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The Athena X-ray Observatory: Community Support Portal

  • Athena: revealing the Hot and Energetic Universe

    Athena: revealing the Hot and Energetic Universe

  • Where are the hot baryons and how do they evolve?

  • Reveal the causes and effects of cosmic feedback

  • Track obscured accretion through the epoch of galaxy formation

  • Understand the physics of accretion onto compact objects

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IamYourFather

The direct predecessor of the Athena observatory within the European Space Agency's (ESA) science programme is the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, the second cornerstone of ESA's Horizon 2000 programme.

XMM-Newton was launched from Kourou (French Guyana) on December 10, 1999 on an Ariane 5 rocket and it is still going strong and producing first-rate science, as evidenced by the over 5000 refereed publications based on its data, at the time of writing. As such, XMM-Newton is the most successful of ESA's science missions, and already one of the longest-lived one (the record is on IUE's with more than 18 years in space). This is a strong testimony to the skill and dedication of the many hundreds of European and international partners that have and are still contributing to its design, building and operation, and to the interest of the many thousands of researches from all over the world that use its data regularly.

Together with NASA's Chandra, it has contributed to make X-ray astronomical observations commonplace, just one more of the many powerful tools currently available to investigate and unravel the mysteries of the Universe.

This dynamic heritage will be carried over to Athena, the second large mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-25 plan, to be launched in 2028. We wish our precursor many happy more years of discoveries. Happy anniversary Dad!

 

 

 

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Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics

 

Athena (Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics) is the X-ray observatory mission selected by ESA, within its Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme, to address the Hot and Energetic Universe scientific theme. It is the second L(large)-class mission within that programme and is due for launch in 2028.

Athena will study how hot baryons assemble into groups and clusters of galaxies, determine their chemical enrichment across cosmic time, measure their mechanical energy and characterise the missing baryons which are expected to reside in intergalactic filamentary structures. At the same time, it will study the physics of accretion into compact objects, find the earliest accreting supermassive black holes and trace their growth even when in very obscured environment, and show how they influence the evolution of galaxies and clusters through feedback processes. Athena will also have a fast target of opportunity observational capability, enabling studies and usage of GRBs and other transient phenomena. As an observatory, Athena will offer vital information on high-energy phenomena on all classes of astrophysical objects, from solar system bodies to the most distant objects known. See Science chapter for more details.

Athena will consist of a single large-aperture grazing-incidence X-ray telescope, utilizing a novel technology (High-performance Si pore optics) developed in Europe, with 12m focal length and 5 arcsec HEW on-axis angular resolution. The focal plane contains two instruments. One is the Wide Field Imager (WFI) providing sensitive wide field imaging and spectroscopy and high count-rate capability. The other one is the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) delivering spatially resolved high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy over a limited field of view. See Mission chapter for more details.

With its unparalleled capabilities, Athena will be a truly transformational observatory, operating in conjunction with other large observatories across the electromagnetic spectrum available in the late 2020s (like ALMA, ELT, JWST, SKA, CTA, etc).