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See detailHigh precision astrometry mission for the detection and characterization of nearby habitable planetary systems with the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope (NEAT)
Malbet, Fabien; Léger, Alain; Shao, Michael et al

in Experimental Astronomy (2012), 34(2), 385-413

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within ... [more ▼]

A complete census of planetary systems around a volume-limited sample of solar-type stars (FGK dwarfs) in the Solar neighborhood (d ≤ 15 pc) with uniform sensitivity down to Earth-mass planets within their Habitable Zones out to several AUs would be a major milestone in extrasolar planets astrophysics. This fundamental goal can be achieved with a mission concept such as NEAT—the Nearby Earth Astrometric Telescope. NEAT is designed to carry out space-borne extremely-high-precision astrometric measurements at the 0.05 μas (1 σ) accuracy level, sufficient to detect dynamical effects due to orbiting planets of mass even lower than Earth's around the nearest stars. Such a survey mission would provide the actual planetary masses and the full orbital geometry for all the components of the detected planetary systems down to the Earth-mass limit. The NEAT performance limits can be achieved by carrying out differential astrometry between the targets and a set of suitable reference stars in the field. The NEAT instrument design consists of an off-axis parabola single-mirror telescope (D = 1 m), a detector with a large field of view located 40 m away from the telescope and made of 8 small movable CCDs located around a fixed central CCD, and an interferometric calibration system monitoring dynamical Young's fringes originating from metrology fibers located at the primary mirror. The mission profile is driven by the fact that the two main modules of the payload, the telescope and the focal plane, must be located 40 m away leading to the choice of a formation flying option as the reference mission, and of a deployable boom option as an alternative choice. The proposed mission architecture relies on the use of two satellites, of about 700 kg each, operating at L2 for 5 years, flying in formation and offering a capability of more than 20,000 reconfigurations. The two satellites will be launched in a stacked configuration using a Soyuz ST launch vehicle. The NEAT primary science program will encompass an astrometric survey of our 200 closest F-, G- and K-type stellar neighbors, with an average of 50 visits each distributed over the nominal mission duration. The main survey operation will use approximately 70% of the mission lifetime. The remaining 30% of NEAT observing time might be allocated, for example, to improve the characterization of the architecture of selected planetary systems around nearby targets of specific interest (low-mass stars, young stars, etc.) discovered by Gaia, ground-based high-precision radial-velocity surveys, and other programs. With its exquisite, surgical astrometric precision, NEAT holds the promise to provide the first thorough census for Earth-mass planets around stars in the immediate vicinity of our Sun. [less ▲]

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See detailScience case for 1 mas spectro-imagining in the near-infrared
Garcia, Paulo J V; Berger, Jean-Phillipe; Marconi, Alessandro et al

in Schöller, Markus; Danchi, William; Delplancke, Françoise (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry (2008, July 01)

We present the work developed within the science team of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer Spectro-Imager (VSI) during the Phase A studies. VSI aims at delivering ~ 1 milliarcsecond resolution data ... [more ▼]

We present the work developed within the science team of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer Spectro-Imager (VSI) during the Phase A studies. VSI aims at delivering ~ 1 milliarcsecond resolution data cubes in the near-infrared, with several spectral resolutions up to 12 000, by combining up to 8 VLTI telescopes. In the design of an instrument, the science case plays a central role by supporting the instrument construction decision, defining the top-level requirements and balancing design options. The overall science philosophy of VSI was that of a general user instrument serving a broad community. The science team addressed themes which included several areas of astrophysics and illustrated specific modes of operation of the instrument: a) YSO disks and winds; b) Multiplicity of young stars; c) Exoplanets; d) Debris disks; e) Stellar surface imaging; f) The environments of evolved stars; g) AGN tori; h) AGN's Broad Line Region; i) Supermassive black-holes; and j) Microlensing. The main conclusions can be summarized as follows: a) The accessible targets and related science are extremely sensitive to the instrument limiting magnitude; the instrument should be optimized for sensitivity and have its own fringe tracker. b) Most of the science cases are readily achievable with on-axis fringe tracking, off-axis fringe tracking enabling extra science. c) In most targets (YSOs, evolved stars and AGNs), the interpretation and analysis of circumstellar/nuclear dust morphology requires direct access to the gas via spectral resolved studies of emission lines, requiring at least a spectral resolution of 2 500. d) To routinely deliver images at the required sensitivity, the number of telescopes in determinant, with 6 telescopes being favored. e) The factorial increase in the number of closure phases and visibilities, gained in a single observation, makes massive surveys of parameters and related science for the first time possible. f) High dynamic range imaging and very high dynamic range differential closure phase are possible allowing the study of debris disks and characterization of pegasides. g) Spectro-imaging in the near-infrared is highly complementary to ALMA, adaptive optics and interferometric imaging in the thermal infrared. [less ▲]

