AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 4. Evolution of Galaxies, Galaxy Surveys
Display, Monday, May 31, 1999, 9:20am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[4.01] Polarimetric Imaging of the Cosmic Ultraviolet Background

K.H. Nordsieck, M.A. Bershady (Dept of Astronomy/ Univ Wisconsin), W. Harris (Space Astronomy Lab/ Univ Wisconsin)

The nature of (and even the existence of) the ultraviolet cosmic background is controversial, because of the uncertain contribution of light from bright UV stars scattered by dust within our Galaxy (the UV Diffuse Galactic Light, or "DGL"). Because the DGL consists of light scattered at large angles from a small number of stars, it should be highly polarized, while most proposed sources of extragalactic UV background would be unpolarized, providing a potential way of disentangling the two components. We will discuss such an experiment: an existing sounding rocket payload, the Wide-Field Imaging Survey Polarimeter ("WISP"), and a proposed payload, the Cosmic Ultraviolet Polarimetric Imaging Device ("CUPID"), which would have 20 times the sensitivity of WISP.

WISP, a 20 cm off-axis Schmidt telescope with a stressed CaF2 waveplate and a Brewster-angle polarizer, has a 2x4 degree field of view with 1 arcmin resolution at 1700 Ang. The first DGL target for WISP is the "Sandage Region" near M81/M82, an area observed (with different results) by both the UC Berkeley and the JHU UVX UV background experiments. It has known visible-wavelength and IRAS-wavelength "cirrus" which has been identified with DGL. WISP should be able to measure the polarization of any UV cirrus and establish the presence of an unpolarized background. Preliminary data from this target may be available, depending on the actual launch time.

CUPID, a 50 cm Paul Baker telescope using reflective filter coatings, should have adequate precision to perform a pixel-by-pixel separation of polarized UV cirrus from any unpolarized background, and its very much improved stray light rejection should allow an accurate zero-point for this putative extragalactic background. Thus the detailed structure of the cosmic background from 15 arcsec to degrees will be determined. We will discuss how such a measurement may be used to confirm or eliminate several possible sources of UV cosmic background.

WISP is supported by NASA grant NAG5-647.

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