A team of Canadian astronomers will participate in the most sensitive search for water ever undertaken thanks to a new instrument that will be funded, in part, by the Canadian Space Agency. The details are being presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society held at Université de Montréal in Montréal (QC).

HIFI, the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared, will be one of three instruments on the Herschel Space Observatory that will be launched by the European Space Agency in 2007. The Canadian team contribution to HIFI is the Local Oscillator Source Unit, a very efficient low-noise stable frequency standard. This Unit is the essential "heart" of the extremely sensitive HIFI instrument.

Searching for water in the Universe is particularly exciting because water is the basis of life as we know it. Projects to be undertaken with the new instrument include a search for water in extremely young solar systems, in dense interstellar clouds where stars are just beginning to form, and in other galaxies. HIFI will also be used to study many other simple molecules in the first detailed astrochemistry mission in space.

The Canadian HIFI team is led by Professor Michel Fich of the University of Waterloo Department of Physics. Over thirty Canadian astronomers, from institutions across the country, are on the HIFI team.

For more information contact:

Professor Michel Fich
Department of Physics
University of Waterloo
Phone: 519-888-4567 x2725

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