The Milky Way galaxy is a powerful dynamic system that is highly efficient at recycling material. Stars are born out of intergalactic gas and dust, fuse light elements into heavier elements in their cores, then upon stellar death spread material throughout the galaxy, either by diffusion of planetary nebula or by explosive events for high mass stars, and that gas must cool and condense to form stellar nurseries. Though the stellar lifecycle has been studied in detail, relatively little is known about the processes by which hot, diffuse gas ejected by dying stars cools and conglomerates in the interstellar medium (ISM). Much of this mystery arises because only recently have instruments with sufficient spatial and spectral resolution, sensitivity, and bandwidth become available in the terahertz (THz) frequency spectrum where these clouds peak in either thermal or line emission. In this dissertation, I will demonstrate technology advancement of instruments in this frequency regime with new characterization techniques, machining strategies, and scientific models of the spectral behavior of gas species targeted by these instruments.
I begin this work with a description of radiation pattern measurements and their use in astronomical instrument characterization. I will introduce a novel technique to measure complex (phase-sensitive) field patterns using direct detectors. I successfully demonstrate the technique with a single pixel microwave inductance detectors (MKID) experiment. I expand that work by measuring the APEX MKID (A-MKID) focal plane array of 880 pixel detectors centered at 350 GHz. In both chapters I discuss the development of an analysis pipeline to take advantage of all information provided by complex field mapping. I then discuss the design, simulation, fabrication processes, and characterization of a circular-to-rectangular waveguide transformer module integrated into a circularly symmetric feedhorn block. I conclude with a summary of this work and how to advance these technologies for future ISM studies.