References of "Absil, Olivier"
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See detailSearching for faint companions with VLTI/PIONIER. II. 92 main sequence stars from the Exozodi survey
Marion, Lindsay ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Ertel, S. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2014), 570

Context. The Exozodi survey aims to determine the occurrence rate of bright exozodiacal discs around nearby main sequence stars using infrared interferometry. Although the Exozodi survey targets have been ... [more ▼]

Context. The Exozodi survey aims to determine the occurrence rate of bright exozodiacal discs around nearby main sequence stars using infrared interferometry. Although the Exozodi survey targets have been carefully selected to avoid the presence of binary stars, the results of this survey can still be biased by the presence of unidentified stellar companions. <BR /> Aims: Using the PIONIER data set collected within the Exozodi survey in 2012, we aim to search for the signature of point-like companions around the Exozodi target stars. <BR /> Methods: We make use of both the closure phases and squared visibilities collected by PIONIER to search for companions within the ~100 mas interferometric field of view. The presence of a companion is assessed by computing the goodness of fit to the data for a series of binary models with various separations and contrasts. <BR /> Results: Five stellar companions are resolved for the first time around five A-type stars: HD 4150, HD 16555, HD 29388, HD 202730, and HD 224392 (although the companion to HD 16555 was independently resolved by speckle interferometry while we were carrying out the survey). In the most likely case of main sequence companions, their spectral types range from A5V to K4V. Three of these stars were already suspected to be binaries from Hipparcos astrometric measurements, although no information was available on the companions themselves so far. In addition to debiasing the statistics of the Exozodi survey, these results can also be used to revise the fraction of visual binaries among A-type stars, suggesting that an extra ~13% A-type stars are visual binaries in addition to the ones detected in previous direct imaging surveys. <BR /> Conclusions: We estimate that about half the population of nearby A-type stars could be resolved as visual binaries using a combination of state-of-the-art interferometry and single-aperture imaging, and we suggest that a significant fraction of these binaries remains undetected to date. [less ▲]

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See detailThe VORTEX project
Absil, Olivier ULg

Conference (2014, October 06)

Since 2005, we have been developing at the University of Liège an implementation of the vector vortex coronagraph based on concentric sub-wavelength gratings, referred to as the Annular Groove Phase Mask ... [more ▼]

Since 2005, we have been developing at the University of Liège an implementation of the vector vortex coronagraph based on concentric sub-wavelength gratings, referred to as the Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM). Science-grade mid-infrared AGPMs were produced in 2012 for the first time, using plasma etching of synthetic diamond substrates. Three of them have recently been installed on world-leading diffraction-limited infrared cameras. We are now in the process of exploiting this first generation of vortex phase masks. We are also preparing the future by improving the manufacturing process and quality of our vortices, by testing them on our infrared coronagraphic test bench and by developing new methods to improve the cancellation of stellar light. All these developments are specially geared up towards future application on ELTs. [less ▲]

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See detailFundamental Limitations of High Contrast Imaging Set by Small Sample Statistics
Mawet, D.; Milli, J.; Wahhaj, Z. et al

in Astrophysical Journal (2014), 792

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we review the impact of small sample statistics on detection thresholds and corresponding confidence levels (CLs) in high-contrast imaging at small angles. When looking close to the star, the number of resolution elements decreases rapidly toward small angles. This reduction of the number of degrees of freedom dramatically affects CLs and false alarm probabilities. Naively using the same ideal hypothesis and methods as for larger separations, which are well understood and commonly assume Gaussian noise, can yield up to one order of magnitude error in contrast estimations at fixed CL. The statistical penalty exponentially increases toward very small inner working angles. Even at 5-10 resolution elements from the star, false alarm probabilities can be significantly higher than expected. Here we present a rigorous statistical analysis that ensures robustness of the CL, but also imposes a substantial limitation on corresponding achievable detection limits (thus contrast) at small angles. This unavoidable fundamental statistical effect has a significant impact on current coronagraphic and future high-contrast imagers. Finally, the paper concludes with practical recommendations to account for small number statistics when computing the sensitivity to companions at small angles and when exploiting the results of direct imaging planet surveys. [less ▲]

