, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 245-276
Date: 01 Jul 2008

FIRI—A far-infrared interferometer

Abstract

Half of the energy ever emitted by stars and accreting objects comes to us in the far-infrared (FIR) waveband and has yet to be properly explored. We propose a powerful Far-InfraRed Interferometer mission, FIRI, to carry out high-resolution imaging spectroscopy in the FIR. This key observational capability is essential to reveal how gas and dust evolve into stars and planets, how the first luminous objects in the Universe ignited, how galaxies formed, and when super-massive black holes grew. FIRI will disentangle the cosmic histories of star formation and accretion onto black holes and will trace the assembly and evolution of quiescent galaxies like our Milky Way. Perhaps most importantly, FIRI will observe all stages of planetary system formation and recognise the birth of planets via its ability to image the dust structures in planetary systems. FIRI is an observatory-class mission concept: three cold, 3.5-m apertures, orbiting a beam-combining module, with separations of up to 1 km, free-flying or tethered, operating between 25 and 385 μm, using the interferometric direct-detection technique to ensure μJy sensitivity and 0.02” resolution at 100 μm, across an arcmin2 instantaneous field of view, with a spectral resolution, R ~ 5,000 and a heterodyne system with R ~ 1 million. Although FIRI is an ambitious mission, we note that FIR interferometry is appreciably less demanding than at shorter wavelengths.

On behalf of the following scientists: Javier Alcolea, David Alexander, Philippe Andre, Rafael Bachiller, Mike Barlow, Andrey Baryshev, Alain Baudry, Carlton Baugh, Dominic Benford, Ted Bergin, Frank Bertoldi, Geoffrey Blake, Andrew Blain, Sylvain Bontemps, Franois Bouchet, Francois Boulanger, Jeroen Bouwman, Jonathan Braine, Bernhard Brandl, Valentin Bujarrabal, Sylvie Cabrit, Martin Caldwell, Daniela Calzetti, John Carpenter, Emmanuel Caux, Cecilia Ceccarelli, Jose Cernicharo Quintanilla, Pierre Chanial, Andrea Cimatti, John Conway, Pierre Cox, Dave Clements, Bill Dent, Gianfranco De Zotti, Carsten Dominik, Loretta Dunne, Steve Eales, Nicholas Elias, Duncan Farrah, Mike Fich, Jacqueline Fischer, Alberto Franceschini, David Frayer, Carlos Frenk, Gary Fuller, Maryvonne Gerin, Martin Giard, Thijs de Graauw, Gian Luigi Granato, Jane Greaves, Matt Griffin, Rolf Guesten, Stephane Guilloteau, Martin Harwit, Thomas Henning, Eric Herbst, Michiel Hogerheijde, Kate Isaak, Christine Joblin, Eelco van Kampen, Hubert Klahr, Kirsten Kraiberg Knudsen, Oliver Krause, Cedric Lacey, Robert Laing, Jean-Michel Lamarre, Huib Jan van Langevelde, David Leisawitz, Simon Lilly, Darek Lis, Rene Liseau, Enrico Lorenzini, Dieter Lutz, Michael Macintyre, Suzanne Madden, Roberto Maiolino, Jesus Martin-Pintado, Karine Mercier, Karl Menton, Vincent Minier, Raphael Moreno, Harvey Moseley, Takao Nakagawa, David Neufeld, Michael Olberg, Seb Oliver, Luca Olmi, Goran Olofsson, Hans Olofsson, Mat Page, Pantelis Papadopoulos, Juan Pardo, John Pearson, Ismael Perez-Fournon, Sabine Philipp, Rene Plume, Albrecht Poglitsch, Jean-Loup Puget, John Richer, Dimitra Rigopoulou, Stephen Rinehart, Peter Roelfsema, Paolo Saraceno, Rudolf Schieder, Karl-Friedrich Schuster, Gene Serabyn, Stephen Serjeant, Robert Simon, Ian Smail, Luigi Spinoglio, Jason Stevens, Eckhard Sturm, Juergen Stutzki, Bruce Swinyard, Emma Taylor, Floris van der Tak, Leonardo Testi, Wing-Fai Thi, Mattia Vaccari, Lars Venema, Laurent Vigroux, Serena Viti, Catherine Vlahakis, Christoffel Waelkens, Malcolm Walmsley, Fabian Walter, Rens Waters, Paul van der Werf, Paul Wesselius, Glenn White, Wolfgang Wild, Tom Wilson, Adam Woodcraft, Gillian Wright, FriedrichWyrowski, Harold Yorke, Min Yun, Jonas Zmuidzinas