The Athena X-ray Observatory: Community Support Portal

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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.

Calibration plan of the Athena telescope meeting at SRON



Nearly every six months, a team of world-class experts, is regularly meeting to discuss the calibration plan of the Athena telescope. As almost any aspect of this ESA mission, it is a challenging and unprecedented undertaking to build a mirror of ~3m diameter, with ~1100 individual modules.

The last meeting was held at SRON on May 31-June 1 2017, gathering 15 scientists from Europe, US, and Japan. The meeting aimed at: a) discussing the impact of different telescope calibration schemes (full versus partial illumination) on the calibration accuracy; b) consolidating the requirements for a long-beam facility and for the associated detector; c) discussing and define the telescope calibration timeline; d) consolidating the estimate of the required calibration resources, and identifying possible avenues through which additional resources could be pooled from the science community to cover the aforementioned activities.

Athena Ground Segment Meeting

Corchera GroundSegment


A meeting was held on May 23rd-24th at ESAC (Madrid) to discuss various issues related to the Athena ground segment. This meeting has involved representatives from the ESA science program, the ESA Mission Operation Center and Science Operation Center, from NASA and JAXA, as well from the X-IFU and WFI Instrument Science Centers. Special emphasis has been put on optimizing the resources available within ESA, the international partners and the payload consortia.


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