Eagle-Eye Astronomy

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Overview

About This Course

This course introduces the observational technique of optical interferometry as it is currently used in astronomy. Starting from a simple description of the image formation process at work in a telescope, the phenomenon of interference will be revealed as central to an understanding of modern astronomical optics. Understanding this will grant you with the most acute vision of the night sky, what we call "eagle-eye astronomy".

Rather than a laundry list of facts and numbers to memorize about interferometry, the course uses interferometry as a pretext to explore the method at work during a scientific investigation: from the simple initial curiosity that leads to the formulation of a question to its resolution, via the specification of an instrumentation, the conduct and interpretation of observations.

The optical stellar interferometer will be demystified, and its characteristics and constraints: overall geometry, delay lines, coverage of the sky, sensitivity, imaging capability... will be introduced in a logical and progressive manner, that may even lead you to come up with your own ideas and concepts!

Interferometry produces raw data of a somewhat unusual type, called "visibilities", estimated from very astute measurements made by specially designed instruments. A fine understanding of the processes that contribute to these measurements leads to the production of near ideal observable quantities, combining precision and accuracy.

These measurements are then use to dress high fidelity models or images of often exotic sources: evolved stars reaching the last stages of their life, tightly interacting binary objects or still-forming planetary systems. The tools and methods covered in the course will give enough background for the students to feel comfortable with putting together their own observing programs in optical interferometry.