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Peering Deep into Space
People have always wondered where we, our Earth, our galaxy, come from. A group of scientist has now driven that quest one step further and taken a peak at how the stars that gave rise to most of the material found on our universe formed over cosmic history.
University of Miami professor of physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, Joshua Gundersen is part of an international research team that built an innovative new telescope called BLAST (Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope) and launched it to the edge of the atmosphere, where it discovered previously unidentified dust-obscured, star-forming galaxies that could help illuminate the origins of the universe.

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High-flying research: Two years ago, this column recounted a tale of daring scientific adventure in the Antarctic that featured University of Toronto astronomers, a high-flying telescope, and a skin-of-your-teeth rescue of irreplaceable cosmological data.
Now for the finale.
Painstaking analysis of that data has revealed a previously hidden part of our universe that contributes about half of our total starlight.

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Title: BLAST: Correlations in the Cosmic Far-Infrared Background at 250, 350, and 500 microns Reveal Clustering of Star-Forming Galaxies
Authors: Marco P. Viero, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Carrie J. MacTavish, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Mattia Negrello, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Donald V. Wiebe

We detect correlations in the cosmic far-infrared background due to the clustering of star-forming galaxies, in observations made with the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimetre Telescope (BLAST), at 250, 350, and 500 microns. Since the star-forming galaxies which make up the far-infrared background are expected to trace the underlying dark matter in a biased way, measuring clustering in the far-infrared background provides a way to relate star formation directly to structure formation. We test the plausibility of the result by fitting a simple halo model to the data. We derive an effective bias b_eff = 2.2 0.2, effective mass log(M_eff/M_sun) = 13.2 (+0.3/-0.8), and minimum mass log(M_min/M_sun) = 9.9 (+1.5/-1.7). This is the first robust clustering measurement at submillimetre wavelengths.

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Title: BLAST: The Mass Function, Lifetimes, and Properties of Intermediate Mass Cores from a 50 Square Degree Submillimeter Galactic Survey in Vela (l = ~265)
Authors: Calvin. B. Netterfield, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Peter G. Martin, Phillip Mauskopf, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Arabindo Roy, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We present first results from an unbiased, 50 square degree submillimetre Galactic survey at 250, 350, and 500 microns from the 2006 flight of the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST). The map has resolution ranging from 36" to 60" in the three submillimetre bands spanning the thermal emission peak of cold starless cores. We determine the temperature, luminosity, and mass of more than a thousand compact sources in a range of evolutionary stages and an unbiased statistical characterization of the population. From comparison with C^18 O data, we find the dust opacity per gas mass, kappa/R = 0.16 cm^2/g at 250 microns, for cold clumps. We find that 2% of the mass of the molecular gas over this diverse region is in cores colder than 14 K, and that the mass function for these cold cores is consistent with a power law with index alpha = -3.22 0.14 over the mass range 14 M_sun < M < 80 M_sun, steeper than the Salpeter alpha = -2.35 initial massfunction for stars. Additionally, we infer a mass dependent cold core lifetime of tau(M) = 4E6 (M/20 M_sun)^-0.9 years -- longer than what has been found in previous surveys of either low or high mass cores, and significantly longer than free fall or turbulent decay time scales. This implies some form of non-thermal support for cold cores during this early stage of star formation.

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Title: BLAST: A Far-Infrared Measurement of the History of Star Formation
Authors: Enzo Pascale, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon Dye, Steve A. Eales, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Gaelen Marsden, Philip Mauskopf, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Luca Olmi, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

We use measurements from the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope (BLAST) at wavelengths spanning 250 to 500 microns, combined with data from the Spitzer Infrared telescope and ground-based optical surveys in GOODS-S, to determine the average star formation rate of the galaxies that comprise the cosmic infrared background (CIB) radiation from 70 to 500 microns, at redshifts 0 < z < 3. We find that different redshifts are preferentially probed at different wavelengths within this range, with most of the 70 micron background generated at z < ~1 and the 500 micron background generated at z > ~1. The spectral coverage of BLAST and Spitzer in the region of the peak of the background at ~200 microns allows us to directly estimate the mean physical properties (temperature, bolometric luminosity and mass) of the dust in the galaxies responsible for contributing more than 80% of the CIB. By utilising available redshift information we directly measure the evolution of the far infrared luminosity density and therefore the optically obscured star formation history up to redshift z ~3.

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Title: BLAST: Resolving the Cosmic Submillimeter Background
Authors: Gaelen Marsden, Peter A. R. Ade, James J. Bock, Edward L. Chapin, Mark J. Devlin, Simon R. Dicker, Matthew Griffin, Joshua O. Gundersen, Mark Halpern, Peter C. Hargrave, David H. Hughes, Jeff Klein, Philip Mauskopf, Benjamin Magnelli, Lorenzo Moncelsi, Calvin B. Netterfield, Henry Ngo, Luca Olmi, Enzo Pascale, Guillaume Patanchon, Marie Rex, Douglas Scott, Christopher Semisch, Nicholas Thomas, Matthew D. P. Truch, Carole Tucker, Gregory S. Tucker, Marco P. Viero, Donald V. Wiebe

The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) has made one square-degree, deep, confusion-limited maps at three different bands, centred on the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey South field. By calculating the covariance of these maps with catalogues of 24 micron sources from the Far-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (FIDEL), we have determined that the total submillimetre intensities are 8.60 0.59, 4.93 0.34, and 2.27 0.20 nW m^-2 sr^-1 at 250, 350, and 500 microns, respectively. These numbers are more precise than previous estimates of the cosmic infrared background (CIB) and are consistent with 24 micron-selected galaxies generating the full intensity of the CIB. We find that more than half of the CIB originates from sources at z >= 1.2. At all BLAST wavelengths, the relative intensity of high-z sources is higher for 24 micron-faint sources than it is for 24 micron-bright sources. Galaxies identified very broadly as AGN by their Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) colours contribute 32-48% of the CIB, although X-ray-selected AGN contribute only 7%. BzK-selected galaxies are found to be brighter than typical 24 micron-selected galaxies in the BLAST bands, and contribute 32-42% of the CIB. These data provide high-precision constraints for models of the evolution of the number density and intensity of star-forming galaxies at high redshift.

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The "baby-boomer Universe" has been seen in unprecedented detail by a telescope slung beneath a balloon.
The BLAST experiment only flew twice and was destroyed on its final mission, but its observations and technology have had a major impact on astronomy.
The telescope probed an epoch in cosmic history some 7-10bn years ago when star formation was prolific.

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Scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia have helped unveil the birthplaces of ancient stars using a two-tonne telescope carried by a balloon the size of a 33-storey building.
After two years spent analysing data from the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope (BLAST) project, an international group of astronomers and astrophysicists from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. reveals today in the journal Nature that half of the starlight of the Universe comes from young, star-forming galaxies several billion light years away.

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