The most efficient path to new discoveries in astronomy lies in using new technologies to view the sky in profoundly different ways. The TolTEC project does just that. Our goal is to revolutionize millimeter wavelength astronomy by producing a camera that can image huge areas of the sky and trace out the formation of structures ranging from the sizes of comets to the largest objects in the Universe. TolTEC uses a new kind of detector, called KIDS, produced by our teammates at NIST. The real power of the camera will come when it is coupled to the 50m diameter Large Millimeter Telescope. TolTEC combined with the LMT opens a new way of looking at the Universe.
The scientific case for a camera like TolTEC (that is, a camera with a high mapping speed and astounding sensitivity) was highlighted in the 2010 Astronomy Decadal Survey. TolTEC will address a wide range of scientific questions concerning: (1) cosmology and cluster physics, (2) galaxy evolution and the history of star formation in the Universe; (3) relationships between giant molecular clouds and star formation in nearby galaxies; (4) the structure of galactic molecular clouds and its relationship to star formation in the Milky Way; and (5) studies of small bodies in our own solar system. Working in collaboration with the ALMA telescope, TolTEC will provide the environmental context for the formation of astronomical objects over a vast array of spatial scales.
The TolTEC project is funded by the National Science Foundation.