time at LCO.

On the bright side, things can only get better from here – I look forward to returning and seeing everything to southern sky has to offer!

The Best 15 Minutes

My favourite part of today was when the Clay Telescope’s dome, at long last, opened. I never thought that watching metal panels slide and fold could be so exciting.

The Clay Telescope points skyward after a week of inactivity.

The Song of the Day

Today’s song of the day, for obvious reasons, is Nuages from Nocturnes by Debussy.

xwcl admin addendum

The blog operators would like to include these two photos collected by the rest of the team of our guest observers enjoying a clear sunset:

Gabriele Cugno enjoying the sunset from the hill.
Jensen and Gabriele from the catwalk.