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G.J. Melnick, J.R. Stauffer, M.L.N. Ashby, E.A. Bergin, S.C. Kleiner, B. Patten, R. Plume, V. Tolls, Z. Wang, Y.F. Zhang (CfA), P.F. Goldsmith (Cornell U., NAIC), M. Harwit (Cornell U.), N.R. Erickson, J.E. Howe, R.L. Snell (UMass, Amherst), D.A. Neufeld (JHU), D.G. Koch (NASA ARC), R. Schieder, G. Winnewisser (U. Köln), G. Chin (NASA GSFC)
Launched in December 1998, NASA's Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) is dedicated to the study of star formation through direct measurements of: (1) molecular cloud composition and chemistry; (2) the cooling mechanisms that facilitate cloud collapse; and, (3) the large-scale structure of the UV-illuminated cloud surfaces. To achieve these goals, SWAS is conducting pointed observations toward sources located throughout our galaxy in either the ground-state or a low-lying transition of five astrophysically important species:~H2O, H2\;18O, O2, CI, and 13CO. During its first year of operation, SWAS has observed a variety of galactic objects, including more than 30 star forming regions, the galactic center, planetary nebulae, evolved stars, a supernovae remnant, planets, and a comet. In addition, advantage has been taken of SWAS's relatively large beamsize of 3.3\times4.5 arcminutes at 551~GHz and 3.6\times5.0 arcminutes at 492~GHz to obtain large-area (>\,0.5\rm o \times 0.5\rm o) maps in the 13CO and CI lines. SWAS carries two independent Schottky heterodyne receivers operating between 487 and 557~GHz, passively cooled to ~,172~K and coupled to a 54\times68-cm off-axis Cassegrain antenna. Further, SWAS is able to measure the lines of interest simultaneously and with a velocity resolution of 1~km~s-1. SWAS is in a 650~km altitude, 70\rm o inclination orbit from which 2 to 3 sources are observed per 97-minute orbit. Deep integrations as long as 70 hours have been obtained by co-averaging data from successive orbits and typically yield spectra with < 10 mK of noise. All mission science operations are being carried out from the SWAS Science Operations Center located at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The first release of SWAS spectra and maps, comprising the first six months of the mission, will occur in the summer of 2000.
The SWAS team gratefully acknowledges NASA contract NAS5-30702.
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