When you bring an expensive, delicate instrument to an observatory, you want there to be people like Juan Gallardo who put their full attention and serious effort into the procedures and operations for mounting and dismounting your instrument. Yesterday evening, we all met in the library/conference room, and Juan briefed us on the procedure to be taken today and tomorrow in removing Clio, the ASM, and the Nas from the telescope. Juan has been taking pictures and detailing every step, the whole time we’ve been here, and he put together a detailed and thorough document. Today the procedures were followed to safely and successfully remove the ASM and Clio from the telescope; tomorrow we will remove the Nas and store the ASM. Here is a picture of Juan:
So today we were back to a day schedule. Laird supervised Nas uncabling and ASM removal. T.J. supervised Clio uncabling and removal. And Juan managed the LCO crew, for a safe and successful instrument removal.
Tonight is the last on-sky night for MagAO in 2012. Don’t panic. We’ll be back with a vengeance in Spring, 2013!
We began the night tonight by looking at a bright star that Runa chose for calibration. Upon further inspection, and much to our surprise, it turned out to be a heretofore unknown binary! We’re calling it “Runa’s star” and will have to follow up on our next run.
We also commissioned a few of the more exotic Clio modes today, including the Apodizing Phase Plate (technical link, non-technical link) and Non-Redundant Masks (technical link, non-technical link). Both of these techniques are designed to probe the regions close to a star. One (APP) allows you to achieve extra high contrast close to your star (distinguishing faint planets from bright stars) and the other (NRM) allows you to image the inner regions of a system at extra high spatial resolution.
On the VisAO side, we managed to achieve, as our PI describes it, “the highest resolution image ever taken in the universe”. This means that we had great seeing and great AO correction and looked through our shortest wavelength (“bluest”) filter – [OI] at 6300Angstroms. We were able to achieve resolutions of <25milliarcseconds. An arcsecond is 1/3600th of a degree, so 25 milliarcsecond resolution means we can distinguish objects that are separated by only 0.0000007 degrees on the sky! By contrast, the resolution of the human eye is a paltry 16 arcseconds or so. Stay tuned for Laird to write a paper with a title something like his quote above.
Don’t stop reading the blog because we’re pulling MagAO off the telscope tomorrow either! We’re taking lots and lots of data home that we will have to analyze “for real” instead of on the fly at 3am. We expect to do much better when we return to Arizona, triumphant and well rested! We’ll be keeping you updated as we begin to quantify our on-sky performance for future observers, establish bragging rights, prepare for conferences and make new scientific discoveries.
Quotes of the Day:
“Clio sucks!” -nameless Clio operator
[sadly] “What? Your TO sucks?” – Jorge, the TO (Telescope Operator)
“Time to leave this valley of tears” -Runa. Apparently having a new star named after him wasn’t enough to counter the valley of tears effect.
“If my plane crashed, I would still want you to graduate” -Kate to Jared, after he showed her the data drive she would be taking back on the plane with her. We’re sending several copies on several planes just in case. I swear this was going to be a quote even before I agreed to write the blog post!
In honor of our last night on sky, I’ll leave you with some of the nighttime shots that I’ve taken this week.
Tonight was divided up into two separate halves. In the first half of the night, we went back to some faint guide stars to both confirm that the AO could reliably lock on them, and to test out a few bugs on Clio.
The previous night, Clio had some pupil misalignment issues (human error by ME), causing light leaks and overall bad quality data at J, H, and Ks (the wavelengths needed for the galaxy imaging). We repeated one set of the galaxy imaging tonight after fixing the problems with Clio, and it was like night and day: much better performance at short wavelengths. This was a big relief.
After the first galaxy was imaged, we moved onto a much bigger, closer, and generally prettier (sorry Dan) galaxy to see if we could lock on the core. And…we can! Here is a beautiful image obtained by Ya-Lin and Laird using the impeccable IRAF:
After we showed how awesome galaxies + AO is at Magellan, we tested out some additional wavelengths on Clio, including the “ice” band filter for the first time.
The AO ran pretty smoothly the whole night and so generally it was a fairly quiet night in the control room. Here are a few additional photos from the night:
And the MagAO PI wasn’t satisfied with my earlier picture of his pretty galaxy so here is a “real” image:
quote of the night (in response to laughs at advisor instructing advisee on how to use IRAF):
“they don’t realize that what you hold in your lap is pure IRAF magic” -Laird
Well, we tried out our faint guide star modes tonight. We locked on a 14th magnitude guide star in bin 3, and a 16th magnitude guide star in bins 4 and 5! We were getting down to 90 milli-arc-second PSFs in K-band, where diffraction-limited is 70 mas, while correcting fewer than 100 modes.
In this image we are locked on a 13th-magnitude guide star 24” from the galaxy (Clio image is below the finding chart). We would like to thank D.M. for the quick reduction and feedback on our faint guide star work. This is a big deal! We were able to lock the AO system on the correct faint star in the field, keep the galaxy on the chip, and deliver a 0.25 arc-second PSF in 1” seeing and 1.7 airmass (about 35 degrees up from the horizon) on a faint guide star for off-axis science!
OK, look. This is a blog about science and engineering, and occasionally animals. But we’re tired. We’ve been here for a long time. It’s all we can do to keep up with our data logs and the infinite list of things to test and implement. So the rest of today is quotes:
The VisAO Data Reduction team trying to figure out their rotator angles:
Laird: “It’s 90 degrees”
Kate: “It’s 270 degrees”
Jared: “It’s 27 degrees”
Laird: It’s 7 degrees”
Kate: “It’s 97 degrees”
Jared: It’s 180 degrees”
Alfio: “Well now I know why that galaxies book I read was heavy on the theoretical modeling and weak on the observations. Galaxies are hard to observe!”
Laird: “Unlike with this galaxy nonsense, we will be able to see the young stellar disk right away!”
Laird: “Guys, just between you and me… and don’t put this on the blog… but …”
Jared: “It’s ok. We have another problem.”
T.J.: “We’re ballpark exactly on the sweet spot.”
Jared: “OK, T.J., I’m about to start saving data here.”
T.J.: “I’ve *been* saving data.”
T.J.: “Squinting is like binning.”
Laird: “High-order AO used to be 8×8”
Jorge: “The sun is rising! I have to close the dome!” (Pause… go in dome… close dome… come back to control room) “…OK, good, no fire!”