The Polstar High Resolution Spectropolarimetry MIDEX Mission

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Conference Proceeding

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The Polstar mission will provide for a space-borne 60cm telescope operating at UV wavelengths with spectropolarimetric capability capturing all four Stokes parameters (intensity, two linear polarization components, and circular polarization). Polstar’s capabilities are designed to meet its goal of determining how circumstellar gas flows alter massive stars' evolution, and finding the consequences for the stellar remnant population and the stirring and enrichment of the interstellar medium, by addressing four key science objectives. In addition, Polstar will determine drivers for the alignment of the smallest interstellar grains, and probe the dust, magnetic fields, and environments in the hot diffuse interstellar medium, including for the first time a direct measurement of the polarized and energized properties of intergalactic dust. Polstar will also characterize processes that lead to the assembly of exoplanetary systems and that affect exoplanetary atmospheres and habitability. Science driven design requirements include: access to ultraviolet bands: where hot massive stars are brightest and circumstellar opacity is highest; high spectral resolution: accessing diagnostics of circumstellar gas flows and stellar composition in the far-UV at 122-200nm, including the NV, SiIV, and CIV resonance doublets and other transitions such as NIV, AlIII, HeII, and CIII; polarimetry: accessing diagnostics of circumstellar magnetic field shape and strength when combined with high FUV spectral resolution and diagnostics of stellar rotation and distribution of circumstellar gas when combined with low near-UV spectral resolution; sufficient signal-to-noise ratios: ~103 for spectropolarimetric precisions of 0.1% per exposure; ~102 for detailed spectroscopic studies; ~10 for exploring dimmer sources; and cadence: ranging from 1-10 minutes for most wind variability studies, to hours for sampling rotational phase, to days or weeks for sampling orbital phase. The ISM and exoplanet science program will be enabled by these capabilities driven by the massive star science.