Drs. John H Bieging and Craig A Kulesa of the University of Arizona will conduct a comprehensive observational study of selected molecular clouds in our Galaxy, with a major part of the work being done with the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope on Mt. Graham, Arizona. The project will map the emission from clouds in three spectral lines of carbon monoxide (CO), which is by far the best tracer of molecular gas in interstellar space. These CO lines include the J=2-1 transitions of the 12C16O ("CO") and 13C16O ("13CO") isotopic forms, and the J=3-2 transition of 12C16O. Each spectral line will be mapped at the full angular resolution afforded by the telescope (32 arcseconds and 21 arcseconds, for the J=2-1 and 3-2 lines respectively), and with velocity resolutions as fine as 0.33 km/s for the J=2-1 and 0.87 km/s for the J=3-2 maps. The fields to be mapped will include approximately 12 square degrees in 5 nearby Giant Molecular Clouds and in 10 small isolated clouds (Bok globules and similar objects). These targets include some of the best examples for understanding the detailed physics of molecular cloud formation, core formation, and cloud destruction processes which are intimately tied to the formation of stars and planetary systems.
This project will have a broad positive impact on the conduct of research by providing a "finding chart" for current and future interferometer arrays with very high angular resolution but limited fields of view. It will be a critical complement to the mid- and far-infrared census of dust and gas now emerging from the Spitzer Legacy and other programs. The rapid and wide dissemination of the data will benefit the whole community of researchers working on the interstellar medium and star formation. The inclusion of graduate and undergraduate students as integral members of the project will strengthen the role of the University of Arizona as an educator of the next generation of scientists.