MAPS Sep. 2023B Night 4: An interview with the team

Dear readers, we have no science news to report. It has been windy and has stayed windy, with a fresh splash of humid to boot. So unfortunately, we do not have new science content to report. The experts have already shared their knowledge of some of the instrument’s background so tonight we’ll take the time to get to know our fellow crew mates better.

First we’ll speak with returning costar, Amali Vaz, working hard in the AO Operator’s seat. She’s a jack of all trades, being well versed in the mirror and its moods, ASMs of times gone past, and now the new CACAO wrangler.

Q: What’s your favorite button to push?

A: Hmm now that’s a good question. It’s gotta be the space bar. I read somewhere the joke ‘ I keep pressing the space bar but I’m still here on earth, and I still think about that?

Q: What’s your biggest area of improvement?

A: Jared says he can’t hear when I push buttons, so I guess hitting the keys harder.

Q: What’s your favorite book

A: Station 11. It does a weird mix of scifi and post-appocalypse with an emphasis on art.It’s a very elegantly structured book, as well as a good story.

Q: Stranded on a desert island with only one of your crafts, which would you choose?

A: Wood carving knives

Pictured: Amali, humoring me.

Next we speak to Robin, a core member of the the Canadian team, and DOCRIMES Agent, about some poignant and topical questions. Robin is a grad student from Toronto and keeps trying to wear shorts in this sub 70s weather.

Q: What are you excited about for the future of MAPS?

A: Good weather. Getting back on sky.

Q: What’s your favorite day of the crossword?

A: Thursday. It’s always got a little trick to it.

Q: How would you describe grad school?

A: No comment.

Q: What’s your favorite Trader Joe’s snack?

A: Chicago mix, but they don’t have it anymore. This run, easy choice, the leaf chips. They were good, and fun!

Q: How would you describe Jacob.

A:Tall. Complex. Shortily challenged.

Pictured, some of the many Trader Joes snack table options.

Now talking to Jacob, who is more than just his height. He’s been on the team for the last four or so years as a grad student at Toronto, initially working on the IR WFS (That we’re very excited to use).

Q: What are you excited about for the future of MAPS?

A: Can you just write ‘Aliens, Question Mark?’

Q: Would you rather take on an angry Frenchman or a disappointed Canadian?

A: Well I’ve already taken on an angry frenchmen. But if Quebec, no way. But a disappointment Canadian is a lot of emotional labor. Like if you disappoint your grandma, that’s hard.

Q: Favorite astronomy acronym?

A: Well it has to be the one I came up with. ESCAPE, which is when you combine DOCRIMES and SPRINTING.

Q: How would you describe Robin?

A: A cartoon character, like a sly rabbit, but not bugs bunny. Wait but maybe Bugs Bunny. It’s the sarcasm.

Enough said.

Next is Manny. He’s one of our fearless leaders and has been on the last half dozen or so of the last MAPS runs. He is gracious with his supply of fizzy water and doles out moka pot offerings when the night starts to get rough.

Q: What is the historical trendline of your fizzy water intake?

A: Usually bring two cases of 12, but this time I brought 3. I usually run out. For MAPS? I always bring fizzy water.

Q: What’s the hardest part of your job?

A: The hardest part is managing people and many projects.

CROWD COMMENT: But that’s the whole job.

A: So yes, the whole job.

Q: What’s your favorite telescope you’ve worked at?

A: I’ve been to two, no three. I would say that MMT is my favorite. It’s closer to home, and feels homey. We have fewer bares

Q: What animals have you seen on the mountain? Please rank from ‘would pet’ to ‘would run away from’?

A: I haven’t wanted to pet any of them. In ordering from most to least pet-able. Mouse. Rat. Squirrel. Quattie. Turkey. Ring tailed cat. Deer. Bobcat. Bear. Mountain lion. Rattle snake. Helomonster.

COMMENT: Manny goes on to show us many pictures of animals hes’s seen.

This picture depicts some the good care Manny takes to keep us caffeinated.

Next up, the MAPS PI Katie! She is an Astronomer at Steward Observatory and comes from a long legacy of AO work. Watch out for her revolutionary new pet program at the MMTO coming.

Q: What’s your favorite project you’ve PI’ed for and why is it MAPS?

