Jessica Vermeer
26 June 2020

The first detector array for NASA’s Gusto mission has passed pre-shipment review, reports the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON). The array is being shipped to the University of Arizona, where it will be integrated into the balloon observatory. The Gusto mission is to measure emissions from cosmic material between stars. SRON and Delft University of Technology are developing three 8-pixel arrays for 4.7, 1.9 and 1.4 THz. The team has now delivered its first array — for the 4.7 THz channel.

NASA’s Galactic/extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (Gusto) is a balloon observatory that will drift in Earth’s atmosphere for over 75 days, at the edge of space at 36 km altitude. The launch is scheduled for December 2021 from Antarctica. The observatory consists of a telescope of one meter in diameter and three observation instruments carried by an ultra-long duration balloon (ULDB). It contains three array receivers for electromagnetic radiation of 1.4, 1.9 and 4.7 THz.

Delivering the first array is the result of an international collaboration involving SRON, TU Delft, the University of Arizona and NASA. The 4.7 THz channel is the most challenging to realize because it requires the highest sensitivity and most precise pointing of the lens-antenna beam. The design, manufacturing, assembly and testing of the array were carried out at SRON, while the superconducting detectors were developed at TU Delft.

Gusto 4.7 THz detector array
The first 4.7 THz detector array for the Gusto mission. Every sphere represents one pixel. All spheres combined form an 8-pixel array. Credit: SRON

Gusto has three channels to map respectively ionized nitrogen (NI), carbon (CII), and oxygen (OI) emission lines in the spectrum of the interstellar medium — the material floating in between stars. This helps scientists to determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our Galaxy.

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