News 2004

04.12.10 The PlanetQuest website features the article Floating robots set stage for cosmic choreography describing the TPF formation flying testbed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
04.12.09 The December issue of National Geographic Magazine carries the cover story "Searching the Stars for New Earths," including descriptions of radial velocity surveys, and future interferometry missions in space. Also included is a particularly beautiful photograph of the Palomar Testbed Interferometer at night.
04.12.07 In lieu of a slow news week, have a look at ongoing work to pioneer new astronomical facilities in the antarctic. See the antarctic diaries from Dome C: Karim Agabi (in French) and Suze Kenyon (in Australian). Karim will be part of the first winter-over crew at Dome C.
04.11.29 The European Southern Observatory has issued the press release Young Stars Poised for Production of Rocky Planets describing observations with MIDI at the VLTI. The press release is based on the paper "The building blocks of planets within the terrestrial region of protoplanetary disks", by Roy van Boekel and co-authors, published in the 25 November 2004 issue of Nature.
04.11.11 Steve Ridgway will be taking on an IPA (Intergovernmental Personel Act) position at NASA Headquarters. He will be Program Scientist responsible for interferometry projects within NASA's Navigator program, taking on aspects of work previously performed by Phil Crane. [Note: The Program Scientist for the Terrestrial Planet Finder does not change and is Zlatan Tsvetanov.] The expected start date at NASA Headquarters is sometime in February 2005. Dr. Ridgway is currently with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.
04.11.05 Results from the second commissioning run with AMBER are described at the AMBER website. (Note that the AMBER website has moved recently.)
04.11.01 An updated and revised version of the Catalogue of High Angular Resolution Measurements (CHARM) is now available. (Courtesy of Andrea Richichi and Isabelle Percheron.)
04.11.01 NASA Headquarters has issued a Dear Collegue Letter soliciting for the new TPF-C Science and Technology Definition Team and the new TPF-I Science Working Group.
04.10.29 The European Southern Observatory has issued the press release Measuring Cosmic Distances with Stellar Heart Beats hightlighting work by Pierre Kervella and collegues in measuring the pulsation of Cepheid variables with VINCI.
04.10.26 The Second AMBER commissioning run at the VLTI is now completed. AMBER now can routinely operate with the three Unit Telescopes, each equipped with MACAO adaptive optics. A source of visibility loss was also identified, resulting of an improvement of a factor of 3 to 4 in visibility-squared. (Courtesy of Fabien Malbet.)
04.10.26 The European Interferometry Initiative for Astronomy has announced that applications are open for appointments within the Fizeau Exchange Visitors Program with an application deadline of 15 March 2005.
04.10.21 The CHARA Technical Report Optical Coatings for CHARA Reflective Optics, by Steve Ridgway, is now available.
04.10.18 The second commissioning run of AMBER is now ongoing and will run until 25 October 2004. More details are available at the AMBER website.
04.10.18 Progress with the implementation of the Keck nuller is described at the Keck Interferometer website.
04.10.05 The PlanetQuest website gives a recent update on technology progress with the Space Interferometry Mission. See the story Race to the impossible for details.
04.09.30 New VINCI datasets have been released through the ESO Science Archive Facility. Access to data is limited to astronomers in the ESO member countries that are registered users of the ESO Science Archive Facility.
04.09.28 The Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics has released its review of science plans for the Terrestrial Planet Finder. The CAA is an advisory board sponsored by the National Academies in the United States that is responsible for the development of the Decadal Surveys, the last of which was the McKee-Taylor report, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millenium.
04.09.24 The web-based interferometry observing planning tool ASPRO has been upgraded recently for VLTI observing with MIDI for proposals in observing period 75. See Notes on MIDI and the call for proposalsdescribed by Sebastien Morel. Proposals are due 1 October 2004 (noon Central European Summer Time).
04.09.24 The Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur has announced that applications are now open for the 2005 Henri Poincare Postdoctoral Fellowships. Application deadline is 1 January 2005.
04.09.21 The paper Exceptional astronomical seeing conditions above Dome C in Antarctica by J. Lawrence, M. Ashley, A. Tokovinin, and T. Travouillon appeared in the September 16th edition of Nature (vol. 431). Also see the interesting press release from the University of New South Wales.
04.09.16 The AMBER Consortium will host a AMBER Data Reduction workshop 8-10 November 2004. The workshop is primarily intended for members of the AMBER Consortium.
04.09.16 The journal Astronomy and Astrophysics has issued the press release Foreseeing the Sun's fate: Astronomical interferometry reveals the close environment of Mira stars, describing work by Guy Perrin, Steve Ridgway, and collaborators with the IOTA interferometer.
04.09.09 The Michelson Science Center has announced that the 2005 Michelson Fellowships and Educational Awards program is open for applications. Applications are due 12 November 2004.
04.09.08 A CHARA Observation Planning Tool, written in IDL by Jason Aufdenberg (NOAO) is available for distribution. The written technical report includes details of the current CHARA Array baselines and delay offsets. The IDL source code is available at the CHARA Planning Tool Website. (Courtesy of Jason Aufdenberg.)
04.09.06 Papers presented at the SPIE Conference in Glasgow by the COAST group are now available through theCOAST Website. (Courtesy of John Young.)
04.09.06 The European Southern Observatory has issued a Call for Proposals for period 75, 1 April 2005 to 30 September 2005.
04.08.30 Data reduction software (version 5) for the VLTI imaging instrument AMBER is now available.
04.08.27 Progress with SIM and TPF is reported by Steve Unwin (JPL) this month in the SIM Newsletter and TPF Newsletter.
04.08.25 The Michelson Science Center has released a web-based interface to getCal, called gcWeb. See the theHelp Page for instructions. getCal is the interferometry planning tool used at the Palomar Testbed Interferometer and the Keck Interferometer.
04.08.13 Various photos of the CHARA Array, Fluor, and the ISI are available courtesy of Peter Lawson.
04.08.09 The Keck nuller obtained first fringes on the night of August 6, 2004. Fringes were obtained in N Band (8-13 microns) on the star RS CrB, a variable giant star with a flux of 53 Janskys at 12 microns. An N-Band fringe tracker was used with 5 Hz chopping to estimate the background. Fringes were obtained on the first night of observations about 10 minutes before the telescopes were closed due to high humidity. Fringes were confirmed on numerous sources. Smiling faces in Weimea. More information to follow. (Courtesy of Bertrand Mennesson. Photos courtesy of Jim Fanson.)
04.08.09 Applications for observing time with the Keck Telescopes for the 2005A observing semester may include the use of Keck 1 and Keck 2 for interferometry shared-risk science pending the Director's approval. Applications are due September 3, 2004. See the Keck Solicitation and the application procedures in which the following is noted. "Proposals from experienced observers to use Keck I and Keck II for interferometry will be considered but time will be allocated provisionally subject to the agreement of the Director of the Keck Observatory and with the understanding that the instrument is still in development. Any time that is allocated is considered shared-risk and all data can be used by the project team for engineering purposes. Sensitivity information is available on the MSC KI support page."
04.08.03 The workshop 30 Years Ago: I2T First Fringes will be held at the Nice Observatory (France) on November 18 and 19, 2004. See the first announcement for more details. Registration deadline and accommodation reservation deadline is October 31, 2004. Registration must be submitted to Alain Blazit (blazit
04.08.03 New MIDI Science Demonstration Time data packages for Betelgeuse, RX Pup and Psi Phe available for download at the ESO Science Archive Facility.
04.07.30 The Second International Symposium on Formation Flying Missions and Technology will be held September 14-16 2004 in Washington, DC. See the symposium announcement for more details.
04.07.30 The July 2004 ONERA Newsletter describes the development of a common program in formation flying technology with the CNES, the French Space Agency (text in French).
04.07.30 The University of Cambridge and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalising their collaboration to build the Magdalena Ridge Observatory Interferometer (Courtesy of John Young). See the press releases from the University of Cambridge and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
04.07.30 Images of the recent fire near the site of the Large Binocular Telescope are available courtesy of University of Arizona: Nuttall Fire Complex.
