2014A Day 18: Binaries are the vermin of the sky

Have you ever heard that pigeons are the rats of the sky? Well, tonight we were contemplating that binaries are the vermin of the sky. The binaries we are talking about are “stars” that are actually two stars, only they are so close together that they weren’t discovered to be 2 stars by the early astronomy surveys. But when you have AO on a large telescope like we do, you find out that a lot of stars you thought were single are in fact binary. And then you are disappointed if you were looking for something else when you chose to look at that star.

Laird discovered a binary with the pyramid wavefront sensor tonight. The pyramid pupils were lit up diagonally, and he correctly predicted its properties (about an arcsecond separation, about equal brightness) before we even saw it on one of our cameras VisAO or Clio2. Here it is:

Laird discovered a binary star with the pyramid wavefront sensor (left) before we even had a chance to look at it in the focal plane with VisAO (right)!

We have been looking at disks around stars recently. Here is a Clio2 image by T.J. of a star that was supposed to have a disk… but instead it was a binary star:

A binary imaged with Clio2. The ring around the primary star is the control radius of the AO.

Kate, Alycia, and T.J. are heading down tomorrow, and our mean tiredness is going to go way up. Thanks for all your hard work, guys!

Here is the disk team hard at work.

Tonight we got on sky about half an hour earlier than normal, to get some narrow-camera K-band flats, which have proved to be difficult to get enough light. I’ve made a new page with all the Clio2 calibrations, and I’m posting the flats as we get them. They are still not ideal due to an in-focus pupil glow that we think may be related to a slight pupil misalignment. Here we are opening up the dome the previous night:

The Clay telescope opening at dusk

And from the inside:

The ASM hanging over the Clay primary, from inside the dome, at dusk.

The pyramid pupils taking sky flats. On the left, you can see a pretty cool diffraction pattern around the tip of the pyramid

We miss Alfio, but things have been running pretty smoothly, which is a testament to the amazing software he left for us.

The team on Alfio’s last night. From left to right: Kate Follette, Katie Morzinski, Jared Males, Alfio Puglisi, Alycia Weinberger, Laird Close, and T.J. Rodigas.

The Clay and Baade at sunset

Alycia took this picture of Quadritos cereal with braille on the box


Although this post says day 18, we started the 2014A blog on “day 0” (the PI arrived on “day 1”) and it took 2 days to travel here …. so Jared, T.J., and I left our homes 3 weeks ago now, and it’s been 20 days for Laird.  In honor of that milestone, here are some pictures from the run that haven’t made it onto the blog yet:

In the first week we were here, Laird put some new filters in the VisAO filter wheel. It took a while because one of the filters wasn’t sized correctly for the slot, so he put a helpful “Stay away” note.

The “village” at LCO where we live this month. Down there you can see the dorms and the kitchen.

Laird taking a picture of the ASM with his fiducial tape on the cap. He taped the crosshair on pretty much by eye and it worked perfectly!

T.J. and I opening up Clio2 in the clean room, back on the first few days

Jared is dismantling the earlier part of his PhD project. It was a high-speed shutter he built to do Strehl selection because everyone said visible-light AO wouldn’t work. However, thrillingly, MagAO works great in the visible wavelengths, and we never used the high-speed capabilities of the shutter.

Alfio and me after attaching the wind monitor to the ASM with Laird

The small telescope next to the Clay that measures seeing. It is a Differential Image Motion Monitor and is called a DIMM.

Panorama around the back side of Clay where the DIMM is. This is where I go hunting for vizzies at dawn.

Vizzy resting on the wall, looking out over the LCO village

A wild vizzy at dawn (foreground, lower left), looking out over the smaller telescopes at LCO

And here’s a bird, but not a vermin of the sky:

The LCO Whistler at dawn

Here’s a movie Jared took of the LCO whistler, watch/listen to the video and you’ll know why. Note how it tips it’s head back when it whistles!

My brother gave me some mp3’s of him playing some peaceful songs on piano, which has been nice to listen to when I need to focus on reducing data in the control room. One of them is Prelude Op 28-15 “Raindrop” and here’s a version of the song from Youtube:

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