Comm2 Day 22: See You When I See You

MagAO won’t be back on the telescope for a year. That’s a long time. In the mean time, we have some amazing data to analyze, and we have some upgrades planned (which is why there’s such a long break). We’ll keep you posted as new results come out and our schedule progresses. The adventure isn’t over yet!

Laird, Katie, TJ, and I left LCO today. This was our last view of the telescopes.

Thanks to everyone at LCO for helping us get where we are. The future of MagAO is bright, and we are going to do a lot of fantastic science here.

The western valley below LCO. You can see the sunrise shadow of Magellan.
We made a pit stop at the offical MagAO watering hole, the Casino Enjoy in La Serena.
A cruise ship gets underway from La Serena. We’ll be back.

Some quotes:

“no, no, no.” — our waitress, wagging her finger at Laird. Apparently you can’t order beer before noon on Sunday in La Serena.

“No! The blog is over. I should be able to say whatever I want.” — Laird

Comm2 Day 21: All packed up

Today Laird, Jared, and I packed everything up in preparation for departing… and possibly not coming back for almost a year.

Jared was in charge of backing up all of our computers and archiving the VisAO data. We have 5 computers on the mountain: The WFS supervisor, the ASM supervisor, the VisAO supervisor, the VisAO camera computer, and the Clio camera computer. It’s a good thing he knows what he’s doing.

Jared starts up a bunch of jobs to back-up the computers and archive the data. Nice hard hat.

Laird and I supervised the ASM’s journey from the top of the mountain to the clean room in the ASB. This always makes me a little nervous. We had to wait until the afternoon to do it, because in the morning there were winds up to 33 mph, a bit too windy for shipping around such delicate equipment. But it went very well and the ASM is now safely in the clean room.

We bring the ASM down from the telescopes to the Astronomer Support Building where the clean room is.
The ASM backing up to the ASB.
The P.I. supervises closely.

Laird and Dave attached the new dust covers to the NAS.

Jared and I did an inventory of our supplies so that we can remember what we need to re-stock next time.

I said goodbye to Vizzy.

When I was walking down from the mountain tonight after doing a last sweep, I walked in the dark, and my eyes got adapted so that I could see my shadow by the crescent moon, and more and more stars appeared. The Magellanic Clouds really pop down here too.

OK, this picture of Enrico and Alfio under the stars is by Enrico from
Nov. 25th Comm1, but I also didn’t have any good night-time pictures (with my cell phone).

Comm2 Day 20: Off the telescope

Today we said goodbye to Alfio, Runa, Kate, and Alycia.

Here are Kate, Laird, Runa, Alfio, and Alycia hard at work in the Clay control room.

Then we removed the ASM, Clio, and the Nas from the telescope. It went well.

Laird and Juan lead the effort removing the NAS from the telescope.
The NAS is packaged up and lifted off with a crane.

Exhausted though we may be, we will miss this place after we’re gone.

The other day at sunrise, the sun on the clouds looked like a forest fire coming over the mountains

Comm2 Day 19: A spike of seeing

On our last night (last night) we had a spike of seeing up to 2” that gave our AO system a run for our money:

These spikes of seeing made us have to keep re-optimizing our AO parameters
Yuri Beletsky, Magellan Instrument Support Scientist, sent us this photo with the following note: “Tonight, while you were closing AO loops, I went outside and managed to capture some interesting view – while the night has been definitely not photometric, there is also quite strong airglow! You can easily see it as the green emission (due to atomic oxygen) on the image. On the center-right you can also see the bluish fuzzy ball of the Gegenschein.”
Stitching together a picture of the mountain and valley

Well, today we are taking everything off the telescope, it’s been a good run!

“But anyone could go in there and delete it!” – Laird, about doing the AO user’s manual on google docs
“Well, OK, but I could throw your computer off the catwalk.” – Jared
“We should do the manual in IRAF” – Laird
“Ah but then it would be a seeing-limited manual” – Alfio

Comm2 Day 18: Threatening the Secondary mirror




If you paid close (as the PI) attention to this blog, you probably understood that in AO you have to close (as the PI) the loop (as the PI did). The loop is a close (…) interaction between  a sensor, that reads something, and an object that does something in reaction. Here, the “thing” is a deformable mirror. The sensor sees, and ask the mirror to correct; the mirror corrects and the sensor sees something else; then bla bla bla from sunset to sunrise…

What if something goes wrong within this chain? Do you want to know it? Remain in this page. Don’t you want to know it? Look for the Middle Earth safety video on youtube…

A couple of days ago we experienced some very weird mirror stops: suddenly, one (or some, or all) of the internal protections of the fragile secondary mirror registered an error and forced the mirror to rest. Standard procedure. Sometimes, it is better to stop the observations than to clean the dome floor from the 1000 pieces of a broken mirror. Moreover, we are quite superstitious in Italy: “broken mirror, 7 years of pain”. Ask my grandmother (please, not in english), she will confirm….

So far, standard procedure. But which were the reasons for such sudden errors? We investigated deeply the issue….

First, let’s look at the last 1000 mirrors command (coming from the sensor). 1: nothing relevant, 2 nothing relevant, 3 nothing relevant, 4 nothing relevant…. 986 nothing relevant, 987 a huge bump on my poor little mirror. Picture below. Who is traitorously pushing 20 micron away the mirror?


Let’s make the sensor confess! Same procedure: let’s look at the last 1000 signals processed by the sensor. 1: nothing relevant, 2 nothing relevant, 3 nothing relevant, 4 nothing relevant…. 985 nothing relevant, 986 the sensor reads -150 instead of something about zero (picture below). So it will command at the step #987 something sensationally wrong to the mirror



This strange thing seems very likely due to a cosmic ray: an energetic particle coming from the sky. When it impacts on the sensor, this goes bananas. That’s the offender! A traitor cosmic ray.

Please, stop sending cosmic rays on the sensor. This is an old-fashioned, good family mirror, and deserves respect. Cosmic rays, didn’t you learn how to behave, when you were children??