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Proceedings Paper

The role of Fizeau interferometry in planetary science
Author(s): Albert R. Conrad
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Paper Abstract

Historically, two types of interferometer have been used to the study of solar system objects: coaxial and Fizeau. While coaxial interferometers are well-suited to a wide range of galactic and extra-galactic science cases, solar system science cases are, in most cases, better carried out with Fizeau imagers. Targets of interest in our solar system are often bright and compact, and the science cases for these objects often call for a complete, or nearly complete, image at high angular resolution. For both methods, multiple images must be taken at varying baselines to reconstruct an image. However, with the Fizeau technique that number is far fewer than it is for the aperture synthesis method employed by co-axial interferometers.

In our solar system, bodies rotate and their surfaces are sometimes changing over yearly, or even weekly, time scales. Thus, the need to be able to exploit the high angular resolution of an interferometer with only a handful of observations taken on a single night, as is the case for Fizeau interferometers, gives a key advantage to this technique.

The aperture of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), two 8.4 circular mirrors separated center-to-center by 14.4 meters, is optimal for supporting Fizeau interferometry. The first of two Fizeau imagers planned for LBT, the LBT Interferometer (LBTI),1 saw first fringes in 2010 and has proven to be a valuable tool for solar system studies. Recent studies of Jupiters volcanic moon Io have yielded results that rely on the angular resolution provided by the full 23-meter baseline of LBT Future studies of the aurora at Jupiters poles and the shape and binarity of asteroids are planned.

While many solar system studies can be carried out on-axis (i.e., using the target of interest as the beacon for both adaptive optics correction and fringe tracking), studies such as Io-in-eclipse, full disk of Jupiter and Mars, and binarity of Kuiper belt objects, require off-axis observations (i.e., using one or more nearby guide-moons or stars for adaptive optics correction and fringe tracking). These studies can be plagued by anisoplanatism, or cone effect. LINC-NIRVANA (LN),2 the first multi-conjugate adaptive optics system (MCAO) on an 8-meter class telescope in the northern hemisphere, provides a solution to the ill-effects of anisoplanatism. One of the LN ground layer wave front sensors was tested on LBT during 2014.3-5 Longer term, an upgrade planned for LN will establish its original role as the second LBT Fizeau imager. The full-disk study of several solar system bodies, most notably large and/or nearby bodies such as Jupiter and Mars which span tens of arcseconds, would be best studied with LN.

We will review the past accomplishments of Fizeau interferometry with LBTI, present plans for using that instrument for future solar system studies, and, lastly, explore the unique solar system studies that require the LN MCAO system combined with Fizeau interferometry.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 August 2016
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 9907, Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V, 99070L (4 August 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2231992
Show Author Affiliations
Albert R. Conrad, Large Binocular Telescope Observatory (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9907:
Optical and Infrared Interferometry and Imaging V
Fabien Malbet; Michelle J. Creech-Eakman; Peter G. Tuthill, Editor(s)

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