2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 01-26090
Station: South Pole Station
RPSC POC: Paul Sullivan
Research Site(s): South Pole Station

AST/RO (Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory)
Dr. Antony A. Stark
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
Dr. Adair Lane
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Deploying Team Members: Richard A Chamberlin, Jr. . Jason C Dickinson . Eyal Gerecht . Dathon Golish . Jacob W Kooi . Craig Kulesa . Christopher L Martin . Thomas Nikola . Fernando Rodriguez-Morales . Rudolph Schieder . Antony A Stark . Robert J Stupak Jr . Nicholas Tothill . Christopher K Walker . Gregory A Wright . Sigfrid Yngvesson . Ric Zannoni
Research Objectives: Astronomy is undergoing a revolutionary transformation, where for the first time researchers can observe the full range of electromagnetic radiation emitted by astronomical sources. One of the newly developed and least explored bands is the submillimeter, at frequencies from about 300 giga-Hertz up into the tera-Hertz range. Submillimeter-wave radiation is emitted by dense gas and dust between the stars, and submillimeter-wave observations allow scientists to study in unprecedented detail the galactic forces acting on that gas and the star formation processes within it.

The Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory (AST/RO) is a 1.7-meter, single-dish instrument that has been operating for six years in several submillimeter bands. It has made position-position-velocity maps of submillimeter-wave spectral lines with arcminute resolution over regions of sky that are several square degrees in size. AST/RO is a valuable complement to the planned arrays, which are inefficient when observing large areas because of their small field of view. AST/RO can observe molecular clouds throughout the fourth quadrant of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds to locate star-forming cores and study in detail the dynamics of dense gas in our own galaxy. AST/RO studies are showing how molecular clouds are structured, how the newly formed stars react back on the cloud, and how galactic forces affect cloud structure. They have also shown that the structure of molecular clouds is affected by their heavy element content and by their proximity to spiral arms, have studied the gradient of heavy elements in the galaxy, and have recently observed deuterated water to better understand the chemistry of water in dense clouds.

Essential to AST/RO’s capabilities is its location at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. Most submillimeter radiation is absorbed by irregular concentrations of atmospheric water vapor before it reaches the Earth’s surface. The dry air over South Pole Station allows an accurate intercomparison of submillimeter-wave power levels from locations on the sky separated by several degrees. This is essential to the study of submillimeter-wave radiation on the scale of the Milky Way and its companion galaxies.

Project researchers will devote equal effort to three initiatives: Making large-scale maps of emissions in the Galactic Center and the Magellanic Clouds (these will be made freely available), supporting proposals from the scientific community, and installing and using the detector systems currently under development.

Field Season Overview:
Project team members will service the receivers, refrigerators, and coldheads on the AST/RO instrument. In addition to operations, and site testing conducted by the project team, the support contractor will begin preparations to install a new 1.4-THz hot-electron bolometer detector system (the TREND project).

This project will continue to operate throughout the 2002 austral-winter. The support contractor's science technician will monitor the equipment and perform routine maintenance.