MagAO-X 2019B Day 13: It Works!

Well that was exciting.

The last three of us are on our way back to Tucson. We love being at LCO, but after spending most of two months there it’s a great feeling to be going home.

In case you missed it, MagAO-X works! We can close the loop on sky with real starlight propagating through real turbulence. Laird, Olivier, and I first started developing the concept of MagAO-X in early 2015, and many people have contributed along the way. I’d like to especially acknowledge the awesome contributions of the “army of grad students” [not my words] that really made MagAO-X come together over the last 4 years. Great job team.

We are all super thrilled to finally see our hard work pay off. Here’s to many more successful MagAO-X runs at LCO!

To my knowledge the tradition has not yet been upheld on this run. So here it is.

Hi Mom.

Our driver made sure to point out the locals on the way down.

Owl sighting

La Serena looks, to us passers-though, like it’s more or less normal. That may not be 100% true, but it’s nice to see some familiar characters.

The street performers are back.

Way back in 2012 an intrepid, fresh-faced crew of AOistas stopped at the SCL Holiday Inn for Pisco Sours after a long run at LCO. Laird, Alex, and I recreated that photo at the very same table. A few things have changed (though I still have never seen a pirate mine).

A tradition too

The big caveat is that the run isn’t quite over, at least not for me. MagAO-X itself isn’t on the way yet, but will be following us in the next week or so. I won’t be able to completely relax until it’s safely back the in lab at Steward Observatory. Hopefully fewer delays than the trip down, and we’ll be back to work after the New Year.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 12: The End

Well it has been a long, exciting, and successful run for MagAO-X first light, but now it is time to say goodbye to LCO (until next time). We successfully closed the loop on-sky with MagAO-X and took plenty of data to take home with us, and now we are all packed and ready to ship MagAO-X back home! We expect MagAO-X to arrive in Tucson by January, so we will have a few months to work on the instrument before we return to LCO in May 2020.

Today, we finished boxing up MagAO-X and the electronics rack. We cleaned and organized the clean room and made sure all of our MagAO-X tools and equipment were stored safely, and then we were done! We finished just in time for a nice, relaxing dinner and now we only have our clothes to pack. Here are some pictures from today:

MagAO-X was moved onto a wooden pallet for shipping support.
Juan took a big hammer to the pallet to shim it to the center of the MagAO-X box.
The MagAO-X box lifted by the fork lift.
MagAO-X is ready for pickup!

After lunch, we spotted a family of guanacos! There seemed to be a mother, father, and two children in the family. I was quite pleased to see guanacos two days in a row after not seeing them the entire time I’ve been in Chile.

The suspected “dad” of the guanaco family.
The rest of the guanaco family (mother and children?).

We headed up the hill after lunch to pack up the electronic rack.

Juan and the mechanics lifting the electronics rack shipping box.
The shipping box lifted up.
The front cover removed.
The top cover removed.
The electronics rack being inserted into its shipping box.
The front and top panels were bolted on.
The box was laid down.
The fork lift was used to place the electronics rack next to MagAO-X
They are ready to go!

We were glad to finally see the instrument safely packed up and ready to go. The mechanics did a great job, so thanks to them!

We finished cleaning up the clean room and put all of our stuff away. Now the clean room looks super clean!

Now we are ready to go home. It’s been a great run LCO, we will miss you (the food). But no matter where we go, there is almost no place like home for the holidays.

MagAO-X 2019B Day 11: Packing Up

Yesterday, after our last night on-sky, we began moving the instrument off of the telescope to get it ready to ship back home to Tucson. This also meant that we had to shift back to a day schedule, so Laird and I woke up from a short nap to begin the move at 8:00 am while Jared, Joseph, and Kyle went to bed. The days get a bit mixed up when switching between night and day schedules, so today’s blog post will include events from yesterday and today.

We began building the cart around MagAO-X on the Nasmyth platform on the morning of day 10.

Building the cart around MagAO-X

We lifted the cart up to the instrument using the crane and bolted it to the instrument. Then, we lifted up the instrument off of its legs and rolled the legs away.

The mechanics carefully balancing the instrument.
Mechanics and Laird rolling the legs onto the elevator.
The legs were placed on dollies.
The legs were rolled into the Auxiliary building.

Then, we rolled the instrument into the Auxiliary building.

MagAO-X at the bottom of the elevator.
MagAO-X in the Aux building.

To ensure that MagAO-X is installed on the telescope exactly the same way in May 2020, we had the mechanics match-drill four of the table leg plates to the Nasmyth platform. This will help us find the exact alignment position of MagAO-X in the future, to make the alignment process faster and easier.

Laird and I wrapped up the instrument in saran-wrap and emergency blankets for the move from the telescope to the clean room (the emergency blankets are to protect the instrument from excessive heat exposure from the sun).

MagAO-X looking like it’s ready to go to space even though it’s just going down the road.

After waiting for several hours for the Isuzu truck, we finally moved everything to the clean room.

MagAO-X on the Isuzu.
The table legs on the Isuzu.
The electronics rack on the pickup truck (and the three stooges Laird, Jared, and Joseph).

Finally, Laird and I crashed for the night and our first attempt to stay on a day schedule was somewhat successful.

Today, we woke up early for breakfast and said farewell to Kyle, Joseph, and Olivier as they left on the 8:00 am shuttle.

Kyle, Joseph, and Olivier leaving on the shuttle.

Then Jared, Laird and I headed up to the clean room to pack up the optics and make sure that everything was ready for shipping. When the mechanics arrived, we packed up MagAO-X!

The MagAO-X box opened.
MagAO-X getting ready to be crane-lifted.
Laird heroically balancing the instrument as it’s lifted.
Laird mounting the MagAO-X braces to help reduce impact forces from shipping.
The instrument was bolted to the shipping frame, and the cart was removed.
MagAO-X ready for shipping!

