Covering wavelengths between 1 micron and 1 millimeter, the IR region of the electromagnetic spectrum contains a wealth of astronomical information. That range covers the radiation from dust, protostellar regions, planets, and the cosmic microwave background (CMB), as well as the vibrational and rotational spectra of molecules and solids. Such sources can radiate at many different IR wavelengths.

Astronomical IR measurements provide a powerful way to extend our understanding of fundamental astrophysical problems. Broad spectral-band IR instruments measure the dominant mechanisms for radiant energy transfer in the universe and provide insights into the formation and structure of planets, stars, galaxies, and galactic clusters. They also measure the geometry, structure, and content of the early universe. In addition, narrowband spectroscopic observations provide information about the composition, density, temperature, and velocity of many sources that emit in the IR.

Ground-based observations and major space missions are currently producing vast amounts of data...

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