The Next Generation Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST-TNG) is a submillimeter mapping experiment planned for a 28 day long-duration balloon (LDB) flight from McMurdo Station, Antarctica during the 2018-2019 season. BLAST-TNG will detect submillimeter polarized interstellar dust emission, tracing magnetic fields in galactic molecular clouds. BLAST-TNG will be the first polarimeter with the sensitivity and resolution to probe the ~0.1 parsec-scale features that are critical to understanding the origin of structures in the interstellar medium.
BLAST-TNG features three detector arrays operating at wavelengths of 250, 350, and 500 m (1200, 857, and 600 GHz) comprised of 918, 469, and 272 dual-polarization pixels, respectively. Each pixel is made up of two crossed microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKIDs). These arrays are cooled to 275 mK in a cryogenic receiver. Each MKID has a different resonant frequency, allowing hundreds of resonators to be read out on a single transmission line. This inherent ability to be frequency-domain multiplexed simplifies the cryogenic readout hardware, but requires careful optical testing to map out the physical location of each resonator on the focal plane. Receiver-level optical testing was carried out using both a cryogenic source mounted to a movable xy-stage with a shutter, and a beam-filling, heated blackbody source able to provide a 10-50 C temperature chop. The focal plane array noise properties, responsivity, polarization efficiency, instrumental polarization were measured. We present the preflight characterization of the BLAST-TNG cryogenic system and array-level optical testing of the MKID detector arrays in the flight receiver.
The Next Generation Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST-TNG) is a submillimeter mapping experiment planned for a 28 day long-duration balloon (LDB) flight from McMurdo Station, Antarctica during the 2018-2019 season. BLAST-TNG will detect submillimeter polarized interstellar dust emission, tracing magnetic fields in galactic molecular clouds. BLAST-TNG will be the first polarimeter with the sensitivity and resolution to probe the ∼0.1 parsec-scale features that are critical to understanding the origin of structures in the interstellar medium. With three detector arrays operating at 250, 350, and 500 μm (1200, 857, and 600 GHz), BLAST-TNG will obtain diffraction-limited resolution at each waveband of 30, 41, and 59 arcseconds respectively. To achieve the submillimeter resolution necessary for its science goals, the BLAST-TNG telescope features a 2.5 m aperture carbon fiber composite primary mirror, one of the largest mirrors flown on a balloon platform. Successful performance of such a large telescope on a balloon-borne platform requires stiff, lightweight optical components and mounting structures. Through a combination of optical metrology and finite element modeling of thermal and mechanical stresses on both the telescope optics and mounting structures, we expect diffractionlimited resolution at all our wavebands. We expect pointing errors due to deformation of the telescope mount to be negligible. We have developed a detailed thermal model of the sun shielding, gondola, and optical components to optimize our observing strategy and increase the stability of the telescope over the flight. We present preflight characterization of the telescope and its platform.
Polarized thermal emission from interstellar dust grains can be used to map magnetic fields in star forming molecular clouds and the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM). The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol) flew from Antarctica in 2010 and 2012 and produced degree-scale polarization maps of several nearby molecular clouds with arcminute resolution. The success of BLASTPol has motivated a next-generation instrument, BLAST-TNG, which will use more than 3000 linear polarization- sensitive microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKIDs) combined with a 2.5 m diameter carbon fiber primary mirror to make diffraction-limited observations at 250, 350, and 500 µm. With 16 times the mapping speed of BLASTPol, sub-arcminute resolution, and a longer flight time, BLAST-TNG will be able to examine nearby molecular clouds and the diffuse galactic dust polarization spectrum in unprecedented detail. The 250 μm detec- tor array has been integrated into the new cryogenic receiver, and is undergoing testing to establish the optical and polarization characteristics of the instrument. BLAST-TNG will demonstrate the effectiveness of kilo-pixel MKID arrays for applications in submillimeter astronomy. BLAST-TNG is scheduled to fly from Antarctica in December 2017 for 28 days and will be the first balloon-borne telescope to offer a quarter of the flight for “shared risk” observing by the community.