Magnetic Fields in Molecular Clouds: The Blastpol and Blast-Tng Experiments
Astrophysics and Astronomy
The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol) was a suborbital experiment designed to map magnetic fields in order to study their role in star formation processes. BLASTPol made detailed polarization maps of a number of molecular clouds during its successful flight from Antarctica in 2012. The data reduction and analysis efforts over the three years following the flight have produced a number of important scientific results. The next-generation BLAST instrument (BLAST-TNG) will build off the success of the previous experiment and continue its role as a unique instrument and a test bed for new technologies. With a 16-fold increase in mapping speed, BLAST-TNG will make larger and deeper maps. Major improvements include a 2.5 m carbon fiber mirror that is 40% wider than the BLASTPol mirror and more than 3000 polarization sensitive detectors. BLAST-TNG will observe in the same three bands as BLASTpol at 250, 350, and 500 microns. The telescope will serve as a pathfinder project for microwave kinetic inductance detector (MKID) technology, as applied to feedhorn coupled submillimeter detector arrays. The liquid helium cooled cryostat will have a 28-day hold time and will utilize a closed-cycle 3He refrigerator to cool the detector arrays to 270 mK. This will enable a detailed mapping of more targets with higher polarization resolution than any other submillimeter experiment to date. My thesis describes the 2012 instrument and results while also outlining the motivation for BLAST-TNG and the instrumental design and initial testing.