LibraryLife and EnvironmentalAstronomy & Space Science

High Precision Infra-Red Stellar Interferometry

by Benjamin F. Lane

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Institution: California Institute of Techology
Advisor(s): S. R. Kulkarni
Degree: Ph.D., Astronomy
Year: 2003
Volume: 169 pages
ISBN-10: 1581122004
ISBN-13: 9781581122008


This dissertation describes work performed at the Palomar Testbed Interferometer (PTI) during 1998-2002. Using PTI, we developed a method to measure stellar angular diameters in the 1-3 milli-arcsecond range with a precision of better than 5%. Such diameter measurements were used to measure the mass-radius relations of several lower main sequence stars and hence verify model predictions for these stars. In addition, by measuring the changes in Cepheid angular diameters during the pulsational cycle and applying a Baade-Wesselink analysis we are able to derive the distances to two galactic Cepheids (h Aql & z Gem) with a precision of ~10%; such distance determinations provide an independent calibration of the Cepheid period-luminosity relations that underpin current estimates of cosmic distance scales.

Second, we used PTI and the adaptive optics facility at the Keck Telescope on Mauna Kea to resolve the low mass binary systems BY Dra and GJ 569B, resulting in dynamical mass determinations for these systems. GJ 569B most likely contains at least one sub-stellar component, and as such represents the first dynamical mass determination of a brown dwarf.

Finally, a new observing technique, dual star phase referencing, was developed and demonstrated at PTI. Phase referencing allows interferometric observations of stars previously too faint to observe, and is a prerequisite for large-scale interferometric astrometry programs such as the one planned for the Keck Interferometer; interferometric astrometry is a promising technique for the study of extra-solar planetary systems, particularly ones with long-period planets.