MAPS Oct. 2023B Night 4: That’s a wrap

Tonight we had great weather: low winds, moderate humidity, good seeing (0.6”–0.8”), and spent the whole night from civil dusk to civil dawn on bright stars near zenith! We stuck with the IR WFS and did calibrations and noise measurements all night long. For example, here is a Hadamard Matrix measurement using CACAO to look at the inter-actuator stroke:

[Image description: CACAO GUIs showing pyramid pupils and weird spirally shapes commanded on the ASM.]

And here are the CACAO and ASM control screens:

[Image description: Pyramid pupils and ASM commands per actuator.]

And we got some PSFs with MIRAC (although we only got up to 30 modes closed so I don’t have a good AO-on/AO-off sequence), here are some nice L-band speckles:

[Image description: Speckly un-corrected PSF at L-band.]

We compared the latency measured with the visible WFS (top) and the IR WFS (bottom):

[Image description: Two scatter plots of latency tests.]

Video of the night: Inspired by all the animals we’ve seen at the MMT or the drive up here (jack rabbits, owls, grey foxes, skunks, and… baby coatis!), here is a video of coatis looking like brontosaurs if you run them backwards:

[Media description: YouTube video of coatis walking, video has been reversed, and the Jurassic Park Theme music is playing. They look like brontosaurs!]

MAPS Oct. 2023B Night 3: 5 for 5

Tonight felt a lot like whiplash, from tired to energized to tired to energized, from starry to humidity to starry, and from failure to fix to failure to fix!

First of all the MAPS daytime/nighttime/whenevertime support crew (Oli, Grant, Dan) drove up this afternoon with the repaired (by Ken) bias board for the CCID-75 LittleJoe controller, as well as the IR dichroic for the Saphira. Unfortunately once we plugged in the board, we were still unable to communicate over serial. Manny’s next guess is we may also have a problem with the power supply. So ultimately that will require more lab testing and repair. Instead, we’ll use our other WFS for the rest of the run.

Anyway, so it was time to get on sky. Here are all the good AO setup stars, as defined by searching Simbad for zenith-y and bright:

dec  > 20 & dec <  50 & vmag <  2

Plus I added in Theta 1 Ori C for good measure(ments). (And actually Alpha Gem isn’t a good AO setup star, as it’s a binary with two very bright A stars only a few arcsec apart — but it’s zenith-y and bright.)

Airmass curves for the good (zenith-y and bright) AO setup stars, plus Theta 1 Ori C. [Image description: x-axis is time, y-axis is airmass and altitude. Stars are Alpha Lyr, Alpha Cyg, Alpha Per, Alpha Aur, Beta Aur, Beta Tau, Theta 1 Ori C, Alpha Gem, Beta Gem, and Eta UMa.]

Oli, Grant, and Dan then switched out dichroics and we moved to Deneb (aka Alpha Cyg) and they were about to complete the alignment when…

More humidity rolled in! Noooo! We were shut from about 9pm to 3:30am, and Oli and Grant became night crew too.

When it cleared up again, we got back on sky — this time on Beta Tau (real name: Elnath). We found it, aligned it, saved all the offsets — and tried to switch to a new star — and the offsets no longer worked! After some telescope dancing, we (Rory, Brian, me) realized we had the wrong units for our proper motion coordinates. Sigh. So I mostly* fixed that, and now we are off and running! [*I fixed the algebra but not the trig yet — just to do it as quickly as possible by hand — and the trig has only mattered once in my experience thus far, on Proxima Cen (which is apparently the highest-proper-motion star, with a large enough dec for the cosine to matter), that I’ve ever locked on.]

Here’s an IDL code snippet for future posterity:

;; Proper motions are given from Simbad in (Cartesian) mas/yr
ans = simbad_data(star)  ;; Calls the function

;; Returns ans.pm_ra which is RA proper motion in mas/yr
;; And ans.pm_dec which is Dec proper motion in mas/yr
;; And ans.icrs_dec which is sexagesimal Declination which you have
;; to convert to decimal-degrees which is the variable DEdeg

;; Magellan wants RA in sec of time per year and Dec in arcsec per year.
pmra_mag = (ans.pm_ra / 1e3) * (24/360.) / cos(DEdeg*!pi/180.)
pmde_mag = ans.pm_dec / 1e3

;; MMT wants RA in sec of time per century and Dec in arcsec per century.
pmra_mmt = ans.pm_ra * 24/3600. / cos(DEdeg*!pi/180.)
pmde_mmt = ans.pm_dec / 10. 

Right now Jared, Amali, and Lauren (and Andrew remotely) are taking AO calibrations with the Saphira IR WFS, and Rory is taking data with MIRAC. Oh BTW Lauren is our new team member as of this week, her first day was our first night on-sky, and she’s doing great!

Anyway, after our 0 for 5 first night, it’s great to be working with 5/5 — (1) stars are visible, (2) telescope is allowed to open, (3) conditions are safe enough for ASM, (4) AO hardware is working, and (5) science camera is ready!

