Binary star astronomy with optical interferometry
The Mark III Interferometer on Mt. Wilson, a long-baseline optical interferometer, was in daily operation for more that seven years. During that time it achieved milliarcsecond angular resolution for binary star astronomy, with submilliarcsecond accuracy. For the first time many spectroscopic binaries have been resolved, including binaries in which the companion cannot be detected with spectroscopy. The high angular resolution means that the traditional gap between visual and spectroscopic binaries has been decreased by more than an order of magnitude. In order to confirm the performance of the Mark III Interferometer, this paper uses the results of astronomical observations, and compares the Mark III Interferometer with other high-resolution techniques, including astrometry, lunar occultation, photometry, speckle, and spectroscopy. Comparisons for a variety of binary stars among these techniques indicate that long baseline optical interferometry proves a reliable, fully automatic, daily accessible astronomical capability for achieving high resolution, high accuracy, high dynamic range, and high photometric measurement precision for the study of binary stars.
© 1994 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). 9 June 1994. The authors are grateful for financial support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Thanks to the people of the interferometric group at NRL and USNO for the observation time, and to Lu Rarogiewicz for assistance in observation. Literature survey is based on the SIMBAD data retrieval system, data base of the Strasbourg, France, Astronomical Data Center.
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