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Contact: Jane Platt (818) 354-0880

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 28, 2000

ASTRONOMERS IMPROVE "COSMIC YARDSTICK"

       Researchers using a sophisticated testbed at Caltech's Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., have achieved the best-ever distance measurement to a type of star known as a Cepheid variable. These results improve the "cosmic yardstick" used to infer the size and shape of the universe.

       In the September 28 issue of the journal Nature, astronomers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; the California Institute of Technology; and the JPL/Caltech Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, all in Pasadena, determined a distance to the star Zeta Geminorum in the Gemini constellation of 1,100 light years. The improvement was made possible by the Palomar Testbed Interferometer, designed and built by JPL researchers. The device combines light gathered by two telescopes to produce a very sharp image normally obtainable only with a much larger telescope.

       Details on this discovery and the testbed are available at http://broccoli.caltech.edu/~media/Press_Releases/PR12081.html .

       JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech, Pasadena, Calif.

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