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Published July 21, 2010 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

Science with the Keck Interferometer ASTRA program


The ASTrometric and phase-Referenced Astronomy (ASTRA) project will provide phase referencing and astrometric observations at the Keck Interferometer, leading to enhanced sensitivity and the ability to monitor orbits at an accuracy level of 30-100 microarcseconds. Here we discuss recent scientific results from ASTRA, and describe new scientific programs that will begin in 2010-2011. We begin with results from the "self phase referencing" (SPR) mode of ASTRA, which uses continuum light to correct atmospheric phase variations and produce a phase-stabilized channel for spectroscopy. We have observed a number of protoplanetary disks using SPR and a grism providing a spectral dispersion of ~ 2000. In our data we spatially resolve emission from dust as well as gas. Hydrogen line emission is spectrally resolved, allowing differential phase measurements across the emission line that constrain the relative centroids of different velocity components at the 10 microarcsecond level. In the upcoming year, we will begin dual-field phase referencing (DFPR) measurements of the Galactic Center and a number of exoplanet systems. These observations will, in part, serve as precursors to astrometric monitoring of stellar orbits in the Galactic Center and stellar wobbles of exoplanet host stars. We describe the design of several scientific investigations capitalizing on the upcoming phase-referencing and astrometric capabilities of ASTRA.

Additional Information

© 2010 SPIE. The ASTRA project is made possible by a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF; award #0619965), and the infrastructure support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the Keck Interferometer (KI) project, through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI).

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