The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) combines the light from the two 8.4 m primary mirrors of the LBT for interferometry and adaptive optics (AO) imaging. With two high performance, state-of-the-art AO systems and adaptive secondary mirrors, a cryogenic instrument, and an edge-to-edge baseline of 23 m, the LBTI is a unique instrument for sensitive, high-angular resolution and high-contrast thermal infrared observations. After the successful completion of the NASA-funded HOSTS nulling interferometry survey for exozodiacal dust, our team is now completing the commissioning and extending the capabilities of other observing modes, namely Fizeau imaging interferometry, spectro-interferometry, integral field spectroscopy, non-redundant aperture masking, and coronagraphy for general astronomical observations. In this paper we briefly review the design of the LBTI, summarize the results and performance of HOSTS, and describe the LBTI’s wider current and future capabilities.
Our past GAPplanetS survey over the last 5 years with the MagAO visible AO system discovered the first examples of accreting protoplanets (by direct observation of H-alpha emission). Examples include LkCa15 b (Sallum et al. 2015) and PDS70 b (Wagner et al. 2018). In this paper we review the science performance of the newly (Dec. 2019) commissioned MagAO-X extreme AO system. In particular, we use the vAPP coronagraphic contrasts measured during MagAO-X first light. We use the Massive Accreting Gap (MAG) protoplanet model of Close 2020 to predict the H-alpha contrasts of 19 of the best transitional disk systems (ages 1-5 Myr) for the direct detection of H-alpha from accretion of hydrogen onto these protoplanets. The MAG protoplanet model applied to the observed first light MagAO-X contrasts predict a maximum yield of 46±7 planets from 19 stars (42 of these planets would be new discoveries). This suggests that there is a large, yet, unexplored reservoir of protoplanets that can be discovered with an extreme AO coronagraphic survey of 19 of the best transitional disk systems. Based on our first light contrasts we predict a healthy yield of protoplanets from our MaxProtoPlanetS survey of 19 transitional disks with MagAO-X.