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Intensity Interferometry references

new ideas of extended path interferometry by Ken Van Tilburg, Baryakhtar et al, talk at SII in OSU May 2023

Compilation of links to recent publications - community supported link

Astronomical imaging can be broadly classified into two types. The first type is amplitude interferometry, which includes conventional optical telescopes and Very Large Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). The second type is intensity interferometry, which relies on Hanbury Brown and Twiss-type measurements. At optical frequencies, where direct phase measurements are impossible, amplitude interferometry has an effective numerical aperture that is limited by the distance from which photons can coherently interfere. Intensity interferometry, on the other hand, correlates only photon fluxes and can thus support much larger numerical apertures, but suffers from a reduced signal due to the low average photon number per mode in thermal light. It has hitherto not been clear which method is superior under realistic conditions. Here, we give a comparative analysis of the performance of amplitude and intensity interferometry, and we relate this to the fundamental resolution limit that can be achieved in any physical measurement. Using the benchmark problem of determining the separation between two distant thermal point sources, e.g., two adjacent stars, we give a short tutorial on optimal estimation theory and apply it to stellar interferometry. We find that for very small angular separations the large baseline achievable in intensity interferometry can more than compensate for the reduced signal strength. We also explore options for practical implementations of Very Large Baseline Intensity Interferometry (VLBII).

Abstract: Criteria as to when an intensity interferometer is competitive with a Michelson interferometer are established with the help of a simple example. There do not appear to be any cases in the field of frequency measurement where this is true. In radio astronomy it is argued that intensity interferometry might still have a role in angular measurements of the very smallest sources but it is clear that the main application still lies in visual astronomy in measurements in hot single stars and close spectroscopic binaries. A discussion is given as to how far the method could be pushed both from the technical as well as from the observational aspect. The triple correlation interferometer of Gamo is considered but because of its extremely low sensitivity it seems to have no application at least in visual astronomy and in this field the use of lasers is also rejected partly because of the various serious effects of atmospheric ' seeing ', and partly because of the excessively tight tolerances on the performance of the very large mirrors needed to obtain adequate sensitivity. The possibility of laboratory applications also seem remote, in particular the idea that intensity interferometry could be used at x-ray wavelengths to measure the phase of scattering amplitudes is shown to be ruled out by inadequate sensitivity which could only be overcome by the development of coherent x-ray sources.

Stellar intensity interferometers correlate photons within their coherence time and could overcome the baseline limitations of existing amplitude interferometers. Intensity interferometers do not rely on phase coherence of the optical elements and thus function without high grade optics and light combining delay lines. However, the coherence time of starlight observed with realistic optical filter bandwidths (> 0.1 nm) is usually much smaller than the time resolution of the detection system (> 10 ps), resulting in a greatly reduced correlation signal. Reaching high signal to noise in a reasonably short measurement time can be achieved in different ways: either by increasing the time resolution, which increases the correlation signal height, or by increasing the photon rate, which decreases statistical uncertainties of the measurement. We present laboratory measurements employing both approaches and directly compare them in terms of signal to noise ratio. A high time-resolution interferometry setup designed for small to intermediate size optical telescopes and thus lower photon rates (diameters < some meters) is compared to a setup capable of measuring high photon rates, which is planned to be installed at Cherenkov telescopes with dish diameters of > 10 m. We use a Xenon lamp as a common light source simulating starlight. Both setups measure the expected correlation signal and work at the expected shot-noise limit of statistical uncertainties for measurement times between 10 min and 23 h. We discuss the quantitative differences in the measurement results and give an overview of suitable operation regimes for each of the interferometer concepts.

We discuss the design, construction, and operation of a new intensity interferometer, based on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Connecticut. While this paper will focus on observations taken with an original two-telescope configuration, the current instrumentation consists of three portable 0.6-m Dobsonian telescopes with single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detectors located at the Newtonian focus of each telescope. Photons detected at each station are time-stamped and read out with timing correlators that can give cross-correlations in timing to a precision of 48 ps. We detail our observations to date with the system, which has now been successfully used at our university in 16 nights of observing. Components of the instrument were also deployed on one occasion at Lowell Observatory, where the Perkins and Hall telescopes were made to function as an intensity interferometer. We characterize the performance of the instrument in detail. In total, the observations indicate the detection of a correlation peak at the level of 6.76-sigma when observing unresolved stars, and consistency with partial or no detection when observing at a baseline sufficient to resolve the star. Using these measurements we conclude that the angular diameter of Arcturus is larger than 15 mas, and that of Vega is between 0.8 and 17 mas. While the uncertainties are large at this point, both results are consistent with measures from amplitude-based long baseline optical interferometers.

