Far-IR Space Interferometry: Science Opportunities, Mission Concepts and Technical Challenges
David Leisawitz (NASA GSFC)
Sensitive far-IR imaging and spectroscopic measurements of astronomical objects on sub-arcsecond angular scales are essential to our understanding of star and planet formation, the formation and evolution of galaxies, and to the detection and characterization of extrasolar planets. Cold single-aperture telescopes in space, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, are very sensitive, but they lack the necessary angular resolution by two or more orders of magnitude. Far-IR space interferometers will address this need in the coming decades. Several mission concepts have already been studied, including in the US the Space Infrared Interferometric Telescope (SPIRIT) and the more ambitious Submillimeter Probe of the Evolution of Cosmic Structure (SPECS), and a Far-IR Interferometer (FIRI) was recently proposed to ESA under the Cosmic Vision program. This talk will describe science goals and summarize alternative concepts for future far-IR space interferometry missions. The technology requirements for far-IR interferometry will also be discussed.