Investigation of Star Formation: Instrumentation and Methodology

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A thorough exploration of star formation necessitates observation across the electromagnetic spectrum. In particular, observations in the submillimeter and ultra-violet allow one to observe very early stage star formation and

A thorough exploration of star formation necessitates observation across the electromagnetic spectrum. In particular, observations in the submillimeter and ultra-violet allow one to observe very early stage star formation and to trace the evolution from molecular cloud collapse to stellar ignition. Submillimeter observations are essential for piercing the heart of heavily obscured stellar nurseries to observe star formation in its infancy. Ultra-violet observations allow one to observe stars just after they emerge from their surrounding environment, allowing higher energy radiation to escape. To make detailed observations of early stage star formation in both spectral regimes requires state-of-the-art detector technology and instrumentation. In this dissertation, I discuss the calibration and feasibility of detectors developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and specially processed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to increase their quantum efficiency at far-ultraviolet wavelengths. A cursory treatment of the delta-doping process is presented, followed by a thorough discussion of calibration procedures developed at JPL and in the Laboratory for Astronomical and Space Instrumentation at ASU. Subsequent discussion turns to a novel design for a Modular Imager Cell forming one possible basis for construction of future large focal plane arrays. I then discuss the design, fabrication, and calibration of a sounding rocket imaging system developed using the MIC and these specially processed detectors. Finally, I discuss one scientific application of sub-mm observations. I used data from the Heinrich Hertz Sub-millimeter Telescope and the Sub-Millimeter Array (SMA) to observe sub-millimeter transitions and continuum emission towards AFGL 2591. I tested the use of vibrationally excited HCN emission to probe the protostellar accretion disk structure. I measured vibrationally excited HCN line ratios in order to elucidate the appropriate excitation mechanism. I find collisional excitation to be dominant, showing the emission originates in extremely dense (n&sim10;11 cm-3), warm (T&sim1000; K) gas. Furthermore, from the line profile of the v=(0, 22d, 0) transition, I find evidence for a possible accretion disk.