January 2021 • 2021JATIS...7a1002L
Abstract • The Origins Space Telescope will trace the history of our origins from the time dust and heavy elements permanently altered the cosmic landscape to present-day life. How did galaxies evolve from the earliest galactic systems to those found in the Universe today? How do habitable planets form? How common are life-bearing worlds? To answer these alluring questions, Origins will operate at mid- and far-infrared (IR) wavelengths and offer powerful spectroscopic instruments and sensitivity three orders of magnitude better than that of the Herschel Space Observatory, the largest telescope flown in space to date. We describe the baseline concept for Origins recommended to the 2020 US Decadal Survey in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The baseline design includes a 5.9-m diameter telescope cryocooled to 4.5 K and equipped with three scientific instruments. A mid-infrared instrument (Mid-Infrared Spectrometer and Camera Transit spectrometer) will measure the spectra of transiting exoplanets in the 2.8 to 20 μm wavelength range and offer unprecedented spectrophotometric precision, enabling definitive exoplanet biosignature detections. The far-IR imager polarimeter will be able to survey thousands of square degrees with broadband imaging at 50 and 250 μm. The Origins Survey Spectrometer will cover wavelengths from 25 to 588 μm, making wide-area and deep spectroscopic surveys with spectral resolving power R ∼ 300, and pointed observations at R ∼ 40,000 and 300,000 with selectable instrument modes. Origins was designed to minimize complexity. The architecture is similar to that of the Spitzer Space Telescope and requires very few deployments after launch, while the cryothermal system design leverages James Webb Space Telescope technology and experience. A combination of current-state-of-the-art cryocoolers and next-generation detector technology will enable Origins' natural background-limited sensitivity.