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  1. High angular resolution observations at optical wavelengths provide valuable insights into stellar astrophysics, and enable direct measurements of fundamental stellar parameters and the probing of stellar atmospheres, circumstellar disks, the elongation of rapidly rotating stars and the pulsations of Cepheid variable stars. The angular size of most stars is of the order of one milliarcsecond or less, and to spatially resolve stellar disks and features at this scale requires an optical interferometer using an array of telescopes with baselines on the order of hundreds of metres. We report on the implementation of a stellar intensity interferometry system developed for themore »four VERITAS imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. The system was used to measure the angular diameter of the two sub-milliarcsecond stars β Canis Majoris and ϵ Orionis with a precision of greater than 5%. The system uses an offline approach in which starlight intensity fluctuations that are recorded at each telescope are correlated post observation. The technique can be readily scaled onto tens to hundreds of telescopes, providing a capability that has proven technically challenging to the current generation of optical amplitude interferometry observatories. This work demonstrates the feasibility of performing astrophysical measurements using imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescope arrays as intensity interferometers and shows the promise for integrating an intensity interferometry system within future observatories such as the Cherenkov Telescope Array.« less
  2. The angular size of a star is a critical factor in determining its basic properties. Direct measurement of stellar angular diameters is difficult: at interstellar distances stars are generally too small to resolve by any individual imaging telescope. This fundamental limitation can be overcome by studying the diffraction pattern in the shadow cast when an asteroid occults a star, but only when the photometric uncertainty is smaller than the noise added by atmospheric scintillation. Atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes used for particle astrophysics observations have not generally been exploited for optical astronomy due to the modest optical quality of the mirror surface.more »However, their large mirror area makes them well suited for such high-time-resolution precision photometry measurements. Here we report two occultations of stars observed by the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) Cherenkov telescopes with millisecond sampling, from which we are able to provide a direct measurement of the occulted stars’ angular diameter at the ≤0.1 mas scale. This is a resolution never achieved before with optical measurements and represents an order of magnitude improvement over the equivalent lunar occultation method. We compare the resulting stellar radius with empirically derived estimates from temperature and brightness measurements, confirming the latter can be biased for stars with ambiguous stellar classifications.« less