Stellar Intensity Interferometric Capabilities of IACT Arrays
August 16, 2017
August 03, 2018
Sub-milliarcsecond imaging of nearby main sequence stars and binary systems can provide critical information on stellar phenomena such as rotational deformation, accretion effects, and the universality of starspot (sunspot) cycles. Achieving this level of resolution in optical wavelength bands (U/V) requires use of a sparse array of interferometric telescopes with kilometer scale baseline separations. Current ground based VHE gamma-ray observatories, such as VERITAS, HESS, and MAGIC, employ arrays of > 10 m diameter optical Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACTs) with >80 m telescope separations, and are therefore well suited for sub-milliarcsecond astronomical imaging in the U/V bands using Hanbury Brown and Twiss (HBT) interferometry. We describe the development of instrumentation for the augmentation of IACT arrays to perform Stellar Intensity Interferometric (SII) imaging. Laboratory tests are performed using pseudo-random and thermal (blackbody) light to demonstrate the ability of high speed (250 MHz) digitizing electronics to continuously record photon intensity over long periods (minutes to hours) and validate the use of offline software correlation to calculate the squared degree of coherence . We then use the squared degree of coherence as the interferometric observable to populate the Fourier reciporical image plane, and apply standard inversion techniques to recover the original 2-D source image. The commercial availability of inexpensive fiber-optic based sub-nanosecond multi-crate (White Rabbit) synchronization timing enables the extension of SII to baselines greater than 10 km, theoretically allowing U/V band imaging with resolution <100 arc-seconds. This article provides a description of typical designs of practical SII instrumentation for the VERITAS IACT observatory array (Amado, Arizona) and the future CTA IACT Observatory (Canary Islands, Spain and Paranal, Chile).
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