Glossary term: Submillimeter Astronomy

Description: Submillimeter astronomy is the study of the sky in far infrared light with wavelengths between one hundred micrometers and one millimeter.

Submillimeter astronomy is sensitive to some of the coldest regions of space and can be used to study regions with the heaviest extinction. It is particularly useful for studying dusty star-forming regions and planet-forming disks around young stars. On larger scales, it can be used to study the contribution of dust to the overall emission of galaxies.

Many of the astronomical techniques for submillimeter astronomy are shared with radio astronomy, and many submillimeter observatories use arrays of telescopes that are connected so as to achieve a level of detail that would otherwise only be available to a much larger telescope dish. There are, however, single dish observatories as well. Submillimeter observatories are typically located in very dry places, in order to reduce atmospheric absorption from water vapor that would otherwise block the submillimeter radiation reaching us from outer space. Commonly, these locations are at high altitudes, such as Mauna Kea on Hawaii, the Chajnantor plateau in Chile, or at Hanle in the Indian part of the Himalaya mountain range, but there are also submillimeter telescopes in Antarctica. In addition, there have been several submillimeter balloon experiments.

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