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See detailDiscovery of a point-like source and a third spiral arm in the transition disk around the Herbig Ae star MWC 758
Reggiani, Maddalena ULiege; Christiaens, V.; Absil, Olivier ULiege et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (in press)

Transition disks offer the extraordinary opportunity to look for newly born planets and investigate the early stages of planet formation. In this context we observed the Herbig A5 star MWC 758 with the L ... [more ▼]

Transition disks offer the extraordinary opportunity to look for newly born planets and investigate the early stages of planet formation. In this context we observed the Herbig A5 star MWC 758 with the L band vector vortex coronagraph installed in the near-infrared camera and spectrograph NIRC2 at the Keck II telescope, with the aim of unveiling the nature of the spiral structure by constraining the presence of planetary companions in the system. Our high-contrast imaging observations show a bright (delta L=7.0+/-0.3 mag) point-like emission, south of MWC 758 at a deprojected separation of about 20 au (r=0.111+/- 0. 004 arcsec) from the central star. We also recover the two spiral arms (south-east and north-west), already imaged by previous studies in polarized light, and discover a third one to the south-west of the star. No additional companions were detected in the system down to 5 Jupiter masses beyond 0.6 arcsec from the star. We propose that the bright L band emission could be caused by the presence of an embedded and accreting protoplanet, although the possibility of it being an asymmetric disk feature cannot be excluded. The spiral structure is probably not related to the protoplanet candidate, unless on an inclined and eccentric orbit, and it could be due to one (or more) yet undetected planetary companions at the edge of or outside the spiral pattern. Future observations and additional simulations will be needed to shed light on the true nature of the point-like source and its link with the spiral arms. [less ▲]

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See detailSpace-based infrared interferometry to study exoplanetary atmospheres
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Léger, A.; Absil, Olivier ULiege et al

in Experimental Astronomy: Astrophysical Instrumentation and Methods (in press), 1801

The quest for other habitable worlds and the search for life among them are major goals of modern astronomy. One way to make progress towards these goals is to obtain high-quality spectra of a large ... [more ▼]

The quest for other habitable worlds and the search for life among them are major goals of modern astronomy. One way to make progress towards these goals is to obtain high-quality spectra of a large number of exoplanets over a broad range of wavelengths. While concepts currently investigated in the United States are focused on visible/NIR wavelengths, where the planets are probed in reflected light, a compelling alternative to characterize planetary atmospheres is the mid-infrared waveband (5-20um). Indeed, mid-infrared observations provide key information on the presence of an atmosphere, the surface conditions (e.g., temperature, pressure, habitability), and the atmospheric composition in important species such as H2O, CO2, O3, CH4, and N2O. This information is essential to investigate the potential habitability of exoplanets and to make progress towards the search for life in the universe. Obtaining high-quality mid-infrared spectra of exoplanets from the ground is however extremely challenging due to the overwhelming brightness and turbulence of Earth's atmosphere. In this paper, we present a concept of space-based mid-infrared interferometer that can tackle this observing challenge and discuss the main technological developments required to launch such a sophisticated instrument. [less ▲]

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See detailThe path towards high-contrast imaging with the VLTI: the Hi-5 project
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Absil, Olivier ULiege; Berger, J.-P. et al

in Experimental Astronomy: Astrophysical Instrumentation and Methods (in press), 1801

The development of high-contrast capabilities has long been recognized as one of the top priorities for the VLTI. As of today, the VLTI routinely achieves contrasts of a few 10$^{-3}$ in the near-infrared ... [more ▼]

The development of high-contrast capabilities has long been recognized as one of the top priorities for the VLTI. As of today, the VLTI routinely achieves contrasts of a few 10$^{-3}$ in the near-infrared with PIONIER (H band) and GRAVITY (K band). Nulling interferometers in the northern hemisphere and non-redundant aperture masking experiments have, however, demonstrated that contrasts of at least a few 10$^{-4}$ are within reach using specific beam combination and data acquisition techniques. In this paper, we explore the possibility to reach similar or higher contrasts on the VLTI. After reviewing the state-of-the-art in high-contrast infrared interferometry, we discuss key features that made the success of other high-contrast interferometric instruments (e.g., integrated optics, nulling, closure phase, and statistical data reduction) and address possible avenues to improve the contrast of the VLTI by at least one order of magnitude. In particular, we discuss the possibility to use integrated optics, proven in the near-infrared, in the thermal near-infrared (L and M bands, 3-5 $\mu$m), a sweet spot to image and characterize young extra-solar planetary systems. Finally, we address the science cases of a high-contrast VLTI imaging instrument and focus particularly on exoplanet science (young exoplanets, planet formation, and exozodiacal disks), stellar physics (fundamental parameters and multiplicity), and extragalactic astrophysics (active galactic nuclei and fundamental constants). Synergies and scientific preparation for other potential future instruments such as the Planet Formation Imager are also briefly discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailSupervised detection of exoplanets in high-contrast imaging sequences
Gómez González, Carlos ULiege; Absil, Olivier ULiege; Van Droogenbroeck, Marc ULiege

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (in press)

Context. Post-processing algorithms play a key role in pushing the detection limits of high-contrast imaging (HCI) instruments. State-of-the-art image processing approaches for HCI enable the production ... [more ▼]

Context. Post-processing algorithms play a key role in pushing the detection limits of high-contrast imaging (HCI) instruments. State-of-the-art image processing approaches for HCI enable the production of science-ready images relying on unsupervised learning techniques, such as low-rank approximations, for generating a model point spread function (PSF) and subtracting the residual starlight and speckle noise. Aims. In order to maximize the detection rate of HCI instruments and survey campaigns, advanced algorithms with higher sensitivities to faint companions are needed, especially for the speckle-dominated innermost region of the images. Methods. We propose a reformulation of the exoplanet detection task (for ADI sequences) that builds on well-established machine learning techniques to take HCI post-processing from an unsupervised to a supervised learning context. In this new framework, we present algorithmic solutions using two different discriminative models: SODIRF (random forests) and SODINN (neural networks). We test these algorithms on real ADI datasets from VLT/NACO and VLT/SPHERE HCI instruments. We then assess their performances by injecting fake companions and using receiver operating characteristic analysis. This is done in comparison with state-of-the-art ADI algorithms, such as ADI principal component analysis (ADI-PCA). Results. This study shows the improved sensitivity versus specificity trade-off of the proposed supervised detection approach. At the diffraction limit, SODINN improves the true positive rate by a factor ranging from ∼2 to ∼10 (depending on the dataset and angular separation) with respect to ADI-PCA when working at the same false-positive level. Conclusions. The proposed supervised detection framework outperforms state-of-the-art techniques in the task of discriminating planet signal from speckles. In addition, it offers the possibility of re-processing existing HCI databases to maximize their scientific return and potentially improve the demographics of directly imaged exoplanets. [less ▲]

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See detailA New Standard for Assessing the Performance of High Contrast Imaging Systems
Jensen-Clem, Rebecca; Mawet, Dimitri; Gómez González, Carlos ULiege et al

in Astronomical Journal (The) (2018), 155

As planning for the next generation of high contrast imaging instruments (e.g., WFIRST, HabEx, and LUVOIR, TMT-PFI, EELT-EPICS) matures and second-generation ground-based extreme adaptive optics ... [more ▼]

As planning for the next generation of high contrast imaging instruments (e.g., WFIRST, HabEx, and LUVOIR, TMT-PFI, EELT-EPICS) matures and second-generation ground-based extreme adaptive optics facilities (e.g., VLT-SPHERE, Gemini-GPI) finish their principal surveys, it is imperative that the performance of different designs, post-processing algorithms, observing strategies, and survey results be compared in a consistent, statistically robust framework. In this paper, we argue that the current industry standard for such comparisons—the contrast curve—falls short of this mandate. We propose a new figure of merit, the “performance map,” that incorporates three fundamental concepts in signal detection theory: the true positive fraction, the false positive fraction, and the detection threshold. By supplying a theoretical basis and recipe for generating the performance map, we hope to encourage the widespread adoption of this new metric across subfields in exoplanet imaging. [less ▲]

