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Astrophysics 2020: Beyond the Next Decade

ISDC - the European Data Centre for Astrophysics

Dr. Volker Beckmann (INTEGRAL Science Data Centre)

The ISDC was originally founded as a ground segment and data center for ESA's INTEGRAL mission. By now it provides expertise in data handling, processing, and distribution as well as user support for several European space missions, such as Planck, Gaia, POLAR, and for the on-going INTEGRAL mission. It is foreseen that future activities will include for example XEUS and the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). The development shows that the ISDC is the science data center for (mainly) high-energy astrophysics, and has worked successful in close collaboration with NASA's HEASARC. The ISDC can function as a contact point in the future, providing services for both, NASA led and ESA led missions.

Stellar Imager (SI) - A Deep Space UV/Optical Interferometer (UVOI) to Observe the Universe at 0.1 Milli-arcsec Angular Resolution

Dr. Kenneth Carpenter (NASA-GSFC)

The Stellar Imager (SI) is a space-based, UV/Optical Interferometer (UVOI) designed to enable 0.1 milli-arcsecond (mas) spectral imaging of stellar surfaces and of the Universe in general. It will also probe via asteroseismology flows and structures in stellar interiors. SI's science focuses on the role of magnetism in the Universe and will revolutionize our understanding of the formation of planetary systems, of the habitability and climatology of distant planets, and of many magneto-hydrodynamically controlled processes in the Universe. SI is a "Flagship and Landmark Discovery Mission" in the 2005 Heliophysics Roadmap and a potential implementation of the UVOI in the 2006 Science Program for NASA's Astronomy and Physics Division. We present here the science goals of the SI Mission, a mission architecture that could meet those goals, and the technology development needed to enable this mission. Additional information on SI can be found at:

ESI: The European SPICA instrument

Kate Isaak (School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University)

The observed far-infrared waveband (30-200um) plays host to a wide range of spectroscopic and photometric tools with which to probe both the local and distant Universe. These include some of the most important atomic and ionic cooling limes for gas below 100K, the peak of the emission from dust at temperatures characteristic of extragalactic ISM, as well as redshifted PAH features, tracers of AGN activity and fingerprints of the early stages of planet formation. The proposed Japanese-European MIR/FIR mission SPICA, with its cooled 3.5m diameter mirror, represents the next step in sensitivity after Herschel. By taking advantage of the low background loading, a spectrometer on SPICA will enable detailed studies of objects that are fainter than thoses accessible with the current generation of instruments. In this poster I will summarise the design concept behind the proposed European SPICA instrument, ESI, which will cover the 30--210um waveband, and will describe some of the exciting science which it will be possible to address with the instrument.

FIRI: ESA's far-infrared interferometer

Prof. Rob Ivison (UK ATC, Royal Observatory Edinburgh)

We discuss the likely scientific impact of a FIR interferometric mission, FIRI - comprising several cold, 3.5-m apertures, orbiting a beam-combining module with a maximum separation of 1 km, free-flying or tethered, operating between 25 and 385 microns, using a direct-detection technique to ensure microJy-level sensitivity at 100 microns across a square arcmin of instantaneous field of view, with a spectral resolution of ~3000 and a heterodyne system capable of ~10^6. FIRI will explore distant galaxies, proto-stellar cores and proto-planetary disks with a sensitivity and spatial resolution several orders of magnitude better than those of existing facilities. It will revolutionise our knowledge of the formation of galaxies, stars and planetary systems and the development of life-sustaining environments. We will be able to probe the universality of the initial mass function across a range of galaxy environments and map out star- and planet-forming disks in stellar nurseries. FIRI will break the cosmic FIR/submm background radiation into its constituent parts - many thousands of faint, dusty high-redshift galaxies, resolving them individually to yield otherwise hopelessly obscured information about their formation and evolution. It will root out Compton-thick active galactic nuclei and differentiate between gas heated by active nuclei and starbursts, thus disentangling the formation histories of super-massive black holes and stars. FIRI is an ideal complement to ALMA and is capable of achieving many of the goals of ESA's Cosmic Vision.

