The Near-Infrared/Visible Adaptive Camera and Interferometer (LINC-NIRVANA) will be able to obtain diffraction-limited images at 2 μm with a resolution of 20 milli-arcseconds on the sky (~10x sharper than Hubble Space Telescope at the same near infrared color band, and 3x sharper than the image from a single 8-meter telescope corrected with adaptive optics). (http://www.mpia.de/LINC)
LINC-NIRVANA will combine the radiation from the two 8.4 m primary mirrors of the LBT which allows true imagery over a wide field of view. The beam combiner will operate at wavelengths between 0.9 and 2.4 microns (infrared wavelengths), using state-of-the-art cryostatically-cooled detector arrays. When coupled with the advanced adaptive optics system of the LBT, the LINC instrument will deliver the sensitivity of a 12 m telescope and the spatial resolution of a 23 m telescope, over a field approximately 10-20 arcseconds field of view, which is 10x larger in linear dimension than the other most popular way to combine telescope beams.
The LINC/NIRVANA interferometric camera is mounted in the center of the instrument platform of the LBT, immediately adjacent to the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer. Light from the sky reflects from the two primary mirrors through an intermediate focus then bounces off the adaptive secondary mirrors. Tertiary mirrors directly above the primaries then redirect the radiation into the instrument. It will be fully commissioned and available for scientific studies in 2014.
Click here to read: How to Get a 23m Wavefront Nearly Flat by Wolfgang Gassler, Roberto Ragazzoni, Tom M. Herbst, et al.
The interferometric camera will be developed in two steps, the first (LINC) incorporating a single, on-axis adaptive optics (AO) system. Ultimately, adaptive optics will be applied to beams of light from both mirrors, and will provide diffraction-limited performance over a wider field of view. After completion of the second phase, the instrument will be known as NIRVANA, the Near-IR / Visible Adaptive INterferometer for Astronomy.
The LINC-NIRVANA interferometric beam combiner is a general-purpose instrument suitable for a wide variety of scientific programs. Essentially, it is a true imager, and can therefore improve on 'conventional' science programs through it's enhanced spatial resolution and sensitivity. In many ways, LINC-NIRVANA is the first Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) instrument, in that key science programs will include:
1) Studies of very distant Supernova - cosmology studies can be done of supernova which exploded when the universe was only 2 billion years old, or less than 1/6 it's current age, which would provide more exact information about the shape and content of the early universe
2) Studies of early galaxy formation - galaxies which formed in the very distant past are very small and non-luminous, and therefore could be imaged and which could show galaxy 'fragments' with only one one-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way
3) Studies of very distant extragalactic stellar populations - which could help determine the age, composition, and more exact distances of stars in approximately 100 luminous galaxies as far away as 60 million light years, which is about 1000 times more distant than is currently possible. This could also allow for the study of the evolution of complex structures in star-forming regions in these distant galaxies
4) Studies of 'stellar nurseries' - this might allow greater understanding of the processes of star formation within 1 AU of the nearest star forming regions, which might give the full, three-dimensional motions of the gas in the near stellar environment
5) Studies of the structure of circumstellar discs might allow more detailed descriptions of the processes involved in planet formation
Click here to read: The LINC-NIRVANA Interferometric Imager for the Large Binocular Telescope by T. M. Herbst, R. Ragazzoni, A. Eckart, et al.