MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 11: Cloudy but fun week

There were new faces this time so I am going to introduce myself. I am Carla the youngest Magellan operator eh eh. For now at least.

My week with you guys started on Monday, when I realized you are at the mountain and thinking about the treat I am going to get you this time. So, just before going to El Pino I brought a couple of “dulces chilenos”. I see you like the alfajores and that’s a very typical Chilean dessert filled with the best sweet of all, manjar.

It was a week where we were closed almost all the time, the telescope was open only 22 hours! So that’s kind of a record for me. But it was a great opportunity for me to spend time with you and laugh at your very funny way of being. I appreciate your spirits.

This time I tried an artistic empanada day photo.

Actually tonight you get the famous picture with the 6.5mts mirror, and I have to admit I can’t believe you didn’t have it before, so it was good. You have the best poses, so of course I copy one of them and get my own picture, thank you eh eh.

Then, we saw the auxiliar building where the mirror is aluminized and got the other instruments ready. It was fun to have this tour. We can repeat these pictures in the future with the other part of the team of course, if the weather allows us.

AOX team and me with Clay’s mirror.

I get to know better about the work individually you are doing here, so for me it was a very informative week, and I want to congratulate all of you for your amazing and dazzling job you are doing for astronomy. Thank you very much for sharing this with me, you blow my mind.

I hope you have a good rest of the run and take good care of yourselves, especially on the cold nights that are coming.

My favorite 15 minutes of the week was going downstairs and tasting all of the new candy. My favorite was the chocolate eggs and the ones I couldn’t even try were the wasabi ones. I hope to bring you the real merkén next time.

The Song of the Day

A very old song but it is a good opportunity for you to get to know the great Cecilia, also it’s a song that will cheer you up during this very cloudy night.

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 10: “30+ years of speckle”

This week could have gone better: Delayed and missed flights, fog, clouds, bad seeing, and I got a head cold. New at LCO this trip: no Covid test on arrival. In case you’re wondering, I brought my own, and I don’t have Covid.

Last night, I turned the super fancy MagAO-X system with its three deformable mirrors into a very expensive speckle camera. 30 years ago, when AO was in its infancy, I did my PhD thesis taking short exposures to “freeze” the seeing and a lot of Fourier transforms to recover high spatial resolution images. Well, in 1.3″ seeing, MagAO-X could still do some correction (miraculously) and the EM-CCDs in MagAO-X can run fast (I ran at about 60 ms, which is considerably longer than the normal coherence time at visible wavelengths). I can play some of those old speckle imaging tricks on images like this:

60 ms image of a binary star
First try at an average image (zoomed)

See the binary star? Of course you do. I select the best of the tens of thousands of images I took and average them up. Combined with other data I have, these images will let us measure masses of the stars.

Tonight, however, the seeing is finally down to median LCO conditions and the forecasted clouds have not yet arrives, so MagAO-X is weeping tears of joy:

A saturated PSF with all those Airy rings!

I may be bummed about the weather, but it’s been fun to be back here and collaborating with the ever-growing team. People are working shifts, so we didn’t get a photo of everyone, but here’s an obligatory sunset selfie with clear skies above.

May 19 sunset selfie thanks to Logan.
MagAO-X womens’ team tonight.

And, dear reader, as a devoted blog follower you undoubtedly know that as predictably as the approach of winter brings clouds, Sunday brings:

Empanadas, of course.

I saw a fox today too, but sorry, I didn’t get a picture.

Today’s best 15 minutes were spent finishing the Sunday NYTimes Crossword Puzzle with the band of Js (Joseph, Jay, and Josh) as we froze speckles.

Pride in our accomplishment

Song of the Day

I almost went with Lady Sings the Blues, one of my favorites for bad observing weather combined with colds, but I don’t want to be a downer. So, I’m going with Freeze Tag by Suzanne Vega in honor of those fast images we took and the coming week’s temperature forecast.

The sun is fading fast
Upon the slides into the past

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 9: “I don’t think you want that data”

Thank you for tuning in for “Eden’s screenshots of the firewalled LCO weather page.”

Bright eyed enthusiam coming to you straight from the AO operator desk.

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that we are open! The bad news? The seeing is just on the edge of usable. And by “on the edge” I mean we’re getting something on the science cameras… but it’s the kind of data we dread to process. What a tease.

On top of that, the wind is whistling something fierce. Like living next door to a two-note pan-piper. Every 5 minutes, Maggie-O-X will announce that we’ve hit our wind limit, just for the wind to slink back down again. Like a threat that it could shut this whole operation down, clouds or not. We thank Carla for being a merciful TO, and we are planning on allocating portions of our empanada orders tomorrow to her, accordingly.

Seeing and wind plots at the time of reporting.

Did I forget to mention that I have worse news? In a novel first for this team, we are expecting rain. Yes, in the Atacama Desert, that gets an average rainfall of 15 mm a year. We found it, folks. The one day of rain a year. Stay tuned for the MagAO-X raincoat wrappings.