Pathfinder Technologies in the Post-HST Era

Dr. Charles Joseph (Rutgers University)

Novel optical designs as well as innovative detectors enable long-duration balloon (LDB) missions to achieve spatial resolutions comparable to HST over large fields of view at UV-visible wavelengths. Improvements in balloon technology enable significantly larger masses to be flown at higher altitudes than were possible just a decade ago. During the eventual hiatus between the HST and future large UV-visible missions, a 2-3 meter telescope carried on an LDB can provide 2-3 weeks of dark- time observations per year for the general astronomical community. An LDB-borne telescope can also serve as a platform to fly new instrument concepts. For example, a 2-m telescope equipped with a Fabry-Perot instrument is ideal for producing 2-D velocity maps at an efficiency of 10x that of HST. Such a mission could study kinematically the assembly of galaxies from a z ~ 1.4 to the present, measuring empirically the dark and luminous matter as a function of galaxy radii for different epochs. Perhaps, it could also be used as a pathfinder to TPF-C. A proposed conventional balloon mission, called KITE, seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of the novel optical design plus new detector technologies, as well as verify that all pointing and thermal issues that have plagued previous missions have been mitigated. The telescope design and two example missions are discussed.

SPICA: a mission for mid- and far-infrared astronomy

Dr. Takao Nakagawa (ISAS/JAXA)

We describe the overview and the current status of SPICA (Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics), which is an astronomical mission with a cryogenically cooled 3.5 m telescope optimized for mid- and far-infrared astronomy. Because of its high spatial resolution and unprecedented sensitivity in the mid- to far-infrared, SPICA can address a number of key problems in current astrophysics, ranging from the star-formation history of the universe to the formation of planets. To reduce the mass of the whole mission, SPICA will be launched at ambient temperature and cooled down on orbit by mechanical coolers on board with an efficient radiative cooling system, a combination of which allows us to have a 3.5-m class cooled (4.5 K) telescope in space. International collaboration for SPICA has been discussed, and SPICA is selected as one of candidate missions under the framework of the ESA/Cosmic Vision 2015-2025. The target year of the launch of SPICA is 2017.

Light Weight Telescopes for Space

Dr. Henrique Schmitt (Naval Research Laboratory)

One of the major limitations imposed on space-based facilities is the weight of the launch payload. This can put serious restrictions on the size of the telescope and detectors being launched, and consequently limit the science that can be achieved with these instruments. We will present the novel lightweight carbon fiber reinforced polymer telescopes that are being developed for use at the Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer. Using carbon fiber for the construction of all components, including the optics, these telescopes are orders of magnitude lighter than traditional telescopes, and can have important applications for future large space-based facilities. We will present the design of a 0.4m telescope, the mechanical properties of the materials and measurements of the optical figure. We will also discuss the construction of a 1.4m telescope that is currently underway, and the scalability to larger apertures.

H2EX - The molecular hydrogen explorer

Dr. Bart Wakker (University of Wisconsin)

H2EX is a space mission proposed to ESA dedicated to understanding the formation of galaxies, stars and giant planets from molecular hydrogen. H2EX, the Molecular Hydrogen Explorer is designed to detect the pure rotational infrared S(0) to S(5) emission lines of H_2, over wide fields (20 arcmin) at high spectral resolution (~15 arcsec). The sensitivity of H2EX is such that it can measure the mass, density and temperature of warm (T>100 K) in of molecular gas in a wide variety of objects, including nearby regions of star and planet formation, galactic molecular clouds, nearby galaxies, infrared luminous galaxies and active galactic nuclei, as well as galaxies out to redshifts 2-3. The high spectral resolution of H2EX makes it unique suited to study the dynamics of H_2 in many environments.