AAS 197, January 2001
Session 14. New Space Missions and Instrumentation
Display, Monday, January 8, 2001, 9:30am-7:00pm, Exhibit Hall

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[14.09] Next-generation Far-IR Telescopes and Interferometers: Scientific Capabilities and Technology Challenges

D. Leisawitz, J.C. Mather (NASA GSFC), A.W. Blain (Inst. Astronomy, Cambridge), W.D. Langer (Caltech JPL), S.H. Moseley (NASA GSFC), H.W. Yorke (Caltech JPL)

The NAS Decade Report on {\em Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium} recommends a Single-Aperture Far InfraRed (SAFIR) Observatory as a major new initiative for this decade, and further urges NASA to invest in technologies for infrared interferometry. Thanks to community support, SAFIR (or FAIR, for Filled-Aperture IR telescope, as it is sometimes called), the Space Infrared Interferometric Telescope (SPIRIT), and the Submillimeter Probe of the Evolution of Cosmic Structure (SPECS) were added to the NASA roadmap. SAFIR and FAIR are large filled-aperture telescopes, whereas SPIRIT and SPECS are Michelson imaging and spectral interferometers.

We present the results of a study of the scientific capabilities of various hypothetical versions of SAFIR, FAIR, SPIRIT, and SPECS, and the technical issues that will be confronted in each case. At wavelengths longer than ~50 microns, the filled-aperture telescopes very quickly reach confusion limits. Such telescopes could be used to survey large areas or make high-resolution spectroscopic observations in the far-IR, or make deep observations at the mid-IR wavelengths inaccessible to NGST. Neither SPIRIT (maximum baseline length ~30 - 50 m) nor SPECS (maximum baseline ~1 km) will reach extragalactic source or cirrus confusion limits. In observing times ranging from several hours to several days, the interferometers are about as sensitive as confusion-limited filled-aperture telescopes at wavelengths longward of 100 microns, and sufficiently sensitive to make detailed astrophysical measurements of galaxies going back to the epoch of their formation.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://space.gsfc.nasa.gov/astro/specs. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: leisawitz@stars.gsfc.nasa.gov

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