Campus, Varian 355
The angular resolution of a stellar interferometer, as for a single telescope, becomes better at smaller wavelengths and larger baselines. The goal for ground detectors would then be optical interferometers with baselines as long as the Earth’s diameter. The latter goal has been achieved in radio, but it becomes prohibitive in the optical, as the electromagnetic field oscillates too rapidly to record and analyze directly over km-long baselines. Intensity interferometry relying on second-order correlations can make this possible: rather than the amplitude and phase of incoming light, we need only count photons. This technique has a long history and to date the best measurements of nearby stellar radii, dating back to the 1950s. Its main limitations are the need for very bright sources and that the angular resolution and field of view are roughly the same, restricting kilometer-long baselines to sources only a few μas away. In this talk, I will propose an optical-path modification of astronomical intensity interferometers, which introduces an effective time delay in the two-photon interference amplitude, splitting the main intensity correlation fringe into others at finite opening angles, allowing for differential astrometry of multiple compact sources such as stars or quasar images. Together with the exponential progress in the field of single photon detection, such a modification will immensely increase the scope of intensity interferometry beyond measurements of the optical emission region morphology. I will lay out the theory and technical requirements of time-delay intensity interferometry and, time permitting, I will talk about some promising applications, which include astrometric microlensing of stars and quasar images, binary-orbit characterization, exoplanet detection, Galactic acceleration measurements and calibration of the cosmic distance ladder, all at unprecedented relative astrometric precision.