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See detailFive years of harvest with the vortex coronagraph
Absil, Olivier ULiege

Scientific conference (2017, December 15)

While the concept of vortex coronagraphy dates back to 2005, the first science-grade Annular Groove Phase Masks (AGPM), working in the thermal infrared regime, have been installed at the VLT only in 2012 ... [more ▼]

While the concept of vortex coronagraphy dates back to 2005, the first science-grade Annular Groove Phase Masks (AGPM), working in the thermal infrared regime, have been installed at the VLT only in 2012. They are now also equipping the Keck telescope and the Large Binocular Telescope, and will soon be at the core of more ground-based high-contrast imaging instruments. In this seminar, I will shortly review the technology development undertaken over the last 10 years, and describe the on-sky operations and performance of the vortex coronagraph. I will then present the main scientific results obtained since 2012, and explain how we have recently adapted deep learning techniques to the problem of post-processing in high-contrast imaging. I will finally discuss the perspectives with new instruments, including the Breakthrough Watch project. [less ▲]

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See detailA near-infrared interferometric survey of debris-disc stars. VI. Extending the exozodiacal light survey with CHARA/JouFLU
Nuñez, P. D.; Scott, N. J.; Mennesson, B. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 608

We report the results of high-angular-resolution observations that search for exozodiacal light in a sample of main sequence stars and sub-giants. Using the "jouvence" of the fiber linked unit for optical ... [more ▼]

We report the results of high-angular-resolution observations that search for exozodiacal light in a sample of main sequence stars and sub-giants. Using the "jouvence" of the fiber linked unit for optical recombination (JouFLU) at the center for high angular resolution astronomy (CHARA) telescope array, we have observed a total of 44 stars. Out of the 44 stars, 33 are new stars added to the initial, previously published survey of 42 stars performed at CHARA with the fiber linked unit for optical recombination (FLUOR). Since the start of the survey extension, we have detected a K-band circumstellar excess for six new stars at the 1% level or higher, four of which are known or candidate binaries, and two for which the excess could be attributed to exozodiacal dust. We have also performed follow-up observations of 11 of the stars observed in the previously published survey and found generally consistent results. We do however detect a significantly larger excess on three of these follow-up targets: Altair, υ And and κ CrB. Interestingly, the last two are known exoplanet host stars. We perform a statistical analysis of the JouFLU and FLUOR samples combined, which yields an overall exozodi detection rate of . We also find that the K-band excess in FGK-type stars correlates with the existence of an outer reservoir of cold (≲100 K) dust at the 99% confidence level, while the same cannot be said for A-type stars. [less ▲]

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See detailIn-depth study of moderately young but extremely red, very dusty substellar companion HD 206893B
Delorme, P.; Schmidt, T.; Bonnefoy, M. et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 608

Context. The substellar companion HD 206893b has recently been discovered by direct imaging of its disc-bearing host star with the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument ... [more ▼]