04.07.30 The OIFITS Data Exchange Standard for Optical Interferometry is described in the SPIE paper by Tom Pauls, John Young, William Cotton, and John Monnier.
04.06.30 The results of the 2004 Interferometry Imaging Beauty Contest, hosted by the IAU Working Group on optical/IR Interferometry are now available. The winner of the 2004 contest was the entry BSMEM, by H. Thorsteinsson and J.S. Young (University of Cambridge). See the paper by Lawson, Cotton, Hummel et al. presented at the SPIE Conference in Glasgow. Further information about the contest, including the original contest data sets, is available at the contest website.
04.06.30 The ESO Science Archive Facility has announced the availability of VLTI MIDI datasets of Eta Car and OH26.5+0.6. You must first register as a user prior to downloading datasets.
04.06.18 The European Southern Observatory and the European Interferometry Initiative have announced that they are jointly organizing an interferometric workshop The power of optical/IR interferometry: recent scientific results and 2nd generation VLTI instrumentation from April 4 to 8, 2005, in Garching bei München (Germany).
04.06.14 Observations of Alpha Orionis as a collaboration between the COAST and IOTA interferometers, Unveiling Alpha Orionis, were presented by John Young at the UK National Astronomy Meeting (29 March to 2 April, 2004).
04.06.10 As reported at the COAST Webpage, COAST was operated remotely for the first time on 29 March 2004 from a building 100m from the beam-combining laboratory.
04.06.10 In response to the Call for Themes for ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025, over 150 proposals were received. The list of proposed themes is now available.
04.06.09 There will be a VLTI/MIDI Workshop on data reduction, analysis, and science from 11 to 15 October 2004 at the Lorentz Centre, Leiden Observatory.
04.06.04 On the night of 28 May 2004 AMBER recorded first fringes with two VLT Unit Telescopes. Furthermore, on 1 June 2004 fringes were recorded with three unit telescopes simultaneously. See the photos and MPEG movies available through the above links.
04.05.27 First fringes have been obtained with the hypertelescope Carlina using a baseline of 40 cm on the ground and a detector supported beneath a balloon 35 meters above ground. Subsequent tests will use a baseline of several meters. See the photographs and description at the website of the Laboratoire d'Interférométrie Stellaire et Exo-planétaire (LISE).
04.05.21 The W.M. Keck Observatory has announced the availability of a Postdoctoral Position in stellar interferometry.
04.05.11 The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has issued the press release Two Architectures Chosen for Terrestrial Planet Finder.
04.05.06 The European Interferometry Initiative has announced that applications are open for the Exchange Visitors Program in Optical Interferometry. Applications are due 15 September 2004.
04.05.06 The European Southern Observatory has issued the press release Closer to the Monster describing observations of NGC 1068 with the VLTI.
04.05.04 A Ph.D. position is available at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, UK. For details see theannouncement in the OLBIN email Forum.
04.05.04 A postdoctoral position in work related to extrasolar planets is available at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. See the announcement in the OLBIN email Forum.
04.05.04 A new release (version 2.6) of the getCal suite of software is now available. See the What's New entry for details.
04.05.04 A new release of ASPRO is now available featuring a new Search Calibrators dynamic catalog of stars. See the download site at the Jean-Marie Mariotti Center webpages.
04.05.04 Science Magazine carried the article NASA Backs Two Missions describing the change in direction for TPF. (Science Vol. 304, 497-499, April 23, 2004). Also related to TPF, the awards for 2003 NASA Research Announcement on Terrestrial Planet Finder / Foundation Science have been announced. Jobs related to these awards are noted in the May AAS Job Register. See for example the Postdoc at University of Hawaii, and the Catalog Astronomer position at Caltech.
04.04.20 Postdoctoral position is available at the Laboratoire d?Astrophysique de Grenoble (LAOG) to work on astrophysical data from AMBER.
