The CHARA array is an optical/near infrared interferometer consisting of six 1-meter diameter telescopes, the longest baseline of which is 331 meters. With sub-millisecond angular resolution, the CHARA array is able to spatially resolve nearby stellar systems and reveal their detailed structures. To improve the sensitivity and scientific throughput, the CHARA array was funded by NSF-ATI in 2011 for an upgrade of adaptive optics (AO) systems to all six telescopes. This first grant covered Phase I of the adaptive optics system, which includes an on-telescope Wavefront Sensor (WFS) and non-common-path (NCP) error correction. Phase II of the program was funded by the NSF/MRI in 2016, and includes purchasing and installing the deformable mirrors at each telescope to complete the system. In this paper we will discuss both phases of the program, how the challenge of AO differs for interferometry, and the first results of the full system.
The CHARA Array is a six-element, optical/NIR interferometer, which currently has the largest operational baselines in the world. The Array is operated by Georgia State University and is located at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California. The Array thrives thanks to members of the CHARA consortium that includes LESIA (Observatoire de Paris), Observatoire de la Cote dAzur, University of Michigan, Sydney University, Australian National University, and University of Exeter. Here we give a brief introduction to the Array infrastructure with a focus on a developing Adaptive Optics (AO) program, the new community access program funded by the NSF, and recent science results.
The ability to use single mode (SM) fibers for beam transport in optical interferometry offers practical advantages over conventional long vacuum pipes. One challenge facing fiber transport is maintaining constant differential path length in an environment where environmental thermal variations can lead to cm-level variations from day to night. We have fabricated three composite cables of length 470 m, each containing 4 copper wires and 3 SM fibers that operate at the astronomical H band (1500-1800 nm). Multiple fibers allow us to test performance of a circular core fiber (SMF28), a panda-style polarization-maintaining (PM) fiber, and a lastly a specialty dispersion-compensated PM fiber. We will present experimental results using precision electrical resistance measurements of the of a composite cable beam transport system. We find that the application of 1200 W over a 470 m cable causes the optical path difference in air to change by 75 mm (+/- 2 mm) and the resistance to change from 5.36 to 5.50Ω. Additionally, we show control of the dispersion of 470 m of fiber in a single polarization using white light interference fringes (λc=1575 nm, Δλ=75 nm) using our method.