2017 DAY 16: Good Luck MAGAO Team

It is great to see you again, specially after last time…

I hope you could get very good data on these nights, and weather helps for the time left, good luck guys, beware the moonlight


And before leaving Chile, you should enjoy the beach!! Remember we are in summer


And for these nights, when you are not working, why don’t try with salsa?

2017A DAY 15: The Amazing Weather Predicting ASM

Tonight is my first calm night driving the AO system in 5 nights. It is great that everything in MagAO/VisAO/Clio is working well together again. Katie is getting great data and Kevin Wagner has joined us at Clay.

Clio’s data as we went through an Earthquake tonight. Upper left image AO, all the rest are AO + earthquake — loop stayed locked!

I was having such an easy time running the AO that I was “volunteered” into writing tonight’s blog post.

Last night’s very rare high humidity night (60-80% humidity all night) was so well sensed by our capacitive sensors on the ASM that I was reminded how capacitors really are barometers. Then I got to thinking that the ASM has many unsung talents in weather prediction.

When I was a young lad I was always interested in science and part of that was a love of weather. My grandfather Jack Close who was a bit of contrarian realized this and purchased a “weather predicting donkey” for his home. I was very excited to meet this clever donkey. I was a bit less impressed when I finally got to meet it. We went outside and he pointed to a round piece of wood with donkey painted on it with a little tail made of wool stapled on to the wood for a tail. Below you can see a picture of a similar weather predicting donkey:

Now that I’m all grown up I’m pleased to present my very own weather predicting ASM. And, since long time readers of the blog know how Katie and Jared love rules: here are the rules of how the weather predicting ASM works (this could actually replace sections in our operating manual):

The Amazing Weather Predicting ASM

So here are the rules of how the weather predicting ASM should be always used:
ASM state = weather: Action
ASM dry = Nice Night: keep observing
ASM can’t set = humid night: Close dome and warm up the ASM –it is cold and damp
ASM wet = Rain: stop observing!, and repeat what we did for the last 10 months to repair liquid in the gap
ASM frozen = Cold: Call LBT for advice
ASM’s tip-tilt loop goes crazy but stays locked = small earthquake: remain calm and ride it out (see Clio’s earthquake images above!)
ASM’s tip-tilt loop opens = big earthquake: HIT THE BIG RED EARTHQUAKE BUTTON (then, do as the day crew do, and run out of building)
ASM’s tip-tilt loop good on one side and bad on other = low airmass: blame ADCs for a while, then replace Tip-Tilt mirror
ASM’s Shell blows off: Tornado: OMG I hope MagAO-X gets built soon…

I think Papa Jack Close would approve…

A nice song that I like about fireflies

2017A Day 14: Step On The Gas

As Alex described yesterday, we had to make a major mid-run repair to our system. One of the most important components of our Pyramid wavefront sensor failed on Alycia’s 2nd to last night. So we had to light the bat signal, and, as usual, our Italian collaborators and the LCO crew answered the call. First, Runa connected early on his Sunday morning to discuss piezoelectric actuator failure modes, and then Roberto, Mario, and Alfio stayed up late into Sunday evening in Italy to help us troubleshoot and confirm that our tip-tilt mirror (TTM) was broken. Then, the LCO crew helped us crane off Clio and the NAS first thing Monday morning. Meanwhile, we consulted with Enrico about how to do the change out without ruining our optical alignment, and once we had enough lasers bouncing off enough things, we swapped out the TTM with our spare as fast as we could, getting it done just in time for the crew to crane the NAS and Clio back onto the telescope just before dinner and in time for us to get it all re-connected in time for sunset. After a few software fixes under the guidance of Alfio, we closed the loop, Katie stepped on the gas and away we went.

Laird likes to say that our AO system is a fine Italian sports car (as compared to all those minivans out there), and Enrico compared our TTM change to a Formula One pit stop. So I thought I’d illustrate it. First, this picture identifies the roles various people played in our little drama:

This is the WFS pit. We have a slightly different crew for ASM problems.

And here it is, somewhat sped up from actual speed on the mountain:

Here’s a pic of some laser alignment spots.

The inside of the WFS, with laser spots to tell us we put the mirror in the right spot.

Thanks to everybody who helped us pull this off: our collaborators in Italy, our amazing LCO crew-mates, and our patient observers.

Quote of the run: “What!!!! How do these things work at all?!?!” — Laird Close, investigating capacitive sensor theory.

It does turn out that Viscachas are mostly useless at times like this, but they are always there to say hi on our way up to the summit.

Not very good at optics, but supportive.

Tonight’s sunset behind a working AO telescope.

Sunset and Clay

2017A Day 13: Much excitement for first time users!

This was my first time at Magellan along with Felicity B. Hills, a grad student at U. Michigan. I feel like we’ve been truly inducted into the group of MagAO users, watching a very capable instrument team encounter difficult problems and solve them. Alycia graciously let us watch and follow along with her observations for a few nights, which is when the fun began. Two nights ago the piezo tip-tilt mirror started misbehaving, literally sending a buzz throughout the whole dome. By the start of last night the diagnosis was not good, the mirror was busted. MagAO would need to come off the telescope so that Jared and Laired (with help from the crew and Italian colleagues overseas) could swap in older, working equipment to salvage as much of the run as possible. There was no way it would be back up on time for our night — or so we thought!

So we used last night to get some practice running Clio, and even took some seeing-limited observations. Katie also showed me the position of the pupil with the telescope at zenith and rotator at zero, for whenever I might want to calculate the relative position of the ASM & spiders and Clio’s cold stop.


I jolted out of bed in the late afternoon after checking my email — there was hope! Jared and Laird worked all day to set up everything and get right back on the telescope before night. We’re very grateful for their effort getting things installed and working quickly, an effort aptly described several times tonight as “heroic.” We’re also very grateful to Katie who stayed up with us to run the instrument, answer our questions, and help correct our mistakes. And of course many thanks to our wonderful telescope operators Mauricio and Hernán! I’m happy to report that we are not going home empty handed.

We’ve checked off a lot of experience boxes this trip, including several cute animal sightings:






And in keeping with the rules, my song of the day: