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Paper: Better Spectrometers, Beautiful Spectra, and Confusion for All
Volume: 417, Submillimeter Astrophysics and Technology: A Symposium Honoring Thomas G. Phillips
Page: 191
Authors: Pearson, J. C.; Brauer, C. S.; Drouin, B. J.; Yu, S.
Abstract: The confluence of enormous improvements in submillimeter receivers and the development of powerful large scale observatories is about to force astrophysics and the sciences that support it to develop novel approaches for interpretation of data. The historical method of observing one or two lines and carefully analyzing them in the context of a simple model is now only applicable for distant objects where only a few lines are strong enough to be observable. Modern observatories collect many GHz of high signal-to-noise spectra in a single observation and in many cases, at sufficiently high spatial resolution to start resolving chemically distinct regions. The observatories planned for the near future and the inevitable upgrades of existing facilities will make large spectral data sets the rule rather than the exception in many areas of molecular astrophysics. The methodology and organization required to fully extract the available information and interpret these beautiful spectra represents a challenge to submillimeter astrophysics similar in magnitude to the last few decades of effort in improving receivers. The quality and abundance of spectra effectively prevents line-by-line analysis from being a time efficient proposition, however, global analysis of complex spectra is a science in its infancy. Spectroscopy at several other wavelengths has developed a number of techniques to analyze complex spectra, which can provide a great deal of guidance to the molecular astrophysics community on how to attack the complex spectrum problem. Ultimately, the challenge is one of organization, similar to building observatories, requiring teams of specialists combining their knowledge of dynamical, structural, chemical and radiative models with detailed knowledge in molecular physics and gas and grain surface chemistry to extract and exploit the enormous information content of complex spectra. This paper presents a spectroscopist’s view of the necessary elements in a tool for complex spectral analysis.
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