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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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Investing the interstellar Abstract: "The chemical and physical properties of interstellar dust in the densest regions of the Galaxy are still not well understood. X-rays provide a powerful probe since they can penetrate gas and dust over a wide range of column densities (up to 1024 cm−2). The interaction (scattering and absorption) with the medium imprints spectral signatures that reflect the individual atoms which constitute the gas, molecule, or solid. In this work we investigate the ability of high resolution X-ray spectroscopy to probe the properties of cosmic grains containing iron. Although iron is heavily depleted into interstellar dust, the nature of the Fe-bearing grains is still largely uncertain. In our analysis we use iron K-edge synchrotron data of minerals likely present in the ISM dust taken at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. We explore the prospects of determining the chemical composition and the size of astrophysical dust in the Galactic centre and in molecular clouds with future X-ray missions. The energy resolution and the effective area of the present X-ray telescopes are not sufficient to detect and study the Fe K-edge, even for bright X-ray sources. From the analysis of the extinction cross sections of our dust models implemented in the spectral fitting program SPEX, the Fe K-edge is promising for investigating both the chemistry and the size distribution of the interstellar dust. We find that the chemical composition regulates the X-ray absorption fine structures in the post edge region, whereas the scattering feature in the pre-edge is sensitive to the mean grain size. Finally, we note that the Fe K-edge is insensitive to other dust properties, such as the porosity and the geometry of the dust."

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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).