News 2010

Prof. John Baldwin, pioneer of optical synthesis imaging and leader of team that built the Cambridge Optical Aperture Synthesis Telescope, died 7 December 2010 after a short illness. See the announcementat the University of Cambridge website.
The Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy, Robert O. Work, officially accepted the gift of four 1.8m telescopes from the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA) for use by the U.S.Naval Observatory (on November 3, 2010). These telescopes are in fact the "Outrigger" telescopes that were originally designed by NASA/JPL for CARA and intended for the Keck Interferometer. They were never integrated with the Keck Interferometer, because permits were never granted that allowed them to be installed and used. They had been in storage for some years and were offered by CARA to the US Naval Observatory for use with the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer. The transfer has now finally been approved. (Courtesy of Don Hutter.)
The ESO Press Release Light from Four Telescopes Combined at ESO's Paranal Observatory describes first fringes with PIONIER. For an image of the fringe measurements see the OLBIN Forum Email by Jean-Philippe Berger. The PIONIER visitor instrument, developed at IPAG, successfully obtained the first interferometric combination of four Auxiliary telescopes from ESO/VLTI on 24 October 2010. Fringes on the six baselines were obtained only hour minutes after first light and only 5 days after unpacking the PIONIER boxes at Cerro Paranal. At the heart of PIONIER lies an integrated optics circuit developed at Grenoble in collaboration with LETI. (Courtesy of Jean-Baptiste Le Bouquin.)
Tennessee State University has issued a press release, TSU Astronomers Discover a Planet with Two Suns, Challenging the Understanding of Planet Formation, to accompany 5 new papers by the PHASES project, released today as electronic preprints in the Astronomical Journal. These papers include all the PHASES astrometry measurements made by the Palomar Testbed Interferoemter, binary and triple star orbits, and the astrometric detection of a planet in the binary star system Inrakluk (also known as HR 7162 or HD 176051). (Courtesy of Matthew Muterspaugh.)
The VEGA spectro-interferometric beamcombiner has obtained first-fringes using 4 telescopes simultaneously at the CHARA Array. Fringes were obtained on October 12, 2010, using MIRC as the fringe tracker. (Courtesy of Denis Mourard.)
The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer has obtained first fringes, as described in the LBTI Blog by Phil Hinz.
"In view of the recent NRC Astro2010 decadal survey recommendations, we regret to inform you that NASA is discontinuing its sponsorship of the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM Lite). Accordingly, SIM Lite Phase B activities are to be discontinued. This direction should be implemented immediately, or as soon as practical." (Direction to James C. Marr, SIM Lite Project Manager, dated 24 September 2010.)
The National Academies Press has released the Astro2010 Decadal Survey Report, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, which describes priorities and recommendations for ground and space telescopes in the 2010-2020 decade. The Space Interferometry Mission, although given serious consideration in the survey, was not included in the recommended program for the decade. The first priority of two recommended medium-scale activities for space, is the New Worlds Technology Development Program which would fund the development of starlight suppression technology through interferometry, coronagraphy, and star shades.
The International Astronomical Union Commission 54, Optical and Infrared Interferometry, is pleased to announce the first award of two new prizes in astronomy.
The Fizeau Prize for 2010 is awarded for lifetime achievement to Professor Antoine Labeyrie for his invention of speckle interferometry, the development of the I2T and GI2T interferometers, and contributions to the development and implementation of the VLTI. Prof. Labeyrie's innovative genius challenges conventional wisdom with ideas such as the hypertelescope, laser-trapped space mirrors, and pupil densification; his visionary work has meant much to the community, and has been a forceful reminder that our scientific ambitions are limited only by our imaginations.
The Michelson Prize for 2010 is awarded for lifetime achievement to Dr Michael Shao for his pioneering work on ground-based and space-based interferometers, including the Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Palomar Testbed Interferometer, Keck Interferometer, and Space Interferometry Mission. Dr. Shao has been a prominent leader in the interferometry community, developing new avenues of research, including narrow-angle astrometry and nulling.
The formal public announcement was made June 30, 2010, in San Diego, at a special evening session of the SPIE conference on "Optical and Infrared Interferometry II." The Michelson Prize is sponsored by the Mount Wilson Institute, and the Fizeau Prize is sponsored by the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, in a joint program with Commission 54. Each awardee will receive a certificate of award and an honorarium.
PRISMA launched successfully on June 15th. The first planned separation of its satellites is planned for 3 August 2010. See the article from and follow the Blog in Swedish and the Mission Events in English at the PRISMA website.
The IAU Commission 54 (Optical and Infrared Interferometry), The Observatoire de la Cote 'Azur (OCA), and the Mt. Wilson Institute (MWI) are pleased to announce the creation of two prizes in Interferometry, theFizeau Prize and the Michelson Prize. The two prizes are similar but complementary, with the Michelson Prize emphasizing application of interferometry to astrophysical research, and the Fizeau Prize emphasizing innovative technical and theoretical work. An invitation for nominations for the first award of these prizes is hereby extended to the astronomy community, with a due date of June 1, 2010. Futher details of these prizes are available through the links in the above text.
The DARPA website describes ongoing work with the System F6. This website includes a podcast and video describing a future formation flying mission that is currently scheduled for launch in 2013.
The CHARA Array has its own Facebook page.
The PRISMA satellites have been re-scheduled for launch on 15 June 2010. The satellites are now on the way to the launch site in Yasny, Russia.
Images from the CHARA Array of the eclipsing binary epsilon Aurigae appeared in Nature. The images show an elongated cloud of material passing in front of the star.
An obituary of Prof. John Davis, entitled Star man never sought spotlight, was published in the Sydney Morning Herarld on March 19th.
The CHARA Year Six Science Review was held at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute on the Caltech campus in Pasadena during March 9-11, 2010. The presentations from that gathering, and from earlier meetings, can be found here. (Courtesy of Theo ten Brummelaar.)
The draft report by the ESA Exoplanet Roadmap Advisory Team has been made public. The final report is due to be released in June/July 2010.
The January 2010 issue of Astrobiology is a special issue written by members of ESA's Terrestrial Exoplanet Science Advisory Team (TESAT). The TESAT was an ESA science working group established to support the Darwin mission concept. The group disbanded in December 2006.
The rendezvous and docking mission, PRISMA, is scheduled for launch on 13 April 2010.
The technical review reports for the ESA Cosmic Vision M-class mission studies are now available. Although there were no interferometry missions amongst the proposed missions, the fate of PLATO is of interest as it could be a precursor to a future high-angular resolution mission to detect exoplanets. According to Space News, Cross-Scale and Marco Polo were deemed beyond Europe's current budget and will not continue into the next phase of study. PLATO is expected to continue with another down-select in 2011 or 2012.
Spot the interferometrist! On a slow news day we have a well-known interferometrist featured in the Baltimore Sun.
Professor John Davis passed away peacefully in his sleep on Friday, 15 January 2010. Prof. Davis collaborated with Hanbury Brown on the Intensity Interferometer, which was operational from 1963-1974, and led the effort along with William Tango to establish its successor, the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer whose work is ongoing. The funeral service will be held in Sydney Australia at Camelia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, 2:30 pm, Friday 22 January 2010. John's career is summarized in his own words in the personal remarks following the text of his Ellery Lecture from 2006 (Pub. Astron. Soc. Aus. 23, 94-104, 2006).
A Research Associate / Postdoctoral position has been advertised for instrumentation development related to MUSCA at the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI). Further details are available at theUniversity of Sydney website. Applications are due 25 January 2010.