By improving on the angular resolution possible with conventional telescopes, speckle interferometry has been adding to the list of known masses, resolving binaries with separations of 30 mas. Interferometry with separate apertures offers the possibility of going to much higher resolution.
The Mark III Optical Interferometer on Mt. Wilson has been used for astrometry, for stellar diameter measurements, and for binary observations since routine operations began in late 1988. The fringe visibilty calibration uncertainty is ~1% for m < 4m at λ800 nm with good seeing, so that both binary components can be detected when the magnitude difference is 3.5m to 4m.
From Mark III data, masses of eight stars have been determined. The most precise determination is for the components of the ϕ Cygni system: 2.545 ± 0.085 and 2.445 ± 0.081 M
⊙. To improve on this measurement, more precise spectroscopic data are needed, as is the case for most of the systems for which we have orbits or preliminary orbits.
The NRL/USNO Optical Interferometer Project is currently designing two more capable instruments: a four–element system for astrometric observations, and a six–element system for imaging. The ultimate 430-m maximum baseline and 35-cm apertures of the imaging interferometer will allow observations to 8
mag and resolution of binary components separated by as little as ≈ 200 µas.