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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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F. Mernier et alFour decades ago, the firm detection of an Fe-K emission feature in the X-ray spectrum of the Perseus cluster revealed the presence of iron in its hot intracluster medium (ICM). With more advanced missions successfully launched over the last 20 years, this discovery has been extended to many other metals and to the hot atmospheres of many other galaxy clusters, groups, and giant elliptical galaxies, as evidence that the elemental bricks of life - synthesized by stars and supernovae - are also found at the largest scales of the Universe. Because the ICM, emitting in X-rays, is in collisional ionisation equilibrium, its elemental abundances can in principle be accurately measured. These abundance measurements, in turn, are valuable to constrain the physics and environmental conditions of the Type Ia and core-collapse supernovae that exploded and enriched the ICM over the entire cluster volume. On the other hand, the spatial distribution of metals across the ICM constitutes a remarkable signature of the chemical history and evolution of clusters, groups, and ellipticals. Here, we summarise the most significant achievements in measuring elemental abundances in the ICM, from the very first attempts up to the era of XMM-Newton, Chandra, and Suzaku and the unprecedented results obtained by Hitomi. We also discuss the current systematic limitations of these measurements and how the future missions XRISM and Athena will further improve our current knowledge of the ICM enrichment.

Read full document.

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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 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 early 2030s.

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 early 2030s (like ALMA, ELT, JWST, SKA, CTA, etc).