The Southern Connecticut Stellar Interferometer (SCSI) is an intensity interferometer that is designed to use correlated photon arrival times to determine the geometry of stars. Originally a low-cost, two-telescope instrument that used a 1-pixel single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detector at the focal plane of each telescope to record photon events, it is now being upgraded to include a third telescope. This will allow for the simultaneous detection of the photon correlation at three baselines, and thus the ability to map out the two-dimensional geometry of the source much more efficiently than with the two-telescope arrangement. Recent papers in the literature suggest that it may be possible to derive phase information in the Fourier domain from such triple correlations for the brightest stars, potentially giving SCSI an imaging capability. Prior to investigating this possibility, steps must be taken to maximize the observing efficiency of the SCSI. We present here our latest efforts in achieving better pointing, tracking, and collimation with our telescopes, and we discuss our first modeling results of the three-telescope situation in order to understand under what conditions the upgraded SCSI could retrieve imaging information.

  • Demonstration of stellar intensity interferometry with the four VERITAS telescopes, A. U. Abeysekara, W. Benbow, A. Brill, J.H. Buckley, J.L. Christiansen, A.J.Chromey, M. K. Daniel, J. Davis, A. Falcone, Q. Feng, J. P. Finley, L. Fortson, A. Furniss, A. Gent, C. Giuri, O. Gueta, D. Hanna, T. Hassan, O. Hervet, J. Holder, G. Hughes, T. B. Humensky, P. Kaaret, M. Kertzman, D. Kieda, F. Krennrich, S. Kumar, T. LeBohec, T. T. Y. Lin, M. Lundy, G. Maier, N. Matthews, P. Moriarty, R. Mukherjee M. Nievas-Rosillo, S. O'Brien, R. A. Ong, A. N. Otte, K. Pfrang, M. Pohl, R. R. Prado, E. Pueschel, J. Quinn, K. Ragan, P. T. Reynolds, D. Ribeiro, G. T. Richards, E. Roache, J. L. Ryan, M. Santander, G. H. Sembroski, S. P. Wakely, A. Weinstein, P. Wilcox, D. A. Williams, T. J Williamson; DOI:10.1038/s41550-020-1143-y,  arXiv:2007.10295v1

High angular resolution observations at optical wavelengths provide valuable insights in stellar astrophysics, directly measuring fundamental stellar parameters, and probing stellar atmospheres, circumstellar disks, elongation of rapidly rotating stars, and pulsations of Cepheid variable stars. The angular size of most stars are of order one milli-arcsecond or less, and to spatially resolve stellar disks and features at this scale requires an optical interferometer using an array of telescopes with baselines on the order of hundreds of meters. We report on the successful implementation of a stellar intensity interferometry system developed for the four VERITAS imaging atmospheric-Cherenkov telescopes. The system was used to measure the angular diameter of the two sub-mas stars β Canis Majoris and ϵ Orionis with a precision better than 5%. The system utilizes an off-line approach where starlight intensity fluctuations recorded at each telescope are correlated post-observation. The technique can be readily scaled onto tens to hundreds of telescopes, providing a capability that has proven technically challenging to current generation optical amplitude interferometry observatories. This work demonstrates the feasibility of performing astrophysical measurements with imaging atmospheric-Cherenkov telescope arrays as intensity interferometers and the promise for integrating an intensity interferometry system within future observatories such as the Cherenkov Telescope Array.

  • Astro2020 White Paper State of the Profession: Intensity Interferometry, David B.Kieda, Gisela Anton, Anastasia Barbano, Wystan Benbow, Colin Carlile, Michael Daniel, Dainis Dravins, Sean Griffin, Tarek Hassan, Jamie Holder, Stephan LeBohec, Nolan Matthews, Theresa Montaruli, Nicolas Produit, Josh Reynolds, Roland Walter, Luca Zampieri;

Recent advances in telescope design, photodetector efficiency, and high-speed electronic data recording and synchronization have created the observational capability to achieve unprecedented angular resolution for several thousand bright (m< 6) and hot (O/B/A) stars by means of a modern implementation of Stellar Intensity Interferometry (SII). This technology, when deployed on future arrays of large diameter optical telescopes, has the ability to image astrophysical objects with an angular resolution better than 40 {\mu} arc-sec. This paper describes validation tests of the SII technique in the laboratory using various optical sensors and correlators, and SII measurements on nearby stars that have recently been completed as a technology demonstrator. The paper describes ongoing and future developments that will advance the impact and instrumental resolution of SII during the upcoming decade.

