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Optical Interferometry

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‘Optical interferometry is a novel observational technique in astronomy which uses the combination of light from multiple telescopes in an array to simulate the resolution of a much larger telescope. Using this technique, interferometers in operation today routinely achieve the resolution equivalent to that of a telescope with a mirror 300 meters in diameter. Giving a spatial resolution approximately 100 times that of the Hubble space telescope, enabling some truly unique science.

Building an optical interferometer is no easy task, in such a system light must be physically combined from the individual telescopes, traveling over hundreds of metres through a complex optical train to be brought to a common focus on a detector the size of a stamp. If that wasn’t bad enough the distance the light travels must be controlled to within one part in a billion, or roughly the width of a human hair.

In this talk I will outline the principles by which optical interferometry works and highlight a few of the unique science cases only possible by this technique. I will then discuss how to build an optical interferometer, using the the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (MROI), which I am engaged in developing, as an example. I will conclude by discussing an outlook for the future of optical interferometry’

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