Context. The substellar companion HD 206893b has recently been discovered by direct imaging of its disc-bearing host star with the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument. <BR /> Aims: We investigate the atypical properties of the companion, which has the reddest near-infrared colours among all known substellar objects, either orbiting a star or isolated, and we provide a comprehensive characterisation of the host star-disc-companion system. <BR /> Methods: We conducted a follow-up of the companion with adaptive optics imaging and spectro-imaging with SPHERE, and a multi-instrument follow-up of its host star. We obtain a R = 30 spectrum from 0.95 to 1.64 μm of the companion and additional photometry at 2.11 and 2.25 μm. We carried out extensive atmosphere model fitting for the companions and the host star in order to derive their age, mass, and metallicity. <BR /> Results: We found no additional companion in the system in spite of exquisite observing conditions resulting in sensitivity to 6 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] (2 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB]) at 0.5'' for an age of 300 Myr (50 Myr). We detect orbital motion over more than one year and characterise the possible Keplerian orbits. We constrain the age of the system to a minimum of 50 Myr and a maximum of 700 Myr, and determine that the host-star metallicity is nearly solar. The comparison of the companion spectrum and photometry to model atmospheres indicates that the companion is an extremely dusty late L dwarf, with an intermediate gravity (log g 4.5-5.0) which is compatible with the independent age estimate of the system. <BR /> Conclusions: Though our best fit corresponds to a brown dwarf of 15-30 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] aged 100-300 Myr, our analysis is also compatible with a range of masses and ages going from a 50 Myr 12 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] planetary-mass object to a 50 M[SUB]Jup[/SUB] Hyades-age brown dwarf. Even though this companion is extremely red, we note that it is more probable that it has an intermediate gravity rather than the very low gravity that is often associated with very red L dwarfs. We also find that the detected companion cannot shape the observed outer debris disc, hinting that one or several additional planetary mass objects in the system might be necessary to explain the position of the disc inner edge. Based on observations made with ESO Telescopes at the Paranal Observatory under Programs ID 097.C-0865(D) (SPHERE GTO, SHINE Program) and Program ID: 082.A-9007(A) (FEROS) 098.C-0739(A), 192.C-0224(C) (HARPS). This work has made use of the SPHERE Data Centre. [less ▲]

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See detailFive years of harvest with the vortex coronagraph
Absil, Olivier ULiege

Scientific conference (2017, November 24)

While the concept of vortex coronagraphy dates back to 2005, the first science-grade Annular Groove Phase Masks (AGPM), working in the thermal infrared regime, have been installed at the VLT only in 2012 ... [more ▼]

While the concept of vortex coronagraphy dates back to 2005, the first science-grade Annular Groove Phase Masks (AGPM), working in the thermal infrared regime, have been installed at the VLT only in 2012. They are now also equipping the Keck telescope and the Large Binocular Telescope, and will soon be at the core of more ground-based high-contrast imaging instruments. In this seminar, I will shortly review the technology development undertaken over the last 12 years, and describe the on-sky operations and performance of the vortex coronagraph. I will then present the main scientific results obtained since 2012, and explain how we have recently adapted deep learning techniques to the problem of post-processing in high-contrast imaging. I will finally discuss the perspectives with new instruments, including the Breakthrough Watch project. [less ▲]

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See detailExozodiacal disks
Absil, Olivier ULiege; Ertel, Steve

Conference (2017, October 02)

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See detailCoronagraphy and Interferometry: Imaging the sky at high contrast and high-angular resolution
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Absil, Olivier ULiege

Conference (2017, September 15)

Short overview of the main activities related to exoplanet imaging at the STAR Institute

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See detailExozodiacal clouds: hot and warm dust around main sequence stars
Kral, Quentin; Krivov, Alexander V.; Defrere, Denis ULiege et al

in Astronomical Review (2017), 13(2), 69-111

A warm/hot dust component (at temperature $>$ 300K) has been detected around $\sim$ 20% of stars. This component is called "exozodiacal dust" as it presents similarities with the zodiacal dust detected in ... [more ▼]