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See detailPhase closure image reconstruction for future VLTI instrumentation
Filho, Mercedes E; Renard, Stephanie; Garcia, Paulo et al

in Schöller, Markus; Danchi, William; Delplancke, Françoise (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry (2008, July 01)

Classically, optical and near-infrared interferometry have relied on closure phase techniques to produce images. Such techniques allow us to achieve modest dynamic ranges. In order to test the feasibility ... [more ▼]

Classically, optical and near-infrared interferometry have relied on closure phase techniques to produce images. Such techniques allow us to achieve modest dynamic ranges. In order to test the feasibility of next generation optical interferometers in the context of the VLTI-spectro-imager (VSI), we have embarked on a study of image reconstruction and analysis. Our main aim was to test the influence of the number of telescopes, observing nights and distribution of the visibility points on the quality of the reconstructed images. Our results show that observations using six Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) during one complete night yield the best results in general and is critical in most science cases; the number of telescopes is the determining factor in the image reconstruction outcome. In terms of imaging capabilities, an optical, six telescope VLTI-type configuration and ~200 meter baseline will achieve 4 mas spatial resolution, which is comparable to ALMA and almost 50 times better than JWST will achieve at 2.2 microns. Our results show that such an instrument will be capable of imaging, with unprecedented detail, a plethora of sources, ranging from complex stellar surfaces to microlensing events. [less ▲]

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See detailPhase referencing in optical interferometry
Filho, Mercedes E; Garcia, Paulo; Duvert, Gilles et al

in Schöller, Markus; Danchi, William; Delplancke, Françoise (Eds.) Optical and Infrared Interferometry (2008, July 01)

One of the aims of next generation optical interferometric instrumentation is to be able to make use of information contained in the visibility phase to construct high dynamic range images. Radio and ... [more ▼]

One of the aims of next generation optical interferometric instrumentation is to be able to make use of information contained in the visibility phase to construct high dynamic range images. Radio and optical interferometry are at the two extremes of phase corruption by the atmosphere. While in radio it is possible to obtain calibrated phases for the science objects, in the optical this is currently not possible. Instead, optical interferometry has relied on closure phase techniques to produce images. Such techniques allow only to achieve modest dynamic ranges. However, with high contrast objects, for faint targets or when structure detail is needed, phase referencing techniques as used in radio interferometry, should theoretically achieve higher dynamic ranges for the same number of telescopes. Our approach is not to provide evidence either for or against the hypothesis that phase referenced imaging gives better dynamic range than closure phase imaging. Instead we wish to explore the potential of this technique for future optical interferometry and also because image reconstruction in the optical using phase referencing techniques has only been performed with limited success. We have generated simulated, noisy, complex visibility data, analogous to the signal produced in radio interferometers, using the VLTI as a template. We proceeded with image reconstruction using the radio image reconstruction algorithms contained in aips imagr (clean algorithm). Our results show that image reconstruction is successful in most of our science cases, yielding images with a 4 milliarcsecond resolution in K band. We have also investigated the number of target candidates for optical phase referencing. Using the 2MASS point source catalog, we show that there are several hundred objects with phase reference sources less than 30 arcseconds away, allowing to apply this technique. [less ▲]

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