Transition disks, protoplanetary disks with inner clearings, are promising objects in which to directly image forming planets. The high contrast imaging technique of non-redundant masking is well posed to detect planetary mass companions at several to tens of AU in nearby transition disks. We present non-redundant masking observations of the T Cha and LkCa 15 transition disks, both of which host posited sub-stellar mass companions. However, due to a loss of information intrinsic to the technique, observations of extended sources (e.g. scattered light from disks) can be misinterpreted as moving companions. We discuss tests to distinguish between these two scenarios, with applications to the T Cha and LkCa 15 observations. We argue that a static, forward-scattering disk can explain the T Cha data, while LkCa 15 is best explained by multiple orbiting companions.
We are developing a stable and precise spectrograph for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) named “iLocater.” The instrument comprises three principal components: a cross-dispersed echelle spectrograph that operates in the YJ-bands (0.97-1.30 μm), a fiber-injection acquisition camera system, and a wavelength calibration unit. iLocater will deliver high spectral resolution (R~150,000-240,000) measurements that permit novel studies of stellar and substellar objects in the solar neighborhood including extrasolar planets. Unlike previous planet-finding instruments, which are seeing-limited, iLocater operates at the diffraction limit and uses single mode fibers to eliminate the effects of modal noise entirely. By receiving starlight from two 8.4m diameter telescopes that each use “extreme” adaptive optics (AO), iLocater shows promise to overcome the limitations that prevent existing instruments from generating sub-meter-per-second radial velocity (RV) precision. Although optimized for the characterization of low-mass planets using the Doppler technique, iLocater will also advance areas of research that involve crowded fields, line-blanketing, and weak absorption lines.
The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a strategic instrument of the LBT designed for highsensitivity, high-contrast, and high-resolution infrared (1.5-13 μm) imaging of nearby planetary systems. To carry out a wide range of high-spatial resolution observations, it can combine the two AO-corrected 8.4-m apertures of the LBT in various ways including direct (non-interferometric) imaging, coronagraphy (APP and AGPM), Fizeau imaging, non-redundant aperture masking, and nulling interferometry. It also has broadband, narrowband, and spectrally dispersed capabilities. In this paper, we review the performance of these modes in terms of exoplanet science capabilities and describe recent instrumental milestones such as first-light Fizeau images (with the angular resolution of an equivalent 22.8-m telescope) and deep interferometric nulling observations.
In Spring 2013, the LEECH (LBTI Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt) survey began its ~130-night campaign from the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) atop Mt Graham, Arizona. This survey benefits from the many technological achievements of the LBT, including two 8.4-meter mirrors on a single fixed mount, dual adaptive secondary mirrors for high Strehl performance, and a cold beam combiner to dramatically reduce the telescope’s overall background emissivity. LEECH neatly complements other high-contrast planet imaging efforts by observing stars at L’ (3.8 μm), as opposed to the shorter wavelength near-infrared bands (1-2.4 μm) of other surveys. This portion of the spectrum offers deep mass sensitivity, especially around nearby adolescent (~0.1-1 Gyr) stars. LEECH’s contrast is competitive with other extreme adaptive optics systems, while providing an alternative survey strategy. Additionally, LEECH is characterizing known exoplanetary systems with observations from 3-5μm in preparation for JWST.
The L/M-band (3−5 μm) InfraRed Camera (LMIRcam) sits at the combined focal plane of the Large Binocular
Telescope Interferometer (LBTI), ultimately imaging the coherently combined focus of the LBT’s two 8.4-meter
mirrors. LMIRcam achieved first light at the LBT in May 2011 using a single AO-enabled 8.4-meter aperture.
With the delivery of LBT’s final adaptive secondary mirror in Fall of 2011, dual-aperture AO-corrected interferometric
fringes were realized in April 2012. We report on the performance of these configurations and characterize
the noise performance of LMIRcam’s HAWAII-2RG 5.3-μm cutoff array paired with Cornell FORCAST readout
electronics. In addition, we describe recent science highlights and discuss future improvements to the LMIRcam
We present the current results from the development of a wide integral field infrared spectrograph (WIFIS). WIFIS offers an unprecedented combination of etendue and spectral resolving power for seeing-limited, integral field observations in the 0.9 - 1.8 μm range and is most sensitive in the 0.9 - 1.35 μ,m range. Its optical design consists of front-end re-imaging optics, an all-reflective image slicer-type, integral field unit (IFU) called FISICA, and a long-slit grating spectrograph back-end that is coupled with a HAWAII 2RG focal plane array. The full wavelength range is achieved by selecting between two different gratings. By virtue of its re-imaging optics, the spectrograph is quite versatile and can be used at multiple telescopes. The size of its field-of-view is unrivalled by other similar spectrographs, offering a 4.511x 1211 integral field at a 10-meter class telescope (or
2011 x 5011 at a 2.3-meter telescope). The use of WIFIS will be crucial in astronomical problems which require
wide-field, two-dimensional spectroscopy such as the study of merging galaxies at moderate redshift and nearby star/planet-forming regions and supernova remnants. We discuss the final optical design of WIFIS, and its predicted on-sky performance on two reference telescope platforms: the 2.3-m Steward Bok telescope and the
10.4-m Gran Telescopio Canarias. We also present the results from our laboratory characterization of FISICA.
