Context. Bolometric interferometry is a promising new technology with potential applications to the detection of B-mode polarization fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). A bolometric interferometer will have to take advantage of the wide spectral detection band of its bolometers to be competitive with imaging experiments. A crucial concern is that interferometers are assumed to be significantly affected by a spoiling effect known as bandwidth smearing.

Aims. We investigate how the bandwidth modifies the work principle of a bolometric interferometer and affects its sensitivity to the CMB angular power spectra.

Methods. We obtain analytical expressions for the broadband visibilities measured by broadband heterodyne and bolometric interferometers. We investigate how the visibilities must be reconstructed in a broadband bolometric interferometer and show that this critically depends on hardware properties of the modulation phase shifters. If the phase shifters produce shifts that are constant with respect to frequency, the instrument works like its monochromatic version (the modulation matrix is not modified), while if they vary (linearly or otherwise) with respect to frequency, one has to perform a special reconstruction scheme, which allows the visibilities to be reconstructed in frequency subbands. Using an angular power spectrum estimator that accounts for the bandwidth, we finally calculate the sensitivity of a broadband bolometric interferometer. A numerical simulation is performed that confirms the analytical results.

Results. We conclude that (i) broadband bolometric interferometers allow broadband visibilities to be reconstructed regardless of the type of phase shifters used and (ii) for dedicated B-mode bolometric interferometers, the sensitivity loss caused by bandwidth smearing is quite acceptable, even for wideband instruments (a factor of 2 loss for a typical 20% bandwidth experiment).

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Copyright © 2010 EDP Sciences. This article first appeared in Astronomy and Astrophysics 514 (May 7, 2010): A37. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/200913446.

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