A: It’s MAPs because it’s so many things and that’s what makes it fun. There are so many different parts to it.

Q: What’s the most overblown but technically true statement you can make about the progress of this project (for funding reasons)?

A: MAPS is attempting to do the most number of things that are all related to Exoplanets. It’s all of the different kinds of planets, spectral resolutions. But we’re not galaxies. We’re not doing wide field yet. We’re doing all kinds of exoplanets and all kinds of science with them, imaging, mid resolution spectroscopy, high resolution spectroscopy, without having to be the highest order AO.

COMMENT: We’re the little AO system that could!

Q: You can only take one… Lynx or Ginger? (to the telescope)

A: “Well Ginger is my cat and Lynx is Jared’s , but they have switched allegiances. Last time I went to the telescope actually, so we’ll see when we go back. But for now, I’d say Lynx, he’s very good at advising grad students, he has a lot of opinions about plots. He’s shy at first but would warm up to the control room and walk over some keyboards. Maybe that’ll be the right button we need. AND! He actually snuggles, so a good telescope buddy.”

Q: What ply of toilet paper do you prefer for your laptop stands? Does MMTO meet the quality specifications?

A: For my laptop stand I require uniform material of abundance quantities. MY first night here I searched the facilities and this was the materials that meet my needs.

The Laptop stand in question.

Grant, who has been working on MAPS since re-aluminizing the secondary in 2018 (5 years ago) is a key member of the ‘Field trip!’ duo. He helps keeps our alignment in check throughout the night and sometimes trouble shoots from a very high forklift.

Q: What’s been your biggest success on the project so far?

A: The wavefront sensor board. Designing, aligning, and keeping the whole system from falling apart. This was the first WFS board I’ve worked on. How do I keep it from falling off the telescope? Use bigger bolts, and way more than you think you need.

Q: If you had to rename MAPS, what would you rename it?

A: What does MAPS even mean? MMTAO… something? Well we’re basically a big wind measurement devices. MMT AneMometer. So MAM’

Q:”What’s your one must-bring for observing runs?”

A: French Press, that’s been keeping me alive. I’m a novice, so this is my first actual ground coffee that I’ve done. I haven’t always been a coffee person, it really started last year.

COMMENT: this is coincidentally coincides with Grant starting on Observing runs.

Q: Have you worked at any other telescopes? How would you rate their comfy chairs?

I don’t get to sit at any comfy chairs at LBT… sometimes I get to sit on the couches. But the chairs here really have them beat

COMMENT: We leave Grant to enjoy his comfy chair in peace.

A picture from Grant of the ASM re-aluminization from back in 2018.

Finally Jared Males, self proclaimed “I’m just the software guy”. He has been a notable member of many AO teams in the past, and has already made many a git push for MAPS.

Q: What’s your favorite part of an instrument project’s lifecycle, having commissioned and worked on a few at this point?

A: First light. The first time you take it to the telescope and you get starlight into it.

Q: When would you eat the watermelon?

A: I would want to see an airy ring.

Q: What’s your software hottest take?

A: Writing software is a real professional skill. TOo many people just learn enough to get a plot made or whatever. You don’t do that with say, lens design. We don’t teach software like a real technical skill. A lot of people live with real technical debt because they don’t understand their software.

Q: You can only take one… Lynx or Ginger? (to the telescope)

A: Lynx. …. I was in Chile for too long one time, and Ginger abandoned me. I have never been forgiven.

Q: If Olivier was your brother, would he be your older or younger brother?

A: Definitely older, even though I am chronologically older than I am. Professionally he is more experienced. He’s generally thought of things before I’ve thought of it.

Q: If you could script people like you would script cacao, what’s the first shared memory stream you would write?

A: That’s an interesting Question. I would would cause them to listen to the semaphores in my shared memory so that they (my grad students) would instantly do what I wanted.

COMMENT: This seemed like a pointed answer. The interviewer will be returning to work.

The two cats in question, Ginger and Lynx.

Thank you for tuning in to tonight blog! Hopefully the MAPS team will return tomorrow with more science-focused content.

Song of the day:

Inspired by my current most common activity of sitting, and slow musical chairs, I present Sitting.