Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Physics (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Joshua Gundersen

Second Committee Member

Massimiliano Galeazzi

Third Committee Member

Kevin Huffenberger

Fourth Committee Member

Enzo Pascale


The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope (BLAST) is a 1.8 meter Cassegrain telescope that operates in three bands (250, 350, and 500 μm), each with 30% bandwidth. The detection system is comprised of 280 silicon-nitride micromesh bolometers distributed on three focal plane arrays with 30”, 42”, and 60” FWHM (full width at half max) beam sizes, respectively. BLAST's goal is to study the evolutionary history and processes associated with star formation. Earth's atmosphere is opaque to submillimeter radiation and astronomical observations in this wavelength are best conducted at high altitudes. BLAST is designed to be flown above 99.5% of the atmosphere on a stratospheric balloon. BLAST has made three scientific flights and this thesis covers the last two. The second flight was made in 2006 from McMurdo, Antarctica and studied the evolutionary history and processes associated with star formation. For the third flight, BLAST was reconfigured as a polarimeter (BLAST-Pol) and was also launched from McMurdo in December 2010. BLAST-Pol's objective is to determine what role, if any, magnetic fields play in star formation. This thesis will describe the BLAST-Pol instrument and provide a summery of key observations made by the 2006 flight.


BLAST; Star Formation; Cosmology; Cosmic Infrared Background; Submillimeter Telescope; Stratospheric Balloon