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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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Unseen Progenitors of Luminous High zAbstract: "Quasars at high redshift provide direct information on the mass growth of supermassive black holes and, in turn, yield important clues about how the Universe evolved since the first (Pop III) stars started forming. Yet even basic questions regarding the seeds of these objects and their growth mechanism remain unanswered. The anticipated launch of eROSITA and Athena is expected to facilitate observations of high-redshift quasars needed to resolve these issues. In this paper, we compare accretion-based supermassive black hole growth in the concordance ΛCDM model with that in the alternative Friedmann-Robertson Walker cosmology known as the Rh = ct universe. Previous work has shown that the timeline predicted by the latter can account for the origin and growth of the 10≳ 9 M highest redshift quasars better than that of the standard model. Here, we significantly advance this comparison by determining the soft X-ray flux that would be observed for Eddington limited accretion growth as a function of redshift in both cosmologies. Our results indicate that a clear difference emerges between the two in terms of the number of detectable quasars at redshift z ≳ 7, raising the expectation that the next decade will provide the observational data needed to discriminate between these two models based on the number of detected high-redshift quasar progenitors. For example, while the upcoming Athena mission is expected to detect ∼ 0.16 (i.e., essentially zero) quasars at z ∼ 7 in Rh = ct, it should detect ∼ 160 in ΛCDM—a quantitatively compelling difference."

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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).