Optical Interferometry Continuation of Cavendish Astrophysics Rolling Grant

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

The success of the Hubble Space Telescope and the motivation for its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, have been largely driven by the desire for images with resolutions an order of magnitude better than routinely achieved by ground-based telescopes. However, even this may be inadequate for understanding the physics underlying many important astrophysical phenomena and in many cases resolutions 10-100 times better than these flagship missions are required. Such milli- and sub-milli-arcsecond resolutions can only be delivered by optical/infrared interferometers which synthesize effective telescope diameters of 100s of meters using arrays of smaller telescopes. The Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI) is an optical/IR imaging interferometer currently under construction in New Mexico in a partnership between New Mexico Tech (NMT) and the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. Its Phase 1 implementation will combine light from six 1.4 m telescopes, separated by up to 350m, to permit imaging in the near-infrared with an angular resolution of 0.7 milli-arcseconds, i.e. 10 times better than a diffraction-limited 30 m-class telescope. The MROI builds on the success of other interferometers such as Georgia State's CHARA Array, the Keck Interferometer and the VLTI, which are now routinely used to tackle important astrophysical questions and which have demonstrated that interferometry can be a valuable tool for astronomers who are not interferometric specialists. By optimizing its design for the imaging of faint astrophysical targets, the MROI is expected to have a limiting sensitivity 10-100 times greater than has been realized by any optical/IR interferometer to date. It is the MROI's unique capability to deliver model-independent images at ultra-high resolution, efficiently, and at much higher sensitivity than has been previously realised that offers the most exciting potential for new science. The scope of this research will be very broad. Studies with first-generation IR-arrays have spanned topics as diverse as fundamental parameter estimation of stars, the molecular envelopes of evolved giants, the geometrical extension and evolution of novae ejecta, and the structure of AGN cores. All of these will be accessible at the MROI, though with much higher efficiency, sensitivity and completeness than has hitherto been available with the VLTI and similar current-generation arrays. The MROI is a joint activity of NMT and the Cavendish Laboratory. NMT are providing the majority of the capital funds, while Cavendish researchers - who pioneered interferometry at optical/IR wavelengths - are providing technical leadership and oversight of the array deployment. The proposed research reflects this partnership and will involve staff at the Cavendish completing three key tasks related to the commissioning of the MROI. These will be: * The development and delivery of the real-time control algorithms for the first-light instrument, a fringe tracking beam combiner. Here the goals will be to deliver the critical algorithms necessary to detect and track fringes on the faintest sources with high precision. * The design and coding of the first-light data reduction pipeline for the MROI. This software will be used to produce diagnostic measures critical for optimising the performance of the interferometer as well as producing the first science results from the MROI. * To lead the technical and scientific commissioning effort to deliver first fringes with the MROI. This activity will be led by two of the senior staff at the Cavendish who have had considerable experience of the alignment, integration and commissioning of a number of other interferometric arrays. These activities will form a significant contribution towards the completion of the array and put the UK in a leading position to exploit the science which will result from its operation.

Publications


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Baron, F.,Cotton, W.D.,Lawson, P.R.,Ridgway, S.T.,Aarnio, A.,Monnier, J.D.,Hofmann, K-H.,Schertl, D.,Weigelt, G.,Thiébaut, E.,Soulez, F.,Mary, D.,Millour, F.,Vannier, M.,Young, J.S.,Elias, N.M.,Schmitt, H.R.,Rengaswamy, S. (2012) The 2012 interferometric imaging beauty contest

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Berger J (2012) Imaging the heart of astrophysical objects with optical long-baseline interferometry in The Astronomy and Astrophysics Review

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BUSCHER D (2013) THE CONCEPTUAL DESIGN OF THE MAGDALENA RIDGE OBSERVATORY INTERFEROMETER in Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation

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Buscher D (2012) The declination degeneracy in interferometric astrometry in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Buscher, D (2012) Numerical Simulations of MROI Imaging of GEO Satellites in 2012 IEEE AEROSPACE CONFERENCE

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Gordon James A. (2011) Long-exposure filtering of turbulence-degraded wavefronts in APPLIED OPTICS

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JURGENSON C (2013) ICONN - THE INFRARED COHERENCING NEAREST NEIGHBOR TRACKER in Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation


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Oudmaijer R (2012) Optical interferometry - the sharpest tool in the box in Astronomy & Geophysics

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Smith R (2012) Resolving the terrestrial planet forming regions of HD 113766 and HD 172555 with MIDI in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description Methods for best designing a type of telescope
Methods for building the hardware needed for telescopes
Methods for getting high quality images from one type of complex telescope
Exploitation Route Our results are already informing the designers of similar interferometric telescopes
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education
URL http://www.mro.nmt.edu/about-mro/interferometer-mroi/
 
Description Used to continue design and deployment of large facility in US Used to guide/train partner research staff in US Provide insights to other researchers in the field
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Education,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic
 
Description Grant from New Mexico Tech
Amount $164,600 (USD)
Funding ID RG56365 
Organisation New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States of America
Start 02/2012 
End 01/2015
 
Description Grant from New Mexico Tech
Amount $256,100 (USD)
Funding ID RG60091 
Organisation New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States of America
Start 02/2012 
End 12/2015
 
Description Grant from New Mexico Tech
Amount $748,200 (USD)
Funding ID RG61261 
Organisation New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States of America
Start 02/2012 
End 12/2015
 
Description 4MOST Phase A design study 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Department Institute of Astronomy
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mechanical design Proposal document preparation
Collaborator Contribution Leadership of activity Allocation of funds to my team Optical and software design
Impact Phase A design presentation at ESO Elements of the mechanical design work undertaken by our team were integrated into the actual programme: this is continuing but STFC declined to support future UK participation in this mechanical work (as the competing MOONS project was deemed a higher priority). Our successes in the 4MOST design work led to our successful bid to undertake the camera design work for the MOONS spectrograph.
Start Year 2012
 
Description NMT System Architects 04/2011-03/2012 
Organisation New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Department Physics Department
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Overall design and technical leadership of deployment team. Joint authorship of papers Experimental investigations Hosting NMT staff for visits
Collaborator Contribution Joint authorship of papers Delivery, installation of hardware Experimental investigations Hosting team staff in New Mexico
Impact Academic research Co-authorship of publications Construction of equipment Engineering/technical/scientific leadership Research funding Student/post-doc training of US collaborators
Start Year 2006
 
Description Alumni talks 2009/2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Typically 60 non-scientific & scientific attendees with families. Questions afterwards and meet and greet sessions.

Philanthropic funding to teaching institute
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2013
 
Description Physics at Work 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talks on current astrophysical research to attendees at "Physics at Work" Exhibition. Part of Department's Physics at Work outreach programme. Talks with question and answers afterwards to groups of about 15.

Raised profile of Physics at Work
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,
 
Description Tours of Lords Bridge 04/2011-03/2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 10s of persons attended and discussions took place

None
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Tours of Observatory 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The astrophysics group provides regular tours of the observatory for schools and other interested groups by appointment. Tours are operated by a senior member of staff and one or more graduate students acting as guides.

Impact on visitors explaining our research
Impact on schools encouragement to participate in science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity Pre-2006,2006,2007,2008,