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MIRC-X: A Highly Sensitive Six-telescope Interferometric Imager at the CHARA Array

Abstract : Michigan InfraRed Combiner-eXeter (MIRC-X) is a new highly sensitive six-telescope interferometric imager installed at the CHARA Array that provides an angular resolution equivalent of up to a 330 m diameter baseline telescope in J- and H-band wavelengths ( $\tfrac{\lambda }{2B}\sim 0.6$ mas). We upgraded the original Michigan InfraRed Combiner (MIRC) instrument to improve sensitivity and wavelength coverage in two phases. First, a revolutionary sub-electron noise and fast-frame-rate C-RED ONE camera based on an SAPHIRA detector was installed. Second, a new-generation beam combiner was designed and commissioned to (i) maximize sensitivity, (ii) extend the wavelength coverage to J band, and (iii) enable polarization observations. A low-latency and fast-frame-rate control software enables high-efficiency observations and fringe tracking for the forthcoming instruments of the CHARA Array. Since mid-2017, MIRC-X has been offered to the community and has demonstrated best-case H-band sensitivity down to 8.2 correlated magnitude. MIRC-X uses single-mode fibers to coherently combine the light from six telescopes simultaneously with an image-plane combination scheme and delivers a visibility precision better than 1%, and closure phase precision better than 1°. MIRC-X aims at (i) imaging protoplanetary disks, (ii) detecting exoplanets with precise astrometry, and (iii) imaging stellar surfaces and starspots at an unprecedented angular resolution in the near-infrared. In this paper, we present the instrument design, installation, operation, and on-sky results, and demonstrate the imaging capability of MIRC-X on the binary system ι Peg. The purpose of this paper is to provide a solid reference for studies based on MIRC-X data and to inspire future instruments in optical interferometry.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 27, 2022 - 8:32:35 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, August 2, 2022 - 3:10:43 AM

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Narsireddy Anugu, Jean-Baptiste Le Bouquin, John D. Monnier, Stefan Kraus, Benjamin R. Setterholm, et al.. MIRC-X: A Highly Sensitive Six-telescope Interferometric Imager at the CHARA Array. The Astronomical Journal, 2020, 160, ⟨10.3847/1538-3881/aba957⟩. ⟨insu-03705176⟩

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