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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The seventh X-IFU consortium meeting: presenting the consolidated baseline of the X-IFU

XIFU 2018 

The seventh X-IFU consortium meeting was held at the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory (ApC) in Paris from March 19th to 24th.

The meeting was attended by about 140 engineers and scientists.

In this meeting, the CNES project team presented the consolidated baseline of the instrument.

A summary of the meeting, written by Didier Barret can be read at the X-IFU web portal.

Summary of the Science Working Group 1 meeting, by Stefano Ettori (chair of TP1.2)

170119SWG1 Workshop

Chairs of the topical panels of the Athena Science Working Group 1 (SWG1) on the “Hot Universe” (see Athena Working Group structure) met with about 30 invited Topical Panel members for a joint workshop at the Sexten Center for Astrophysics (Sesto Pusteria, Italy) from January 8th to 12th titled “Preparing the science of galaxy clusters & WHIM with Athena”.

The meeting started with a session dedicated to the description of the present status of the Athena mission with talks from: the ESA Study Scientist Matteo Guainazzi, from representatives of the Instrument Consortia Didier Barret and Arne Rau and from one of the SWG1 chairs Thomas Reiprich.

Sessions dedicated to each of the 4 Topical Panels, and organized from Topical Panel (TP) chairs, have introduced and discussed the science goals and the ongoing activities to support and to strength the relative science and instrumental requirements. How hydrodynamical simulations can support, and benefit from, Athena observations of the intracluster and warm-hot intergalactic media has been covered in a focused session. The last 1.5 days have been reserved for a joint discussion, that produced a list of actions and suggestions that TP chairs, with the help of their community, will implement in the next few months.

Overall, the quality of the presentations and of the level of discussion has been very appreciated from the participants, making the workshop very useful, productive and even enjoyable, thanks to the very helpful local support from the secretaries of the Sexten-CfA (led by Gabriella Deconi) and its beautiful location in the middle of the Dolomitic Alps.

Summary of the sixth WFI Consortium meeting by Arne Rau (Project Scientist of WFI)

WFI Meeting 2017The 6th Meeting of the Wide Field Imager Consortium (WFI) was held from October 10th to 12th in the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center (CAMK) Warsaw, Poland. More than 70 consortium members attended to discuss the status of the instrument development, scientific activities, and plans for future work. The meeting started with a series of splinter sessions, dedicated to specific WFI subsystems such as the filters and filter wheel assembly and the detector electronics and instrument control electronics. In addition, the WFI Science Team assembled to review the latest updates to the science requirements and the ongoing science assessment activities. The Background Working Group discussed progress on the reduction and understanding of the instrumental background.

The plenary session started later the same day with a mission status report by WFI PI and ASST Lead Scientist Kirpal Nandra followed by an Athena study status overview given by ESA’s Alexander Stefanescu. Over the course of next two days, the instrument subsystems were discussed in detail. Highlights include the development of the DEPFET sensors, which is making excellent progress with the successful test of prototype detectors. The production of the proto-flight sensors has started. First vibration test of the supporting mesh for the large optical/UV light-blocking filters were also successful and the next tests with flight-like filters are in preparation. All other subsystems, e.g., electronics, filter wheel, thermal, and mechanical are progressing well. Francoise Pajot kindly provided a report on the X-IFU status.

The plenary session also included an update on the end-to-end simulator by the SIXTE team as well as presentations on the astrophysics with the WFI, in particular, the multi-tiered survey and the potential for the WFI Fast Detector to constrain the accretion geometry near the event horizon of stellar mass black holes.

We are most grateful to the hosts of the meeting Agata Rozanska and Piotr Zycki of CAMK for the excellent organization of the meeting and their hospitality, including a memorable conference dinner in historical old-town Warsaw. The pork knuckles and beer were impressive, even by Bavarian standards!

The next consortium meeting will be held at MPE in Garching in April 2018.

Summary of the sixth X-IFU consortium meeting by Didier Barret (PI of the instrument)

XIFU CM6The sixth X-IFU consortium meeting took place from September 11th to 15th in Madrid at CSIC headquarters. It was hosted by Miguel Mas Hesse (CAB-INTA) and his team, during a very sunny, hot and beautiful week in Madrid. More than 120 X-IFU team members participated in the 18 splinters and the 1.5 days of the plenary sessions. The splinter meetings covered several technical items (sub-systems of the instrument, e.g. the instrument control unit, the TES and readout chain, the power distribution unit, the dewar door), performance items (e.g. system, instrumental background, end-to-end simulator), science and calibration activities, as well as management.

The plenary sessions started from a report on the Cost Driven Reprogramming Exercise, followed by a presentation by ESA on the status of the Athena project. Then, a series of CNES presentations gave a broad view of the study status at instrument and system levels, detailing the current baseline design of the instrument which is in several aspects reaching a high level of maturity. Each sub-system manager then presented a status on the study activities, demonstrating again the breadth of the activities throughout the consortium. The second day of the plenary sessions started by a presentation by Luigi Piro (IAPS) on the transient Universe as will be probed by Athena, a presentation by Matteo Guainazzi (ESA study scientist) on the science requirements, and a status report on WFI by Arne Rau (MPE). Several presentations related to the instrument performance followed. Overall, the quality and depth of the different presentations demonstrated not only the skills of the team, but also its motivation and dedication to meeting the very ambitious and demanding performance of the instrument. The X-IFU Consortium meeting #7 will be in Paris (ApC) in March 2018 and will also be spread over a week.

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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).