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With the recent discovery of a dozen dusty star-forming galaxies and around 30 quasars at z > 5 that are hyper-luminous in the infrared (μ LIR > 1013 L⊙, where μ is a lensing magnification factor), the possibility has opened up for SPICA, the proposed ESA M5 mid-/far-infrared mission, to extend its spectroscopic studies toward the epoch of reionisation and beyond. In this paper, we examine the feasibility and scientific potential of such observations with SPICA’s far-infrared spectrometer SAFARI, which will probe a spectral range (35–230 μm) that will be unexplored by ALMA and JWST. Our simulations show that SAFARI is capable of delivering good-quality spectra for hyper-luminous infrared galaxies at z = 5 − 10, allowing us to sample spectral features in the rest-frame mid-infrared and to investigate a host of key scientific issues, such as the relative importance of star formation versus AGN, the hardness of the radiation field, the level of chemical enrichment, and the properties of the molecular gas. From a broader perspective, SAFARI offers the potential to open up a new frontier in the study of the early Universe, providing access to uniquely powerful spectral features for probing first-generation objects, such as the key cooling lines of low-metallicity or metal-free forming galaxies (fine-structure and H2 lines) and emission features of solid compounds freshly synthesised by Population III supernovae. Ultimately, SAFARI’s ability to explore the high-redshift Universe will be determined by the availability of sufficiently bright targets (whether intrinsically luminous or gravitationally lensed). With its launch expected around 2030, SPICA is ideally positioned to take full advantage of upcoming wide-field surveys such as LSST, SKA, Euclid, and WFIRST, which are likely to provide extraordinary targets for SAFARI.
Measurements in the infrared wavelength domain allow direct assessment of the physical state and energy balance of cool matter in space, enabling the detailed study of the processes that govern the formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems in galaxies over cosmic time. Previous infrared missions revealed a great deal about the obscured Universe, but were hampered by limited sensitivity.
SPICA takes the next step in infrared observational capability by combining a large 2.5-meter diameter telescope, cooled to below 8 K, with instruments employing ultra-sensitive detectors. A combination of passive cooling and mechanical coolers will be used to cool both the telescope and the instruments. With mechanical coolers the mission lifetime is not limited by the supply of cryogen. With the combination of low telescope background and instruments with state-of-the-art detectors SPICA provides a huge advance on the capabilities of previous missions.
SPICA instruments offer spectral resolving power ranging from R ~50 through 11 000 in the 17–230 μm domain and R ~28.000 spectroscopy between 12 and 18 μm. SPICA will provide efficient 30–37 μm broad band mapping, and small field spectroscopic and polarimetric imaging at 100, 200 and 350 μm. SPICA will provide infrared spectroscopy with an unprecedented sensitivity of ~5 × 10−20 W m−2 (5σ/1 h)—over two orders of magnitude improvement over what earlier missions. This exceptional performance leap, will open entirely new domains in infrared astronomy; galaxy evolution and metal production over cosmic time, dust formation and evolution from very early epochs onwards, the formation history of planetary systems.
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.
The mid-infrared range contains many spectral features associated with large molecules and dust grains such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and silicates. These are usually very strong compared to fine-structure gas lines, and thus valuable in studying the spectral properties of faint distant galaxies. In this paper, we evaluate the capability of low-resolution mid-infrared spectroscopic surveys of galaxies that could be performed by SPICA. The surveys are designed to address the question how star formation and black hole accretion activities evolved over cosmic time through spectral diagnostics of the physical conditions of the interstellar/circumnuclear media in galaxies. On the basis of results obtained with Herschel far-infrared photometric surveys of distant galaxies and Spitzer and AKARI near- to mid-infrared spectroscopic observations of nearby galaxies, we estimate the numbers of the galaxies at redshift z > 0.5, which are expected to be detected in the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon features or dust continuum by a wide (10 deg2) or deep (1 deg2) blind survey, both for a given observation time of 600 h. As by-products of the wide blind survey, we also expect to detect debris disks, through the mid-infrared excess above the photospheric emission of nearby main-sequence stars, and we estimate their number. We demonstrate that the SPICA mid-infrared surveys will efficiently provide us with unprecedentedly large spectral samples, which can be studied further in the far-infrared with SPICA.
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.
Our current knowledge of star formation and accretion luminosity at high redshift (z > 3–4), as well as the possible connections between them, relies mostly on observations in the rest-frame ultraviolet, which are strongly affected by dust obscuration. Due to the lack of sensitivity of past and current infrared instrumentation, so far it has not been possible to get a glimpse into the early phases of the dust-obscured Universe. Among the next generation of infrared observatories, SPICA, observing in the 12–350 µm range, will be the only facility that can enable us to trace the evolution of the obscured star-formation rate and black-hole accretion rate densities over cosmic time, from the peak of their activity back to the reionisation epoch (i.e., 3 < z ≲ 6–7), where its predecessors had severe limitations. Here, we discuss the potential of photometric surveys performed with the SPICA mid-infrared instrument, enabled by the very low level of impact of dust obscuration in a band centred at 34 µm. These unique unbiased photometric surveys that SPICA will perform will fully characterise the evolution of AGNs and star-forming galaxies after reionisation.
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.
A far-infrared observatory such as the SPace Infrared telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics, with its unprecedented spectroscopic sensitivity, would unveil the role of feedback in galaxy evolution during the last ~10 Gyr of the Universe (z = 1.5–2), through the use of far- and mid-infrared molecular and ionic fine structure lines that trace outflowing and infalling gas. Outflowing gas is identified in the far-infrared through P-Cygni line shapes and absorption blueshifted wings in molecular lines with high dipolar moments, and through emission line wings of fine-structure lines of ionised gas. We quantify the detectability of galaxy-scale massive molecular and ionised outflows as a function of redshift in AGN-dominated, starburst-dominated, and main-sequence galaxies, explore the detectability of metal-rich inflows in the local Universe, and describe the most significant synergies with other current and future observatories that will measure feedback in galaxies via complementary tracers at other wavelengths.
Ultra-luminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs; L > 1012 L⊙) are quite rare in the local universe, but seem to dominate the co-moving energy density at z > 2. Many are optically-faint, dust-obscured galaxies that have been identified only relatively recently by the detection of their thermal dust emission redshifted into the sub-mm wavelengths. These submm galaxies (SMGs) have been shown to be a massive objects (M* ~ 1011 M⊙) undergoing intense star-formation(SFRs ~ 102 − 103 M⊙ yr−1) and the likely progenitors of massive ellipticals today. However, the AGN contribution to the far-IR luminosity had for years remained a caveat to these results. We used the Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph (IRS) to investigate the energetics of 24 radio-identified and spectroscopically-confirmed SMGs in the redshift range of 0.6 < z < 3.2. We find emission from Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – which are associated with intense star-formation activity – in >80% of our sample and find that the median mid-IR spectrum is well described by a starburst component with an additional power-law continuum representing < 32% AGN contribution to the far-IR luminosity. We also find evidence for a more extended distribution of warm dust in SMGs compared to the more compact nuclear bursts in local ULIRGs and starbursts, suggesting that SMGs are not simple high-redshift analogs of local ULIRGs or nuclear starbursts, but have star formation which resembles that seen in less-extreme star-forming environments at z ~ 0.
We report on our first results from a mid-infrared spectroscopic study of ISM features in a sample of deeply obscured ULIRG nuclei using the InfraRed Spectrograph (IRS) on the Spitzer Space Telescope. The spectra are extremely rich and complex, revealing absorption features of both amorphous and crystalline silicates, aliphatic hydrocarbons, water ice and gas-phase bands of hot CO and warm C2H2, HCN and CO2. PAH emission bands were found to be generally weak and in some cases absent. The features probe a dense and warm environment, in which crystalline silicates and water ice are able to survive but volatile ices, commonly detected in Galactic dense molecular clouds, cannot. If powered largely by star formation, the stellar density and conditions of the gas and dust have to be extreme not to give rise to the commonly detected emission features associated with starbursts.
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