Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy
New Initiatives Office
National Optical Astronomy Observatory
Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy

A Workshop on the future Directions for Ground-based Optical Interferometry

Tucson Arizona, Nov 13-15, 2006
Sponsored by AURA, NIO, NOAO and CHARA

A major program goal of the AURA New Initiatives Office is to develop an understanding of the scientific potential and technical drivers for an O/IR interferometer. The goal of this workshop is to shape and inform NIO discussions of the future of interferometry for the next decadal survey.


Since the Bahcall Committee gave optical interferometry a priority for technology development in 1990, prototype experiments have led the way to the first generation of user facilities. As Optical Interferometry comes of age (more than 100 science papers in the last 2 years) it is becoming clear that high spatial resolution is leading toward a revolution in stellar physics. At the same time, filled aperture technology is approaching its limits with an ELT or an OWL, yet still falling short of fully relieving confusion in crowded regions, and still very far from resolving astrophysical detail in compact and/or distant sources. Hence it is timely to look beyond the capability of today’s optical arrays, to consider what performance may be possible in the future, and what science opportunities may be enabled.

The workshop will be oriented around four themes:

  1. Science opportunities with a next-generation optical array
  2. Array concepts
  3. Candidate sites
  4. Today’s arrays and tomorrow’s technologies—a roadmap toward the future

Organizational Plan:

Beginning immediately, the SOC will work with interested participants to organize Working Groups on the critical topics relevant to O/IR Interferometry planning. The lead of each Working Group will coordinate with all members to prepare, as appropriate, a synthesis, summary, status report, or recommendation.

The workshop will begin on Nov 13, with a day-long plenary session, at which Working Groups will report their progress and conclusions, with ample time for discussion and workshop-style interaction.

On Nov 14, the morning will be devoted to parallel topical sessions, with the objective of outlining high-level recommendations. These will be brought to another plenary session for discussion at the end of the morning. This will complete the core workshop.

The extended workshop will begin at noon Nov 14 and continue through Nov 15. At the extended workshop, participants will carry forward workshop advice to synthesize one or more white papers and a roadmap for technology and facility development.

Following the workshop, NOAO staff will continue to consult with Working Groups on the elaboration and refinement of the white papers, and on planning of studies needed to carry forward selected concepts to the Decade Review.


This is intended to be a focused working meeting rather than a science conference. Participation will be by invitation. We will happily extend invitations to as many participants, U.S. and international, as facilities and resources allow. In the case of over-subscription, priority will be given to those preparing essential contributions and/or bringing special experience and perspective. For further information, or to request an invitation, please contact Stephen Ridgway:

Science Organizing Committee:

  • Rachel Akeson (Cal Tech)
  • Josh Eisner (Berkeley)
  • Ken Johnston (USNO)
  • Hal McAlister (CHARA)
  • Steve Ridgway (NOAO - chair)

Local Organizing Committee:

  • Jeremy Mould
  • Jane Price
  • Steve Ridgway