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28 July 2008 VSI: the VLTI spectro-imager
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The VLTI Spectro Imager (VSI) was proposed as a second-generation instrument of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer providing the ESO community with spectrally-resolved, near-infrared images at angular resolutions down to 1.1 milliarcsecond and spectral resolutions up to R = 12000. Targets as faint as K = 13 will be imaged without requiring a brighter nearby reference object; fainter targets can be accessed if a suitable reference is available. The unique combination of high-dynamic-range imaging at high angular resolution and high spectral resolution enables a scientific program which serves a broad user community and at the same time provides the opportunity for breakthroughs in many areas of astrophysics. The high level specifications of the instrument are derived from a detailed science case based on the capability to obtain, for the first time, milliarcsecond-resolution images of a wide range of targets including: probing the initial conditions for planet formation in the AU-scale environments of young stars; imaging convective cells and other phenomena on the surfaces of stars; mapping the chemical and physical environments of evolved stars, stellar remnants, and stellar winds; and disentangling the central regions of active galactic nuclei and supermassive black holes. VSI will provide these new capabilities using technologies which have been extensively tested in the past and VSI requires little in terms of new infrastructure on the VLTI. At the same time, VSI will be able to make maximum use of new infrastructure as it becomes available; for example, by combining 4, 6 and eventually 8 telescopes, enabling rapid imaging through the measurement of up to 28 visibilities in every wavelength channel within a few minutes. The current studies are focused on a 4-telescope version with an upgrade to a 6-telescope one. The instrument contains its own fringe tracker and tip-tilt control in order to reduce the constraints on the VLTI infrastructure and maximize the scientific return.
© (2008) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.

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