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See detailGENIE: High-Resolution Study of Debris Disks
Absil, Olivier ULg; Augereau, Jean-Charles; Den Hartog, Roland et al

in Richichi, A.; Delplancke, F.; Paresce, F. (Eds.) et al The Power of Optical/IR Interferometry: Recent Scientific Results and 2nd Generation Instrumentation (2008)

GENIE, the Ground-based European Nulling Interferometer Experiment, will combine the lights collected in the L’ band by two VLT telescopes in a destructive way, thereby revealing the thermal and/or ... [more ▼]

GENIE, the Ground-based European Nulling Interferometer Experiment, will combine the lights collected in the L’ band by two VLT telescopes in a destructive way, thereby revealing the thermal and/or scattered emission of faint objects in the close neighbourhood of the target star. A prime scientific goal for GENIE thus consists in the detection and characterization of debris disks around nearby Vega-type stars. Thanks to its high angular resolution and operating wavelength (3.8 µm), GENIE will be particularly sensitive to the thermal emission from the warm dust standing within a few AU from the star, a part of the disks which is not accessible with current detection methods (IR photometric excesses, sub-millimeter imaging, …). In this paper, we investigate the capabilities of GENIE to detect and characterize the physical parameters of the debris disk around zeta Leporis, a prototypical Vega-type star suspected to harbour a warm dust component in its debris disk (Fajardo-Acosta et al., AJ 115, 2101). This study is then extended to the detection of faint exozodiacal disks around typical Darwin/TPF targets, thereby demonstrating the very high potential of GENIE in the field of high-contrast imaging. [less ▲]

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See detailDarwin: required performance (invited)
Absil, Olivier ULg

Scientific conference (2007, December 06)

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See detailNulling interferometry: performance comparison between Antarctica and other ground-based sites
Absil, Olivier ULg; Coudé Du Foresto, V.; Barillot, M. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2007), 475

Context: Detecting the presence of circumstellar dust around nearby solar-type main sequence stars is an important pre-requisite for the design of future life-finding space missions such as ESA's Darwin ... [more ▼]

Context: Detecting the presence of circumstellar dust around nearby solar-type main sequence stars is an important pre-requisite for the design of future life-finding space missions such as ESA's Darwin or NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF). The high Antarctic plateau may provide appropriate conditions to perform such a survey from the ground. Aims: We investigate the performance of a nulling interferometer optimised for the detection of exozodiacal discs at Dome C, on the high Antarctic plateau, and compare it to the expected performance of similar instruments at temperate sites. Methods: Based on the currently available measurements of the atmospheric turbulence characteristics at Dome C, we adapt the GENIEsim software (Absil et al. 2006, A&A, 448, 787) to simulate the performance of a nulling interferometer on the high Antarctic plateau. To feed a realistic instrumental configuration into the simulator, we propose a conceptual design for ALADDIN, the Antarctic L-band Astrophysics Discovery Demonstrator for Interferometric Nulling. We assume that this instrument can be placed above the 30-m thick boundary layer, where most of the atmospheric turbulence originates. Results: We show that an optimised nulling interferometer operating on a pair of 1-m class telescopes located 30 m above the ground could achieve a better sensitivity than a similar instrument working with two 8-m class telescopes at a temperate site such as Cerro Paranal. The detection of circumstellar discs about 20 times as dense as our local zodiacal cloud seems within reach for typical Darwin/TPF targets in an integration time of a few hours. Moreover, the exceptional turbulence conditions significantly relax the requirements on real-time control loops, which has favourable consequences on the feasibility of the nulling instrument. Conclusions: The perspectives for high dynamic range, high angular resolution infrared astronomy on the high Antarctic plateau look very promising. [less ▲]

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See detailA near-infrared interferometric survey of debris disk stars. I. Probing the hot dust content around eps Eridani and tau Ceti with CHARA/FLUOR
Di Folco, Emmanuel; Absil, Olivier ULg; Augereau, J.-C. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2007), 475

Context: The quest for hot dust in the central region of debris disks requires high resolution and high dynamic range imaging. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means to directly detect faint ... [more ▼]

Context: The quest for hot dust in the central region of debris disks requires high resolution and high dynamic range imaging. Near-infrared interferometry is a powerful means to directly detect faint emission from hot grains. Aims: We probed the first 3 AU around tau Ceti and eps Eridani with the CHARA array (Mt Wilson, USA) in order to gauge the 2 mum excess flux emanating from possible hot dust grains in the debris disks and to also resolve the stellar photospheres. Methods: High precision visibility amplitude measurements were performed with the FLUOR single mode fiber instrument and telescope pairs on baselines ranging from 22 to 241 m of projected length. The short baseline observations allow us to disentangle the contribution of an extended structure from the photospheric emission, while the long baselines constrain the stellar diameter. Results: We have detected a resolved emission around tau Cet, corresponding to a spatially integrated, fractional excess flux of 0.98±0.21 × 10[SUP]-2[/SUP] with respect to the photospheric flux in the K'-band. Around eps Eri, our measurements can exclude a fractional excess of greater than 0.6× 10[SUP]-2[/SUP] (3sigma). We interpret the photometric excess around tau Cet as a possible signature of hot grains in the inner debris disk and demonstrate that a faint, physical or background, companion can be safely excluded. In addition, we measured both stellar angular diameters with an unprecedented accuracy: Theta_LD(tau Cet)= 2.015 ± 0.011 mas and Theta_LD(eps Eri)=2.126 ± 0.014 mas. [less ▲]

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See detailPotential of space-based infrared Bracewell interferometers for planet detection
Defrere, Denis ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hanot, Charles ULg et al

in Coulter, D. (Ed.) Techniques and Instrumentation for Detection of Exoplanets III (2007, September 12)

The Darwin and TPF-I space missions will be able to study the atmosphere of distant worlds similar to the Earth. Flying these space-based interferometers will however be an extraordinary technological ... [more ▼]

The Darwin and TPF-I space missions will be able to study the atmosphere of distant worlds similar to the Earth. Flying these space-based interferometers will however be an extraordinary technological challenge and a first step could be taken by a smaller mission. Several proposals have already been made in this context, using the simplest nulling scheme composed of two collectors, i.e., the original Bracewell interferometer. Two of these projects, viz. Pegase and the Fourier-Kelvin Space Interferometer, show very good perspectives for the characterisation of hot extra-solar giant planets (i.e., Jupiter-size planets orbiting close to their parent star). In this paper, we build on these concepts and try to optimise a Bracewell interferometer for the detection of Earth-like planets. The major challenge is to efficiently subtract the emission of the exo-zodiacal cloud which cannot be suppressed by classical phase chopping techniques as in the case of multi-telescopes nulling interferometers. We investigate the potential performance of split-pupil configurations with phase chopping and of OPD modulation techniques, which are good candidates for such a mitigation. Finally, we give a general overview of the performance to be expected from space-based Bracewell interferometers for the detection of extra-solar planets. In particular, the prospects for known extra-solar planets are presented. [less ▲]

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See detailInterferometric Constraints on Gravity Darkening with Application to the Modeling of Spica A & B
Aufdenberg, J. P.; Ireland, M. J.; Mérand, A. et al

in Hartkopf, W. I.; Guinan, E. F.; Harmanec, P. (Eds.) Binary Stars as Critical Tools & Tests in Contemporary Astrophysics (2007, August 01)

In 2005 we obtained very precise interferometric measurements of the pole-on rapid rotator Vega (A0 V) with the longest baselines of the Center for High Angular Angular Resolution (CHARA) Array and the ... [more ▼]

In 2005 we obtained very precise interferometric measurements of the pole-on rapid rotator Vega (A0 V) with the longest baselines of the Center for High Angular Angular Resolution (CHARA) Array and the Fiber Linked Unit for Optical Recombination (FLUOR). For the analysis of these data, we developed a code for mapping sophisticated PHOENIX model atmospheres on to the surface of rotationally distorted stars described by a Roche-von Zeipel formalism. Given a setof input parameters for a star or binary pair, this code predicts the interferometric visibility, spectral energy distribution and high-resolution line spectrum expected for the system. For the gravity-darkened Vega, our model provides a very good match to the K-band interferometric data, a good match to the spectral energy distribution -- except below 160 nm -- and a rather poor match to weak lines in the high dispersion spectrum where the model appears overly gravity darkened. In 2006, we used the CHARA Array and FLUOR to obtain high precision measurements of the massive, non-eclipsing, double-line spectroscopic binary Spica, a 4-day period system where both components are gravity darkened rapid rotators. These data supplement recent data obtained with the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer. Our study follows the classic 1971 study by Herbison-Evans et al. who resolved Spica as a binary with the Narrabri Intensity Interferometer. We will report on our progress modelling the new interferometric and archival spectroscopic data, with the goal towards better constraining the apsidal constant. [less ▲]

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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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