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ATACAMA. CCAT : The Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope. A joint project of Cornell University, the California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Guiding Principles Scientific Excellence Internal Synergy

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CCAT : The Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope

A joint project of Cornell University,

the California Institute of Technology

and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

  • Guiding Principles

  • Scientific Excellence

  • Internal Synergy

  • Special Niche/High Visibility

  • Ride the technology wave of large

  • format Bolometer Arrays

  • Synergy with (and enabler to) ALMA*

*ALMA: an international telescope project, currently funded by the US (through

the NSF and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory) and Europe

(trough the European Southern Observatory). It will consist of an array

of 64 antennas which will operate in Atacama at mm wavelengths.

Cost: $750M Completion date: year 2012

  • We propose:

  • A unique project geared towards the investigation

  • of cosmic origins, from planets to Cosmology, in the

  • IR/submm niche;

  • with focus that emphasizes our institutions’

  • instrument building talents;

  • that can sensibly achieve first light by 2012;

  • that will maintains us in the forefront of research

  • in one of the most rapidly developing observational/

  • technological fields;

  • that will provide us with strong leverage for

  • ALMA access/joint project development;

  • through a development strategy that will place us

  • to advantage on a pathway to a “high altitude

  • observatory”.


  • A 25m class FIR/submm telescope that will

  • operate with high aperture efficiency down

  • to l = 200 m, an atmospheric limit

  • With large format bolometer array cameras

  • (large Field of View > 15’) and high spectral

  • resolution heterodyne receivers

  • At a very high (elevation > 5000m), very dry

  • (Precipitable Water Vapor column PWV<1 mm)

  • site with wide sky coverage

  • NOT confusion-limited in exposures of

  • 24 hrs or less

  • Science Areas:

  • Early Universe Cosmology

  • Galaxy Formation & Evolution

  • Disks, Star & Planet Forming Regions

  • Cosmic Microwave Background and the

  • Sunyaev-Zeldovich Effect

  • Solar System Astrophysics

Why FIR/submm?

Photospheric light

Reprocessed by dust

That’s the energy regime

at which most of the

Universe’s early light


after the


era reaches us.

And at which



in star &





from the

dust cocoons.

Photospheric light

from stars

Microwave Background

How did we get from this:

… and this?

…to this:

… and this

starburst galaxies

star formation rate

normal galaxies

gas density

Starburst systems emit the vast

majority of their light in the FIR


Arp220is a SB, merging system, forming stars at a rate of



By comparison, the Milky Way

forms stars at the rate

NOTE: at high z, the SED of a SB galaxy

yields a neutral or even positive

K-correction in the FIR bands


KBOs: trans-Neptunian objects probably formed early in the

Outer reaches of the solar protoplanetary disk.

Several hundreds known; Pluto (D~2400km), Charon (D~1200 km),

Varuna (D~900km) are the largest.

Optical/NIR observations yield orbital parms, flux – not size.

At distances of 40-50 AU, KBOs have temperatures near 45 K,

emitting most of their radiation in FIR. Pluto, Charon, Varuna &

Chaor have been detected at 850 mm by JCMT, yielding sizes

and albedos. In the RJ regime, the flux at the wavelength l is

where D is the KBO diameter and D is its distance

The measurement of S yields the size D and, in combination with

optical/NIR measurements of the reflected light, the albedo and

estimates of the surface properties.

Problems: sensitivity and confusion

CCAT can easily detect KBOs with D~150 km in few hours and, with

sufficient integration, it can detect even smaller objects without

becoming confused.

Hundreds of thousands KBOs with D>100 km may exist: the AT

could reveal the size function and surface properties of the KBO


Serendipity: exposures of the kind required by primeval galaxy surveys

may be able to detect ~ 1 KBO per frame.

With withCCAT, which will be the most sensitive FIR/submm telescope in the world









At an elevation of ~17,000 ft a.m.s.l., in the Atacama region of

Northern Chile, it will be the highest observatory on Earth.

Cerro Negro?

  • 2003 : Partnership established region of

  • Feb 2004: MOU signed by

  • Caltech, JPL and Cornell

  • Late 2004: Project Office established

  • and Study Phase initiated

  • Early 2006: Preliminary CDR

  • 2006-2008 Engineering Design Phase

  • and finalize Site Selection

  • 2008-2012 Construction and First Light

Extra slides… region of

The CCAT will detect region of

SFR~10-30 up to a

z ~ 3, and

SFR~100 at all z