I will conduct my research in interferometry at the IOTA (Infrared Optical Telescope Array), both using the interferometer for astronomical observations of young and evolved stars and contributing to its instrumentation development.
On the scientific side, I study the circumstellar environment of young stars of intermediate mass, the Herbig AeBe stars, as well as (at the opposite evolutionary end) the pulsation properties of Mira variables. In the past year, I have also been involved in a program (with J. D. Monnier and collaborators) to combine IOTA/FLUOR and Keck aperture masking observations in order to better constrain models of dust enshrouded young and old stars. We also hope to make use of the Keck adaptive optics system to expand on the observations of the Herbig AeBe systems. Instrumental upgrades currently underway (described below) will also allow us to extend our investigations of young stars to the T Tauri class, as well as to other very embedded sources.
On the instrumental side, my principal responsibility concerns the development of our near-infrared detectors, based on NICMOS3 and PICNIC arrays. I am working on adapting our previous NICMOS3 design to PICNIC-based star tracker and upgrade science cameras. I also collaborate with M. Shure in his adaptation of our camera design for the CHARA array. At the IOTA, the new science camera will be used, in addition of our current mode of operation with two telescopes, for fringe detection from three simultaneous baselines, as work on our third telescope nears completion. Part of this work will done with J.P. Berger, who will bring the very interesting technology of integrated optics to the IOTA. Finally, I will be involved in an effort, led by J. D. Monnier, to build a prototype single mode fiber system for visible wavelengths, in order to be able to directly measure the sizes of Cepheid stars as they pulsate.
Rafael is currently an astronomer at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology.