Abstract

For a ground-based stellar interferometer, we investigate the effect of wave-front distortions that are due to telescope alignment errors and other factors. We apply the results to the IR/Optical Telescope Array (IOTA) interferometer. We present the computational method used in our simulation program to calculate explicitly the wave-front shape from an arbitrarily misaligned telescope. We calculate the wave-front shape and variance for a suite of misalignment conditions and interpret these results to find allowable tolerances on the positions and tilts of the telescope mirrors. We calculate the expected Strehl ratios from a total of ten types of factor, including telescope alignment, that are expected to be important in a real interferometer. Ranking the expected wave-front perturbations, we find that three of them, the wave-front curvature from atmospheric turbulence, the servo system time constant, and the flatness of the relay optics surfaces, are more significant than the telescope alignment factor. We compare observational experience at IOTA with our model estimate of the overall Strehl ratio in the visual and the infrared, finding moderately good agreement and, more important, a guide for future instrumental improvements.

© 1999 Optical Society of America

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