IFU properties such as magnification, field-mapping, and slit width along the entire slit length were measured by our tests. The construction and testing of WIFIS is expected to be completed by early 2013. We plan to commission the instrument at the 2.3-m Steward Bok telescope at Kitt Peak, USA in Spring 2013.
Ground-baseed long baselinne interferomeeters have lonng been limiteed in sensitiviity by the shoort integration periods imposed by atmospheric tuurbulence. Thee first observaation fainter thhan this limit wwas performedd on January 222, 2011 when the Keck Interferommeter observedd a K=11.5 taarget, about onne magnitude fainter than iits K=10.3 limmit. This observation wwas made posssible by the Duual Field Phase Referencing instrument of the ASTRA pproject: simultaaneously measuring thhe real-time efffects of the atmmosphere on a nearby bright guide star, andd correcting foor it on the fainnt target, integration tiime longer thaan the turbulennce time scale are made possible. As a preelude to this ddemonstration, we first present the implementatioon of Dual FField Phase RReferencing onn the interferoometer. We tthen detail itss on-sky performance focusing on tthe accuracy oof the turbulennce correction, and on the reesulting fringe contrast stabiility. We conclude witth a presentatioon of early resuults obtained wwith Laser Guidde Star AO andd the interferommeter.
The ASTrometric and phase-Referenced Astronomy (ASTRA) project will provide phase referencing and astrometric
observations at the Keck Interferometer, leading to enhanced sensitivity and the ability to monitor
orbits at an accuracy level of 30-100 microarcseconds. Here we discuss recent scientific results from ASTRA,
and describe new scientific programs that will begin in 2010-2011. We begin with results from the "self phase
referencing" (SPR) mode of ASTRA, which uses continuum light to correct atmospheric phase variations and
produce a phase-stabilized channel for spectroscopy. We have observed a number of protoplanetary disks using
SPR and a grism providing a spectral dispersion of ~ 2000. In our data we spatially resolve emission from dust
as well as gas. Hydrogen line emission is spectrally resolved, allowing differential phase measurements across the
emission line that constrain the relative centroids of different velocity components at the 10 microarcsecond level.
In the upcoming year, we will begin dual-field phase referencing (DFPR) measurements of the Galactic Center
and a number of exoplanet systems. These observations will, in part, serve as precursors to astrometric monitoring
of stellar orbits in the Galactic Center and stellar wobbles of exoplanet host stars. We describe the design
of several scientific investigations capitalizing on the upcoming phase-referencing and astrometric capabilities of ASTRA.
ASTRA (ASTrometric and phase-Referencing Astronomy) is an upgrade to the existing Keck Interferometer
which aims at providing new self-phase referencing (high spectral resolution observation of YSOs), dual-field
phase referencing (sensitive AGN observations), and astrometric (known exoplanetary systems characterization
and galactic center general relativity in strong field regime) capabilities. With the first high spectral resolution
mode now offered to the community, this contribution focuses on the progress of the dual field and astrometric modes.
Recently, the Keck interferometer was upgraded to do self-phase-referencing (SPR) assisted K-band spectroscopy at R ~ 2000. This means, combining a spectral resolution of 150 km/s with an angular resolution of 2.7 mas, while maintaining
high sensitiviy. This SPR mode operates two fringe trackers in parallel, and explores several infrastructural requirements
for off-axis phase-referencing, as currently being implemented as the KI-ASTRA project. The technology of self-phasereferencing
opens the way to reach very high spectral resolution in near-infrared interferometry. We present the scientific
capabilities of the KI-SPR mode in detail, at the example of observations of the Be-star 48 Lib. Several spectral lines of the
cirumstellar disk are resolved. We describe the first detection of Pfund-lines in an interferometric spectrum of a Be star, in
addition to Br γ. The differential phase signal can be used to (i) distinguish circum-stellar line emission from the star, (ii) to directly measure line asymmetries tracing an asymetric gas density distribution, (iii) to reach a differential, astrometric
precision beyond single-telescope limits sufficient for studying the radial disk structure. Our data support the existence of
a radius-dependent disk density perturbation, typically used to explain slow variations of Be-disk hydrogen line profiles.
During the last two years we have used the Palomar Testbed Interferometer to observe several explosive variable stars, including V838 Monocerotis, V1663 Aquilae and recently RS Ophiuchi. We observed V838 Monocerotis approximately 34 months after its eruption, and were able to resolve the ejecta. Observations of V1663 Aql were obtained starting 9 days after peak brightness and continued for 10 days. We were able to resolve the milliarcsecond-scale emission and follow the expansion of the nova photosphere. When combined with radial-velocity information, these observations can be used to infer the distance to the nova. Finally we have resolved the recurrent nova RS Oph and can draw some preliminary conclusions regarding the emission morphology.