  • Long-baseline optical intensity interferometry: Laboratory demonstration of diffraction-limited imaging, Dainis Dravins, Tiphaine Lagadec, Paul D.Nuñez; A&A 580, A99 (2015); DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201526334;

A long-held vision has been to realize diffraction-limited optical aperture synthesis over kilometer baselines. This will enable imaging of stellar surfaces and their environments, and reveal interacting gas flows in binary systems. An opportunity is now opening up with the large telescope arrays primarily erected for measuring Cherenkov light in air induced by gamma rays. With suitable software, such telescopes could be electronically connected and also used for intensity interferometry. Second-order spatial coherence of light is obtained by cross correlating intensity fluctuations measured in different pairs of telescopes. With no optical links between them, the error budget is set by the electronic time resolution of a few nanoseconds. Corresponding light-travel distances are approximately one meter, making the method practically immune to atmospheric turbulence or optical imperfections, permitting both very long baselines and observing at short optical wavelengths. Previous theoretical modeling has shown that full images should be possible to retrieve from observations with such telescope arrays. This project aims at verifying diffraction-limited imaging experimentally with groups of detached and independent optical telescopes. In a large optics laboratory, artificial stars were observed by an array of small telescopes. Using high-speed photon-counting solid-state detectors, intensity fluctuations were cross-correlated over up to 180 baselines between pairs of telescopes, producing coherence maps across the interferometric Fourier-transform plane. These measurements were used to extract parameters about the simulated stars, and to reconstruct their two-dimensional images. As far as we are aware, these are the first diffraction-limited images obtained from an optical array only linked by electronic software, with no optical connections between the telescopes.

  • Ptychographical intensity interferometry imaging with incoherent light, Opt. Express  26, 20396-20408 (2018),  Wentao Wang, Hui Chen, Yuan Yuan, Qi Han, Gao Wang, Huaibin Zheng, Jianbin Liu, and Zhuo Xu,

Intensity interferometry (II), the landmark of the second-order correlation, enables very long baseline observations at optical wavelengths, providing imaging with microarcsecond resolution. However, the unreliability of traditional phase retrieval algorithms required to reconstruct images in II has hindered its development. We here develop a method that circumvents this challenge, which enables II to reliably image complex shaped objects. Instead of measuring the whole object, we measure it part by part with a probe moving in a ptychographic way: adjacent parts overlap with each other. A relevant algorithm is developed to reliably and rapidly recover the object in a few iterations. Moreover, we propose an approach to remove the requirement for a precise knowledge of the probe, providing an error-tolerance of more than 50% for the location of the probe in our experiments. Furthermore, we extend II to short distance scenarios, providing a lensless imaging method with incoherent light and paving a way towards applications in X-ray imaging.

  • Intensity interferometry with more than two detectors? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 437, Issue 1, 01 January 2014, Pages 798–803 Vinay Malvimat, Olaf Wucknitz, Prasenjit Saha, 

The original intensity interferometers were instruments built in the 1950s and 1960s by Hanbury Brown and collaborators, achieving milliarcsec resolutions in visible light without optical-quality mirrors. They exploited a then-novel physical effect, nowadays known as HBT correlation after the experiments of Hanbury Brown and Twiss, and considered fundamental in quantum optics. Now a new generation of intensity interferometers is being designed, raising the possibility of measuring intensity correlations with three or more detectors. Quantum optics predicts two interesting features in many-detector HBT: (i) the signal contains spatial information about the source (such as the bispectrum or closure phase) not present in standard HBT and (ii) correlation increases combinatorially with the number of detectors. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) depends crucially on the number of photons – in practice always ≪1 – detected per coherence time. A simple SNR formula is derived for thermal sources, indicating that three-detector HBT is feasible for bright stars. The many-detector enhancement of HBT would be much more difficult to measure, but seems plausible for bright masers.