A Prospective ISRO-CfA Himalayan Sub-millimeter-wave Observatory Initiative


T. K. Sridharan, Shmuel Bialy, Raymond Blundell, Andrew Burkhardt, Thomas Dame, Sheperd Doeleman, Douglas Finkbeiner, Alyssa Goodman, and alia. 2020. “A Prospective ISRO-CfA Himalayan Sub-millimeter-wave Observatory Initiative.” arXiv, 2008, 07453. Publisher's Version


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), a member of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard and Smithsonian, is in discussions with the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its partners in the newly formed Indian Sub-millimetre-wave Astronomy Alliance (ISAA), to collaborate in the construction of a sub-millimeter-wave astronomy observatory in the high altitude deserts of the Himalayas, initially at the 4500 m Indian Astronomical Observatory, Hanle. Two primary science goals are targeted. One is the mapping of the distribution of neutral atomic carbon, and the carbon monoxide (CO) molecule in higher energy states, in large parts of the Milky Way, and in selected external galaxies. Such studies would advance our understanding of molecular hydrogen present in the interstellar medium, but partly missed by existing observations; and characterize Galaxy-wide molecular cloud excitation conditions, through multi-level CO observations. Stars form in interstellar clouds of molecular gas and dust, and these observations would allow research into the formation and destruction processes of such molecular clouds and the life cycle of galaxies. As the second goal, the observatory would add a new location to the global Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) network, which lacks a station in the Himalayan longitudes. This addition would enhance the quality of the images synthesized by the EHT, support observations in higher sub-millimeter wave bands, sharpening its resolving ability, improve its dynamic imaging capability and add weather resilience to observing campaigns. In the broader context, this collaboration can be a starting point for a wider, mutually beneficial scientific exchange between the Indian and US astronomy communities, including a potential future EHT space component.
See also: Astrophysics, 2020
Last updated on 02/16/2021