MagAO-X 2022A Day 30: The Secret Behind MagAO-X Cool Kid Attire

I can thankfully say that all of our LCO-going MagAO-X team members are back to their respective USA locations! I would say Tucson but Logan had to pick up her dog and car in Texas. Speaking of doggos, I know everyone was happy to see their loving furry roommates upon their arrival.

Alexander the Great a bit skeptical that he is willing to forgive roommate Joseph Long for his extended absence.
Lani inspecting that ball thrower Logan Pearce has returned with all previous ball throwing capabilities still in tact.

As per the remainder of the team’s travels after yesterday’s post, it looks like the plane’s headrest flight tracking system was not fully functioning – but luckily it seems that the captains were aware of their final destination.

Maybe someday we will have to stop by f-square to check out the local architecture and scenery.
Tucuman, home of the Tucumanians.

Now as per the title promises, I will outline the secrets behind the creation of MagAO-X attire for cool kids!

Some background: As we were in the midst of planning for the 2022A run, it became clear that the team would need some matching gear for the mountain. Having a background in shirt/sweatshirt production using my Cameo 4, I offered up my services to create hoodies for the team. However, the majority of my background in clothing designs is with heat-adhesive vinyl made for fabrics, whereas we were hoping for a more organic/distressed look for our team hoodies.

An example design from previous crafting. Black crew neck with white and sparkly blue heat-adhesive vinyl made for a friend who loves to spend time at her cabin in Big Lake, AK.

After brainstorming ideas with co-conspirator and long time MagAO-X digital designer Joseph Long, we decided that it would be worth a shot to do a test fabrication with a stencil + bleaching method. This would entail printing the MagAO-X logo in two sizes (small for front and large for back) on normal adhesive vinyl with the Cameo, which is normally used for adhering on smooth surfaces like metal/glass.

A (somewhat dirty) coffee cup being refilled by my trusty Keurig shown here to offer a glimpse of the versatility in crafting abilities that come with owning a Cameo. This is gold adhesive vinyl on a small tumbler, inspired by my late pups Ginger and Duke. A gold star for you if you can guess their breed!

Now to elaborate on the steps taken to create our team hoodies!

Step 1. Cameo design software Silhouette intakes the design as a binary png or jpeg and recognizes the edges to create the cut design file.
Step 2: Cameo cuts the design out of a flat piece of adhesive vinyl mounted on a sticky board for stabilization. I’m not sure my neighbors love my crafting hobby…
Step 3: The letters of MagAO-X are pulled from the sheet of cut vinyl and the stencil is transferred to the hoodie with transfer paper (grid like layer seen being pulled off). This is how I was able to get the vinyl to act like a stencil; normally I would use heat-adhesive vinyl and pull off everything but the MagAO-X letters, transfer to the fabric, and then immediately press it with a hot iron so it would adhere to the shirt.
An image showing the MagAO-X pulled design as it sits still on the page of vinyl that was sent in to the Cameo. Also imaged are some tools used for this process as well as my bottle of bleach and safety gloves used in the next step. Note that the vinyl here is black only because it was used on a different test subject than what is shown in step 2 and 3.
Step 4: A bleached soaked cotton ball is used to dab within the lines of the stencil. This shows a test hoodie after a few rounds of bleaching – as you can see the process doesn’t provide a perfectly even application and requires several rounds to bleach out all of the fabric dye within the stencil. A piece of cardboard is placed inside the hoodie to ensure the other side is safe from the bleach. Once enough rounds have been applied, pull off the sticky stencil!
Step 5. Fail a few times (:
Step 6: Try, try, try again! Also find out that a fleece hoodie is more likely to survive a bleaching process, so decide to go forward with that test subject. No major loss for the team in that decision as fleece makes for much better mountain wear.
Step 7: Finally calibrate the bleaching process enough to produce several hoodies for your awesome research team and kindly ask your mom to model one for you.

Now you are all pros at the Cameo stencil+bleach process! And now for the best part…

Step 8: Get to experience the joy (and warmth) the hoodies provide for your team while visiting the Las Campanas Observatory!

Thank you dearest blog readers for sticking with me through the step-by-step process needed for MagAO-X cool kid attire fabrication. As I arrived back in Tucson a few weeks before the others, I have continued to wear my hoodie to stay in the LCO spirit – and I hope others may do the same for those soon to be sparse moments of chilliness here in Tucson! As I believe these hoodies will return for future trips, I bid farewell for now and look forward to their use in many telescope runs to come!

Song of the day: Seasons in The Sun by Terry Jacks. This song has always reminded me of a farewell, so seems fitting to round off the tales of 2022A international travels of our LCO-going teammates!

MagAO-X 2022A Day 29: Non-Working Title

We did it, folks. We made it the full 29 days. (Maybe there will be a blog post from Atlanta for Day 30, maybe not. Depends how tired we are.) Jared had the presence of mind to take a group shot on our transport down from Las Campanas to the airport.

The covid clinic we visted along the way (fortunately not pictured) was demystified by Justin’s blog post. The most difficult part was waiting for them to fix their printer issues.

At the airport, we saw an interesting macaroni-penguin-liveried plane. And we ordered the traditional papas fritas and Kunstmann Torobayo (on tap no less).

Then we left Laird in La Serena.

(Not really; he was on the next flight out.)

Once in Santiago’s airport we traveled, Lairdless, in search of food and drink. We ended up at notable South American eatery “Ruby Tuesday,” where we finally got Logan a pisco sour. (Due to Las Campanas Observatory’s status as a dry site, there wasn’t a chance previously.)

I dunno, this stuff could catch on. Maybe they’ll expand their franchise to the US!

We’re all about ready to collapse into our assigned seats now.

However, the blog must go on, so I leave you with your…

Song of the Day

The song of the day is “Say Goodbye” by Papas Fritas.

MagAO-X 2022A Day 27: The Best For Last

We have waited a long time for a night like last night. MagAO-X had first light way back in Dec 2019. We had just 4 nights to get it aligned to the telescope for the first time, figure out how to acquire a star, and start testing and optimizing our control system. That was just long enough to show that we had a working system, but we left knowing that there were lots of things to improve.

We all know what happened next. For two years we’ve been biding our time in the our lab at UArizona. That both gave us time to perfect a bunch of things, but I think it also caused us to forget a lot of things we learned in 2019. And Extreme-AO is hard. Really hard. It took us most of our 2 week run to start to understand MagAO-X on the telescope facing real turbulence.

Over the last 4 or 5 days I knew that we had really gotten some things working better, and (with lots of remote help from Olivier) had tuned our control system to where it was demonstrating much more stability. But right when we turned that corner the weather also took a turn, and the seeing blew up for 3 nights.

However, Cerro Manqui always seems to save one good show for us AOistas on our last night, and did not make an exception for this run. We had 1/2 arcsecond or better seeing almost the entire night. We even saw 0.35″ on the Baade guider — it is always said such measurements are an upper limit due to the optics involved (but don’t forget outer scale, which is important at LCO, so r_0 is a little smaller). During a period of steady 0.5″ seeing, we performed a thorough optimization of our non-common-path deformable mirror, and took some deep PSF measurements with 1376 modes running at 2 kHz. Here is the result:

The point spread function (PSF — that just means “image of a star” for most purposes) of MagAO-X at 908 nm (in the z’ filter). This is the combo of two images, the central circle used a neutral density (ND) filter to avoid saturation, and is scaled to show the Airy Pattern detail. The rest is without the ND, and shows the faint structures of the PSF. The key feature for AO nerds is the square darker region, our “dark hole”, which is 44 lamda/D on a side (22 in radius). This means we are really correcting the 1367 modes in our basis set.

We’re all ecstatic to finally see such an image from MagAO-X. An amazing team of people has worked incredibly hard for the last 6 years to make this happen. Way to go everybody!

Clay opening for our last night.

I took this photo sitting on the dome floor. The sunrise is starting through the lower louvers. At the same time, you can see moonlight reflected off the primary illuminating the bottom of the secondary mirror baffles, and stars are still shining.

We worked with Alycia taking great data all night. As soon as she declared the observing over for the night, we shut it all down and started tearing it apart.

Sunrise disassembly.

After de-cabling and getting ready for the crane, Sebastiaan, Logan, and I went down for a short nap. Laird and Joseph (who went to bed early for this reason) worked with the crew to get MagAO-X craned off the platform.

We wrap MagAO-X in mylar emergency blankets to keep it from overheating in the sun.
Mauricio Cabrales steps back to make sure MagAO-X is going up straight on the crane.
MagAO-X is now in the cleanroom, waiting to go back in its boxes for the trip home.

We have one more big day of crane ops tomorrow to get our stuff all packed up to ship home. I confess that as soon as I finished processing the PSF image, Sebastiaan and I started listing all the things we know aren’t perfect yet, and started making predictions for how much better we can make the next one (faster, more modes, predictive control laws, better NCP optimization . . . we can go on). So we’ll be busy over the next 6 months.