And… the loop is closed just as we passed into civil twilight from nautical (having gone well past astronomical twilight)! (This is why we always get the full-moon bright time, our tiny pixels and kHz framerates don’t care about background light except for the actual Sun itself.)

And now for The Video Of The Night… I forgot to bring my Pilates travel equipment, but I can do a little bit of a workout just rotating my myofascia in spirals like in this video by my Pilates coach, “Spirals on the Cadillac for MyoFascia Release” by Arlene Corcoran:

Spirals on the Cadillac for MyoFascia Release by Arlene Corcoran

MAPS Oct. 2023B Night 2: Water falling from the sky!!!

As a current resident of Arizona and a former resident of New Mexico, part of me must celebrate when water falls from the sky in these drought-stricken drylands or deserts. As an astroengineer and astrophysicist, it does make observing …difficult. Either way, it’s still beautiful:

Afternoon at The Ridge. [Image description: A mountain scene straight outta the SouthWest. The valley floor is covered in brown rocky foothills that look like choppy waves in the ocean. The nearby mountainside is covered in dark green foliage with a scrubby texture. The sky is filled with thick heavy dark rain clouds. Yet a beauiful orange glow peaks through a gap below the clouds and above the distant valley where a sunbeam illuminates shafts of rain falling in the distance.]
A photo of the MMT today. [Image description: In the foreground are the crowns of some green and brown pine trees. In the middleground there is some sort of a brown ridgeline, kinda hazy. In the background there is white mist/fog (where the telescope dome is, but cannot be seen).]

You’ll recall yesterday we had trouble with our WFS controller. We reached out to our network of contacts for a spare part. We also began preparations to switch to our other WFS. And we even opened for around an hour tonight in a gap in the humidity and clouds! But we need more time… so we’re staying hopeful for tomorrow night.

The video of the night is “OUR LAND Episode 5: Dry Land”

OUR LAND Episode 5: Dry Land from The Greenhorns on Vimeo.

MAPS Oct. 2023B Night 1: 0 for 5

What’s this, another MAPS run? Yup, the moon is almost full, and here we are again!

Unfortunately tonight we are 0 for 5 on AO engineering/commissioning productivity. Here are the 5 things:

  1. Can we safely open the dome? No, the humidity is so high that condensation could ruin all the sensitive equipment.
  2. Can we safely expose the ASM to the elements? No, the wind is too high, it could damage/contaminate the shell.
  3. Can we see stars? No, there are clouds. Lots of very thick clouds.
  4. Can we close the AO loop? No, the controller of our wavefront sensor camera detector failed.
  5. Can we get PSFs with our science camera? No, it took longer to remove the previous instrument so longer to install ours.

Well the best night to have instrument failures is when the weather is bad anyway. We’re working on a solution. And now it’s time for bed.

No way we were opening tonight.
[Image description: Photo of the observatory status screen showing humidity at 99%, winds at 40.1 mph, and a completely socked-in all-sky cam.]
Part of trouble-shooting the Little Joe controller involved racking out the computer and directly connecting it to the controller, to make sure it wasn’t the extenders. Manny discovered the problem when he started examining individual boards. [Image description: Manny adjusts the cables and connectors of a computer placed below the Top Box, with cables directly connecting it to the instrument.]

Blog rules:

There must be a post every night.

There must be a “Video of the Night.” Something interesting to share. A song is allowed.

Video of the Night: “How this midcentury modern house harnesses the sun”

MAPS Sep. 2023B Night 5: Wrapping up our first run of 2023B

The full moon is waning and that’s a wrap on the first MAPS run of 2023B! We have 3 more runs, on the full moons in October, November, and January.

On this run we successfully closed the loop with our new software algorithms, which required taking new timing data and calibrations. We also got offloading within the loop working, and made progress on our other goals. (I made an executive decision to redo how I was numbering the nights, so careful blog readers may notice I edited the night numbers in the previous blog posts, since when I was writing our telescope proposal for next semester I realized it was overly confusing to try to keep the Arizona nights separate from the MMT nights.)

Grant crosses off our top goal for this run: offloading tip/tilt to the mount! [Image description: An astroengineer writes on a white board. On the white board are the Run Goals and the Tonight Goals — one can read a few words such as Alignment, Pisces, Mount, Hexapod, Pupil, Interaction Matrix, Close Loop.]
Taking a 50-modes calibration. [Image description: GUIs and displays showing the real-time pyramid pupils, integrated/averaged pyramid pupils, ASM commands, slopes, ]

Manny made cookies!

[Image description: In the telescope control room, Robin offers a plate of cookies to the photographer. Amali and Katie strategize ASM tricks in the background.]
[Image description: Manny is very happy to cut open the watermelon!]

Thanks everyone — run report to come.

Song of the day: Say Hey (I Love You) by Michael Franti \& Spearhead

[Median description: High energy, joyful, rhythmic song with scenes of the people of Brazil.]