The 2014 interferometric imaging beauty contest

Monnier, John D.; Berger, Jean-Philippe; Le Bouquin, Jean-Baptiste; Tuthill, Peter G.; Wittkowski, Markus; Grellmann, Rebekka; Müller, André; Renganswany, Sridhar; Hummel, Christian; Hofmann, Karl-Heinz; Schertl, Dieter; Weigelt, Gerd; Young, John; Buscher, David; Sanchez-Bermudez, Joel; Alberdi, Antxon; Schoedel, Rainer; Köhler, Rainer; Soulez, Ferréol; Thiébaut, Éric; Kluska, Jacques; Malbet, Fabien; Duvert, Gilles; Kraus, Stefan; Kloppenborg, Brian K.; Baron, Fabien; de Wit, Willem-Jan; Rivinius, Thomas; Merand, Antoine
Proceedings of the SPIE, Volume 9146, id. 91461Q 20 pp. (2014).


Here we present the results of the 6th biennial optical interferometry imaging beauty contest. Taking advantage of a unique opportunity, the red supergiant VY CMa and the Mira variable R Car were observed in the astronomical H-band with three 4-telescope configurations of the VLTI-AT array using the PIONIER instrument. The community was invited to participate in the subsequent image reconstruction and interpretation phases of the project. Ten groups submitted entries to the beauty contest, and we found reasonable consistency between images obtained from independent workers using quite different algorithms. We also found that significant differences existed between the submitted images, much greater than in past beauty contests that were all based on simulated data. A novel crowd-sourcing" method allowed consensus median images to be constructed, filtering likely artifacts and retaining real features." We definitively detect strong spots on the surfaces of both stars as well as distinct circumstellar shells of emission (likely water/CO) around R Car. In a close contest, Joel Sanchez (IAA-CSIC/Spain) was named the winner of the 2014 interferometric imaging beauty contest. This process has shown that new comers" can use publicly-available imaging software to interpret VLTI/PIONIER imaging data, as long as sufficient observations are taken to have complete uv coverage { a luxury that is often missing. We urge proposers to request adequate observing nights to collect sufficient data for imaging and for time allocation committees to recognise the importance of uv coverage for reliable interpretation of interferometric data. We believe that the result of the proposed broad international project will contribute to inspiring trust in the image reconstruction processes in optical interferometry.