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SPICA – a joint infrared space observatory

Detail Summary
Date 18 September 2019
Time 11:00 -12:00
Peter Roelfsema
Peter Roelfsema

I will discuss the current status of the SPace Infrared telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA), a joint ESA/JAXA mission now under study for launch in the 2030 timeframe. The foreseen capabilities of the mission and its instruments will be presented along with the mission development status and outlook. A very important element in this are the plans and possibilities for involvement of the astronomy community in the defining the mission. With SRON being a major partner in the SPICA project, especially the Dutch astronomical community can  has the unique opportunity to take a leading role in defining and executing the SPICA science programmes, and in generally shaping Mid/Far infrared astronomy for the next decades.

SPICA is a mission concept aimed at taking the next step in mid- and far-infrared observational capability by combining a large and cold telescope with instruments employing state-of-the-art ultra-sensitive detectors. The mission concept foresees a 2.5-meter diameter telescope cooled to below 8 K. Rather than using liquid cryogen, a combination of passive cooling and mechanical coolers will be used to cool both the telescope and the instruments. With cooling not dependent on a limited cryogen supply, the mission lifetime can extend significantly beyond the required three years. The combination of low telescope background and instruments with state-of-the-art detectors means that SPICA can provide a huge advance on the capabilities of previous missions.

The SPICA instrument complement offers spectral resolving power ranging from R~50 through 11000 in the 17-230 μm domain as well as R~28.000 spectroscopy between 12 and 18 μm. Additionally SPICA will be capable of efficient 30-37 μm broad band mapping, polarimetric imaging at 70, 220 and 350 μm and small field spectroscopic mapping in the 35-230 μm range. 
SPICA’s unique infrared spectrometers will provide an unprecedented sensitivity of ~5×10−20 W/m2 (5σ/1hr) - at least two orders of magnitude improvement over what has been attained to date. With this exceptional leap in performance, new domains in infrared astronomy will become accessible, allowing us, for example, to unravel definitively galaxy evolution and metal production over cosmic time, to study dust formation and evolution from very early epochs onwards, and to trace the formation history of planetary systems.