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MIRC-X 6-telescope Imager

MIRC-X is a 6-telescope beam combination instrument installed at the CHARA telescope array, which is the world’s highest-resolution imaging facility in infrared light, located at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California. The new instrument combines the light from telescopes spaced up to 330 metres apart, making CHARA/MIRC-X ideally suited for imaging stellar surface structures or to image the environment around stars with unprecedented resolution.

The MIRC-X project is lead by Prof. Stefan Kraus (University of Exeter, UK) and Prof. John Monnier (University of Michigan, USA). The ambitious goal is to image the discs around young stars for the first time with 6-telescopes infrared interferometry. These discs constitute the left-over material from the star formation process and provide the stage where planets form. Once planets have formed, they shape the disc environment, for instance by carving out gaps or by stirring up the disc material in warps. Spotting these structures in the inner disc regions requires an angular resolution far beyond the reach of conventional telescopes. MIRC-X and CHARA overcome this resolution barrier by combining the light from physically separated telescopes, achieving the image sharpness of a 330m telescope. These new capabilities will enable astronomers to obtain high-fidelity images of protoplanetary disc, providing a glimpse on how our own solar system might have looked like 4.6 billion years ago, during its formation phase.

The first phase of the MIRC-X instrumentation project, which included the installation of an ultra-low read noise detector system, was completed in June/July 2017. Further engineering work is planned for 2018 in order to achieve optimal performance. Results from the project will become available on this website.

This project is funded by the European Research Council (Grant Agreement No. 639889) and also builds on earlier funding from the USA's National Science Foundation.

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