Optical aperture synthesis with electronically connected telescopes.
Paul D Nuñez
Summary, in English
Highest resolution imaging in astronomy is achieved by interferometry, connecting telescopes over increasingly longer distances and at successively shorter wavelengths. Here, we present the first diffraction-limited images in visual light, produced by an array of independent optical telescopes, connected electronically only, with no optical links between them. With an array of small telescopes, second-order optical coherence of the sources is measured through intensity interferometry over 180 baselines between pairs of telescopes, and two-dimensional images reconstructed. The technique aims at diffraction-limited optical aperture synthesis over kilometre-long baselines to reach resolutions showing details on stellar surfaces and perhaps even the silhouettes of transiting exoplanets. Intensity interferometry circumvents problems of atmospheric turbulence that constrain ordinary interferometry. Since the electronic signal can be copied, many baselines can be built up between dispersed telescopes, and over long distances. Using arrays of air Cherenkov telescopes, this should enable the optical equivalent of interferometric arrays currently operating at radio wavelengths.