UK VLTI Expertise Centre

As part of the OPTICON H2020 project a network of VLTI Expertise Centres is being established. These centres will be the backbone of dissemination activities to new VLTI users through the organisation of observing preparation and data reduction schools, co-organisation of the VLTI Community Days with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and by being the end-points of the Fizeau staff exchange programme. The centres will follow the successful experience of the ALMA Regional Centres but on a smaller scale. They will be the visible first contact point for astronomers interested in using VLTI.

The United Kingdom centre builds on long-standing experience in the astrophysical exploitation of the VLTI instruments AMBER, MIDI, PIONIER, and GRAVITY. Exeter is a consortium member of the Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy (OPTICON) and leads instrumentation efforts in optical interferometry, e.g. for a 6-telescope imager at the CHARA array.

The VLTI and its instrumentation

The Very Large Telescope Interferometer offers worldwide unique capabilities in high-angular resolution astronomy, enabling European astronomers to observe the Universe at milliarcsecond scale at near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths.

The VLTI instruments are:

  • AMBER: near-infrared 3-way beam combiner offering low, medium and high spectral resolution in the J, H and K-bands
  • GRAVITY: 4-way beam combiner in the K-band, with spectroscopic, fringe tracking and astrometric capabilities
  • PIONIER: 4-way beam combiner in the H-band, on the VLTI visitor focus
  • MATISSE: future 4-way beam combiner in the L, M and N-bands

Core team

Lead Scientist: Alexander Kreplin
Coordinator: Stefan Kraus

The aims of the United Kingdom VLTI Expertise Centre are:

  • Integrate and disseminate knowledge being developed across the community, ensuring long-term sustainability;
  • Support observing proposal preparation and data reduction;
  • (Co-)organise schools training users in the VLTI capabilities and instrumentation, providing the practical skills required for VLTI observing, data reduction and use of databases;
  • (Co-)organise (with ESO) the VLTI Community Days and European Interferometry Initiate meetings, bringing together 15 countries, and ESO and ESA, as well as the radio/mm interferometry community;
  • Promote collaboration between interferometrists world-wide, including coordination of cross-facility observations with the US interferometers.

Planned and past activities of the United Kingdom VLTI Expertise Centre are:

  • 2018/04/05: Dissemination action at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) in Liverpool
  • 2017/07/05: Dissemination action at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) in Hull