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The SPICA mid- and far-infrared telescope will address fundamental issues in our understanding of star formation and ISM physics in galaxies. A particular hallmark of SPICA is the outstanding sensitivity enabled by the cold telescope, optimised detectors, and wide instantaneous bandwidth throughout the mid- and far-infrared. The spectroscopic, imaging, and polarimetric observations that SPICA will be able to collect will help in clarifying the complex physical mechanisms which underlie the baryon cycle of galaxies. In particular, (i) the access to a large suite of atomic and ionic fine-structure lines for large samples of galaxies will shed light on the origin of the observed spread in star-formation rates within and between galaxies, (ii) observations of HD rotational lines (out to ~10 Mpc) and fine structure lines such as [C ii] 158 μm (out to ~100 Mpc) will clarify the main reservoirs of interstellar matter in galaxies, including phases where CO does not emit, (iii) far-infrared spectroscopy of dust and ice features will address uncertainties in the mass and composition of dust in galaxies, and the contributions of supernovae to the interstellar dust budget will be quantified by photometry and monitoring of supernova remnants in nearby galaxies, (iv) observations of far-infrared cooling lines such as [O i] 63 μm from star-forming molecular clouds in our Galaxy will evaluate the importance of shocks to dissipate turbulent energy. The paper concludes with requirements for the telescope and instruments, and recommendations for the observing strategy.
IR spectroscopy in the range 12–230 μm with the SPace IR telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA) will reveal the physical processes governing the formation and evolution of galaxies and black holes through cosmic time, bridging the gap between the James Webb Space Telescope and the upcoming Extremely Large Telescopes at shorter wavelengths and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array at longer wavelengths. The SPICA, with its 2.5-m telescope actively cooled to below 8 K, will obtain the first spectroscopic determination, in the mid-IR rest-frame, of both the star-formation rate and black hole accretion rate histories of galaxies, reaching lookback times of 12 Gyr, for large statistically significant samples. Densities, temperatures, radiation fields, and gas-phase metallicities will be measured in dust-obscured galaxies and active galactic nuclei, sampling a large range in mass and luminosity, from faint local dwarf galaxies to luminous quasars in the distant Universe. Active galactic nuclei and starburst feedback and feeding mechanisms in distant galaxies will be uncovered through detailed measurements of molecular and atomic line profiles. The SPICA’s large-area deep spectrophotometric surveys will provide mid-IR spectra and continuum fluxes for unbiased samples of tens of thousands of galaxies, out to redshifts of z ~ 6.
The physical processes driving the chemical evolution of galaxies in the last ~ 11Gyr cannot be understood without directly probing the dust-obscured phase of star-forming galaxies and active galactic nuclei. This phase, hidden to optical tracers, represents the bulk of the star formation and black hole accretion activity in galaxies at 1 < z < 3. Spectroscopic observations with a cryogenic infrared observatory like SPICA, will be sensitive enough to peer through the dust-obscured regions of galaxies and access the rest-frame mid- to far-infrared range in galaxies at high-z. This wavelength range contains a unique suite of spectral lines and dust features that serve as proxies for the abundances of heavy elements and the dust composition, providing tracers with a feeble response to both extinction and temperature. In this work, we investigate how SPICA observations could be exploited to understand key aspects in the chemical evolution of galaxies: the assembly of nearby galaxies based on the spatial distribution of heavy element abundances, the global content of metals in galaxies reaching the knee of the luminosity function up to z ~ 3, and the dust composition of galaxies at high-z. Possible synergies with facilities available in the late 2020s are also discussed.
