The science case and challenges of spaceborne sub-millimeter interferometry: the study case of TeraHertz Exploration and Zooming-in for Astrophysics (THEZA)

Leonid I. Gurvits, Zsolt Paragi, Ricardo I. Amils, Ilse van Bemmel, Paul Boven, Viviana Casasola, John Conway, Jordy Davelaar, M. Carmen Díez-González, Heino Falcke, Rob Fender, Sándor Frey, Christian M. Fromm, Juan D. Gallego-Puyol, Cristina García-Miró, Michael A. Garrett, Marcello Giroletti, Ciriaco Goddi, José L. Gómez, Jeffrey van der GuchtJosé Carlos Guirado, Zoltán Haiman, Frank Helmich, Ben Hudson, Elizabeth Humphreys, Violette Impellizzeri, Michael Janssen, Michael D. Johnson, Yuri Y. Kovalev, Michael Kramer, Michael Lindqvist, Hendrik Linz, Elisabetta Liuzzo, Andrei P. Lobanov, Isaac López-Fernández, Inmaculada Malo-Gómez, Kunal Masania, Yosuke Mizuno, Alexander V. Plavin, Raj T. Rajan, Luciano Rezzolla, Freek Roelofs, Eduardo Ros, Kazi L.J. Rygl, Tuomas Savolainen, Karl Schuster, Tiziana Venturi, Harro Verkouter, Pablo de Vicente, Pieter N.A.M. Visser, Martina C. Wiedner, Maciek Wielgus, Kaj Wiik, J. Anton Zensus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Ultra-high angular resolution in astronomy has always been an important vehicle for making fundamental discoveries. Recent results in direct imaging of the vicinity of the super-massive black hole in the nucleus of the radio galaxy M87 by the millimeter VLBI system Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and various pioneering results of the Space VLBI mission RadioAstron provided new momentum in high angular resolution astrophysics. In both mentioned cases, the angular resolution reached the values of about 10−20 microrcseconds (0.05−0.1 nanoradian). Angular resolution is proportional to the observing wavelength and inversely proportional to the interferometer baseline length. In the case of Earth-based EHT, the highest angular resolution was achieved by combining the shortest possible wavelength of 1.3 mm with the longest possible baselines, comparable to the Earth’s diameter. For RadioAstron, operational wavelengths were in the range from 92 cm down to 1.3 cm, but the baselines were as long as ∼350,000 km. However, these two highlights of radio astronomy, EHT and RadioAstron do not”saturate” the interest to further increase in angular resolution. Quite opposite: the science case for further increase in angular resolution of astrophysical studies becomes even stronger. A natural and, in fact, the only possible way of moving forward is to enhance mm/sub-mm VLBI by extending baselines to extraterrestrial dimensions, i.e. creating a mm/sub-mm Space VLBI system. The inevitable move toward space-borne mm/sub-mm VLBI is a subject of several concept studies. In this presentation we will focus on one of them called TeraHertz Exploration and Zooming-in for Astrophysics (THEZA), prepared in response to the ESA’s call for its next major science program Voyage 2050 (Gurvits et al. 2021). The THEZA rationale is focused at the physics of spacetime in the vicinity of super-massive black holes as the leading science drive. However, it will also open up a sizable new range of hitherto unreachable parameters of observational radio astrophysics and create a multi-disciplinary scientific facility and offer a high degree of synergy with prospective “single dish” space-borne sub-mm astronomy (e.g., Wiedner et al. 2021) and infrared interferometry (e.g., Linz et al. 2021). As an amalgam of several major trends of modern observational astrophysics, THEZA aims at facilitating a breakthrough in high-resolution high image quality astronomical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIAF Symposium on Ongoing and Near Future Space Astronomy and Solar-System Science Missions 2021 - Held at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2021
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781713843009
Publication statusPublished - 2021
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventIAF Symposium on Ongoing and Near Future Space Astronomy and Solar-System Science Missions - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress
ISSN (Print)0074-1795
ISSN (Electronic)1995-6258

Conference

ConferenceIAF Symposium on Ongoing and Near Future Space Astronomy and Solar-System Science Missions
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
CityDubai
Period25/10/202129/10/2021

Keywords

  • Mm- and sub-mm astronomy
  • Radio interferometry
  • Spaceborne astrophysics
  • VLBI

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