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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EWASS17 S15aOn 26-27 June 2017, the symposium “Scientific Synergies enabled by the SKA, CTA and Athena” was held during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) celebrated in Prague. The aim of this symposium was to discuss the scientific synergies among these three major astronomical facilities as well as with other world-class telescopes.

The symposium was divided into six different blocks, being the first two ones the most relevant for Athena. The first talk was a revision of the status of the Athena project and its science objectives by Matteo Guainazzi (Athena Study Scientist), which can be found in the Presentations section of this web portal. After it, Paolo Padovani presented a summary of the identified synergies collected in the Athena-ESO Synergy White Paper. Vincenzo Mainieri focused on the synergies between ESO multi-object spectrographs and Athena.

The second block mainly dealt with the scientific synergies between SKA and Athena with a general presentation by Rossella Cassano (chair of the SKA-Athena Synergy Team (SAST)) on the already identified synergies by the SAST. Several main science objectives of Athena were covered in this block such as accretion and ejection in AGN, cluster astrophysics, progenitor scenario of thermonuclear runaway SNe and the hidden population of GRBs.

In summary, and in words of Andrea Possenti (one of the scientific organisers), “the meeting was a great success, both in term of attendance and as far as the scientific outcomes. Various speakers highlighted the possibility of Athena, CTA and SKA to maximise their scientific return when acting in a synergetic way. Moreover, some new capabilities were presented, for instance in the studies of the supernova and the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect. All of that is extremely promising for the astrophysics of next decade!”

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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).