Roadmap to the next-generation infrared interferometric facility

Yu Tang, Yi Lu, and ESO/H.H.Heyer
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Over the past two decades, optical interferometry has matured from a relatively niche, experiment-driven observing technique to a workhorse of modern astrophysics. Current-generation facilities, such as the VLT Interferometer and the CHARA Array, achieve landmark results across a wide range of science areas, from imaging stellar surfaces (Roettenbacher et al. 2016) and the expanding fireball of classical novae (Schaefer et al. 2014), characterising the atmospheres of close-in exoplanets (GRAVITY collaboration 2020), resolving gravitational microlensing events (Dong et al. 2019), to measuring orbital motions and gravitational redshift around the Black Hole at the Galactic Center (GRAVITY collaboration 2018 & Nobel Prize 2020).

At the same time, existing interferometers are only starting to tap into the huge potential of this observing technique, and a next-generation facilities with kilometric baselines and sub-milliarcsecond angular resolution is needed to revolutionise, for instance, our understanding of planet formation or to study galaxy evolution & black hole growth across the cosmic ages.

The aim of this Specialist Discussion is to draw a possible roadmap for the next-generation infrared interferometric facility. For this, we will build on the work of the Planet Formation Imager (PFI) project that was conceived in 2013 and that developed concept studies for a near-/mid-infrared interferometric facility optimised to image the early stages of planet formation and to characterise circumplanetary embryos.

Reaching the 10 years milestone, it is timely to review the progress that has been achieved, both on defining the science drivers and pushing R&D on key technologies such as light-weight telescopes, detectors, photonics and heterodyne beam combiners, and low-loss beam transport. We will discuss the context with respect to other large-scale missions planned on the ground and in space. Also, given that the PFI studies focussed primarily on the planet formation science case, we plan to invite leading scientists from other fields to identify additional frontier science drivers and to ensure that the facility can serve a broad community.




10:30 Stefan Kraus: Welcome, introduction, and Planet Formation Imager (PFI) science case


10:50 Judit Szulágyi: Science: Circumplanetary discs and planet formation (invited)


11:05 Mathias Nowak: Science: Exoplanets (invited)


11:20 Przemek Mroz: Science: Microlensing (invited)


11:35 Douglas Gies: From the CHARA Array to the Michelson Array (invited)


11:50 Frank Eisenhauer: Beyond E/VLT(I) (invited)


12:05 DISCUSSION on how far we can push existing facilities and political landscape




13:15 Reinhard Genzel: Science: Strong gravity (invited)


13:30 DISCUSSION on core science drivers and top-level requirements for next interferometric facility


14:05 Michael Ireland: Planet Formation Imager (PFI) technology (invited)


14:20 Jean-Philippe Berger: Technological prospects for an heterodyne interferometric facility (invited)


14:35 Chris Haniff: The role of MROI on the roadmap to a next-generation facility


14:45 Gerard van Belle: Next-gen interferometric array: BFT - The Big Fringe Telescope


14:55 Annelies Mortier, Heather Cegla: Plans for a high-resolution stabilised spectroscopy telescope network and potential synergies (invited)


15:05 DISCUSSION on synergies, how to engage broad community, and next steps






Stefan Kraus (University of Exeter, FRAS),

Jean-Philippe Berger (IPAG, Grenoble),

Michael Ireland (Australian National University),

Antoine Merand (ESO, Germany),

John Monnier (University of Michigan),

Julien Woillez (ESO, Chile)


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Venue Address

The Geological Society,Burlington House,LONDON


51.5087877, -0.13876359999995