The Messenger Telescopes and Instrumentation

First Light for GRAVITY: A New Era for Optical Interferometry

  • Gravity Collaboration

Telescopes and Instrumentation

With the arrival of the second generation instrument GRAVITY, the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) has entered a new era of optical interferometry. This instrument pushes the limits of accuracy and sensitivity by orders of magnitude. GRAVITY has achieved phase-referenced imaging at approximately milliarcsecond (mas) resolution and down to ~ 100-microarcsecond astrometry on objects that are several hundred times fainter than previously observable. The cutting-edge design presented in Eisenhauer et al. (2011) has become reality. This article sketches out the basic principles of the instrument design and illustrates its performance with key science results obtained during commissioning: phase-tracking on stars with K ~ 10 mag, phase-referenced interferometry of objects fainter than K ≳ 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 degrees, corresponding to a differential astrometric precision of a few microarcseconds (μas).

Created: 2017-12-01/2017-12-31
6 pages

Cite this article:

Gravity Collaboration; First Light for GRAVITY: A New Era for Optical Interferometry. The Messenger 170 (December 2017): 10–15.