A warm/hot dust component (at temperature $>$ 300K) has been detected around $\sim$ 20% of stars. This component is called "exozodiacal dust" as it presents similarities with the zodiacal dust detected in our Solar System, even though its physical properties and spatial distribution can be significantly different. Understanding the origin and evolution of this dust is of crucial importance, not only because its presence could hamper future detections of Earth-like planets in their habitable zones, but also because it can provide invaluable information about the inner regions of planetary systems. In this review, we present a detailed overview of the observational techniques used in the detection and characterisation of exozodiacal dust clouds ("exozodis") and the results they have yielded so far, in particular regarding the incidence rate of exozodis as a function of crucial parameters such as stellar type and age, or the presence of an outer cold debris disc. We also present the important constraints that have been obtained, on dust size distribution and spatial location, by using state-of-the-art radiation transfer models on some of these systems. Finally, we investigate the crucial issue of how to explain the presence of exozodiacal dust around so many stars (regardless of their ages) despite the fact that such dust so close to its host star should disappear rapidly due to the coupled effect of collisions and stellar radiation pressure. Several potential mechanisms have been proposed to solve this paradox and are reviewed in detail in this paper. The review finishes by presenting the future of this growing field. [less ▲]

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See detailNEAR: Low-mass Planets in α Cen with VISIR
Kasper, M.; Arsenault, R.; Käufl, H.-U. et al

in The Messenger (2017), 169

ESO, in collaboration with the Breakthrough Initiatives, is working to modify the Very Large Telescope mid-IR imager (VISIR) to greatly enhance its ability to search for potentially habitable planets ... [more ▼]

ESO, in collaboration with the Breakthrough Initiatives, is working to modify the Very Large Telescope mid-IR imager (VISIR) to greatly enhance its ability to search for potentially habitable planets around both components of the binary Alpha Centauri, part of the closest stellar system to the Earth. Much of the funding for the NEAR (New Earths in the Alpha Cen Region) project is provided by the Breakthrough Initiatives, and ESO mostly provides staff and observing time. The concept combines adaptive optics using the deformable secondary mirror at Unit Telescope 4, a new annular groove phase mask (AGPM) coronagraph optimised for the most sensitive spectral bandpass in the N-band, and a novel internal chopper system for noise filtering based on a concept for longer wavelengths invented by the microwave pioneer Robert Dicke. The NEAR experiment is relevant to the mid-infrared METIS instrument on the Extremely Large Telescope, as the knowledge gained and proof of concept will be transferable. [less ▲]

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See detailDeep imaging search for planets forming in the TW Hya protoplanetary disk with the Keck/NIRC2 vortex coronagraph
Ruane, G.; Mawet, D.; Kastner, J. et al

in Astronomical Journal (The) (2017), 154

Distinct gap features in the nearest protoplanetary disk, TW Hya (distance of 59.5$\pm$0.9 pc), may be signposts of ongoing planet formation. We performed long-exposure thermal infrared coronagraphic ... [more ▼]

Distinct gap features in the nearest protoplanetary disk, TW Hya (distance of 59.5$\pm$0.9 pc), may be signposts of ongoing planet formation. We performed long-exposure thermal infrared coronagraphic imaging observations to search for accreting planets especially within dust gaps previously detected in scattered light and submm-wave thermal emission. Three nights of observations with the Keck/NIRC2 vortex coronagraph in $L^\prime$ (3.4-4.1$\mu$m) did not reveal any statistically significant point sources. We thereby set strict upper limits on the masses of non-accreting planets. In the four most prominent disk gaps at 24, 41, 47, and 88 au, we obtain upper mass limits of 1.6-2.3, 1.1-1.6, 1.1-1.5, and 1.0-1.2 Jupiter masses ($M_J$) assuming an age range of 7-10 Myr for TW Hya. These limits correspond to the contrast at 95\% completeness (true positive fraction of 0.95) with a 1\% chance of a false positive within $1^{\prime\prime}$ of the star. We also approximate an upper limit on the product of planet mass and planetary accretion rate of $M_p\dot{M}\lesssim10^{-8} M_J^2/yr$ implying that any putative $\sim0.1 M_J$ planet, which could be responsible for opening the 24 au gap, is presently accreting at rates insufficient to build up a Jupiter mass within TW Hya's pre-main sequence lifetime. [less ▲]

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See detailCharacterizing exoplanetary atmospheres with a mid-infrared nulling interferometer
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Léger, Alain; Absil, Olivier ULiege

