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  • 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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Updates BackgroundAbstract: "Athena, with a launch foreseen in 2028 towards the L2 orbit, addresses the science theme "The Hot and Energetic Universe", coupling a high-performance X-ray Telescope with two complementary focal-plane instruments. One of these, the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) is a TES based kilo-pixel array providing spatially resolved high-resolution spectroscopy (2.5 eV at 6 keV) over a 5 arcmin FoV. The background for this kind of detectors accounts for several components: the diffuse Cosmic X-ray Background, the low energy particles (<~100 keV) focalized by the mirrors and reaching the detector from inside the field of view, and the high energy particles (>~100 MeV) crossing the spacecraft and reaching the focal plane from every direction. Each one of these components is under study to reduce their impact on the instrumental performances. This task is particularly challenging, given the lack of data on the background of X-ray detectors in L2, the uncertainties on the particle environment to be expected in such orbit, and the reliability of the models used in the Monte Carlo background computations. As a consequence, the activities addressed by the group range from the reanalysis of the data of previous missions like XMM-Newton, to the characterization of the L2 environment by data analysis of the particle monitors onboard of satellites present in the Earth magnetotail, to the characterization of solar events and their occurrence, and to the validation of the physical models involved in the Monte Carlo simulations. All these activities will allow to develop a set of reliable simulations to predict, analyze and find effective solutions to reduce the particle background experienced by the X-IFU, ultimately satisfying the scientific requirement that enables the science of ATHENA. While the activities are still ongoing, we present here some preliminary results already obtained by the group."

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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, E-ELT, JWST, SKA, CTA, etc).