Volume 602, June 2017
|Number of page(s)||23|
|Published online||21 June 2017|
First light for GRAVITY: Phase referencing optical interferometry for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer
1 Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, Giessenbachstr., 85748 Garching, Germany
2 LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ. Paris 06, Univ. Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, 92195 Meudon Cedex, France
3 Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl 17, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
4 1. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Zülpicher Str. 77, 50937 Köln, Germany
5 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IPAG, 38000 Grenoble, France
6 CENTRA and Universidade de Lisboa − Faculdade de Ciências, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal
7 CENTRA and Universidade do Porto − Faculdade de Engenharia, 4200-465 Porto, Portugal
8 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Str. 2, 85748 Garching, Germany
9 European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
10 Observatoire de Genève, Université de Genève, 51 Ch. des Maillettes, 1290 Versoix, Switzerland
11 Onera − The French Aerospace Lab, BP 72, 92 322 Châtillon, France
12 European Space Agency, Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA
13 Unidad Mixta Internacional Franco-Chilena de Astronomía (CNRS UMI 3386), Departamento de Astronomía, Universidad de Chile, Camino El Observatorio 1515, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile
14 Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy, Auf dem Hügel 69, 53121 Bonn, Germany
15 Sterrewacht Leiden, Leiden University, Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
16 Department of Physics, Le Conte Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
Corresponding author: F. Eisenhauer email@example.com
Received: 21 March 2017
Accepted: 26 April 2017
GRAVITY is a new instrument to coherently combine the light of the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope Interferometer to form a telescope with an equivalent 130 m diameter angular resolution and a collecting area of 200 m2. The instrument comprises fiber fed integrated optics beam combination, high resolution spectroscopy, built-in beam analysis and control, near-infrared wavefront sensing, phase-tracking, dual-beam operation, and laser metrology. GRAVITY opens up to optical/infrared interferometry the techniques of phase referenced imaging and narrow angle astrometry, in many aspects following the concepts of radio interferometry. This article gives an overview of GRAVITY and reports on the performance and the first astronomical observations during commissioning in 2015/16. We demonstrate phase-tracking on stars as faint as mK ≈ 10 mag, phase-referenced interferometry of objects fainter than mK ≈ 15 mag with a limiting magnitude of mK ≈ 17 mag, minute long coherent integrations, a visibility accuracy of better than 0.25%, and spectro-differential phase and closure phase accuracy better than 0.5°, corresponding to a differential astrometric precision of better than ten microarcseconds (μas). The dual-beam astrometry, measuring the phase difference of two objects with laser metrology, is still under commissioning. First observations show residuals as low as 50 μas when following objects over several months. We illustrate the instrument performance with the observations of archetypical objects for the different instrument modes. Examples include the Galactic center supermassive black hole and its fast orbiting star S2 for phase referenced dual-beam observations and infrared wavefront sensing, the high mass X-ray binary BP Cru and the active galactic nucleus of PDS 456 for a few μas spectro-differential astrometry, the T Tauri star S CrA for a spectro-differential visibility analysis, ξ Tel and 24 Cap for high accuracy visibility observations, and η Car for interferometric imaging with GRAVITY.
Key words: instrumentation: interferometers / instrumentation: adaptive optics / Galaxy: center / quasars: emission lines / binaries: symbiotic / stars: pre-main sequence
GRAVITY is developed in a collaboration by the Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics, LESIA of Paris Observatory/CNRS/UPMC/Univ. Paris Diderot and IPAG of Université Grenoble Alpes/CNRS, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, the University of Cologne, the Centro Multidisciplinar de Astrofísica Lisbon and Porto, and the European Southern Observatory.
© ESO, 2017
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