Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope - BLAST

Project: Research project

Project Details


Project summary: We are proposing a comprehensive program to study the link between Galactic magnetic fields and star formation. After decades of study, the physical processes regulating star formation still remain poorly understood. Large-scale observations of star forming regions provide counts of the number of dense clouds each of which will eventually evolve into tens to hundreds of stars. However, when simple models of gravitational collapse are applied to the clouds they yield a Galactic star formation rate (SFR) which is many times what is actually observed. Some process or combination of processes must be slowing the collapse of the clouds. The two prevailing theories involve turbulence which prevents the effective dissipation of energy and Galactic magnetic fields which are captured and squeezed by the collapsing cloud provide a mechanism for mechanical support. Understanding these effects fits very well the SMD 2010 Science Plan's Cosmic Origins program. The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Telecope BLASTPol and its planned successor, Super BLASTPol, are the first instruments to combine the sensitivity and mapping speed necessary to trace magnetic fields across entire clouds with the resolution to trace fields down into dense substructures, including cores and filaments. BLAST-Pol will provide maps of polarization at 250, 350 and 500m, with a diffraction limited beam FWHM of 30at 250 m. BLASTPol therefore provides the critical link between the PLANCK all-sky polarization maps with 5 resolution and ALMAs ultra-high resolution, but with only a 20 field of view. BLASTPol will use the PLANCK data to refine its target selection, then ALMA will utilize BLASTPol maps to zero in on areas of particular interest. Together, these three instruments will be able to probe the inner workings of star formation with previously unreachable resolution, sensitivity and scope.
Effective start/end date6/1/135/31/18


  • National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA): $523,734.00

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