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See detailThe Darwin mission within ESA’s Cosmic Vision
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2007, July 03)

Durant cet exposé, je présenterai la mission Darwin telle que proposée à l'ESA par un groupe de scientifiques européens et internationaux. Darwin s'inscrit parfaitement dans le Thème 1 du programme Cosmic ... [more ▼]

Durant cet exposé, je présenterai la mission Darwin telle que proposée à l'ESA par un groupe de scientifiques européens et internationaux. Darwin s'inscrit parfaitement dans le Thème 1 du programme Cosmic Vision: "What are the Conditions for Planet Formation and the Emergence of Life?". Je présenterai le cas scientifique de Darwin, qui a pour but principal de détecter et caractériser des planètes habitables semblables à la Terre autour d'étoiles du voisinage solaire. En complément à ce volet axé sur la planétologie comparée et l'astrobiologie, le cas scientifique de Darwin comprend aussi un volet consacré à l'imagerie à haute résolution angulaire d'objets astrophysiques et extragalactiques de types variés. Je m'attarderai finalement sur les avancées obtenues récemment tant sur le design de la mission que sur les technologies associées, qui devraient permettre d'atteindre ces objectifs dans le cadre de la première mission "Large" du programme Cosmic Vision et dans une enveloppe budgétaire raisonnable. [less ▲]

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See detailProspects for Nulling Interferometry from Antarctica
Coudé Du Foresto, V.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Barillot, M. et al

Poster (2007, June 01)

The high Antarctic plateau is a very unique environment whose main characteristics make it a premier site for high angular resolution, high dynamic range observations at infrared wavelengths. This is due ... [more ▼]

The high Antarctic plateau is a very unique environment whose main characteristics make it a premier site for high angular resolution, high dynamic range observations at infrared wavelengths. This is due to a combination of cold temperatures (low emissivity), dry air (infrared transparency), and a night time atmospheric turbulence which is concentrated in the first ~30m near the ground (which results in a large isoplanatic angle). Above that turbulent layer (a location that can be reached either by support structures or tethered balloons), the free air seeing is both exceptionally benign and slow. There, simulations show that a small dedicated interferometer (two 1m-class telescopes) equipped with a nuller instrument performs better than the same instrument behind 8m-class telescopes on a temperate site. It can characterize the distribution of dust emission around nearby main sequence stars, a necessary precursor science for Darwin and TPF-I. The nature of the site, intermediate between ground and space both in potential and technical challenge, adds particular relevance to the demonstration of nulling for a space mission. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Faint Hot Component of Debris Disks Revealed by Infrared Interferometry
di Folco, E.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Augereau, J.-C. et al

Conference (2007, June 01)

Very few main-sequence stars exhibit warm dust in their 5-10AU close environment, where terrestrial planets are expected to have formed. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means, combining high ... [more ▼]

Very few main-sequence stars exhibit warm dust in their 5-10AU close environment, where terrestrial planets are expected to have formed. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means, combining high dynamic range and high spatial resolution, to directly detect faint emission from hot grains in exozodiacal clouds. We will review the results of our search for 2 micron excesses around Vega-like stars, including the nearby Sun-like stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, with the FLUOR interferometric instrument and the CHARA Array of telescopes. Our recent detections, combined with Spitzer observations around 10 micron, put strong constrains on the properties and distribution of hot grains in these inner planetary systems. We will present the conclusions of our preliminary modeling for the detected hot grains as well as their implication for the selection of targets for future planet finding missions like DARWIN or TPF. [less ▲]

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See detailObserving extrasolar planetary systems with infrared interferometry
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2007, May 02)

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See detailExozodiacal discs with infrared interferometry
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2007, March 05)

The detection of the warm inner part of debris discs---the extrasolar counterparts of the zodiacal cloud---is of prime importance to characterise the global architecture of planetary systems. Because of ... [more ▼]

The detection of the warm inner part of debris discs---the extrasolar counterparts of the zodiacal cloud---is of prime importance to characterise the global architecture of planetary systems. Because of the high contrast and small angular separation between the star and the exozodiacal light, high-precision infrared interferometry is the best-suited tool to carry out such observations. In this paper, we review the first detection of an exozodiacal disc by this method recently reported around Vega by Absil et al. (2006), and discuss the currently on-going observing efforts in this domain. We show how interferometric data can give access to the composition and the dynamics (including LHB-like events) of extrasolar planetary systems, and thereby put useful constraints on the presence of small bodies and/or giant planets. This statement is illustrated with new data obtained on various bright Vega-type stars, including Vega itself. Finally, we show how the new generation of interferometric instruments will change our view of debris discs: with their increased sensitivity and imaging capabilities, they will constrain the morphology of bright exozodiacal discs and push the detection limit towards meaningful density levels in the context of future life-finding missions such as Darwin/TPF. [less ▲]

