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UK VLTI Expertise Centre

A network of VLTI Expertise Centres has been established as part of the European Union's Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy (OPTICON) and OPTICON RadioNet Pilot (ORP) H2020 programmes. These centres are the backbone of dissemination activities to new VLTI users through the organisation of observing preparation and data reduction schools, co-organisation of the VLTI Community Days with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and by being the end-points of the Fizeau staff exchange programme. The centres follow the successful experience of the ALMA Regional Centres but on a smaller scale. They are the visible first contact point for astronomers interested in using VLTI.

The United Kingdom centre builds on long-standing experience in the astrophysical exploitation of the VLTI instruments AMBER, MIDI, PIONIER, GRAVITY and MATISSE. Exeter is a member of OPTICON/ORP network and leads instrumentation efforts in optical interferometry, e.g. for the MIRC-X 6-telescope imager at the CHARA array and the BIFROST instrument proposed for the VLTI visitor focus.

The VLTI and its instrumentation

The Very Large Telescope Interferometer offers worldwide unique capabilities in high-angular resolution astronomy, enabling European astronomers to observe the Universe at milliarcsecond scale at near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths.

The VLTI instruments are:

  • GRAVITY: 4-way beam combiner in the K-band, with spectroscopic, fringe tracking and astrometric capabilities
  • PIONIER: 4-way beam combiner in the H-band
  • MATISSE: 4-way beam combiner in the L, M and N-bands

Core team

To seek support with proposal preparation or data reduction, either by email or face-to-face at Exeter, send an email to

Lead Scientist: Tyler Gardner
Coordinator: Stefan Kraus

The aims of the United Kingdom VLTI Expertise Centre are:

  • Integrate and disseminate knowledge being developed across the community, ensuring long-term sustainability;
  • Support observing proposal preparation and data reduction;
  • (Co-)organise schools training users in the VLTI capabilities and instrumentation, providing the practical skills required for VLTI observing, data reduction and use of databases;
  • (Co-)organise (with ESO) the VLTI Community Days and European Interferometry Initiate meetings, bringing together 15 countries, and ESO and ESA, as well as the radio/mm interferometry community;
  • Promote collaboration between interferometrists world-wide, including coordination of cross-facility observations with the US interferometers.

Planned and past activities of the United Kingdom VLTI Expertise Centre are:

  • 2022/04/25-29: Conference with VLTI Community Day and VLTI training activities (hybrid meeting: Exeter and online)
  • 2020/06/29: Dissemination action at the European Astronomical Society meeting (EAS), online
  • 2019/06/27: Dissemination action at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) in Lyon
  • 2019/02/08: Dissemination action at the Royal Astronomical Society in London
  • 2018/04/05: Dissemination action at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) in Liverpool
  • 2017/07/05: Dissemination action at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) in Hull