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  1. Context. Asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars are cool luminous evolved stars that are well observable across the Galaxy and populating Gaia data. They have complex stellar surface dynamics, which amplifies the uncertainties on stellar parameters and distances. Aims. On the AGB star CL Lac, it has been shown that the convection-related variability accounts for a substantial part of the Gaia DR2 parallax error. We observed this star with the MIRC-X beam combiner installed at the CHARA interferometer to detect the presence of stellar surface inhomogeneities. Methods. We performed the reconstruction of aperture synthesis images from the interferometric observations at differentmore »wavelengths. Then, we used 3D radiative hydrodynamics (RHD) simulations of stellar convection with CO5BOLD and the post-processing radiative transfer code O PTIM 3D to compute intensity maps in the spectral channels of MIRC-X observations. Then, we determined the stellar radius using the average 3D intensity profile and, finally, compared the 3D synthetic maps to the reconstructed ones focusing on matching the intensity contrast, the morphology of stellar surface structures, and the photocentre position at two different spectral channels, 1.52 and 1.70 μ m, simultaneously. Results. We measured the apparent diameter of CL Lac at two wavelengths (3.299 ± 0.005 mas and 3.053 ± 0.006 mas at 1.52 and 1.70 μ m, respectively) and recovered the radius ( R = 307 ± 41 and R = 284 ± 38 R ⊙ ) using a Gaia parallax. In addition to this, the reconstructed images are characterised by the presence of a brighter area that largely affects the position of the photocentre. The comparison with 3D simulation shows good agreement with the observations both in terms of contrast and surface structure morphology, meaning that our model is adequate for explaining the observed inhomogenities. Conclusions. This work confirms the presence of convection-related surface structures on an AGB star of Gaia DR2. Our result will help us to take a step forward in exploiting Gaia measurement uncertainties to extract the fundamental properties of AGB stars using appropriate RHD simulations.« less
  2. Context . We implement an electron avalanche photodiode (e-APD) in the MIRC-X instrument, which is an upgrade of the six-telescope near-infrared imager MIRC, at the CHARA array. This technology should improve the sensitivity of near-infrared interferometry. Aims . We aim to characterize a near-infrared C-RED ONE camera from First Light Imaging (FLI) using an e-APD from Leonardo (previously SELEX). Methods . We first used the classical mean-variance analysis to measure the system gain and the amplification gain. We then developed a physical model of the statistical distribution of the camera output signal. This model is based on multiple convolutions ofmore »the Poisson statistic, the intrinsic avalanche gain distribution, and the observed distribution of the background signal. At low flux level, this model independently constrains the incident illumination level, the total gain, and the excess noise factor of the amplification. Results . We measure a total transmission of 48 ± 3% including the cold filter and the Quantum Efficiency. We measure a system gain of 0.49 ADU/e, a readout noise of 10 ADU, and amplification gains as high as 200. These results are consistent between the two methods and therefore validate our modeling approach. The measured excess noise factor based on the modeling is 1.47 ± 0.03, with no obvious dependency with flux level or amplification gain. Conclusions . The presented model allows the characteristics of the e-APD array to be measured at low flux level independently of a preexisting calibration. With < 0.3 electron equivalent readout noise at kilohertz frame rates, we confirm the revolutionary performances of the camera with respect to the PICNIC or HAWAII technologies. However, the measured excess noise factor is significantly higher than what is claimed in the literature (< 1.25), and explains why counting multiple photons remains challenging with this camera.« less