MagAO-X 2023A Day 23: Until the very last photon

This is the time of night an astronomer’s workday would be in full gear, but dear reader, your favorite astronomers are all home or tucked into their LCO beds, dreaming sweet dreams. The MagAO-X team, working 24 hours since you heard from us last, have observed our last target, removed our instrument from the telescope, safely trucked it to the clean room, and started to pack it away for its long trip back home.

The last catwalk sunset
Jay enjoying the last of our Clay dome-openings

In this great relay race, Jared, Sebastian and I were the night team. As the rest of our team hit the hay around midnight, our noble observing efforts were met by some of the worse seeing of the run (after 22B, we do feel lucky to only have one or two nights to complain about, instead of the whole run). Around 1, Jared jinxed us with “At this rate, it’s going to be terrible all night and clear up to 0.5 arc-seconds right before we try to close.” In the great cosmic comedy the universe plays on worn-out astronomers, turns out he couldn’t have been more right:

Hitting 1.5as and 0.5 on the same night…

Seems like LCO weather agrees with my high school track coach, you can’t give up the race right before the finish line. So the night team observed until the sun declared our time up, and only then did we begin the task of shut-down and de-cabling.

The mega monitor, without anything to monitor.

We passed the baton to Laird and Joseph around 8 in the morning, and I’m told that the craning, carting, tethering, trucking and boxing all went well. I can only tell you what I heard because once Jared gave me the all clear, I sleepwalked straight down the hill into bed. Though I was solidly asleep for the rest of the day-time packing work, the successes did not go undocumented:

MagAO-X on the move
aaaannnd…. safe!
Optics: bagged and locked

Right before dinner, when I finally woke up, we were much further along into packing than Jared had feared we would be. Huge thank you the LCO crew who got us off the telescope so quickly, then helped us even more this afternoon to get MagAO-X in its shipping box. After a leisurely meal, the AZ crew headed back to the clean room and started corralling our doodads into the right corners.

Saran wrapping the electronics rack
Cables – managed

We start again bright and early at 8:30am to finish prepping ourselves and the instrument for the long flight to Tucson. Think of us, as we all try the magic trick of switching to a day schedule on a days’ notice.

With things going smoothly, we seem to now have this mythical thing called “free time” and with it the team sneaked in a little wildlife spotting:

Good morning, Guanaco! from Joseph
Farewell, fox family! from Jialin
The noble astrono-vizz

With these fancy new phone cameras, some team members are getting particularly good at the artistic type of astro-photography:

But wait! Where did Jialin and Jay go?? Rumor has it they got out just in time, and are having plenty of good adventuring before their 24hr journey to the US. Travel safe friends! See you Tucson.

Some pre-airport fun

Song of the day:

As we watched the seeing mysteriously dip last night just as we thought about calling it, Jared goes “you know that song, the Wellerman”? To Jared’s surprise and chagrin, I had completely missed the entire TikTok trend of covering this New-Zeland Sea ballad. It became popularized by Scottish singer Nathan Evans around 2021 but the original tune can be tracked back to the 1830s. It loosely follows a Moby Dick-esq narrative of a whaling ship being dragged along by an unattainable whale. Jared goes on to explain that the tantalizing 0.5 arc second seeing is our white whale, dragging us on until the last possible photon. With the night and the run ending, this felt more true than ever.

“The Wellerman” seems like a fitting song of the day, and of course I have heard it, all it took to remember was a quick search. How could I forget it? I love a good folk tune… love a Scottish accent… but wow I love a old sea song! What the conversation with Jared reminded me of is that, though I don’t really care for metal, heavy metal, etc… I LOVE Pirate metal. People yelling in general angst? I’ll pass. People yelling about the high seas? Sign me up. A fellow friend in the AO research field and bassist in their own right introduced me to Alestorm a few years ago, an Scottish band that exclusively does pirate metal. I haven’t gotten to see them in concert… YET, but I take this band as the single most impactful recommendation music-wise I’ve ever gotten. So in honor of our telescopes and how successful this run has been, I’ve picked their song “Magellan’s Expedition” for today.

“Magellan’s Expedition” by Alestorm

As a bonus, here is Alestorm covering “The Wellerman” because of course they did, everyone covered it, even Kids Bop 2022.

“The Wellerman” covered by Alestorm