October 4, 2000 -- 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 miles.
"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 on earth."
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 Alumni Association.
For more information see: http://www.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA
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