Conference (2017, June 27)

The discovery of an increasing number of terrestrial planets around nearby stars marks the dawn of a new era in the exoplanet field: the characterization and understanding of their atmospheres. To make ... [more ▼]

The discovery of an increasing number of terrestrial planets around nearby stars marks the dawn of a new era in the exoplanet field: the characterization and understanding of their atmospheres. To make significant progress, it becomes clear that a large number of exoplanetary atmospheres have to be studied at various wavelengths. This is particularly relevant for identifying possible bio-signatures. In this talk, we present a concept of a space-based mid-infrared nulling spectrograph that can characterize a large number of exoplanetary atmospheres and provide key information on their size, surface temperature, and the presence of key molecules such as CO2, H2O, CH4 and O3. The proposed mission concept would be particularly suited to characterize Proxima Cen b. [less ▲]

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See detailLatest results with LBTI's Vortex coronagraph: real-time tip/tilt sensing, new data reduction algorithms, and YSO observations
Defrere, Denis ULiege; Hinz, Philip; Absil, Olivier ULiege

Conference (2017, June 23)

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They enhance the dynamic range at very small inner working angle ... [more ▼]

Vortex coronagraphs are among the most promising solutions to perform high contrast imaging at small angular separations from bright stars. They enhance the dynamic range at very small inner working angle (down to the diffraction limit of the telescope) and provide a clear 360 degree discovery space for high-contrast direct imaging of exoplanets. In 2013, we installed and commissioned an L-band coronagraph in LBTI/LMIRCam and obtained outstanding images of the four planets around HR8799 during the first hours on sky. In this presentation, we will present the results of the latest data reduction performed with the VIP software that is developed at the University of Liège and that features state-of-the-art image processing algorithms inherited from the field of background subtraction in computer vision (including machine learning algorithms and low rank modeling algorithms). We will also present the results obtained with the second L- and M-band coronagraph that was recently installed in LMIRCam to enable binocular Vortex observations. During the first observations (October 2016), we tested and validated a new real-time post-coronagraphic tip-tilt sensing technique (called QACITS) to quickly align each beam on the center of their respective Vortex coronagraph and obtained observations of a young star showing disk features near the resolution limit of each aperture. Finally, we will present some exciting prospects for the Vortex coronagraph that will be installed on VISIR and ELT/METIS. [less ▲]

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See detailVIP: Vortex Image Processing package for high-contrast direct imaging
Gómez González, Carlos ULiege; Wertz, Olivier; Absil, Olivier ULiege et al

in Astronomical Journal (The) (2017), 154

We present the Vortex Image Processing (VIP) library, a python package dedicated to astronomical high-contrast imaging. Our package relies on the extensive python stack of scientific libraries and aims to ... [more ▼]

We present the Vortex Image Processing (VIP) library, a python package dedicated to astronomical high-contrast imaging. Our package relies on the extensive python stack of scientific libraries and aims to provide a flexible framework for high-contrast data and image processing. In this paper, we describe the capabilities of VIP related to processing image sequences acquired using the angular di↵erential imaging (ADI) observing technique. VIP implements functionalities for building high-contrast data processing pipelines, encompass- ing pre- and post-processing algorithms, potential sources position and flux estimation, and sensitivity curves generation. Among the reference point-spread function subtraction techniques for ADI post-processing, VIP includes several flavors of principal component analysis (PCA) based algorithms, such as annular PCA and incremental PCA algorithm capable of processing big datacubes (of several gigabytes) on a computer with limited memory. Also, we present a novel ADI algorithm based on non-negative matrix factorization (NMF), which comes from the same family of low-rank matrix approximations as PCA and provides fairly similar results. We showcase the ADI capabilities of the VIP library using a deep sequence on HR8799 taken with the LBTI/LMIRCam and its recently commissioned L-band vortex coronagraph. Using VIP we investigated the presence of additional companions around HR8799 and did not find any significant additional point source beyond the four known planets. VIP is available at http://github.com/vortex-exoplanet/VIP and is accompanied with Jupyter notebook tutorials illustrating the main functionalities of the library. [less ▲]

