SPICA: the next observatory class infrared space astronomy mission [report]

David Naylor, Roberto Abraham, M. Bannister, Stefi Baum, Jan Cami, Scott Chapman, S. Coude, James Di Francesco, Laura Fissel, Daryl Haggard, Mark Halpern, Martin Houde (+15 others)
2019 Zenodo  
Over the last 40 years enormous advances have been made in infrared astronomy. Virtually all of these can be traced to the use of space-based telescopes, which avoid the deleterious effects of the earth's atmosphere, and continued improvements in detector sensitivity and instrument design. Since its initial and modest contributions to previous infrared space astronomy missions, starting with ISO through to Herschel, Canada has grown in stature and is now recognized as a partner of choice by
more » ... er of choice by leading space agencies and scientific consortia embarking on the next generation of IR space astronomy missions. This white paper reviews the history of Canada's contributions to IR space astronomy missions and presents the case for Canadian participation in the ESA-JAXA SPICA mission, which has been selected as one of three finalists for ESA's fifth medium class mission, M5. Observations at far-infrared (FIR) wavelengths are optimal, not only for exploring galaxy formation in the farthest reaches of the Universe, but also star formation in our own Galaxy. Indeed, the study of cold and/or enshrouded systems can only be observed in the FIR. In essence, this provides the rationale for all space astronomy missions from IRAS through to Herschel. By any measure, Herschel was an outstanding success. It has caused astronomers to re-examine their theories of star formation and provided our first large scale view of distant star forming galaxies. With the SPICA telescope actively cooled to ~8 K, the lower thermal background will enable sensitivities two to three orders of magnitude better than Herschel's! This sensitivity increase will allow SPICA not only to label photons by their wavelength over a volume of the Universe somewhere between one and ten thousand times greater than observed with Herschel, but also, and for the first time, allow it to label photons by their polarization in our Galaxy. Together these improvements augur major advances in the field. The SPICA instrument suite consists of three independent instruments [...]
doi:10.5281/zenodo.3825568 fatcat:moxf5ydzpnairncvfrfthtkr4q