Abstract

Multiple-telescope interferometry for high-angular-resolution astronomical imaging in the optical–IR–far-IR bands is currently a topic of great scientific interest. The fundamentals that govern the sensitivity of direct-detection instruments and interferometers are reviewed, and the rigorous sensitivity limits imposed by the Cramér–Rao theorem are discussed. Numerical calculations of the Cramér–Rao limit are carried out for a simple example, and the results are used to support the argument that interferometers that have more compact instantaneous beam patterns are more sensitive, since they extract more spatial information from each detected photon. This argument favors arrays with a larger number of telescopes, and it favors all-on-one beam-combining methods as compared with pairwise combination.

© 2003 Optical Society of America

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