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See detailResolved astrometric orbits of ten O-type binaries
Le Bouquin, J.-B.; Sana, H.; Gosset, Eric ULiege et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 601

Our long term aim is to derive model-independent stellar masses and distances for long period massive binaries by combining apparent astrometric orbit with double-lined radial velocity amplitudes (SB2 ... [more ▼]

Our long term aim is to derive model-independent stellar masses and distances for long period massive binaries by combining apparent astrometric orbit with double-lined radial velocity amplitudes (SB2). We follow-up ten O+O binaries with AMBER, PIONIER and GRAVITY at the VLTI. Here, we report about 130 astrometric observations over the last 7 years. We combine this dataset with distance estimates to compute the total mass of the systems. We also compute preliminary individual component masses for the five systems with available SB2 radial velocities. Nine over the ten binaries have their three dimensional orbit well constrained. Four of them are known colliding wind, non-thermal radio emitters, and thus constitute valuable targets for future high angular resolution radio imaging. Two binaries break the correlation between period and eccentricity tentatively observed in previous studies. It suggests either that massive star formation produce a wide range of systems, or that several binary formation mechanisms are at play. Finally, we found that the use of existing SB2 radial velocity amplitudes can lead to unrealistic masses and distances. If not understood, the biases in radial velocity amplitudes will represent an intrinsic limitation for estimating dynamical masses from SB2+interferometry or SB2+Gaia. Nevertheless, our results can be combined with future Gaia astrometry to measure the dynamical masses and distances of the individual components with an accuracy of 5 to 15\%, completely independently of the radial velocities. [less ▲]

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See detailOn-sky performance of the QACITS pointing control technique with the Keck/NIRC2 vortex coronagraph
Huby, Elsa ULiege; Bottom, Michael; Femenia, Bruno et al

in Astronomy and Astrophysics (2017), 600

A vortex coronagraph is now available for high contrast observations with the Keck/NIRC2 instrument at L band. Reaching the optimal performance of the coronagraph requires fine control of the wavefront ... [more ▼]

A vortex coronagraph is now available for high contrast observations with the Keck/NIRC2 instrument at L band. Reaching the optimal performance of the coronagraph requires fine control of the wavefront incident on the phase mask. In particular, centering errors can lead to significant stellar light leakage that degrades the contrast performance and prevents the observation of faint planetary companions around the observed stars. It is thus critical to correct for the possible slow drift of the star image from the phase mask center, generally due to mechanical flexures induced by temperature and/or gravity field variation, or to misalignment between the optics that rotate in pupil tracking mode. A control loop based on the QACITS algorithm for the vortex coronagraph has thus been developed and deployed for the Keck/NIRC2 instrument. This algorithm executes the entire observing sequence, including the calibration steps, initial centering of the star on the vortex center and stabilisation during the acquisition of science frames. On-sky data show that the QACITS control loop stabilizes the position of the star image down to 2.4 mas rms at a frequency of about 0.02 Hz. However, the accuracy of the estimator is probably limited by a systematic error due to a misalignment of the Lyot stop with respect to the entrance pupil, estimated to be on the order of 4.5 mas. A method to reduce the amplitude of this bias down to 1 mas is proposed. The QACITS control loop has been successfully implemented and provides a robust method to center and stabilize the star image on the vortex mask. In addition, QACITS ensures a repeatable pointing quality and significantly improves the observing efficiency compared to manual operations. It is now routinely used for vortex coronagraph observations at Keck/NIRC2, providing contrast and angular resolution capabilities suited for exoplanet and disk imaging. [less ▲]

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See detailHi-5: a high dynamic range thermal near-infrared imager for the VLTI
Absil, Olivier ULiege; Defrere, Denis ULiege

Conference (2017, March 10)

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