The first time I have seen precipitation on the LCO meteoblue weather page.

Weather like this could really get you down, but luckily we have a great team that keeps even these kinds of days full of laughs and good stories. Our night started with high hopes. Since the sky was clear and the winds were low, the walk to the telescopes was appealing for the first time in a week. Some of the team caught a crisp green flash on their way up.

As an early-shifter, I’m headed to bed, but I know the control room is staying merry with Alycia wisdom, Jared sea stories, Joseph whimsy, and Josh punchlines that are actually just events from his life. All as it should be.

A beautiful, cloudless sunset.

Best 15 minutes of the day? Filling out the night lunch for 4 whole empanadas. Just like the boss ordered.

Overheard at LCO

“I struggled with the scissors unit in kindergarten”

won most improved on MagAO-X scissor duty

“As long as I’m not playing a sport I won’t get injured”
“Why would you say something like that”

someone who could definitely get injured in offseason

“I will be Clay’s Gollum”

someone with career ambitions

“Keep the icc data away from the tea.”
“How about you keep the tea away from the icc data.”

not all of us have Sebastiaan level tea charisma

“I wasn’t allowed near the model trains because I kept wanting to touch them”

still let near our picomotors as a trust exercise

Song of the day

This one isn’t my pick. It’s Clay’s.

Danny Boy – Sinéad O’Connor

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 7: Chilly in Chile

Greetings from the downstairs lounge, where you can see exactly as many stars as upstairs. That’s right: it’s another cloudy evening here at Las Campanas Observatory, but one ray of bright starshine has broken through: Dr. Alycia Weinberger! She had to spend a night in Miami, and another night in Santiago, but she has finally arrived!

We all forgot to document her arrival for the blog, so have a condor instead.

Since the clouds stubbornly remained at sunset, we went on an expedition beneath the Magellans.

Okay, that’s enough natural beauty. (Photo: Alycia Weinberger)

There was a fad in the 90s for two-for-one telescope deals, along with vague plans for interferometers (some realized). True to form, the two Magellans are connected by a tunnel.

This is where I’d put my interferometer… if I had one.

We also explored the maze of twisty passages.

Reminiscent of her majesty’s navy?

We descended into the oubliette.

If someone messes up the instrument alignment, they will be confined below.

There are removable floor grates to confound your enemies.

Legend has it that a secret sub-sub-basement exists, hiding untold riches.

Here’s a view upwards through the central core where all the wires and hoses snake up to the telescope platform, eventually entering a cable wrap.

Don’t look up.

There is a two meter thermal exhaust port:

Ask not about the biblical mouse plague.

Evidence of researcher enthusiasm underneath 100 tons of telescope.

Evidence of Dr. Weinberger’s arrival, upper left in gray.

Maggie Kautz bid a fond farewell to MagAO-X, as she will be leaving in the morning. Maggie has graduated, which means she probably needs to defend her dissertation soon.

anTop? What’s an anTop?

Then she came back and replaced a picomotor that had gone on strike due to the cold conditions.

It could be Professor Laird Close under that getup, for all we know. (Photo: Jared Males)

Once she finishes up her doctorate, she will be starting a new job… as a staff engineer at Steward Observatory, home of MagAO-X! (And some other stuff I guess.)

After we bid our actual farewell to Maggie-O-X, it was time for Josh to drive. We found that all of Sebastiaan’s notebooks were still on the old ICC data drives, so some surgery was required to get them back into place on the new and improved SSD array.

Okay, keep an eye out: we’re looking for a 500GB folder called “SYH_notebooks”

As I write, there’s some serious disk pic analysis happening in the lounge, so maybe this night won’t be a complete bust…

Highlight of the Day

Per 2024Ab rules, the best part of the day… might be the underground Magellan tour, actually! So, you already read all about it.

Song of the Day

“Black Moon” by Screaming Females

(Technically a waxing gibbous, but I can’t see shit.)

Our semi-occasional recurring feature: “Overheard at LCO”

“We’re just roadies for a metal band called MagAO-X.”

“At least on the internal source I can’t break anything.”
Why would you say that?!

“It’s a dissertation. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

MagAO-X 2024Ab Day 6: LCO above a sea of fog

Like that classic painting, LCO took on some majesty and wonder today as the valley filled with clouds to compliment the cloud-covered skies.

Which gave way to another great sunset

Which gave way to another set of sad astronomers. Jay was eager to hit his disk target right away, but clouds are opaque to dreams and starlight alike.

This run, since the nights are so long, we’ve broken them into shifts with shift turnover around 1am ish. It’s 1 am now and the first shift is done for the night, I’m going to bed. There are faint whispers of hope in the cloud trend, but I suspect it is futile. Trust not to hope, it has abandoned these lands.

The best 15 mins of my day I guess was sending the first draft of my dissertation (minus a chapter) to Jared. Oh and then I played Untitled Goose Game with Joseph for an hour.


The song of the day is Sad Songs by Elton John.