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Astrophysics Research and Analysis

The Faint Intergalactic-medium Redshifted Emission Balloon (FIREBall-2): Trailblazing the Discovery of CGM Emission in the low-redshift universe with ground-breaking instrumentation and innovative UV technology

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

The Faint Intergalactic-medium Redshifted Emission Balloon (FIREBall-2): Trailblazing the Discovery of CGM Emission in the low-redshift universe with ground-breaking instrumentation and innovative UV technology
The Faint Intergalactic-medium Redshifted Emission Balloon (FIREBall-2) is de- signed to discover and map faint emission from the circumgalactic medium of low redshift galaxies (0.32) redshifts. FIREBall-2 is the only UV instrument currently proven and able to make these necessary discoveries in the low-redshift universe. Multiple flights of this very valuable facility will pave the way for low-redshift CGM physics alongside high-redshift CGM detections with ground-based surveys! FIREBall-2 will continue to serve as a platform to test cutting-edge technologies and science strategies for future space missions. The 2018 flight of FIREBall-2 demonstrated the successful performance of all subsystems and provided a test flight for several key technology innovations: the UV-optimized EMCCD, the anamorphic UV grating, a wide-field UV multi-object spectrograph, and a gondola with sub-arcsecond pointing stability. Between this program's two proposed flights, we will fabricate, characterize, and demonstrate a new, visible light-blocking filter on our UV- optimized EMCCD, a critical technology development for future UV missions seeking to use a CCD at UV wavelength. UV CCDs are notoriously prone to “red light leak,” and this new filter will cut visible light sensitivity of these detectors to virtually 0%! The FIREBall-2 team is comprised of an international consortium of experts in suborbital scientific ballooning and IGM/CGM physics. The team includes several female graduate students and postdocs in key roles and is managed by a female postdoctoral scholar (supported by a Caltech Experimental Prize Fellowship). FIREBall-2's flights will continue to provide vital training for the next generation of astrophysicists working on UV and space instrumentation. FIREBall-2 combines several innovations and noteworthy goals: − Simultaneously addresses high-priority science questions stated in NASA's 2014 Strategic Plan and UV technology development emphasized by New Worlds New Horizons (NWNH) and AURA; − Demonstrates the first ever multi-object UV spectrograph suitable for future UV missions; − Demonstrates a high-QE, low-noise, photon-counting, UV-optimized CCD for space missions; − Flies a 1-m class UV telescope, enabled by low cost optics and innovative mounts; − Demonstrates a state-of-the-art, arcsecond-precision balloon pointing system; − Builds on an international space agency partnership between NASA & CNES; − Benefits from the expertise found in a long-running institutional collaboration between Caltech/JPL, Columbia University, LAM (France), CNES (France), and University of Arizona; − Utilizes innovative optical solutions, such as a Schmidt corrector built into UV grating, which provides superior optical performance and throughput; − Trains the next-generation of instrumentation PIs, with a total of 11 Ph.D. students graduated or currently supported between FB-1 (3) and FIREBall-2 (8). More »

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Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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