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2017B Day 14: Not the last blog post

Laird’s blog post yesterday was the last blog post, he said. But today was the day we departed LCO, so usually today is the last blog post. However, he also numbered it Day 15 but the previous day was Day 13. We’ll chalk that up to switching from a night schedule to a day schedule over the course of 6 hours (whereas I took a leisurely 30 hours to switch over… meaning I am still napping during the day, up during the night, and not really sure when the Sun is up or down). So anyway, here’s a blog post on our last day, but it is not the last blog post — that was Day 15. Got it?

Not the last sunset at the Owlery:

Hedwig’s perch at the Owlery

Not the last “wildlife” sighting:

Burros – and is that a horse?

Not the last hike:

Katie, Jared, and Laird on the hike

Not the last copper mine:

Vein of copper we saw on the hike

Not the last forest:

Forest on the hike

Not the last trash heap:

Start at the trash heap, hike down from there … next time we’ll find the petroglyphs

Not the last breakfast:

Goodbye breakfast

Not the last Andes:

The Andes in winter from a plane

Not the last LATAM club:

Jared and Laird (and I) enjoy the LATAM club before our next flight

Not the last song of the day:

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2017B Day 15: The End of the 2017B Run, and a Hike to See Petroglyphs

Hi Everyone,

As is tradition I’m writing the last blog. This run has been a bit challenging due to mostly poor weather. For example, there were a few nights so cloudy that only photos we actually saved were of “Hedwig” the owl landing on our all-sky camera…. Hedwig is great but we really came to look at exoplanets! Anyways by the end of the run we did get some good datasets.

The run had a bit of a rough start with the loss of our main glycol (antifreeze) cooling pump.

This is the state of the old pump. The motor and the bearing were bad shape and needed replacement.

This is the state of the old pump. The motor and the bearing were in bad shape and needed replacement.

The ASM puts out ~2KW of heat. All this heat needs to be removed by a liquid cooling system. So we had ASM cooling system in place that pumps about 11 liters/min of glycol through the ASM. But after more than 6 years of use the pump was starting to fail. Luckily LCO mechanical engineers Juan and Carlos realized this and I gave them the spare pump that I purchased 8 years ago (because eventually all pumps die). After a bit of engineering to make sure the pump pressure at the ASM was safe (we don’t want another leak inside the ASM), the happy final result was a new pump that works very well and keeps the ASM nice and cool.

Then on the first night on sky we had some issues with a bad capacitor (position) sensor (DSP 590) that was causing strange readings and leading to diagnostic “dumps” making the system hard to use. But, adding DSP 590 to the act_wo_pos array in the elec.txt file effectively added it to the list of “actuators that cannot read positions well”. Removing this sensor and replacing the pump allowed us to have a problem free run!

So it was great to see MagAO have such a strong run. The ASM, wave front sensor, VisAO camera, and the Clio camera all worked well for the whole run!

The star of MagAO: the Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM). Throughout a cold, windy, cloudy run it worked extremely well.

The star of MagAO: the Adaptive Secondary Mirror (ASM). Throughout a cold, windy, cloudy run it worked extremely well.

This was something of a relief after our tough run in Feb 2017 where we had 2 electronic cards in the ASM fail and our second fast tip-tilt mirror literally “burned up”. So it seems, for now at east, we are back normal science operations.

As usual the run was a success due to the hard work of Katie running Clio (and teaching the new astronomers how to run it), and Jared keeping all the complex software running excellently. This run we also had help from UA graduate student Jhen Lumbres who was a great help running the AO system (giving me a real break). Also Kate came with an undergraduate Clare Leonard. Kate (and Clare) ran the VisAO camera while she was here giving Jared a break. Also TJ and Alycia are expert Clio observers and helped out by running Clio during their whole runs. Ewan Douglas came from MIT and we also had some new observers too from Chile — everyone was great to work with!

And of course a big thanks to the entire LCO staff who keep all of MagAO running well!

Felix (who has helped us put on and off MagAO many of the 20 times we've done it) and the NAS coming off the telescope and going down the elevator.

Felix (who has helped us put on and off MagAO many of the 20 times we’ve done it) and the NAS coming off the telescope and going down the elevator.

I should mention that due to all the snow and rain this winter it is beautiful here –greener than I have ever seen LCO!

Three Guanocos and some donkeys enjoy the lush green spring we are having

Three guanacos and some donkeys enjoy the lush green spring we are having

Inspired by the lovely green springtime the MagAO team (Jared, Katie and I) headed out for a hike after the instrument was completely packed away. This was, in theory, a hike to see the petroglyphs in the valley carved long ago. But we didn’y really know where to go. And so it was unclear if we actually went down the right valley — but we did find a nice “bell rock” (these “special rocks” that ring like bells) outcropping that had trees (well just two trees but that is a lot here)!

Katie by the first real tree I've seen at LCO. This was near the rocks.

Katie by the first real tree I’ve seen at LCO. This was near the rocks.

And then we looked more closely at the rocks

A petroglyph of something sitting on top of a rock? Looking at the stars?

A petroglyph of something sitting on top of a rock? Looking at the stars?

And we saw a interesting shape carved into the rock. Below is zoom into the carved region.

A zoom into the object sitting at the top of the carving -- a Vizzy?

A zoom into the object sitting at the top of the carving — a Vizzy?

Could this be a petroglyph of the ancient viscacha ?? Only the wise viscachas know for sure…

It is that time, time to go back, back to our “shack” of a lab and dream up new AO systems to build…

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2017B Day 13: The Owl’s Perch

Well that’s it. The system is completely off the telescope. The NAS with the WFS and VisAO is safely packed away in the Aux, as is our intrepid Clio. The ASM is all wrapped up on the floor of the Clay dome, ready to be trucked down the the cleanroom tomorrow.

If you’ve seen the last several night’s posts, you’ll be up to speed on the comings and goings of our new friend Hedwig, a Magellanic Horned Owl that has been using the all-sky camera as a night time perch. To try to make sense of the somewhat distorted perspective the all-sky gives us of our friend, Katie and I headed down to the area near the Swope telescope where the camera lives to check it out.

The home of the all-sky owl perch. Astronomer for scale.

The all-sky camera sits on top of the pole you see above the building.

Seeing it up close puts the size of the owl talons in perspective.

Hedwig has a nice view of the Magellan telescopes from that perch.

Magellan lit by the setting sun.

The all-sky camera is near a bunch of robotic telescopes. We watched these two open for the night.

Jhen posted some pics from our GMT tour. Here’s another one, which captures the almost lush look of the place after this winter’s precipitation. Povilas is insisting that it’s just like Ireland.

LCO proper as viewed from the GMT site. Click to enbiggen.

A panorama of last night’s sunset sky as I walked up the hill. Click to magellanate.

Katie watches the sun set over Hedwig’s domain.

Over the latitude > 0 summer, I’ve been listening to a band called “The Dead South” quite a bit. With a little editorial license, I think their eponymous song is a perfect summary of the run:

Oh pass the rum [ed: Pisco please] on down the line it’s getting pretty cold
It’s been nine
[ed: 13] straight days of hell and burning fires in the snow
And I haven’t seen my baby since that old black ship
[ed: the NAS]set sail
Still we’re holding out ’till winter dies and hoping our strength prevails

The full moon peaks around the clouds [ed: every night] as the grey wolves [ed: owls] cry
The hour’s getting late and we’ve drunk every bottle dry
[ed: ummm….]
Just one more march
[ed: flight] from dusk ’till dawn ’till we finally arrive
At the gates of those who long ago burned our houses and took our lives

And we’ll sing
“We are the Dead South who came across the sea
To take back our lives and leave this land of misery
Our will is our weapon our hearts forever bound
Come on now tilt your bottle back and let’s go grab another round”

The wind is at our back [ed: literally] the ground is shaking at our feet [ed: literally]
Marching for the gates we pray our lord my soul to keep
For if we ever get ourselves out from this mess alive
I’ll be singing this song for years to say
I’m happy we survived

We’re now starting the long slog back to a day schedule. So here’s an encore from them, called “Delirium”:

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