Much of the new dust in the local ISM is produced in the last phases of stellar evolution of low- and intermediate-mass stars on the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB). Despite its importance, our knowledge of how dust properties depend on metallicity is limited. Studies of planetary nebulae in irregular galaxies in the Local Group (mostly focused on the LMC and SMC) have revealed a diverse spectral zoo and shown that low metallicity favours carbon-rich dust production by AGB stars. However, at ~1/3 and ~1/5 times the solar metallicity respectively, they provide two snapshots of dust composition at low metallicity, emphasising the need to investigate a region with a range of metallicity values. With its abundance gradient, the Milky Way fits this criterion and provides a good opportunity to observe the dust composition over a large metallicity range. In particular the Galactic anti-center, which is largely unexplored beyond galactocentric distances of 10 kpc, allows us to study the AGB dust a priori assumed to be metal-poor as well as exploring the extent of the Galactic abundance gradient. We analyse a Spitzer spectroscopic sample of 23 planetary nebulae towards the anti-center in order to understand how the metallicity gradient extends beyond 10 kpc from the Galactic center and to observe the dust composition in this region of our Galaxy. We find that the abundance gradients of Ne, S and Ar continue to distances of around 20 kpc (albeit with a large scatter) and the dust emission shows a carbon-rich chemistry similar to that in the Magellanic Clouds.
We have obtained infrared spectra of carbon-rich AGB stars in three nearby galaxies – the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the Fornax dwarf spheroidal galaxy. Our primary aim is to investigate gas compositions and mass-loss rate of these stars as a function of metallicity, by comparing AGB stars in several galaxies with different metallicities. C2H2 are detectable from AGB stars, and possibly PAHs are subsequently formed from C2H2. Thus, it is worth investigating chemical processes at low metallicity. These stars were observed using the Infrared Spectrometer (irs) onboard the Spitzer Space Telescope which covers 5–35 μm region, and the Infrared Spectrometer And Array Camera (isaac) on the Very Large Telescope which covers the 2.9–4.1 μm region. HCN, CH and C2H2 molecular bands, as well as SiC and MgS dust features are identified in the spectra. The equivalent width of C2H2 molecular bands is larger at lower metallicity, thus PAHs might be abundant in AGB stars at low metallicity. We find no evidence that mass-loss rates depend on metallicity. Chemistry of carbon stars is affected by carbon production during the AGB phase rather than the metallicities. We argue that lower detection rate of PAHs from the interstellar medium of lower metal galaxies is caused by destruction of PAHs in the ISM by stronger UV radiation field.
The final phase of a star's life is crucial for the understanding of the chemical evolution of our Galaxy. The planetary nebula phase offers an excellent opportunity to study the nucleosynthesis history of low– and intermediate-mass stars, and to study the evolution of dust in evolved objects. For these purposes, infrared spectroscopy has been an ideal method to both determine accurate abundances and characterize the dust features that are seen in their spectra. This contribution briefly summarizes some of the main infrared spectroscopic advances in the field during the last few years, with emphasis on the recent results/projects from the Spitzer Space Telescope on galactic and extra–galactic planetary nebulae.
Accurate chemical abundances for the following planetary nebulae (PNe); NGC 6537, He 2-111, NGC 6302, NGC 6445, NGC 6741, NGC 7027, NGC 7662, NGC 2440 and NGC 5315 have been derived using data from the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) and the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE). Optical data from the literature has also been used. These work has been published by Pottasch et al. (2001), Bernard Salas et al. (2001 and 2002). In particular, the use of the ISO data has reduced the need for ionization correction factors. Furthermore, infrared data avoid or reduce many problems when deriving these abundances, namely: temperature fluctuations in the nebula, and extinction corrections. The electron temperature (Te) and density of the PNe has been derived. For those PNe in which the Te has been derived for several ions a trend with the ionization potential is present. Ions with high stages of ionization give higher Te, probably because they are formed close to the central star. The chemical abundances measured in these PNe give some hint of the nucleosynthesis and mixing processes experienced by their progenitor stars. In this view, a preliminary comparison with synthetic TP-AGB models is made (Bernard Salas et al. (in prep.)). NGC 7027, NGC 6741, NGC 2440, and NGC 6445 are consistent with the occurrence of the 3rd dredge-up due to both C12 and He4 enrichment. NGC 6537, NGC 6302, and He 2-111 are likely to have stellar progenitors experiencing hot bottom burning due to the low C12 and high N14 abundances.
The far infrared nebular spectrum provides a valuable complement to the observed lines in other spectral regions. There are several reasons for this, the most important being the large increase in the number of ions observed, and the fact that the abundances found from these lines are relatively insensitive to the electron temperature. This leads to a more accurate determination of the abundances. To date, twelve PN have had abundances determined in this way. These results are summarized. The evolution of the central star is discussed in the light of these results.
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