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Exploring In-Depth

The Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy, or CHARA, uses a technique called interferometry to harness the power of multiple telescopes for collecting astronomical data. Watch Interferometry: Sizing up the Stars, and use the discussion questions below to explore the story with your class. This feature can be used to illustrate data collection in the Scientific Method.

(More about the Scientific Method)

  • Data collection is an important step in the Scientific Method.  What problems did scientists encounter in terms of collecting data from far away stars?
  • What did scientists do to solve this problem?
  • The techniques that scientists use to collect data and test their hypotheses can be grouped into three different categories: 
    • observation – collecting observational data in the field;
    • experimentation – designing and conducting a controlled experiment, and then collecting data from the experiment; and 
    • modeling – constructing and running/implementing a computer model using known information and physical laws, and then collecting data from the running of the model.  Scientists often combine these techniques as they work to their hypothesis(es).Which of these data collection techniques is illustrated in this feature story? How?
  • How does interferometry work?
  • What can they measure now?  What kind of information are they collecting?  What information can the technique of interferometry provide that optical telescopes cannot?

What are the challenges in using several telescopes?  How can astronomers address them?

Related Links

Related Links from NASA

PlanetQuest: Missions: A SIM Planet Quest
SIM PlanetQuest is set to launch for 2015! This upcoming mission will use interferometry to more accurately measure the distances and positions of stars and galaxies from outside Earth's atmosphere. Explore the collection of articles, images, and activities.

Laser Interferometry Space Antenna
Interferometery can be used to search for a variety of phenomena, including gravity waves! Learn about LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, and its promise to reveal the secrets of the early Universe.

The Space Place: The Keck Interferometer
Interferometry is revealing the mysteries of extrasolar planets as well. Visit this site to learn more about plans to develop a series of telescopes on a volcano in Hawaii.