The song of the day is one my favorites. For obvious reasons I think.

Metallica covering Astronomy. Unless this is your first time with us, you’ve heard it before.

MagAO-X 2022A Day ?? (Bonus Blog): Some way home

To aid the MagAO-X team members I’ve left behind, I’m making a post of my transit from LCO back to Tucson, AZ. Here is a list of the necessary things to travel to the U.S.:

  • A passport
  • A credit card or other valid form of payment in Chile
  • A valid COVID-19 rapid antigen test with a negative result
  • The slip of paper Chilean emigration and customs gave you upon entry to their country
  • A lot of time on your hands
The road from LCO to LSC

The road from Las Campanas Observatory to La Serena has some pristine stretches of mountain and coastal areas begging to be explored. My driver, Juan, was nice enough to indulge my desire to practice my long dormant spanish-speaking skills. Two and a half hours went by in an instant. (I also witnessed a small owl dancing and singing on the side of the road at the behest of Juan, and a short glance at a Chilean wild horse.)

Another rapid COVID-19 test abroad

Juan took me directly to the testing site which was on the corner of a strip of stores in the lot of a gas station, featured below.

The COVID-19 rapid antigen testing center in the corner of a gas station strip mall, and its contents.
(a) The testing site. (b) The check-in location. (c) The spot I sat at waiting for the rapid antigen test results.

At the check-in desk of the lab, Vital Medical Center, I was asked why I was there, as well as for my passport and a phone number and an address of where I’m staying in Chile. I gave them the El Pino office address details, as well as the number for Dave Osip. I think Roberto’s number would’ve been a bit more pertinent to provide. I also told them I needed the test for today, as I was leaving in the afternoon from LSC.

They charged about $22.000 CLPs to my credit card for the antigen test, which corresponded to about $27.00 USD. I went around the corner to the nurse’s station, had my nostril swabbed, and sat and waited for about 15 minutes. Then they printed my test results and handed them to me in an envelope.

An envelope from Vital Medical Center with my printed test results.
Negative test results to present to the Chilean airlines.

Afterward Juan took me to El Pino, which was about a 10 minute drive away.

The Luxurious El Pino

We pulled up to a gated entry way to El Pino and entered, headed up the driveway, and made our way to Roberto’s office. Roberto greeted me with a fist bump, and we made our way to the dining area and hotel.

A collage of the sites of El Pino.
(a) The driveway up to the El Pino offices. (b) El Pino! (c) The courtyard before entering Roberto’s office. (d) One of the El Pino hotel rooms, adjacent to the dining area.

WiFi is available, and actually my laptop automatically connected to the lco-staff network. I successfully ssh’d into exao1 just to verify the network was the same. I completed the Delta FlyReady documentation and even though they verified my negative COVID-19 test result in time, it did not matter to LATAM. In other words, I had to check into my flights at the LATAM airlines check-in area at La Florida airport (LSC). Because of this, I opted to leave half an hour earlier than I was originally scheduled, but I don’t think it mattered in the end.

Going back to the U.S.

The drive to LSC took a little over 10 minutes, and was provided by an LCO staff member. Once I was inside the airport, I checked in at LATAM and checked my bag, keeping only my backpack. They required my passport and COVID-19 negative test result. Then they printed all of my tickets and sent me to pass through security. Security didn’t have a line, so I was at my gate about 15 minutes after I arrived at the airport.

The flight to Santiago was on time and uneventful, and in mostly understandable English, a flight attendant stated that checked luggage for international connecting flights will move on toward its final destination before customs in another country. Disembarking the plane led me to a very long corridor to walk down towards ‘Domestic Arrivals’. At the end of it, just past the bathrooms, there is a wall with a Victoria’s Secret ad from which you should clearly only turn right. This ushered me to a more open area with a plethora of signs indicating how to find the international terminal. For example, here is half of two signs combined to provide a nice map of where to go, and a text description for international connecting flights.

A map from domestic to international terminals at the Santiago airport.
How to move from domestic to international airports in Santiago.

Once I exited the domestic terminal to outside, I ended up taking the left path from the map above. I was asked at least four times on the way out if I needed a taxi. I did not. I walked across the crosswalk and followed signs to the international terminal. Once again, it was very easy to figure out where I was going. I even walked past the Holiday Inn that Laird recommended I stay at to kill time. I will argue the new international flights building is just as nice to kill time in, and in doing so, I was already through emigration and customs awaiting my flight.

The path to the international terminal.
(a) A sign direction to the international terminal across the street from the domestic terminal exit. (b) Another sign pointing the way. (c) The finish to the left path.

Once inside the international terminal, I went upstairs and into emigration and customs after I found the corresponding gate information for my next flight.

Information about international departures.
Upstairs listing of departing international flights.

Emigration required my passport, my boarding pass, and that slip of paper from Chilean authorities upon entry to the country. I then passed through security and into the international airport. My flight information was not quite up-to-date yet, so I wandered around the airport wondering if I’d ever receive an update about my checked luggage. Eventually, I did.

A sequence of images showing customs, the entrance to the international airport terminals, a familiar scene upon entry to Chile, and a baggage claim update on the Delta app.
(a) Waiting in the emigration line. (b) Bye bye Chile! (c) This looks familiar… (d) My luggage is coming with me after all.

When it came time to board my flight from SCL to ATL, it turns out the airline wanted to re-issue the tickets for my remaining travel. I was not aware of this ahead of time, so I had to wait as many people in my boarding section went ahead of me. To issue my new ticket, they once again required my passport and negative COVID-19 test results. As a reminder, dear reader, I only had my backpack, so boarding order did not affect me. This may not be the case for you!

You’ve probably seen this all before

10 hours later, I arrived at ATL. I passed through emigration where they asked me for my passport and why I went to Chile (traveled to LCO to use the Magellan Clay telescope for MagAO-X instrument commissioning and observation), collected my checked luggage from baggage claim, then through U.S. Customs and re-checked my luggage before I went through a final security checkpoint and off to find my final gate. During baggage claim, I came across a different type of drug-detecting dog unit.

Baggage claim marvel of a small dog doing its job with its partner.
A compact model drug-sniffing K-9.

It is faster to take the train to the various concourses, but after a 10 hour flight, I decided to walk. The Charlotte, Atlanta airport is huge! My final flight to Tucson was delayed a bit, but my luggage made it (confirmed via another Delta app update), as did I. More than 24 hours of travel later and here I am, back in lovely Tucson. The song of the day mentions Tucson if you listen closely enough, or watch the lyrics (Closer, The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey).

MagAO-X 2022A Day 16: Masking in masks

Today was a great MagAO-X day. We had great seeing and things worked well, we were able to get a lot done today and make some nice science-y images!

Engineering continued again tonight with a smattering of science. Tonight we worked on commissioning the non-redundant aperture mask (NRM), which is a technique for achieving high resolution images from the ground. Our collaborators Dr Josh Eisner and Dr Jordan Stone joined us via zoom to commission MagAO-X’s NRM observing mode on a bunch of their science targets.

Science camera 1 and 2 displaying NRM images.
Sebastiaan pilots the masking run sporting his KN95 mask.

The top image here shows science camera 1 (left) and 2 (right) during the NRM imaging run. The image on camsci1 is continuum (kinda like the baseline emission from the source) and on camsci2 is H-alpha, a hydrogen emission line that is very bright when the star is accreting (eating up gas and dust). It doesn’t really *look* like a star right now, and is all blurry-looking, because of how the masking works. Some fancy math is needed to reconstruct the images into more eye-pleasing and scientifically meaningful images.

A screen shot of MegaDesk NRM observations
Ooooh a nice pretty binary on the MegaDesk

We also got to look at one of my science targets. I am trying to detect some white dwarf stars. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star that remains after the star has evolved and shed all of its outer material (called the envelope). White dwarfs are interesting to me because they can serve as an important probe of planet systems at the end of a star’s life. The surface of a white dwarf is either pure hydrogen or helium, so if you see any other materials in the spectrum of a white dwarf (which astronomers call “metals”), it has been recently deposited there by planetary material or debris eaten by the star!

On the right-most monitor is my science target we hit tonight!

And we ended the night with some lovely images of Baade’s window, an area of dense stars towards the galactic center and with little dust that we use for measuring the astrometry, or the position of stars. One of the important things to determine about your instrument is how distances and angles in an image relate to distances and angles on the sky. To do that, we need to take images that contain multiple stars for which we already know their on-sky astrometry, and compare that to measurements in an image. So you want a crowded field with a lot of stars, so that you can have many stars fall within your image, and with existing well-documented measurements between the stars. Baade’s window is a good target for this, so getting many good images of it in all our filters is a top priority.

Our friend Carlos showed up for dinner again and struck a commanding pose in front of the sunset. Good boy.


The moon is waxing towards full and lighting up the mountains all night here. The song of the day is Who Built the Moon? by Shinyribs