AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 129 SOFIA
Poster, Wednesday, 9:20am-6:30pm, January 11, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[129.02] Grisms for FORCAST - a New Medium Resolution 5-40 Micron Spectroscopic Mode on SOFIA

K.A. Ennico (NASA Ames Research Center), L.D. Keller (Ithaca College), T.L. Herter (Cornell University), D.T. Jaffe, D. Mar (University of Texas at Austin), T.P. Greene (NASA Ames Research Center)

The Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the Sofia Telescope (FORCAST) is a dual-channel, high-sensitivity, wide-field camera designed to perform continuum and narrow band imaging in the infrared from 5-50 microns. FORCAST will be a Facility Instrument on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The SOFIA first-light instrument complement does not currently include spectroscopic capability in the mid-infrared at resolving power, R=100-1000. The FORCAST team, aware of this gap, determined that leaving room for grisms in the filter wheels could provide grism spectroscopy as a future upgrade to FORCAST without any alteration to the existing FORCAST hardware.

With funding by an Astrobiology Technology and Science Instrument Development (ASTID) grant, we are providing a suite of six grisms to enable R~100-1000 spectroscopy on FORCAST on SOFIA at first light. These grisms and their slits will fit in the existing filter wheels and field stop wheel, respectively, within the FORCAST cryostat. The new grisms will allow long slit low-resolution and short slit, cross-dispersed high-resolution spectroscopic modes selectable by simply moving the camera filter wheels. This configuration will enable observing programs to gather images and spectra in a single SOFIA flight.

A moderate resolution mid-IR spectrometer on SOFIA will offer advantages not available to either ground or space-based instruments after the Spitzer Space Telescope ceases operation in ~2007. SOFIA will begin operations in 2007 and will have an operational lifetime of ~20 years. From aircraft altitudes, it will be possible to cover a range of wavelengths, particularly in the critical 5-9 micron band, where detection of astrobiologically interesting molecules have key spectral signatures, that are not accessible from the ground. Furthermore, the FORCAST grism modes are close in wavelength coverage and resolving power to the Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph (IRS), so that among other possible observations, SOFIA can now enable follow-up studies of the brighter objects that Spitzer has observed and enable studies of sources that were too bright for observation with Spitzer.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: Kimberly.A.Ennico@nasa.gov

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