PIONIER: a 4-telescope visitor instrument at VLTI⋆
UJF-Grenoble 1/CNRS-INSU, Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (IPAG) UMR 5274, Grenoble, France
2 European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
3 NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI), California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA
5 Max Planck Institut für Astronomie, Konigstühl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
6 Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Université de Liège, 17 allée du Six Août, 4000 Liège, Belgium
7 European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748, Garching bei Munchen, Germany
8 CEA-LETI, MINATEC Campus, 17 rue des Martyrs, 38054 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
Received: 28 June 2011
Accepted: 7 September 2011
Context. PIONIER stands for Precision Integrated-Optics Near-infrared Imaging ExpeRiment. It combines four 1.8m Auxilliary Telescopes or four 8m Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (ESO, Chile) using an integrated optics combiner. The instrument was integrated at IPAG in December 2009 and commissioned at the Paranal Observatory in October 2010. It has provided scientific observations since November 2010.
Aims. In this paper, we explain the instrumental concept and describe the standard operational modes and the data reduction strategy. We present the typical performance and discuss how to improve them.
Methods. This paper is based on laboratory data obtained during the integrations at IPAG, as well as on-sky data gathered during the commissioning at VLTI. We illustrate the imaging capability of PIONIER on the binaries δ Sco and HIP11231.
Results. PIONIER provides six visibilities and three independent closure phases in the H band, either in a broadband mode or with a low spectral dispersion (R = 40), using natural light (i.e. unpolarized). The limiting magnitude is Hmag = 7 in dispersed mode under median atmospheric conditions (seeing < 1, τ0 > 3ms) with the 1.8m Auxiliary Telescopes. We demonstrate a precision of 0.5deg on the closure phases. The precision on the calibrated visibilities ranges from 3% to 15% depending on the atmospheric conditions.
Conclusions. PIONIER was installed and successfully tested as a visitor instrument for the VLTI. It permits high angular resolution imaging studies at an unprecedented level of sensitivity. The successful combination of the four 8m Unit Telescopes in March 2011 demonstrates that VLTI is ready for four-telescope operation.
Key words: instrumentation: interferometers / techniques: interferometric / techniques: high angular resolution / instrumentation: high angular resolution
© ESO, 2011