NSF PR 00-70 - October 4, 2000
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Powerful Telescope Array Will Study the Stars
Astronomers dedicated a new observatory in California
today that will enable scientists to observe the details
of stars with unprecedented clarity. Built by Georgia
State University with support from the National Science
Foundation (NSF), the Center for High Angular Resolution
Astronomy (CHARA) consists of six telescopes on Mt.
Wilson, outside of Los Angeles.
The CHARA array is one of the world's most powerful
optical interferometers, able to resolve details 200
times finer than is possible with the Hubble Space
Telescope. That's the equivalent of being able to
see the details of a nickel from a distance of 10,000
"This will be the first time astronomers can produce
detailed images of the surfaces of stars other than
our sun," said NSF program manager James Breckinridge.
"We expect to learn more about the content and origin
of stars and obtain clues about the sources of life
NSF officials joined CHARA director Hal McAlister of
Georgia State and a team of scientists to dedicate
the array after 14 years of planning and construction.
McAlister designed the array to study the basic attributes
of stars--their mass, diameter and temperature--in
an effort to discover how stars are formed and how
they derive their energy.
An interferometer combines the light from separate
telescopes to simulate the properties of a single
large instrument. The CHARA array consists of six
one-meter telescopes within a 400-meter-diameter circle
and provides an angular resolution comparable to a
telescope 400 meters in diameter.
A $5.9 million grant from NSF helped to complete the
CHARA project. It also received funding from the W.
M. Keck Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation
and Jack Kelly, former president of the Georgia State
For more information see: www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA