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By National Research Council, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications Commission on Physical Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Space Studies Board, Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics
Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, house experiences Board, Board on Physics and Astronomy, arithmetic, and purposes fee on actual Sciences, department on Engineering and actual Sciences, nationwide learn Council
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In addition to probing the coolest regions of the interstellar medium, mid- and far-infrared observations allow astronomers to study the reprocessing of starlight by dust grains and abundances of ionized nebulae from finestructure lines. Spectroscopic observations by the IUE and the HST have provided high-precision gas-phase elemental abundances for a range of interstellar environments, including gas in the local medium, the galactic disk, and distant halo clouds. These studies have yielded new information about the composition of interstellar dust, the origin of the galactic high-velocity clouds, and the processes that transport gas between the galactic disk and halo.
To discover such mechanisms will require high-spatial-resolution ultraviolet, optical, and infrared observations close to the surface of stars losing mass. Observations are also needed of circumstellar shells at a large distance from the star with millimeter and far-infrared interferometers and molecular emission lines. High-resolution optical and infrared imaging is necessary to determine the mass-loss history and the distribution of dust and molecules in planetary nebulae. Ultraviolet and x-ray spectroscopy is necessary to determine nebular abundances and correlated properties of the central star and winds.
Determining the connection between the Milky Way's disk and its gaseous halo. Highresolution ultraviolet absorption-line spectroscopy of stars and quasars is the relevant technique to employ. Observations are needed of faint background targets at moderate resolution (15 km/s) and of brighter stars within 1 to 2 kpc at high resolution (1 km/s). 2 nm in order to measure key absorption lines of heavy elements, H2, deuterium, O VI, C III, and S VI for a much wider variety of sources than will be possible with the Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE).