Solar System Science with the SMA
Mark Gurwell


The SMA is a unique instrument with capabilities that are well matched to the often challenging requirements needed for solar system astronomy. With up to 8 GHz of total bandwidth, coupled with high spectral resolution, the SMA allows deep continuum sensitivity for imaging small and cold solar system bodies, as well as allowing observations of a multitude of spectral lines within a single tuning and enough spectral coverage to include even highly pressure broadened features. Solar system spatial scales range from about 1 arcminute (or larger for cometary comae) to well below 1 arcsecond. The SMA antennas have large primary beams suitable for imaging large fields, yet can pursue very high resolution (to below 0.2 arcseconds at 345 GHz) by moving the antennas to over 0.5 km separation. The SMA supports a small yet world-leading program of solar system research, producing pathfinding science on a variety of topics.

In one sense, science research within our solar system is as diverse as the number of objects we can observe, as each planet, moon, or small body represents a unique world to explore. SMA solar system science can be broadly broken down into two categories: (a) research dedicated toward understanding the properties of solid surfaces, and (b) research toward understanding the properties of atmospheres in its broadest application. The SMA is adept at both. On the following page is a listing of SMA projects that have been pursued in the past 5 years (with PI and year when observations were obtained).

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SMA Research