PILOT: a balloon-borne experiment to measure the polarized FIR emission of dust grains in the interstellar medium
Future cosmology space missions will concentrate on measuring the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, which potentially carries invaluable information about the earliest phases of the evolution of our universe. Such ambitious projects will ultimately be limited by the sensitivity of the instrument and by the accuracy at which polarized foreground emission from our own Galaxy can be subtracted out. We present the PILOT balloon project, which aims at characterizing one of these foreground sources, the polarized continuum emission by dust in the diffuse interstellar medium. The PILOT experiment also constitutes a test-bed for using multiplexed bolometer arrays for polarization measurements. This paper presents the instrument and its expected performances. Performance measured during ground calibrations of the instrument and in flight will be described in a forthcoming paper.