AbstractsAstronomy & Space Science

Heterodyne Arrays for Terahertz Astronomy

by Jenna Lynn Kloosterman

Institution: University of Arizona
Year: 2014
Keywords: Interstellar Medium; Methanol Spectroscopy; Submillimeter Astronomy; Terahertz Arrays; Electrical & Computer Engineering; Heterodyne Receivers
Record ID: 2029736
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10150/319878


The clouds of gas and dust that constitute the Interstellar Medium (ISM) within the Milky Way and other galaxies can be studied through the spectral lines of the atoms and molecules. The ISM follows a lifecycle in which each of its phases can be traced through spectral lines in the Terahertz (THz) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, loosely defined as 0.3 - 3 THz. Using the high spectral resolution afforded by heterodyne instruments, astronomers can potentially disentangle the large-scale structure and kinematics within these clouds. In order to study the ISM over large size scales, large format THz heterodyne arrays are needed. The research presented in this dissertation focuses on the development of two heterodyne array receiver systems for ISM studies, SuperCam and a Super-THz (>3 THz) receiver. SuperCam is a 64-pixel heterodyne imaging array designed for use on ground-based submillimeter telescopes to observe the astrophysically important CO J=3-2 emission line at 345 GHz. The SuperCam focal plane stacks eight, 1x8 mixer subarrays. Each pixel in the array has its own integrated superconductor-insulator-superconductor (SIS) mixer and Low Noise Amplifier (LNA). In spring 2012, SuperCam was installed on the University of Arizona Submillimeter Telescope (SMT) for its first engineering run with 32 active pixels. A second observing run in May 2013 had 52 active pixels. With the outliers removed, the median double sideband receiver temperature was 104 K. The Super-THz receiver is designed to observe the astrophysically important neutral atomic oxygen line at 4.7448 THz. The local oscillator is a third-order distributed feedback Quantum Cascade Laser operating in continuous wave mode at 4.741 THz. A quasi-optical hot electron bolometer is used as the mixer. We record a double sideband receiver noise temperature of 815 K, which is ~7 times the quantum noise limit and an Allan variance time of 15 seconds at an effective noise fluctuation bandwidth of 18 MHz. Heterodyne performance is confirmed by measuring a methanol line spectrum. By combining knowledge of large array formats from SuperCam and quasi-optical mixers, initial tests and designs are presented to expand the single pixel 4.7 THz receiver into a quasi-optical 16-pixel array.