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A team led by University of Arizona astronomer Christopher Walker was chosen by NASA to launch a balloon-borne observatory to study interstellar gas and vapors in the Milky Way galaxy and beyond.
Walker, a professor of astronomy with joint appointments in electrical and computer engineering and optical sciences, is principal investigator of the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, or GUSTO, mission. Other collaborating institutions include NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.
"GUSTO will provide the first complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle, from the formation of molecular clouds, through star birth and evolution, to the formation of gas clouds and the re-initiation of the cycle," said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.
The mission is scheduled to launch in December 2021 from Antarctica, and is expected to stay airborne between up to 170 days.
Photo: Chris Walker (left) and his STO team on launch day. The balloon can be seen on the left, with the STO payload hanging from a crane truck on the right. (Credit: NASA/NSF)