The objective is to enhance the access and the scientific exploitation of the European flagship infrastructure – the Very Large Telescope Interferometer – the world’s top optical interferometer, as well as the European-USA alliances in the CHARA array, MROI and LBT-Interferometer. To do this exchanges of individuals across European institutes (the Fizeau Exchange Programme) will be competitively funded and a new generation of, mostly young astronomers, will receive hands-on training.
We will also help to define a strategy for the future of optical interferometry in Europe in the next decade, taking into account the global landscape shaped by the operation of the ALMA array and construction of the E-ELT. This will be achieved via an inclusive working group (see below) with members from the scientific community, service infrastructures and emerging countries. We will reinforce a shared vision for the field with meetings of representatives from established and new countries (infrastructure organizations, instrument building countries, scientific user countries and countries with emerging communities). This will be enabled by training schools which will have mainly a hands-on component using appropriate software, complemented by theory classes explaining the fundamentals, seminars illustrating front-line applications and complementary skills courses. The attendance will be of around 30 participants with priority to young students from non-expert institutes/countries.
The activity will also support meetings of the scientific council of the European lnterferometric initiative which joins representatives of Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, ESO and ESA. Face-to-face meetings will take place every two years. This activity is a continuation of a previous FP7 work package; its goal is to maintain a common vision of the field by established and new countries and of oversight of the other activities.
During the 2013-2016 period (FP7 II) the following working group was funded by WP14 of OPTICON/FP7 II (grant number 312430):
Joint Research Activities
Joint Activities were developed within the OPTICON/FP7 II project.Optical interferometry (OI) provides an important complement to the other large telescope projects of the next 10 years in Europe: its ten times higher angular resolution (compared to the more sensitive E-ELT and JWST) and its different wavelength (with respect to ALMA) provide a unique astronomical microscope to peer into the innermost regions of planets, stars and black holes formation. The linear scales resolved by optical interferometry offer for the first time the possibility to directly image transient astrophysical processes, like the formation and destruction of circumstellar material during planet formation as well as motion under the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole.
During the previous FP6, we initiated the development of software tools for preparation of interferometric observations and for calibration and modelling of interferometric data. Subsequently, these tools have been continuously improved by the community and have encouraged more astronomers to make use of interferometry observations. We now need to go a step further as the ability to reconstruct images is essential to exploit the very high angular resolution provided by the next generation multi-telescope instruments such as Matisse, Gravity and Pionier at Europe’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), LINC-Nirvana at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) or Vega at the CHARA interferometer. Image reconstruction algorithms for optical/IR interferometric and variable point spread function (PSF) data are now mature (Hofmann et al., 2005; le Besnerais et al., 2008; Thiébaut 2009; Berger et al., 2011; Desider et al., 2008, but they remain difficult for non-specialists to use and do not exploit all the capabilities of the new instruments (notably hyper-spectral imaging). This work package will provide user-friendly image reconstruction software that allows the whole community to exploit the interferometric imaging capabilities that will be offered by current facilities a few years from now.