The GRAVITY acquisition camera measurements are part of the overall beam stabilization by measuring each second
the tip-tilt and the telescope pupil lateral and longitudinal positions, while monitoring at longer intervals the full
telescope pupil, and the VLTI beam higher order aberrations.
The infrared acquisition camera implements a mosaic of field, pupil, and Shack Hartman type images for each telescope.
Star light is used to correct the tip-tilt while laser beacons placed at the telescope spiders are used to measure the pupil
lateral positions. Dedicated optimized algorithms are applied to each image, extracting the beam parameters and storing
them on the instrument database.
The final design is built into the GRAVITY beam combiner, around a structural plane where the 4 telescope folding
optics and field imaging lenses are attached. A fused silica prism assembly, kept around detector temperature, is placed
near to the detector implementing the different image modes.
We present the Fiber Coupler subsystem of the future VLTI instrument GRAVITY. GRAVITY is specifically designed
to deliver micro-arcsecond astrometry and deep interferometric imaging. The Fiber Coupler is designed to feed the light
from a science and a reference object into single-mode fibers. The Fiber Coupler consists of four independent units. The
units de-rotate the FoV. A motorized half-wave plate allows rotating the liner polarization axis. Each unit provides
actuators for fast piston actuation, tip-tilt correction and pupil stabilization for one of the beams from four VLT
telescopes. The actuators are operated in closed-loop. Together with a dedicated Laser Guiding System, this allows to
stabilize the beams and maximize the coherently coupled light. The fast piston actuator provides the crucial fringe
tracking capability at a bandwidth of >220Hz. A special roof prism design allows to either split the FoV or to serve as a
50/50 beam splitter without changing the optical path. This offers the possibility of on-axis as well as off-axis fringe
tracking. The optical train consists solely of mirrors, which ensures an achromatic behavior and maximum throughput.
The sophisticated optical design compensates for aberrations which are introduced by off-axis parabolic mirrors. This
allows to achieve Strehl ratios of >95% across the FoV.
Interferometric measurements of optical path length differences of stars over large baselines can deliver extremely
accurate astrometric data. The interferometer GRAVITY will simultaneously measure two objects in the field
of view of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and
determine their angular separation to a precision of 10 μas in only 5 minutes. To perform the astrometric
measurement with such a high accuracy, the differential path length through the VLTI and the instrument has
to be measured (and tracked since Earth's rotation will permanently change it) by a laser metrology to an even
higher level of accuracy (corresponding to 1 nm in 3 minutes). Usually, heterodyne differential path techniques
are used for nanometer precision measurements, but with these methods it is difficult to track the full beam size
and to follow the light path up to the primary mirror of the telescope. Here, we present the preliminary design of a differential path metrology system, developed within the GRAVITY project. It measures the instrumental differential path over the full pupil size and up to the entrance pupil location. The differential phase is measured by detecting the laser fringe pattern both on the telescopes' secondary mirrors as well as after reflection at the primary mirror. Based on our proposed design we evaluate the phase measurement accuracy based on a full budget of possible statistical and systematic errors. We show that this metrology design fulfills the high precision requirement of GRAVITY.
GRAVITY is an adaptive optics assisted Beam Combiner for the second generation VLTI instrumentation. The
instrument will provide high-precision narrow-angle astrometry and phase-referenced interferometric imaging in the
astronomical K-band for faint objects. We describe the wide range of science that will be tackled with this instrument,
highlighting the unique capabilities of the VLTI in combination with GRAVITY. The most prominent goal is to observe
highly relativistic motions of matter close to the event horizon of Sgr A*, the massive black hole at center of the Milky
Way. We present the preliminary design that fulfils the requirements that follow from the key science drivers: It includes
an integrated optics, 4-telescope, dual feed beam combiner operated in a cryogenic vessel; near-infrared wavefrontsensing
adaptive optics; fringe-tracking on secondary sources within the field of view of the VLTI and a novel metrology
concept. Simulations show that 10 μas astrometry within few minutes is feasible for a source with a magnitude of
mK = 15 like Sgr A*, given the availability of suitable phase reference sources (mK = 10). Using the same setup, imaging of mK = 18 stellar sources in the interferometric field of view is possible, assuming a full night of observations and the corresponding UV coverage of the VLTI.
We present the second-generation VLTI instrument GRAVITY, which currently is in the preliminary design phase.
GRAVITY is specifically designed to observe highly relativistic motions of matter close to the event horizon of Sgr A*,
the massive black hole at center of the Milky Way. We have identified the key design features needed to achieve this
goal and present the resulting instrument concept. It includes an integrated optics, 4-telescope, dual feed beam combiner
operated in a cryogenic vessel; near infrared wavefront sensing adaptive optics; fringe tracking on secondary sources
within the field of view of the VLTI and a novel metrology concept. Simulations show that the planned design matches
the scientific needs; in particular that 10µas astrometry is feasible for a source with a magnitude of K=15 like Sgr A*,
given the availability of suitable phase reference sources.
Differential measurements with dual feed stellar interferometers using large baselines can deliver extremely accurate
astrometric data. Separating the phase difference measured on the stars from the path length differences occurring within
the interferometric instrument itself requires the use of laser interferometers. Usually heterodyne differential path
techniques are used for nanometer precision measurements. With these methods it is usually difficult to track the full
beam size and follow the light path up to the secondary mirror. We will report on the concept and first tests of a
differential path metrology system, developed within the GRAVITY project, that allows one to measure the instrumental
differential path over the full pupil size and up to the entrance pupil location. The differential phase is measured by
detecting the laser fringe pattern created on the telescopes' secondaries. This novel method is almost free from systematic
errors since the stellar and laser light are traveling along a common optical path.