MagAO Commissioning Day 26: Taking Clio and the ASM off the telescope

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:

Juan Gallardo managing installation and removal operations

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.

T.J. uncables Clio at the end of the night
Laird uncables the NAS in the morning
Laird and Pato disconnect the ASM
Felix and Nelson lower the ASM
Felix redies the ASM on its cart
This is what a non-adaptive secondary mirror (NSM ?) looks like. Felix and Nelson raise the f/11 secondary to the top of the telescope, now that our ASM has been removed -- to prepare for the next observing run.
T.J. and Kate pack up Clio electronics
Nelson, Felix, and Victor remove Clio on its cart
Our day was coming to a close as the sun set. Which was weird because sunset marked the beginning of our work for the past couple weeks!

shutdown -h now

After the dome closed at sunrise we shutdown VisAO, Clio2, and the ASM.  Here are the big moments.

(Don’t get the wrong idea. We all actually love Clio – it just became the scapegoat for any and all problems that occurred in the last month.)

It is indeed time to go home.

MagAO Commissioning Day 25: So Long to the Night

Tonight is the last on-sky night for MagAO in 2012. Don’t panic. We’ll be back with a vengeance in Spring, 2013!

And just in time too! Jared and KT's coffee supply ran out tonight!

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.

These images were taken in greater than 0.8" V band seeing. That's roughly 75%-ile here. VisAO has performed very well.

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.

Katie with an NRM image... and soup.

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.

Me operating VisAO. Jared wanted me to post this to demonstrate that he's not the only one who can operate it. In fact, his GUI is excellent. I'm pretty sure he'll be obsolete soon.

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.

Before I learned to focus my camera properly for star shots, I took this slightly blurry picture of the southern Milky Way. You'll see the southern cross near the lefthand edge of the frame and the LMC (more on this in the next caption) on the right.
The Large and Small Magellenic Clouds, two satellite galaxies of the Milky Way that are visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. Although he certainly wasn't the first to see them, Magellan noticed them on one of his voyages and so they are named after him. The red dashed line on the left is a plane with it's lights flashing, and not a UFO.
More like a sunset shot than a nighttime shot, but I thought that I should point out that the moon has gone through almost a full cycle since we arrived!
A 2hr star trail that I took last night. I set my camera up outside at sunset to take three of these during the evening. You can see that the telescope was pointed at several places during this interval, as several dome orientations are superimposed.
After the first shot, my camera blew over. TJ thought this shot was cooler than the first one. I was confused at first because I thought one of the other telescopes on the mountain had a laser guide star system... and was pointing it at the ground (dummies!). It's actually a highway, which makes much more sense!
The skies of LCO
My favorite. A 2hr star trail shot that I set up before I hiked up to the telescope one night. The psychedelic red lights are the taillights of cars driving up and down to the telescopes. No headlights though!


MagAO Commissioning Day 24: Rookie post

This is my first post…had to do it some time….

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:

Laird showing off his IRAF-reduced galaxy

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:

A tender moment shared between Laird and Ya-Lin, his first-year student.
The many computers doing their thing
KT working hard
Jared operating VisAO like a boss

And the MagAO PI wasn’t satisfied with my earlier picture of his pretty galaxy so here is a “real” image:

Official MagAO-detected galaxy (with north down)

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

With that…good night/morning.

MagAO Commissioning Day 23: Galaxies are …faint

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!

Quick reduction of our first attempt at imaging a galaxy while locked on a R=13 guide star 24'' away. Top: Finding chart. Bottom: Nod-subtracted Clio image (log scale, smoothed). In the upper right of each image is the guide star. The galaxy is seen at far left in the finder chart. The fainter star at lower center is recovered in the quick reduction. A more detailed reduction will be done to bring out the galaxy!

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!”