From NOAO: “Milliarcsecond Astrophysics Through Open Access to the CHARA Array”

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10.20.16
Doug Gies, Georgia State University

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The Georgia State University Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) Array at Mount Wilson Observatory is now open to investigators interested in exploring the universe at milliarcsecond resolution in the optical and near-infrared. A long-baseline interferometer, the CHARA Array offers the longest operating baselines in the world and enables diverse investigations, such as the measurement stellar angular diameters and shapes, and studies of orbiting companions and circumstellar environments. Community access to CHARA is funded by an NSF/MSIP award.

Located at Mount Wilson Observatory, the CHARA Array consists of six 1-m aperture telescopes arranged in a Y-shaped configuration with baselines ranging from 33 to 331 meters. By combining the light from these distributed telescopes, the angular resolution is equivalent to that of a single aperture telescope more than 300 meters in diameter, making it the highest angular resolution optical telescope in the world. A complement of six beam combiners offers interferometric capability in the wavelength range 0.5 to 2.5 microns. Multibeam combiners (up to six telescopes) support interferometric imaging studies. Depending on the spectral resolution and number of telescope beams feeding the combiner, the faint magnitude limit ranges from 5 to 9. However, these limits will undoubtedly improve with the introduction of adaptive optics now underway.

Open access to the Array will be phased in beginning in the 2017B observing semester, and some 50 to 75 nights per year will be available to the community. Proposals will be selected through the NOAO time allocation process. Many potential investigators may be new to interferometry, so CHARA scientists are planning to host a series of community workshops at locations around the US beginning in 2017. In addition, a new CHARA Visitor Support Scientist will work with visiting astronomers to help design, implement, and analyze CHARA observations. Financial support will be offered to those astronomers who opt to travel to Mount Wilson to make observations with the Array. The NSF/MSIP funding will also support the development of an open database of CHARA archival data and the renewal of several subsystems to optimize performance during the open access time.

For further information, please visit the CHARA and NOAO web pages at:

http://www.chara.gsu.edu/
http://www.noao.edu/gateway/chara/

See the full article here .

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NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night time astronomy. In particular, NOAO is enabling the development of the US optical-infrared (O/IR) System, an alliance of public and private observatories allied for excellence in scientific research, education and public outreach.

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In support of this mission, NOAO is engaged in programs to develop the next generation of telescopes, instruments, and software tools necessary to enable exploration and investigation through the observable Universe, from planets orbiting other stars to the most distant galaxies in the Universe.

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Gemini South

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