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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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ChasingTheObservationalAbstract: "Observing the light emitted by the first accreting black holes (BHs) would dramatically improve our understanding of the formation of quasars at z > 6, possibly unveiling the nature of their supermassive black hole (SMBH) seeds. In previous works we explored the relative role of the two main competing BH seed formation channels, Population III remnants (low-mass seeds) and direct collapse BHs (high-mass seeds), investigating the properties of their host galaxies in a cosmological context. Building on this analysis, we predict here the spectral energy distribution and observational features of low- and high-mass BH seeds selected among the progenitors of a z~6 SMBH. We derive the processed emission from both accreting BHs and stars by using the photo-ionization code Cloudy, accounting for the evolution of metallicity and dust-to-gas mass ratio in the interstellar medium of the host galaxies, as predicted by the cosmological data- constrained model GAMETE/QSOdust. We show how future missions like JWST and ATHENA will be able to detect the light coming from SMBH progenitors already at z~16. We build upon previous complementary studies and propose a method based on the combined analysis of near infrared (NIR) colors, IR excess (IRX) and UV continuum slopes (i.e. color-color and IRX-Beta diagrams) to distinguish growing seed BH host galaxies from starburst-dominated systems in JWST surveys. Sources selected through this criterion would be the best target for follow-up X-ray observations."

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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).