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See detailVery deep images of the disc around beta Pictoris at Lp
Milli, J.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Mouillet, D. et al

Poster (2014, September 08)

We present observations of the innermost regions of the disc around beta Pictoris performed with VLT/NaCo in the Lp band. We combined seven deep datasets to retrieve the morphology of the disc down to 0 ... [more ▼]

We present observations of the innermost regions of the disc around beta Pictoris performed with VLT/NaCo in the Lp band. We combined seven deep datasets to retrieve the morphology of the disc down to 0.1arcsec. Our observations reveal intriguing ripples in the midplane of the disk at 0.5arcsec, as well as an overall bow of the disc spine, compatible with a disc slightly inclined with respect to edge-on scattering light anisotropically. Modelling suggests the presence of dust down to 10AU in order to explain the bright flux seen below 0.5 arcsec. [less ▲]

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See detailProbing the innermost regions of the beta Pic planetary system with near-infrared interferometry
Absil, Olivier ULg; Defrere, D.; Le Bouquin, J.-B. et al

Conference (2014, September 08)

In this talk, I will review the near-infrared interferometric view of the innermost regions (< 4 AU) around beta Pictoris. I will first present the results of VLTI/AMBER and VLTI/PIONIER observations ... [more ▼]

In this talk, I will review the near-infrared interferometric view of the innermost regions (< 4 AU) around beta Pictoris. I will first present the results of VLTI/AMBER and VLTI/PIONIER observations aiming to detect faint companions around beta Pic. These data sets allow us to exclude the presence of companions a few hundred times as faint as the central star at angular separations up to about 100 mas. The median sensitivity in our search region corresponds to a brown dwarf of about 30 Mjup at beta Pic's age. I will then discuss the search for hot circumstellar dust that we carried out with VLTI/PIONIER. Based on accurate squared visibilities obtained at short baselines, we have been able to identify the presence of resolved circumstellar emission with an integrated brightness amounting to about 1.4% of the stellar brightness in H band. The spectral shape of the detected excess across the H band is consistant with thermal emission and/or reflected light from hot dust grains located in the innermost regions of the planetary system, although forward scattering by dust grains located further away (but still within the PIONIER field-of-view, i.e., close to the line of sight) could also significantly contribute to the detected circumstellar emission. I will conclude with a brief discussion of the implications of these interferometric observations on our view of the planetary system architecture around beta Pic. [less ▲]

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See detailDiscovery of a Companion Candidate in the HD 169142 Transition Disk and the Possibility of Multiple Planet Formation
Reggiani, Maddalena; Quanz, Sascha P.; Meyer, Michael R. et al

in Astrophysical Journal Letters (2014), 792

We present L'- and J-band high-contrast observations of HD 169142, obtained with the Very Large Telescope/NACO AGPM vector vortex coronagraph and the Gemini Planet Imager, respectively. A source located ... [more ▼]

We present L'- and J-band high-contrast observations of HD 169142, obtained with the Very Large Telescope/NACO AGPM vector vortex coronagraph and the Gemini Planet Imager, respectively. A source located at 0.''156 ± 0.''032 north of the host star (P.A. = 7.4° ± 11.3°) appears in the final reduced L' image. At the distance of the star (~145 pc), this angular separation corresponds to a physical separation of 22.7 ± 4.7 AU, locating the source within the recently resolved inner cavity of the transition disk. The source has a brightness of L' = 12.2 ± 0.5 mag, whereas it is not detected in the J band (J >13.8 mag). If its L' brightness arose solely from the photosphere of a companion and given the J - L' color constraints, it would correspond to a 28-32 MJup object at the age of the star, according to the COND models. Ongoing accretion activity of the star suggests, however, that gas is left in the inner disk cavity from which the companion could also be accreting. In this case, the object could be lower in mass and its luminosity enhanced by the accretion process and by a circumplanetary disk. A lower-mass object is more consistent with the observed cavity width. Finally, the observations enable us to place an upper limit on the L'-band flux of a second companion candidate orbiting in the disk annular gap at ~50 AU, as suggested by millimeter observations. If the second companion is also confirmed, HD 169142 might be forming a planetary system, with at least two companions opening gaps and possibly interacting with each other. [less ▲]

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See detailNIR interferometric observations of massive hierarchical triple systems: Tr16-104 and HD150136
Gosset, Eric ULg; Le Bouquin, Jean-Baptiste; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in de Grijs, Richard (Ed.) Binary Systems: their Evolution and Environments (2014, September)

We report on an observational astrometric study of the orbit of the tertiary stars in two massive hierarchical triple systems. The work is complemented by radial velocity data with the aim of deriving the ... [more ▼]

We report on an observational astrometric study of the orbit of the tertiary stars in two massive hierarchical triple systems. The work is complemented by radial velocity data with the aim of deriving the full 3D orbit and constraints on the orbital planes. This is the first report of the tertiary star's detection for Tr16-104. The work is a natural extension of the search for binaries among massive O-stars. The basic motivation of the study of hierarchical triple systems is the determination of the masses of the individual components and the derivation of the relative orientation of the two orbital planes, with the ultimate aim of understanding the related star formation processes. [less ▲]

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See detailRealizing the diamond annular groove phase masks for the mid infrared region: five years of successful process development of diamond plasma etching
Forsberg, Pontus; Vargas Catalan, Ernesto; Delacroix, Christian ULg et al

in Navarro, Ramon; Cunningham, Colin; Barto, Allison (Eds.) Advances in Optical and Mechanical Technologies for Telescopes and Instrumentation (2014, August 07)

The Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM) is a circularly symmetric half wave plate consisting of a circular high aspect ratio sub-wavelength grating. Here we present a method for realizing such structures in ... [more ▼]

The Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM) is a circularly symmetric half wave plate consisting of a circular high aspect ratio sub-wavelength grating. Here we present a method for realizing such structures in diamond. To improve the AGPM performance, antireflective sub-wavelength gratings are etched on the backside of the components, and such gratings are also discussed. Components for the N-band (around 10 μm) and the L-band (around 3.8 μm) have been successfully fabricated. We are currently developing the process further to improve the precision of the gratings and produce an AGPM for the K-band (around 2.2 μm). © (2014) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only. [less ▲]

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See detailUnveiling new stellar companions from the PIONIER exozodi survey
Marion, Lindsay ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Ertel, S. et al

in Rajagopal, Jayadev; Creech-Eakman; Malbet, Fabien (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry IV (2014, July 24)

The main goal of the EXOZODI survey is to detect and characterize circumstellar dust and to propose the first statistical study of exozodiacal disks in the near-infrared using telescopes in both ... [more ▼]

The main goal of the EXOZODI survey is to detect and characterize circumstellar dust and to propose the first statistical study of exozodiacal disks in the near-infrared using telescopes in both hemispheres (VLTI and CHARA). For this purpose, Ertel et al. have conducted in 2012 a survey of nearby main sequence stars with VLTI/PIONIER to search for the presence of circumstellar dust. This survey, carried out during 12 nights, comprises about 100 stars. For each star, we obtained typically three OBs and we searched for circumstellar emission based on the measurement of squared visibilities at short baselines. A drop in the measured visibilities with respect to the expected photospheric visibility indicates the presence of resolved emission around the target star. It is however generally not possible to conclude on the morphology of the detected emission based solely on the squared visibilities. Here, we focus on closure phases to search systematically for faint companions around the whole sample. Indeed, to derive robust statistics on the occurrence rate of bright exozodiacal disks, we need to discriminate between companions and disks. For this reason, the main goal of this paper is to discriminate between circumstellar disks (which show no closure phase provided that they are point-symmetric) and faint companions (point-like sources, creating non-zero closure phases). We also aim to reveal new companions that do not necessarily produce a significant signature in the squared visibilities, as the signature of the companion may show up more prominently in the closure phases. In this process, we reveal four new stellar companions with contrasts ranging from 2% to 95% (i.e., up to near-equal flux binaries). We also tentatively detect faint companions around one other target that will require follow-up observations to be confirmed or infirmed. We discuss the implications of these discoveries on the results of the exozodi survey. [less ▲]

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on LBTI/LMIRCam
Defrère, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hinz, P. et al

in Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering (2014, July 21)

We present the first observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM vortex coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCam. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from ... [more ▼]

We present the first observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM vortex coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCam. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond subwavelength gratings. It is designed to improve the sensitivity and dynamic range of high-resolution imaging at very small inner working angles, down to 0.09 arcseconds in the case of LBTI/LMIRCam in the L' band. During the first hours on sky, we observed the young A5V star HR8799 with the goal to demonstrate the AGPM performance and assess its relevance for the ongoing LBTI planet survey (LEECH). Preliminary analyses of the data reveal the four known planets clearly at high SNR and provide unprecedented sensitivity limits in the inner planetary system (down to the diffraction limit of 0.09 arcseconds). © 2014 SPIE. [less ▲]

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See detailThe VORTEX project: first results and perspectives
Absil, Olivier ULg; Mawet, Dimitri; Delacroix, Christian ULg et al

in Marchetti, Enrico; Close, Laird; Véran, Jean-Pierre (Eds.) Adaptive Optics Systems IV (2014, July 21)

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They feature a very small inner working angle (down to the ... [more ▼]

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They feature a very small inner working angle (down to the diffraction limit of the telescope), a clear 360 degree discovery space, have demonstrated very high contrast capabilities, are easy to implement on high-contrast imaging instruments, and have already been extensively tested on the sky. Since 2005, we have been designing, developing and testing an implementation of the charge-2 vector vortex phase mask based on concentric sub-wavelength gratings, referred to as the Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM). Science-grade mid-infrared AGPMs were produced in 2012 for the first time, using plasma etching on synthetic diamond substrates. They have been validated on a coronagraphic test bench, showing broadband peak rejection up to 500:1 in the L band, which translates into a raw contrast of about 6e-5 at 2λ/D. Three of them have now been installed on world-leading diffraction-limited infrared cameras, namely VLT/NACO, VLT/VISIR and LBT/LMIRCam. During the science verification observations with our L-band AGPM on NACO, we observed the beta Pictoris system and obtained unprecedented sensitivity limits to planetary companions down to the diffraction limit (0.1"). More recently, we obtained new images of the HR 8799 system at L band during the AGPM first light on LMIRCam. After reviewing these first results obtained with mid-infrared AGPMs, we will discuss the short- and mid-term goals of the on-going VORTEX project, which aims to improve the performance of our vortex phase masks for future applications on second-generation high-contrast imager and on future extremely large telescopes (ELTs). In particular, we will briefly describe our current efforts to improve the manufacturing of mid-infrared AGPMs, to push their operation to shorter wavelengths, and to provide deeper starlight extinction by creating new designs for higher topological charge vortices. Within the VORTEX project, we also plan to develop new image processing techniques tailored to coronagraphic images, and to study some pre- and post-coronagraphic concepts adapted to the vortex coronagraph in order to reduce scattered starlight in the final images. [less ▲]

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See detailThe VORTEX coronagraphic test bench
Jolivet, Aïssa ULg; Piron, Pierre ULg; Huby, Elsa ULg et al

in Navarro, Ramon; Cunningham, Colin; Barto, Allison (Eds.) Advances in Optical and Mechanical Technologies for Telescopes and Instrumentation (2014, July 18)

In this paper, we present the infrared coronagraphic test bench of the University of Liège named VODCA (Vortex Optical Demonstrator for Coronagraphic Applications). The goal of the bench is to assess the ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we present the infrared coronagraphic test bench of the University of Liège named VODCA (Vortex Optical Demonstrator for Coronagraphic Applications). The goal of the bench is to assess the performances of the Annular Groove Phase Masks (AGPMs) at near- to mid-infrared wavelengths. The AGPM is a subwavelength grating vortex coronagraph of charge two (SGVC2) made out of diamond. The bench is designed to be completely achromatic and will be composed of a super continuum laser source emitting in the near to mid-infrared, several parabolas, diaphragms and an infrared camera. This way, we will be able to test the different AGPMs in the M, L, K and H bands. Eventually, the bench will also allow the computation of the incident wavefront aberrations on the coronagraph. A reflective Lyot stop will send most of the stellar light to a second camera to perform low-order wavefront sensing. This second system coupled with a deformable mirror will allow the correction of the wavefront aberrations. We also aim to test other pre- and/or post-coronagraphic concepts such as optimal apodization. © (2014) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only. [less ▲]

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See detailDevelopment of a subwavelength grating vortex coronagraph of topological charge 4 (SGVC4)
Delacroix, Christian ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg; Carlomagno, Brunella ULg et al

in Ramsay, Suzanne; McLean, Ian; Takami, Hideki (Eds.) Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy V (2014, July 08)

One possible solution to achieve high contrast direct imaging at a small inner working angle (IWA) is to use a vector vortex coronagraph (VVC), which provides a continuous helical phase ramp in the focal ... [more ▼]

One possible solution to achieve high contrast direct imaging at a small inner working angle (IWA) is to use a vector vortex coronagraph (VVC), which provides a continuous helical phase ramp in the focal plane of the telescope with a phase singularity in its center. Such an optical vortex is characterized by its topological charge, i.e., the number of times the phase accumulates 2pi radians along a closed path surrounding the singularity. Over the past few years, we have been developing a charge-2 VVC induced by rotationally symmetric subwavelength gratings (SGVC2), also known as the Annular Groove Phase Mask (AGPM). Since 2013, several SGVC2s (or AGPMs) were manufactured using synthetic diamond substrate, then validated on dedicated optical benches, and installed on 10-m class telescopes. Increasing the topological charge seems however mandatory for cancelling the light of bright stars which will be partially resolved by future Extremely Large Telescopes in the near-infrared. In this paper, we first detail our motivations for developing an SGVC4 (charge 4) dedicated to the near-infrared domain. The challenge lies in the design of the pattern which is unrealistic in the theoretically perfect case, due to state-of-the-art manufacturing limitations. Hence, we propose a new realistic design of SGVC4 with minimized discontinuities and optimized phase ramp, showing conclusive improvements over previous works in this field. A preliminary validation of our concept is given based on RCWA simulations, while full 3D finite-difference time-domain simulations (and eventually laboratory tests) will be required for a final validation. [less ▲]

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See detailMid-IR AGPMs for ELT applications
Carlomagno, Brunella ULg; Delacroix, Christian ULg; Absil, Olivier ULg et al

in Ramsay, Suzanne; McLean, Ian; Takami, Hideki (Eds.) Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy V (2014, July 08)

The mid-infrared region is well suited for exoplanet detection thanks to the reduced contrast between the planet and its host star with respect to the visible and near-infrared wavelength regimes. This ... [more ▼]

The mid-infrared region is well suited for exoplanet detection thanks to the reduced contrast between the planet and its host star with respect to the visible and near-infrared wavelength regimes. This contrast may be further improved with Vector Vortex Coronagraphs (VVCs), which allow us to cancel the starlight. One flavour of the VVC is the AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask), which adds the interesting properties of subwavelength gratings (achromaticity, robustness) to the already known properties of the VVC. In this paper, we present the optimized designs, as well as the expected performances of mid-IR AGPMs etched onto synthetic diamond substrates, which are considered for the E-ELT/METIS instrument. [less ▲]

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See detailVery deep images of the innermost regions of the beta Pictoris debris disc at L'
Milli, J.; Lagrange, A.-M.; Mawet, D. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2014), 566

Context. Very few debris discs have been imaged in scattered light at wavelengths beyond 3 mum because the thermal emission from both the sky and the telescope is generally too strong with respect to the ... [more ▼]

Context. Very few debris discs have been imaged in scattered light at wavelengths beyond 3 mum because the thermal emission from both the sky and the telescope is generally too strong with respect to the faint emission of a debris disc. We present here the first analysis of a high angular resolution image of the disc of beta Pictoris at 3.8 mum. <BR /> Aims: Our primary objective is to probe the innermost parts of the beta Pictoris debris disc and describe its morphology. We performed extensive forward modelling to correct for the biases induced by angular differential imaging on extended objects and derive the physical parameters of the disc. <BR /> Methods: This work relies on a new analysis of seven archival data sets of beta Pictoris observed with the NaCo instrument at the Very Large Telescope in the L' band, including observations made with the Annular Groove Phase Mask vortex coronagraph in 2013. The data analysis consists of angular differential imaging associated with disc forward modelling to correct for the biases induced by that technique. The disc model is subtracted from the data and the reduction performed again in order to minimize the residuals in the final image. <BR /> Results: The disc is detected above a 5sigma level between 0.4'' and 3.8''. The two extensions have a similar brightness within error bars. We confirm an asymmetry previously observed at larger distances from the star and at shorter wavelengths: the isophotes are more widely spaced [less ▲]

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See detailObserving the Sun with micro-interferometric devices: a didactic experiment
Defrere, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hanot, C. et al

in Surdej, Jean; Le Coroller, Hervé; Arnold, Luc (Eds.) Improving the Performances of Current Optical Interferometers & Future Designs (2014, April 01)

Measuring the angular diameter of celestial bodies has long been the main purpose of stellar interferometry and was its historical motivation. Nowadays, stellar interferometry is widely used for various ... [more ▼]

Measuring the angular diameter of celestial bodies has long been the main purpose of stellar interferometry and was its historical motivation. Nowadays, stellar interferometry is widely used for various other scientific purposes that require very high angular resolution measurements. In terms of angular spatial scales probed, o [less ▲]

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See detailPIONIER : A Four Telescope VLTI Instrument
Lazareff, B.; Le Bouquin, J.-L.; Berger, J.-P. et al

in Surdej, Jean; Le Coroller, Hervé; Arnold, Luc (Eds.) Improving the Performances of Current Optical Interferometers & Future Designs (2014, April 01)

Pionier is a guest instrument, the first four-telescope recombiner at ESO's VLTI. We discuss salient design features and illustrate selected scientific results from the fi

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See detailmaking the most of the LBTI nulling interferometry observations using a statistical data reduction method
Marion, Lindsay ULg; Mennesson, Bertrand; Defrère, Denis et al

Poster (2014, March 20)

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See detailL'-band AGPM vector vortex coronagraph's first light on LBTI/LMIRCAM
Defrere, D.; Absil, Olivier ULg; Hinz, P. et al

Poster (2014, March)

We present the first science observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCAM. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from ... [more ▼]

We present the first science observations obtained with the L'-band AGPM coronagraph recently installed on LBTI/LMIRCAM. The AGPM (Annular Groove Phase Mask) is a vector vortex coronagraph made from diamond sub-wavelength gratings tuned to the L'-band. It is designed to improve the sensitivity and dynamic range of high-resolution imaging at very small inner working a [less ▲]

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See detailThe Hunt for Observable Signatures of Terrestrial Planetary Systems (HOSTS)
Defrere, D.; Hinz, P.; Bryden, G. et al

Conference (2014, March)

The presence of large amounts of exozodiacal dust around nearby main sequence stars is considered as a potential threat for the direct imaging of Earth-like exoplanets and, hence, the search for ... [more ▼]

The presence of large amounts of exozodiacal dust around nearby main sequence stars is considered as a potential threat for the direct imaging of Earth-like exoplanets and, hence, the search for biosignatures (Roberge et al. 2012). However, it is also considered as a signpost for the presence of terrestrial planets that might be hidden in the dust disk (Stark and Kuchner 2008). Characterizing exozodiacal dust around nearby sequence stars is therefore a crucial step toward one of the main goals of modern astronomy: finding extraterrestrial life. After briefly reviewing the latest results in this field, we present the exozodiacal dust survey on the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI). The survey is called HOSTS and is specifically designed to determine the prevalence and brightness of exozodiacal dust disks with the sensitivity required to prepare for future New Worlds Missions that will image Earth-like exoplanets. To achieve this objective, the LBTI science team has carefully established a balanced list of 50 nearby main-sequence stars that are likely candidates of these missions and/or can be observed with the best instrument performance (see companion abstract by Roberge et al.). Exozodiacal dust disk candidates detected by the Keck Interferometer Nuller will also be observed. The first results of the survey will be presented. To precisely detect exozodiacal dust, the LBTI combines the two 8-m primary mirrors of the LBT using N-band nulling interferometry. Interferometric combination provides the required angular resolution (70-90 mas) to resolve the habitable zone of nearby main sequence stars while nulling is used to subtract the stellar light and reach the required contrast of a few 10-4. A Kband fringe tracker ensures the stability of the null. The current performance of the instrument and the first nulling measurements will be presented. [less ▲]

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