The race for high angular resolution dates back to the introduction of optics in astronomical instruments at the beginning of the seventeenth century. However, it was Fizeau, in 1868, who first had the idea of using interferometry to increase the resolution of a telescope. The first measurement of stellar diameter was done in 1920 - with an interferometer that Michelson had installed on the giant 100-inch telescope of Mount Wilson.
In the 1970’s, Antoine Labeyrie had the idea of replacing Michelson’s interferometer –that required a very large telescope– by several small telescopes using interferometry. In 1974, while at the observatory of Nice, A. Labeyrie succeeded in making the light of a star captured by two small telescopes to interfere for the first time. This led the way to his “interferometer with two telescopes” (I2T) and then to the current large interferometers of Chile and Hawai.
Established on January 1st 2000 under the chair of observational astrophysics of the Collège de France, hold by A. Labeyrie since 1990, the “Laboratoire pour l’Interférométrie Stellaire et Exoplanétaire”, known by its acronym LISE, specializes in instrumental development in the field of high-angular-resolution astronomical imaging, as well as the ultrasensitive observations made possible by these new instruments.
Originally at the Observatoire de Haute-Provence, Antoine Labeyrie and the LISE team joined the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (OCA) in 2006. LISE officially became hosted at OCA in January 1st 2012. Composed of personnel from Collège de France, CNRS, universities and observatories, and of volunteers from various backgrounds, LISE collaborates closely with the “Physical Methods for Observation” group of the Lagrange research unit at OCA.
Research is focused on
- new optical concepts that allow increasing the strength of astronomical observations,
- laboratory experimentation and development of prototypes that serve as precursors for larger instruments aimed at increasing both angular resolution and dynamic range,
- astronomical observations that go beyond the existing boundaries and
- interpretation of observational data.
Among the astrophysical [or science] applications of the instrumentation developed by LISE are
- exo-planets (direct observation and search for life),
- stellar physics,
- active galactic nuclei,
- gamma-ray bursts and
- gravitational lenses and cosmology.
Some of the instrumental projects are candidates for future programs of ESO and of the ESA and NASA space agencies.
West view of Vallon de la Moutière (Bayasse - Uvernet-Fours), Ubaye Hypertelescope Site ©MR