Colloquium: Christopher Walker

    Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
    Meinel 307
    Auxiliary Material(s): 

    Terahertz Space Telescope (TST): A Far-Infrared Probe of Cosmic Origins and Destiny


    The Terahertz Space Telescope (TST) utilizes breakthrough inflatable technology to create a ~30 m far-infrared observing system at a fraction of the cost of previous space telescopes. As a follow-on to JWST and Herschel, TST will probe the FIR/THz regime with unprecedented sensitivity and angular resolution, answering fundamental questions concerning the origin and destiny of the cosmos. Prior and planned space telescopes have barely scratched the surface of what can be learned in this wavelength region. TST will pick up where JWST and Herschel leave off. At ~30µm TST will have ~10x the sensitivity and ~3x the angular resolution of JWST. At longer wavelengths it will have ~1000x the sensitivity of Herschel and ~10 times the angular resolution. TST can achieve this at low cost through the innovative use of inflatable technology. A recently-completed NIAC Phase II study (Large Balloon Reflector) validated, both analytically and experimentally, the concept of a large inflatable spherical reflector and demonstrated critical telescope functions. This same technological approach can also be employed on small satellites, yielding a quantum leap in their remote sensing and telecommunication capabilities.

    Speaker Bio(s): 

    Professor Christopher Walker has over 30 years of experience designing, building, and using state-of-the-art receiver systems for terahertz astronomy. Prof. Walker has published numerous papers on star formation and protostellar evolution. He has served as dissertation director for ten Ph.D. students and is a Topical Editor for IEEE Transactions on TeraHertz Science and Technology. Prof. Walker has worked in industry (TRW Aerospace and JPL) as well as academia. As a Millikan Fellow in Physics at Caltech, he worked on the development of low-noise, SIS waveguide receivers above 400 GHz and explored techniques for etching waveguide out of silicon. On joining the UofA faculty in 1991, he began the Steward Observatory Radio Astronomy Lab (SORAL), which has become a world leader in developing THz receiver systems for astronomy and other remote sensing applications. These instruments are multi-institutional efforts, with key components coming from JPL, several universities, and a number of industrial partners. Prof. Walker manages and coordinates these efforts. Instruments developed by Prof. Walker’s team have served as primary facility instruments at the Heinrich Hertz Telescope on Mt. Graham, AZ and the AST/RO telescope at the South Pole.  Prof. Walker led the effort to design and build the world’s largest (64 pixels) submillimeter-wave heterodyne array receiver. He is PI of the NASA funded long duration balloon project ``The Stratospheric THz Observatory (STO)’’, which will have its second Antarctic flight this year. He is also PI of the “10 meter Suborbital Large Balloon Reflector (LBR)” project, selected by the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program for a Phase I and II study. He recently authored Terahertz Astronomy, the first textbook in his field of study.