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See detailCoronagraphic imaging of three weak-line T Tauri stars: evidence of planetary formation around PDS 70
Riaud, Pierre ULg; Mawet, Dimitri ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2006), 458

Context: High angular resolution imaging of nearby pre-main sequence stars with ages between 1 and 30 Myr can give valuable information on planet formation mechanisms. This range of ages is thought to ... [more ▼]

Context: High angular resolution imaging of nearby pre-main sequence stars with ages between 1 and 30 Myr can give valuable information on planet formation mechanisms. This range of ages is thought to correspond to the dissipation of the optically thick dust disks surrounding young stars and to the end of the planet formation. Aims: This paper presents new observations of three weak-line T Tauri Stars (WTTS) of intermediate ages ranging from 7 to 16 Myr. It aims at increasing the knowledge and sample of circumstellar disks around "old" WTTS. Methods: We observed three stars with the VLT's NAOS-CONICA adaptive optics system in coronagraphic mode. The four-quadrant phase mask coronagraph was used to improve the dynamic range (by a factor of 100) while preserving the high angular resolution (inner working angle of 0farcs 15). Results: One object of our sample (PDS 70), a K5 star, exhibits a brown dwarf companion and a disk in scattered light with a surface brightness power law of r[SUP]-2.8[/SUP], extending from a distance of 14 to 140 AU (assuming a stellar distance of 140 pc) and an integrated luminosity of 16.7 mJy in the K_s-band. The mass of the companion can be estimated to be within a range between 27 and 50 Jupiter masses with an effective temperature of 2750 ± 100 K. This object also shows a resolved outflow stretching up to 550 AU. Conclusions: This newly detected circumstellar disk shows strong similarities with the disk around TW Hya, and adds to the observed population of "old" TTS surrounded by circumstellar material. Moreover, three clues of planetary formation are brought to light by this study. [less ▲]

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See detailThe inner debris disc of Vega as seen by CHARA/FLUOR
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2006, July 21)

Using the FLUOR near-infrared beam combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega, a prototypical debris-disk star known to be ... [more ▼]

Using the FLUOR near-infrared beam combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega, a prototypical debris-disk star known to be surrounded by large amounts of cold dust at 80-100 AU in a ring-like structure. The combination of short and long baselines has allowed us to separately resolve the stellar photosphere and its immediate neighbourhood inside by the FLUOR field-of-view of 1’’ (~8 AU at the distance of Vega). Our observations show a significant deficit in visibility at short baselines with respect to the expected visibility of a simple uniform disk stellar model, suggesting the presence of an extended source of emission around Vega. We propose that the visibility deficit is most likely due to the presence of hot circumstellar dust in the inner part of the debris disk, with a flux ratio of 1.29+/-0.19% between the integrated dust emission and the stellar photosphere in K band (2.15 microns). Using this piece of information together with archival photometric and interferometric data in the near- and mid-infrared, we derive the expected physical properties of the dust grains by modelling their infrared Spectral Energy Distribution. Small, highly refractive grains are suspected to be located at only a few 0.1 AU from Vega, with a total mass of about 1e-7 Earth mass. Their presence is thought to be an indicator of major dynamical perturbations currently ongoing in the Vega system. [less ▲]

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See detailThe 4m international liquid mirror telescope (ILMT)
Surdej, Jean ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Bartczak, Przemyslaw ULg et al

in Stepp, Larry (Ed.) Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes (2006, July 01)

The entire funding has recently been obtained in Belgium for the construction of a 4m Liquid Mirror Telescope. Its prime focus will be equipped with a semi-conventional glass corrector allowing to correct ... [more ▼]

The entire funding has recently been obtained in Belgium for the construction of a 4m Liquid Mirror Telescope. Its prime focus will be equipped with a semi-conventional glass corrector allowing to correct for the TDI effect and a thinned, high quantum efficiency, 4K × 4K pixel equivalent CCD camera. It will be capable of subarcsecond imaging in the i'(760 nm) and possibly r', g' band(s) over a field of ~ 30' in diameter. This facility will be entirely dedicated to a deep photometric and astrometric variability survey over a period of ~ 5 years. In this paper, the working principle of liquid mirror telescopes is first recalled, along with the advantages and disadvantages of the latter over classical telescopes. Several science cases are described. For a good access to one of the galactic poles, the best image quality sites for the ILMT are located either in Northern Chile (latitude near -29°30') or in North-East India (Nainital Hills, latitude near +29°30'). At those geographic latitudes, a deep (i' = 22.5 mag.) survey will approximately cover 90 square degrees at high galactic latitude, which is very useful for gravitational lensing studies as well as for the identification of various classes of interesting galactic and extragalactic objects (cf. microlensed stars, supernovae, clusters, etc.). A description of the telescope, its instrumentation and the handling of the data is also presented. [less ▲]

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See detailPegase: a space-based nulling interferometer
Le Duigou, J. M.; Ollivier, M.; Léger, A. et al

in Mather, John C.; MacEwen, Howard A.; de Graauw, Mattheus W. M. (Eds.) Space Telescopes and Instrumentation I: Optical, Infrared, and Millimeter (2006, July 01)

The space based mission Pegase was proposed to CNES in the framework of its call for scientific proposals for formation flying missions. This paper presents a summary of the phase-0 performed in 2005. The ... [more ▼]

The space based mission Pegase was proposed to CNES in the framework of its call for scientific proposals for formation flying missions. This paper presents a summary of the phase-0 performed in 2005. The main scientific goal is the spectroscopy of hot Jupiters (Pegasides) and brown dwarfs from 2.5 to 5 mum. The mission can extend to other objectives such as the exploration of the inner part of protoplanetary disks, the study of dust clouds around AGN,... The instrument is basically a two-aperture (D=40 cm) interferometer composed of three satellites, two siderostats and one beam-combiner. The formation is linear and orbits around L2, pointing in the anti-solar direction within a +/-30° cone. The baseline is adjustable from 50 to 500 m in both nulling and visibility measurement modes. The angular resolution ranges from 1 to 20 mas and the spectral resolution is 60. In the nulling mode, a 2.5 nm rms stability of the optical path difference (OPD) and a pointing stability of 30 mas rms impose a two level control architecture. It combines control loops implemented at satellite level and control loops operating inside the payload using fine mechanisms. According to our preliminary study, this mission is feasible within an 8 to 9 years development plan using existing or slightly improved space components, but its cost requires international cooperation. Pegase could be a valuable Darwin/TPF-I pathfinder, with a less demanding, but still ambitious, technological challenge and a high associated scientific return. [less ▲]

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See detailDetection of the inner-debris disk of Vega with CHARA/FLUOR
Absil, Olivier ULg; Di Folco, Emmanuel; Mérand, Antoine et al

in Monnier, John; Schöller, Markus; Danchi, Willian (Eds.) Advances in Stellar Interferometry (2006, July 01)

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt. Wilson, CA), we have obtained highprecision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded ... [more ▼]

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt. Wilson, CA), we have obtained highprecision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded by a large amount of cold dust in a ring-like structure at 80-100 AU. The combination of short and long baselines has allowed us to separately resolve the stellar photosphere and the close environment of the star (less than 8 AU). Our observations show a significant deficit in square visibility at short baselines with respect to the expected visibility of a simple UD stellar model (DeltaV2 equal or equivalent to 2%), suggesting the presence of an extended source of emission around Vega. The sparse (u, v) plane coverage does not allow the discrimination between a point source and an extended circumstellar emission as the source of the extended emission. However, we show that the presence of a point-like source within the FLUOR field-of-view (1" in radius, i.e., 7.8 AU at the distance of Vega) is highly unlikely. The excess emission is most likely due to the presence of hot circumstellar dust in the inner part of Vega's debris disk, with a flux ratio of 1.29 plus or minus 0.19% between the integrated dust emission and the stellar photosphere. Complementing this result with archival photometric data in the near- and mid-infrared and taking into account a realistic photospheric model for the rapidly rotating Vega, we derive the expected physical properties of the circumstellar dust by modelling its Spectral Energy Distribution. The inferred properties suggest that the Vega system could be currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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See detailConceptual design of the ALADDIN Antarctic nulling interferometer
Barillot, Marc; Courteau, Pascal; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Monnier, John; Schöller, Markus; Danchi, William (Eds.) Advances in Stellar Interferometry (2006, July 01)

It is commonly accepted that highly challenging planet finding missions such as Darwin and TPF need precursors on the ground, for both technological demonstration and study of the exozodiacal clouds ... [more ▼]

It is commonly accepted that highly challenging planet finding missions such as Darwin and TPF need precursors on the ground, for both technological demonstration and study of the exozodiacal clouds around potential targets. A first instrument, GENIE, designed to be implemented in the interferometric laboratory of the VLTI, was studied by ESA and scientific/industrial teams. In this paper we present a concept for ALADDIN, an operational nulling instrument to be implemented at Dome C in Antarctica, and discuss the comparison with GENIE from the instrumental point of view. Our preliminary design involves moderate ~1m size telescopes mounted on a 40m long rotating beam allowing baselines up to 30m and feeding a 2-arm nulling beam combiner. When compared to GENIE, the rotating beam design has the advantage of removing the need for both long-stroke delay line and dispersion control equipments. As a side effect, the instrumental arrangement of ALADDIN finds itself more representative of what Darwin will be. Furthermore, critical issues like phase control, photometric balance and instrumental background suppression are expected to be relaxed by the improved atmospheric conditions, lower temperature, and simpler optical trains. Calibration of geometrical stellar leakage will make advantage of the continuously adjustable baseline. As results, a simpler instrument showing improved performance is expected. In conclusion, we see our ALADDIN concept as a valuable alternative to GENIE, with a quite stronger scientific potential and a considerably simplified instrumental design. [less ▲]

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See detailALADDIN: an optimized nulling ground-based demonstrator for DARWIN
Coudé du Foresto, V.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Swain, M. et al

in Monnier, John; Schöller, Markus; Danchi, William (Eds.) Advances in Stellar Interferometry (2006, July 01)

The ESA Darwin space mission will require a ground based precursor to i/ demonstrate nulling interferometry in an operational context and ii/ carry out some precursor science, such as the characterization ... [more ▼]

The ESA Darwin space mission will require a ground based precursor to i/ demonstrate nulling interferometry in an operational context and ii/ carry out some precursor science, such as the characterization of the level of exozodiacal light around the main Darwin targets. These are the stated objectives of the GENIE nulling instrument that was studied for the VLTI. We argue here that the same objectives can be met in a more efficient way by an antarctic-based nulling experiment. The ALADDIN mission concept is an integrated L-band nulling breadboard with relatively modest collectors (1m) and baseline (40m). Because of its privileged location, this is suffcient to achieve a sensitivity (in terms of detectable zodi levels) which is 1.6 to 3.5 times better than GENIE at the VLTI, bringing it below the 20-zodi threshold value identified to carry out the Darwin precursor science. The integrated design enables top-level optimization and full access to the light collectors for the duration of the experiment, while reducing the complexity of the nulling breadboard. [less ▲]

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See detailFirst Results from the CHARA Array. VII. Long-Baseline Interferometric Measurements of Vega Consistent with a Pole-On, Rapidly Rotating Star
Aufdenberg, J. P.; Mérand, A.; Coudé du Foresto, V. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2006), 645

We have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega with the CHARA Array and FLUOR beam combiner in the K' band at projected baselines between 103 and 273 m. The measured visibility ... [more ▼]

We have obtained high-precision interferometric measurements of Vega with the CHARA Array and FLUOR beam combiner in the K' band at projected baselines between 103 and 273 m. The measured visibility amplitudes beyond the first lobe are significantly weaker than expected for a slowly rotating star characterized by a single effective temperature and surface gravity. Our measurements, when compared to synthetic visibilities and synthetic spectrophotometry from a Roche-von Zeipel gravity-darkened model atmosphere, provide strong evidence for the model of Vega as a rapidly rotating star viewed very nearly pole-on. Our best-fitting model indicates that Vega is rotating at ~91% of its angular break-up rate with an equatorial velocity of 275 km s[SUP]-1[/SUP]. Together with the measured vsini, this velocity yields an inclination for the rotation axis of 5deg. For this model the pole-to-equator effective temperature difference is ~2250 K, a value much larger than previously derived from spectral line analyses. A polar effective temperature of 10,150 K is derived from a fit to ultraviolet and optical spectrophotometry. The synthetic and observed spectral energy distributions are in reasonable agreement longward of 140 nm, where they agree to 5% or better. Shortward of 140 nm, the model is up to 10 times brighter than observed. The model has a luminosity of ~37 L[SUB]solar[/SUB], a value 35% lower than Vega's apparent luminosity based on its bolometric flux and parallax, assuming a slowly rotating star. Our model predicts the spectral energy distribution of Vega as viewed from its equatorial plane, and it may be employed in radiative models for the surrounding debris disk. [less ▲]

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See detailCircumstellar material in the Vega inner system revealed by CHARA/FLUOR
Absil, Olivier ULg; di Folco, E.; Mérand, A. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2006), 452

Context: Only a handful of debris disks have been imaged up to now. Due to the need for high dynamic range and high angular resolution, very little is known about the inner planetary region, where small ... [more ▼]

Context: Only a handful of debris disks have been imaged up to now. Due to the need for high dynamic range and high angular resolution, very little is known about the inner planetary region, where small amounts of warm dust are expected to be found. Aims: We investigate the close neighbourhood of Vega with the help of infrared stellar interferometry and estimate the integrated K-band flux originating from the central 8 AU of the debris disk. Methods: We performed precise visibility measurements at both short (~30 m) and long (~150 m) baselines with the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, California) in order to separately resolve the emissions from the extended debris disk (short baselines) and from the stellar photosphere (long baselines). Results: After revising Vega's K-band angular diameter (theta_UD = 3.202 ± 0.005 mas), we show that a significant deficit in squared visibility (Delta V[SUP]2[/SUP] = 1.88 ± 0.34%) is detected at short baselines with respect to the best-fit uniform disk stellar model. This deficit can be either attributed to the presence of a low-mass stellar companion around Vega, or as the signature of the thermal and scattered emissions from the debris disk. We show that the presence of a close companion is highly unlikely, as well as other possible perturbations (stellar morphology, calibration), and deduce that we have most probably detected the presence of dust in the close neighbourhood of Vega. The resulting flux ratio between the stellar photosphere and the debris disk amounts to 1.29 ± 0.19% within the FLUOR field-of-view (~7.8 AU). Finally, we complement our K-band study with archival photometric and interferometric data in order to evaluate the main physical properties of the inner dust disk. The inferred properties suggest that the Vega system could be currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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See detailThe inner debris disk of Vega as seen by CHARA/FLUOR
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2006, May 25)

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded ... [more ▼]

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded by a large amount of cold dust in a ring-like structure at 80-100 AU. The combination of short and long baselines has allowed us to separately resolve the stellar photosphere and the close environment of the star (<8 AU). Our observations show a significant deficit in square visibility at short baselines with respect to the expected visibility of a simple UD stellar model (dV2 ~ 2%), suggesting the presence of an extended source of emission around Vega. The sparse (u,v) plane coverage does not allow the discrimination between a point source and an extended circumstellar emission as the source of the extended emission. However, we show that the presence of a point-like source within the FLUOR field-of-view (1" in radius, i.e., 7.8 AU at the distance of Vega) is highly unlikely. The excess emission is most likely due to the presence of hot circumstellar dust in the inner part of Vega's debris disk, with a flux ratio of 1.29 +/- 0.19% between the integrated dust emission and the stellar photosphere. Complementing this result with archival photometric data in the near- and mid-infrared and taking into account a realistic photospheric model for the rapidly rotating Vega, we derive the expected physical properties of the circumstellar dust by modelling its Spectral Energy Distribution. The inferred properties suggest that the Vega system could be currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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See detailVega: the star with comets?
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2006, May 19)

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See detailHot circumstellar material in Vega’s inner planetary system
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2006, March 21)

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded ... [more ▼]

Using the FLUOR beam-combiner installed at the CHARA Array (Mt Wilson, CA), we have obtained high-precision visibility measurements of Vega, one of the prototypic debris-disk stars, known to be surrounded by large amounts of cold dust in a ring-like structure at 80-100 AU. The combination of short and long baselines has allowed us to separately resolve the stellar photosphere and the close environment of the star (< 8 AU). Our observations show a significant deficit in square visibility at short baselines with respect to the expected visibility of a simple uniform disk stellar model (DV2 ~ 2%), suggesting the presence of an extended source of emission around Vega. The sparse (u, v) plane coverage does not allow for discriminating between a point source and an extended circumstellar emission as the origin of the extended emission. However, we show that the presence of a point-like source within the FLUOR field-ofview (1 arcsec in radius = 7.7 AU at the distance of Vega) is highly unlikely, and propose that the excess emission is most likely due to the presence of hot circumstellar dust in the inner part of Vega’s debris disk, with a flux ratio of 1.29±0.19% between the integrated dust emission and the stellar photosphere. Using this information together with archival photometric measurements in the near- and mid-infrared, we derive the expected physical properties of the circumstellar dust by modelling its infrared Spectral Energy Distribution. The inferred properties suggest that the Vega system could be currently undergoing major dynamical perturbations. [less ▲]

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See detailAstrophysical studies of extrasolar planetary systems using infrared interferometric techniques
Absil, Olivier ULg

Doctoral thesis (2006)

The study of extrasolar planetary systems has thrived during the last two decades, stimulated by the discovery of circumstellar dust and extrasolar planets around main sequence stars. However, direct ... [more ▼]

The study of extrasolar planetary systems has thrived during the last two decades, stimulated by the discovery of circumstellar dust and extrasolar planets around main sequence stars. However, direct imaging of planetary systems has been possible in only very special cases so far due to the huge contrast and to the small angular separation between stars and their environments. Even for these favourable cases, the inner regions where terrestrial planets are expected to be forming and where life could develop have not been investigated yet due to the lack of appropriate tools. Infrared interferometry is a very promising technique in this context, as it provides the required angular resolution to separate the emissions from the star and its immediate neighbourhood. The present work aims at developing the high dynamic range capabilities of interferometric techniques for the characterisation of planetary systems. As a first step, we demonstrate that current interferometric facilities have the potential of detecting dust in the first few astronomical units of massive debris disks around nearby stars. Our observations of Vega with the FLUOR near-infrared beam combiner at the CHARA Array reveal the presence of warm dust responsible for a K-band flux 78 times fainter than the stellar photospheric emission. In order to extend the imaging of planetary systems to fainter disks and to giant extrasolar planets, we investigate in a second step the performance of future ground-based nulling interferometers, taking into account atmospheric eff ects in a realistic way. Our simulations show that a nulling instrument installed at the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer would detect circumstellar features as faint as a few 10^-4 of the stellar flux. Finally, the third part of this work focuses on the implementation of nulling interferometry on future space-borne missions, the goal being to characterise extrasolar planets with sizes down to that of the Earth. [less ▲]

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See detailPerformance study of ground-based infrared Bracewell interferometers. Application to the detection of exozodiacal dust disks with GENIE
Absil, Olivier ULg; den Hartog, R.; Gondoin, P. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2006), 448

Nulling interferometry, a powerful technique for high-resolution imaging of the close neighbourhood of bright astrophysical objets, is currently considered for future space missions such as Darwin or the ... [more ▼]

Nulling interferometry, a powerful technique for high-resolution imaging of the close neighbourhood of bright astrophysical objets, is currently considered for future space missions such as Darwin or the Terrestrial Planet Finder Interferometer (TPF-I), both aiming at Earth-like planet detection and characterization. Ground-based nulling interferometers are being studied for both technology demonstration and scientific preparation of the Darwin/TPF-I missions through a systematic survey of circumstellar dust disks around nearby stars. In this paper, we investigate the influence of atmospheric turbulence on the performance of ground-based nulling instruments, and deduce the major design guidelines for such instruments. End-to-end numerical simulations allow us to estimate the performance of the main subsystems and thereby the actual sensitivity of the nuller to faint exozodiacal disks. Particular attention is also given to the important question of stellar leakage calibration. This study is illustrated in the context of GENIE, the Ground-based European Nulling Interferometer Experiment, to be installed at the VLTI and working in the L' band. We estimate that this instrument will detect exozodiacal clouds as faint as about 50 times the Solar zodiacal cloud, thereby placing strong constraints on the acceptable targets for Darwin/TPF-I. [less ▲]

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See detailALADDIN: a DARWIN Pathfinder Mission on the Antarctic Plateau
Coudé Du Foresto, V.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Barillot, M.

in Coudé du Foresto, Vincent; Rouan, Daniel; Rousset, Gérard (Eds.) Visions for Infrared Astronomy (2006, March)

We propose an innovative concept for a DARWIN pathfinder experiment. It involves an integrated nulling interferometer of relatively modest dimensions (two 1 m class collectors on a 40 m truss), which ... [more ▼]

We propose an innovative concept for a DARWIN pathfinder experiment. It involves an integrated nulling interferometer of relatively modest dimensions (two 1 m class collectors on a 40 m truss), which would take advantage of a privileged location (at Dome C on the Antarctic plateau) to perform better than a nulling instrument on a large interferometer (such as GENIE at the VLTI). [less ▲]

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