Here we discuss advances in UV technology over the last decade, with an emphasis on photon counting, low noise, high eﬃciency detectors in sub-orbital programs. We focus on the use of innovative UV detectors in a NASA astrophysics balloon telescope, FIREBall-2, which successfully ﬂew in the Fall of 2018. The FIREBall-2 telescope is designed to make observations of distant galaxies to understand more about how they evolve by looking for diﬀuse hydrogen in the galactic halo. The payload utilizes a 1.0-meter class telescope with an ultraviolet multi-object spectrograph and is a joint collaboration between Caltech, JPL, LAM, CNES, Columbia, the University of Arizona, and NASA. The improved detector technology that was tested on FIREBall-2 can be applied to any UV mission. We discuss the results of the ﬂight and detector performance. We will also discuss the utility of sub-orbital platforms (both balloon payloads and rockets) for testing new technologies and proof-of-concept scientiﬁc ideas.
The circumgalactic medium (CGM) plays a critical role in the evolution of galaxy discs, as it hosts important mechanisms regulating their replenishment through inflows and outflows. Besides absorption spectroscopy, mapping of the HI Lyα emission of z>2 CGM is bringing a new perspective with a complete 2- or 3-D mapping. Despite this benefit, data in emission are very scarce in the large time span from z∼2 to the present because of the difficulties inherent to vacuum UV observations. The FIREBall-2 (Faint Intergalactic Redshifted Emission Balloon) instrument has been developed to help fill this gap and is scheduled for launch in September 2018. It has been optimized to provide a bi-dimensional (x, λ) map of the extremely faint diffuse Ly-a HI emission in the CGM at z∼0.7 and has the capability to observe ~200 galaxies and a dozen QSOs in a single night flight. Given its wide field of view (FOV) of 20x40 arcmin2, its angular resolution of 6-10 arcsec and spectral resolution above 1000, FIREBall-2 will bring important insights about the gas distribution in the CGM, and the velocity/temperature fields, and has the potential to bring statistical constraints. The instrument is a balloon-borne 1m telescope coupled to a UV multi-object spectrograph (MOS) designed to image the CGM in emission via specific spectral lines (Lya, CIV, OVI) redshifted in a narrow UV band [1990 - 2130]A for the nearby universe (0.2< z <1). The optical design relies on a 1.2-meter moving siderostat that stabilizes the beam and reflects the light on a fixed paraboloid which in turn images it at the entrance of the payload. This payload is constituted of a focal corrector followed by a slit Multi-Object Spectrograph (reflective 2400 g/mm holographic aspherical grating located between two Schmidt mirrors). The objects selection is achieved with a series of pre-installed precision mask systems that also feed the fine guidance camera. The detector is a e2v electron multiplying CCD coated and delta-doped by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. FIREBall-2 is funded by CNES and NASA and is developed in cooperation with a Franco-American consortium composed of LAM, CALTECH, Columbia University, JPL and CST-CNES. In this presentation, we describe the final ground calibration of the instrument. We explain what technical specifications ensue from the scientific goals of the mission and we will then highlight why this optical design has been chosen. The calibration of the instrument (alignment - through focus - distortion) will be presented followed by the analysis of the instrument scientific performances. We will then describe the improvement and the calibration of the ZEMAX-coupled instrument model developed at LAM, based on these final performances. This model is finally used to make an end-to-end prediction of the observations of the emission of the CGM from a large halo in a cosmological simulation.