The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CS0)

The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) is a cutting-edge facility for astronomical research and instrumentation development. It is one of the world's premier submillimeter telescopes. The CSO consists of a 10.4-meter diameter Leighton radio dish situated in a compact dome near the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The telescope is operated by Caltech under a contract from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has been operating on a regular basis since 1988. It is open to the astronomical community.

Currently, the CSO has three main science goals. The first is the study of the interstellar medium (ISM) in distant galaxies. For z = 1-5, the far- and mid-infrared dust and line spectra are redshifted into the CSO bands. The information gained is of great importance in studying the formation and evolution of galaxies and the history of star formation in them. Of particular interest have been the study of objects revealed by Spitzer and the observation of CO lines in nearby galaxies for use as templates for high-redshift sources. The second goal is the study of the chemistry and physics of star-forming regions in the ISM, particularly in the very early stages, where the dust is cool and where chemical processes such as deuteration are evident. In late stages of star formation, very high quality imaging of "debris disks" has been achieved. The third goal is the use of the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect to detect and study galaxy clusters. Observations of the SZ effect are extremely important for various aspects of precision cosmology including constraining cosmological parameters and better understanding the physics of the CMB.

Caltech students are taking an active part not only in observations with the CSO, but also in the development of new instruments, like the MKID camera. The microwave kinetic inductance detector (MKID) is the state-of-the-art incoherent submm- and mm-wave detector that will provide background-limited kilopixel focal planes. The full camera was commissioned at the CSO during 2010 and will become a facility instrument.