Science Drivers

The FRIDA Project

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Sky coverage with natural or laser guide star

Other NIR instrument

IAC programs on high spatial resolution techniques and atmospheric optics


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FRIDA's scientific case is broad: it ranges from solar system bodies to high redshift systems, including pre-stellar cores, circumstelar phenomena in advanced stages of stellar evolution, the insterestellar medium in the centre of galaxies, thermal vs non thermal emission at high redshift A number of scientific challenges for FRIDA are identified here:

High redshift at kpc scale with FRIDA

FRIDA and the nearest Universe

FRIDA in the Milky-Way - sub-parsec scale


High redshift at kpc scales with FRIDA

- The panoramic view:
 FRIDA => Diffraction limit imaging in JHK on 40” x 40“ FoV

- The microscopic view:
 FRIDA => 2D spec with <100 mas resolution and a suite of spectral resolutions

R= 75 km/s 

=> galaxy dynamics

=> Mass

R~ 200 km/s (JHK at once) 

=> Gas diagnosis

=> galaxy classification

The challenge for AO-assisted instrumentation at high redshift is to get targets with a bright star next to it. The figure below shows examples of  B-dropouts, from the HUDF, corresponding to  the redshift range 3.5 < z < 4.7 (Beckwith et al. 2006, AJ 132) . Object sizes are typically less than 0.5 arcsec and thus FRIDA spatial scales are ideal for their detailed spectroscopic study. Unfortunatly, these objects are difficult to observe with AO instruments due to the lack of a relatively bright star  next to it. Thus, we call the attention of the GTC community on the planning of current or future  surveys, we  encourage survey teams looking for possibilities to explore fields with a relatively bright star, V< 16, in it so that  potential targets for follow up 2D spectroscopy with FRIDA become possible.

Each image is 1.9 x 1.9 arcsec^2 (13 x 13 kpc at z ~ 4). The FoV of FRIDA at its highest angular resolution mode is about half of that. The sizes of these objects are typically < 0.5 arcsec, thus FRIDA spatial scales are ideal for the detailed spectroscopic study.

FRIDA and the nearest Universe

- The panoramic view:
 FRIDA => Diffraction limit imaging in JHK on 40” x 40“ FoV

- The microscopic view:
 FRIDA => 2D spec with 40-100 mas resolution and spectral resolution R= 75 km/s

FRIDA spatial resolutions allow us to study galaxies in the near Universe with unprecedented detail:

FWHM ~ 100 mas =>

~ 150 pc @  z=0.05

FWHM ~ 100 mas =>

~ 13 pc @ Virgo

=> galaxies across the Hubble sequence

FWHM ~  45 mas =>

~  0.7 pc @  M82

=> the nearest starburst

FWHM ~  45 mas =>

~  0.2 pc @  M31

=> the nearest spiral

As an example, the figure below show adaptive optics VLT images, in the 1 to 2.5 um range, of the central parsecs of some of the nearest galaxies in Southern Hemisphere. These galaxies are part of a international observational program, PARSEC, with VLT and Keck aimed at uncovering the central few parsecs of the brightest and closest galaxies in the local Universe.

The panels show VLT NACO images of the central parsecs of nearby galaxies. The spatial resolution is ~ FWHM < 0.1 arcsec. The galaxy nucleus is resolved in two cases: Circinus, ~ 2 pc size at 2 µm (Prieto et al. 2004), and  NGC 1068, ~2 x1 pc at 10 µm and at 2 µm (Jaffe et al. 2004, Weigelt et al. 2004)


Even closer: resolving stars in Andromeda

Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy to Earth, will be seen with FRIDA down to scales of 1/6 of pc at 2 µm. At these esolutions, it shall be possible to resolve stars down to the tip of the RGB and AGB stars, which in Andromeda are brigther than K<18 mag. Moreover, RGB stars span a wide range of ages, 106 to 109 yr, their detection across Andromeda shall make them suitable candles for:

=> tracing the different stellar population in the halo, disk, bulge, arms,  from which ages could be estimated and thus, clues on Andromeda history formation be derived.

=> tracing chemical enrichment across the galaxy.

=> kinematics of individual RGB stars => accurate determination of galaxy potential.


Spitzer view of Andromeda reveals a spiral network of dust filaments at 24 micron in the disk. FRIDA will be able to see through this dust to explore the dynamic of multutud of proto star clusters forming behind this dust. FRIDA will attain a resolution 25 times superior than Spitzer, 1.6 superior than JWST. It will resolve Androemda at 1/10 of parsec in J-band, at 1/6 of parsec in K-band.

The figure shows a synthetic color-magnitude diagram (CMD) generated for a stellar population located at M31's distance (Marin-Franch, 2007). It can be seen that the tip of the RGB is brighter then K=18.


FRIDA in the Milky Way - sub parsec

- The panoramic view:
FRIDA => Diffraction limit imaging in JHK on 40” x 40“ FoV

- The microscopic view:

FRIDA => 2D spec with 45 mas resolution and spectral resolution down to R= 10 km /s

FRIDA  will allow us both, parsec-scale  studies of  a large number of galactic sources  (HII regions, HH objects, binaries, planetary nebulae, stellar disks …) but also accurate spectral diagnosis of many of these sources (stellar atmospheres, metalicities, ages) thanks to its very high  spectral resolution. The figure below illustrates the  case of ultra compact HII regions. These are very dusty regions where massive stars come to light. The new born stars  are embedded in their parental cloud and therefore the mechanisms by which star formation sparks can only be explored in the IR.

Left panel is an optical view of the compact HII region G61.48+0.09, the right panel shows the same region in the IR with the AO system ALPHA at the Calar Alto observatory. The IR -AO uncovers many hidden stars, among which the brightest, K=9 mag star, is thought to be the lionizing source of the HII region (Puga et al. 2004). FRIDA will provide similar images but with the add-on of a very  accurate spectral characterization of the sources with resolution of 10 km/s.


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