And after the 3 total weeks I’ve spent at Las Campanas Observatory hearing about “Gary the Guanaco,” I finally got to witness the true majesty of this creature up close and personal today. Gary gave me just enough time to take all the pictures I wanted, even posing for me while I was at it.

Gary the Guanaco majestically looking out into the distance.

There is but one day left for the MagAO-X team until we finally head home for the holidays. All we have to do is pack up the electronics rack and do some final organizing, so things are looking good!

Today’s song of the day will be Chris Hadfield’s “Space Oddity,” the first music video ever recorded in space. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out!

MagAO-X 2019B Day 10: The Blog Must Go On

Last night was our fourth on-sky night. It also ran right in to our instrument removal/moving day. So, we went from taking a nice long dataset of beta Pictoris directly into taking off cables and connectors for our electronics. I’m still awake, despite feeling like someone dropped a truck on me, so I might as well ensure the blog gets done. Our dozens of readers are no doubt itching to hear about MagAO-X’s performance on its final on-sky night of 2019B.

I’m happy to report things went pretty smoothly! We observed Trapezium, a set of bright and well studied stars that will give us our astrometric solution (by knowing where they are, we can figure out how far apart and what orientation other stuff is). We observed beta Pictoris for a few hours on either side of transit, obtaining a vAPP + ADI dataset. We started off by optimizing our image quality and took Strehl measurements in a few different filters, resulting in some exceptionally sharp z’ band images of HD 9053:

Photo by Laird Close

Kyle worked on focal plane wavefront sensing, following the work of XWCL alumna Dr. Kelsey Miller (now at Leiden Observatory). The basic idea is using a little bit of the star light at the focal plane of your science camera to provide information on the real, honest-to-god wavefront error as experienced by the starlight at all optics downstream of the main wavefront sensor and correcting deformable mirror. In other words, yet another way of pushing light back where it belongs to make the sharpest possible images.

In unadaptive optics news, we captured Sirius A and B on our acquisition camera. Just for fun. Here they are:

Laird and Alex worked the first half of the night, but went to bed earlier so they could supervise the crane maneuvers to remove the MagAO-X optical table and legs. The PFS instrument is taking our place on the Nasmyth platform after lunch, so we need to get everything squared away before then. For my sake, and the sake of the instrument, I’m glad it’s in the hands of people who have had some sleep.

Jared, Olivier, Kyle, and I decabled the electronics rack and the AO Operator Computer, and got them safely stowed away until this afternoon when we’ll get them ready for shipment and/or storage. We rode down the hydraulic lift with our computers and rack of electronics. Someone made a comparison to going down with a ship.

Fortunately, we are led by a submariner, so we’ll resurface in May.

After which, we all agreed it was time to collapse into bed.

Except for Dr. Olivier Guyon, who had to call into a meeting.

I should be sleeping right now, but according to your MagAO-X song of the day there ain’t no rest for the wicked…

“Ain’t no rest for the wicked” by Cage the Elephant

MagAO-X 2019B Day 9: Third Light

“Can we stop calling it Nth light?”

Dr. Jared Robert Males

Tonight marked MagAO-X’s return to doing AO on starlight rather than an internal calibration source. The Observatory kindly allowed us to remain in place on the platform, so our return to operations was as simple as turning off the lamp and closing the loop on the first bright star we tried.

I’m lying to you, of course. The calibration that had worked so well on night #2 didn’t look nearly as nice when we booted up the system this evening. Alex and Laird had to open up the instrument to make fine adjustments to our pupil image positions. New response matrices had to be taken as well. “But I didn’t change any of this code!” was uttered many times, by many people.

Then we closed loop on a bright star. And it went great. We imaged π Pup and its companion. We even were able to hold on to an Airy ring around the companion! All this, in 1 arcsecond and above seeing (a far cry from Las Campanas Observatory’s trademark 0.5″).

We took the opportunity to record the AO instrument builder’s favorite video: the “now you see it, now you don’t” video.

Note the little point source at 4- and 8-o’clock on the science camera displays at lower right on the screen. Pay no attention to the vizzy behind the curtain. (Video credit: Professor Laird M. Close.)

Of course, capturing this video involved some pretty advanced optics:

Kyle and I drove the twin MagAO-X science cameras tonight. We took some data on pi Pup in various filters for Strehl ratio measurement, measuring the foci in various filters with Maggie’s focus script.

π Pup and companion (near the edge of the image), z’ band, fresh off the autofocus script

We put in our narrowband and continuum methane filters, which will eventually allow us to perform simultaneous differential imaging of exoplanets and detect methane absorption—something we see in planets closer to home, namely Jupiter. For this, however, they were just the narrowband filter available in the instrument best suited to the below-average seeing. (Shorter wavelengths are harder to correct, and our H-α filter would not have looked too good in the conditions we had.)

Next we looked at a close (0.144″) binary, HIP 38160. This wasn’t intended to be a challenging target in terms of contrast, but we were heartened to see it in the dark hole formed by our vAPP.

Image through the vAPP coronagraph, as powerful as it is mysterious. This image has two stars imaged 21 times each, for a total of 42 PSF-ish things.

We also took an on-sky response matrix. This calibration step provides a mapping between our system’s deformable mirror commands and the resulting signal on our wavefront sensor.

We got some good data tonight, learned a bit more about how the system behaves, and have big plans for tomorrow night. (Of course, we also need to move off the platform immediately following that night, and off the mountain shortly after that. Fortunately for Dr. Males and the limits of good taste in blog titles, we’re not getting past “fourth light” this run.)

Today’s MagAO-X Song of the Day:

“Koop Island Blues” by Koop