BERKELEY — A powerful new array of telescopes to capture signals from the birth and death of stars will be built by astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, and two other universities.
The project will double the size of UC's observatory at Hat Creek in the Lassen National Forest, 80 miles east of Redding.
Building three six-meter radio-telescopes at the observatory, as well as highly advanced computer facilities to process the radio signals, will cost an estimated $3.6 million. Operating costs are budgeted at $1.3 million a year for the next 10 years.
The costs are to be shared by UC and its two partners in the venture, the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland. Astronomers from all three universities will collaborate on the research.
William J. Welch, director of the Hat Creek facility, said that by aiming the dish-shaped antennae at stars and dust clouds and other mysterious objects within and beyond the Milky Way, astronomers will be able to study the life cycles of stars with far more precision and speed.
A major goal of Hat Creek astronomers is to analyze the extremely short-wave radiation emitted by newborn stars that are still hidden by the vast, swirling clouds of dark dust and gas that surround them. In the final stages of a star's life cycle, its death throes blow out huge clouds of other gases.
As gases radiate their energy, astronomers can study the gaseous envelopes to analyze the final phases of stellar evolution.
The new array of telescopes will probe the skies for signals from stars emitted at extremely short wave-lengths--100,000 times shorter than the signals from commercial radio broadcasts.
The Hat Creek site was chosen because its remoteness shields it from the buzz and crackle of electronic interference.