Astro 2020: Astromineralogy of interstellar dust with X-ray spectroscopy

Kavli Affiliate: Norbert Schulz

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| Summary:

X-ray absorption fine structure (XAFS) in the 0.2-2 keV band is a crucial
component in multi-wavelength studies of dust mineralogy, size, and shape —
parameters that are necessary for interpreting astronomical observations and
building physical models across all fields, from cosmology to exoplanets.
Despite its importance, many fundamental questions about dust remain open. What
is the origin of the dust that suffuses the interstellar medium (ISM)? Where is
the missing interstellar oxygen? How does iron, predominantly produced by Type
Ia supernovae, become incorporated into dust? What is the main form of carbon
in the ISM, and how does it differ from carbon in stellar winds? The next
generation of X-ray observatories, employing microcalorimeter technology and $R
equiv lambda/Delta lambda geq 3000$ gratings, will provide pivotal
insights for these questions by measuring XAFS in absorption and scattering.
However, lab measurements of mineralogical candidates for astrophysical dust,
with R > 1000, are needed to fully take advantage of the coming observations.

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