Friday, December 18, 2015

MagAO: 2015B

Hello Belles Fans!

Katie Morzinski (Arizona) and Kate Rubin (Harvard CfA) at Magellan, 13 Dec. 2015. Photo by Kate Follette (Stanford).

My name is Katie Morzinski and I'm an astronomer at Steward Observatory (University of Arizona) and the instrument scientist for the Magellan Adaptive Optics ("MagAO") system. MagAO power-user Alycia Weinberger just posted about her time with us the other day. For more on our work visit the MagAO blog or our results page.

I'm in the home stretch of a 5-week run at LCO. Thanks Johanna for making this great blog! I hoped to post last semester (May/June 2015A) when we were here for 6.5 weeks of long winter nights, but the run was so busy/exhausting that I never got a chance. Well now I do, because this 2015B run has gone much better! Maybe because of all the friends up here!  ...And also the short summer nights/long summer days that mean I get enough sleep to even do extra things like blog!

2 of our colleagues came down to help run MagAO, they are Amali Vaz of Steward Observatory and Kim Ward-Duong of Arizona State University. Then our women observers on MagAO have been myself, Kate Follette of Stanford (former MagAO grad student), and Alycia of Carnegie DTM.  Here are some pictures of the women of LCO who have helped make the 2015B MagAO run enjoyable:

Amali Vaz (Arizona) came to help us run AO and to win the MagAO blog prize.

Kate R., myself, and Kim Ward-Duong (ASU) at the Magellan/Clay for MagAO, 10 Dec. 2015. Photo by Jared Males (Arizona).

Here are Kate Follette running VisAO and Alycia preparing to run Clio, both on MagAO on Clay.
And here is Kate Rubin running MagE while Telescope Operator Angelica Leon runs the Baade

MagAO uses an adaptive secondary mirror to flatten the wavefront to produce diffraction-limited images.  Our adaptive optics (AO) also uses a pyramid wavefront sensor -- it's pretty cool! Since it's our own special secondary mirror, our observing runs are in blocks, to minimize the number of nights lost in switching secondaries (it takes us just over 1 day to mount our entire instrument, which means two nights of astronomy are "lost", 1 coming and 1 going). So I stay up here at LCO for about a month per semester, along with MagAO team member/VisAO PI Jared Males. The MagAO PI, Laird Close, comes at the beginning to help us set up, and the end to help us take it down. In between, we support the observers and keep the instrument running -- sometimes it's as simple as pushing a few buttons to start the AO, sometimes it's as hard as cracking open an electronics rack and measuring the current flow across some serial ports to determine which motor has died.  Here's what it looks like bringing the secondary mirror up to the telescopes from the clean room:

MagAO's adaptive secondary mirror is awaiting removal from the flatbed truck, while the little SUV is used to calibrate the lift (thanks to LCO staff Juan Gallardo and Felix Quiroz).  The adaptive secondary mirror is 85 cm in diameter and only 1.6mm thin, with a set of control electronics and communications fibers to transmit 585 actuator commands at 1000 Hz.  It spends its time wrapped in shrink wrap in the clean room when the MagAO team is home in Arizona.

The picture at the top of this post is of myself and a good friend of mine from grad school, Kate Rubin, who was up here observing on Baade for a few nights -- a wonderful coincidence, she taught me about using the optical spectrograph MagE.  With some festive cheer and delicious snacks brought by our friends, I've enjoyed the last 4.5 weeks and look forward to just a few more nights before I head home to Arizona!
Kate and Alycia brought some festive cheer for various winter holidays.

All in all, it's been a great run for MagAO at LCO in 2015B!

Two Kates: Rubin and Follette, with Magellan Baade in the background.

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