Probing dusty circumstellar environments with polarimetric aperture-masking interferometry

Barnaby R.M. Norris, Peter G. Tuthill, Michael J. Ireland, Sylvestre Lacour, Albert A. Zijlstra, Foteini Lykou, Thomas M. Evans, Paul Stewart, Timothy R. Bedding, Olivier Guyon, Frantz Martinache

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

10 Scopus citations


Aperture-masking interferometry allows diffraction-limited images to be recovered despite the turbulent atmosphere. Here, this approach has been combined with polarimetry to form a novel technique allowing the dusty environments of mass-losing stars (so-called AGB stars) and proto-planetary and debris disks to be imaged, the characterisation of which is key to understanding the recycling of matter and the formation of new planetary systems. Polarimetric aperture-masking interferometry produces images by exploiting the fact that starlight scattered by circumstellar dust becomes strongly polarised. Essentially, aperture-masking allows access to the small spatial scales (∼10mas) necessary while polarimetry allows light from the dust and star to be differentiated. Furthermore, measurements at multiple wavelengths allow dust grain sizes to be calculated using Mie scattering theory. Excellent results have already been obtained at near-IR wavelengths using the NACO instrument at the VLT. The next step is to leverage the higher spatial resolution and polarisation signal found in the visible, rather than near-IR. To this end, a new instrument allowing precision polarimetric aperture masking interferometry at 600-800nm is being developed for an 8m class telescope, details of which will also be presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOptical and Infrared Interferometry III
StatePublished - 2012
EventOptical and Infrared Interferometry III - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: Jul 1 2012Jul 6 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


OtherOptical and Infrared Interferometry III


  • AGB stars
  • Aperture masking
  • Optical interferometric polarimetry
  • Optical interferometry
  • Transition disks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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