04.04.05 Press releases are now available describing recent progress with AMBER and AMBER's contribution to the VLTI. Brush up on your language skills with the press releases from ESO (in English), CNRS (in French), MPIfR (in German), and INAF (in Italian).
04.03.30 Rolf Danner, past manager of the Michelson Fellowship Program at JPL, will be leaving to take up a new position as marketing manager for Civil Space at Northrop Grumman Space Technologies, starting in May 2004.
04.03.30 A selection of AMBER Team Photos are available following the recent successful commissioning run.
04.03.24 Fringes on Sirius observed with AMBER were recorded on Monday, 22 March 2004. See the AMBER Website for details.
04.03.22 First fringes were obtained with AMBER on Saturday, March 20, 2004. For photographs and details see theAMBER website and Andrea Richichi's AMBER AVI webpage.
04.03.18 The SPIE has released program and registration details for the Glasgow conference on Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation. See in particular New Frontiers in Stellar Interferometry. The short courseStellar Interferometry for Astronomers will be taught by Chris Haniff on the Tuesday that week.
04.03.18 AMBER obtained first light (although not first fringes) with R Leo on the night of March 17, 2004. See thephotographs at Andrea Richichi's AMBER AIV website.
04.03.17 The Astronomy department at the University of Nice - Sofia Antipolis has an opening for a teaching and research position for a young researcher interested in the theory and techniques of detecting and characterizing extrasolar planets. For more information please consult the job description. (Courtesy of Farrokh Vakili.)
04.03.11 Rapid progress has been made with implementing AMBER at the Very Large Telescope Interferometer site in Chile. Internal H-band fringes (using an artificial star) were obtained with AMBER on March 10, 2004. See the reports and photographs at the AMBER Homepage.
04.03.08 The Michelson Science Center (MSC) at Caltech has an opening for a Staff Scientist to participate in the development of the astrometric grid of stars for the Space Interferometry Mission. Other interferometry related positions are also advertised.
04.03.08 Photographs of AMBER AIV (assembly, integration and verification) are now available through Andrea Richichi's website.
04.03.05 AMBER is being rapidly assembled at Paranal, as shown by the photographs dated March 5, 2004.
04.03.01 In January, President Bush published his vision for A Renewed Spirit of Discovery for NASA. This explicitly includes the goal to "conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars." Sean O'Keefe, the NASA Administrator, responded in February to the President with The Vision for Space Exploration. TPF is highlighted in the new NASA vision (see page 13). O'Keefe states that "If the Terrestrial Planet Finder discovers extrasolar planets with evidence of life, NASA would pursue additional space telescopes after 2020 that can confirm the existence of life on these worlds and image their features."
04.03.01 Marc Kuchner is hosting a Terrestrial Planet Finder Ancillary Science Workshop at Princeton, April 14 and 15, 2004. This is an activity that Marc is undertaking on behalf of the TPF Science Working Group. Although the core science for TPF will be the search for Earth-like planets in the habitable zones around other stars, the observatory will undoubtedly serve as a powerful tool for the study of planetary systems and the spectroscopy of gas giant planets. Moreover it should be capable of studying exozodiacal dust disks, the formation of planetary systems, and other in general astrophysics. Those interested in contributing to the Workshop, please contact Marc directly by email mkuchner
04.03.01 The deadline for VLT proposals (for Period 74, 1 October 2004 - 31 March 2005) is 1 April 2004, 12:00 noon, Central European Summer Time. The Period 74 Call for Proposals is now open. In this period MIDI is being offered for use with the unit telescopes. For more information on MIDI consult the MIDI Website, which includes the revised User Manual.
04.03.01 The first imaging paper by the upgraded 3-telescope IOTA interferometer has been published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, resolving the binary components of Lambda Vir and WR 140 for the first time (Monnier et al. 2004). This work represents first published closure-phase results at H-band (1.6 microns) by a long-baseline interferometer, and was made possible by a new integrated optics combiner that delivers a current limiting magnitude of 7. The 3rd telescope upgrade involved significant efforts by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the IONIC Collaboration (Grenoble, France), and elsewhere. The IOTA collaboration welcomes outside observing proposals to take advantage of the new closure-phase capabilities Proposals are due March 9. (Courtesy of John Monnier.)
04.02.17 The Delft Testbed Interferometer, a wide-field imaging interferometer for homothetic mapping, has completed a test program yielding fringes with three altificial stars simultaneously. (Courtesy of Fred Kamphues, TNO TPD).
04.02.17 The boxes containing AMBER arrived at Paranal on 14 February 2004. The start date for the assembly is 19 February.
04.02.17 The European Interferometry Initiative are organizing a workshop on developing the Science Case for Next Generation Optical/Infrared Interferometric Facility (in the Post-VLTI era), to be hosted 23-27 August 2004, in Liege, Belgium.
04.02.17 An ammendment will be released to the NASA Research Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space Science" entitled "Origins Science Mission Concept Studies." This will be for proposals of studies for missions whose science will complement the currently planned Origins missions.
04.02.13 AMBER, the three-telescope imager for the VLTI, was shipped to Paranal from Grenoble on February 6. See the new AMBER Website for photographs and other details of the project.
04.02.05 Data from the Mark III and PTI were used to estimate A distance of 133-137 parsecs to the Pleides star cluster, as published in Nature, 22 January 2004 by Xiaopei Pan, M. Shao, and S.R. Kulkarni.
04.02.05 The Palomar Testbed Interferometer will continue observing in 2004.
04.02.05 ESA has awarded a contract to TNO TPD in the Netherlands for the development of a Breadboard Cryogenic Optical Delay Line for Darwin. The Darwin Cryogenic Delay Line will be developed in close cooperation with Alcatel, Centre Spatiale de Liege, Dutch Space, Micromega-Dynamics, SAGEIS-CSO and SRON.
04.01.30 The NASA research announcement for 2004 Research Opportunities in Space Science (ROSS) has been released.
04.01.30 An update of progress with the Terrestrial Planet Finder and Darwin missions was presented in the 2 January 2004 issue of Science Magazine (vol. 303, pages 30-32) in the article The search for pale blue dots, by Robert Irion.
04.01.30 The European Interferometry Initiative, an Opticon Network Activity has announced that funding is available for short-term visits of researchers to an institute of his/her choice within the European Community or Candidate Countries. For more information see details of the Exchange Visitors Program at the NOVA/NEVEC website. The deadline of applications is 15 March 2004.
04.01.30 The first of the VLTI's Auxialiary telescopes has been installed at Paranal. See the press release from the European Southern Observatory. The release includes Quicktime videos and numerous photographs.
04.01.26 The NOVA ESO VLTI Experise Center has an opening for number of positions at the postdoctoral and PhD level. See the description of the positions at the NEVEC webpages.
04.01.26 The PhD thesis Interferometrie stellaire dans l'infrarouge en presence de fond thermique [Infrared Stellar Interferometry in the Presence of Thermal Background Noise] by Gilles Chagnon, Universite de Paris VI 2003, is now available.
04.01.26 The Michelson Science Center has an opening for a staff scientist to lead the effort in developing software tools. See the job advertisement at the IPAC Jobs webpage.
04.01.26 Minutes of the meeting of the OPTICON Joint-Research Activity on Interferometry, from 7 and 8 of January 2004, are available at the JRA4 website.
04.01.26 A new release of the MIDI Users Manual and MIDI Template Manual is available to support Phase-I and Phase-II proposals. See the MIDI website.
04.01.26 Applications for the 2004 Michelson Summer School are now open. The 2004 school will be held on the campus of the California Institute of Technology and will cover topics in the field of high-contrast imaging. The application deadline is March 5, 2004.
04.01.26 The editor has recently returned from a trip to the South Pole. Emails describing his trip can be found at the website of the Lycee International de Los Angeles.
04.01.26 The December 2003 issue of the ESO Messenger includes the article "Harvesting scientific results with the VLTI" by Andrea Richichi and Francesco Paresce (pages 26-34).