The Athena X-ray Observatory: Community Support Portal

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Athena at the XIII Scientific Meeting of the Spanish Astronomical Society

SEA Talks 18The Spanish Astronomical Society held its XIII Scientific Meeting in the beautiful historical Spanish city of Salamanca on 16-20 July 2018, as one of the activities related to the VIII Centenary of the Universidad de Salamanca.


There was a plenary session dedicated to “Athena and synergies” on the afternoon of 17 July: it started with a talk by Francisco J. Carrera (IFCA, Spain) on “Athena and Spanish (and Portuguese) participation” in which the revolutionary capabilities of the mission were shown, as well as its main scientific objectives, ending with a summary of Spanish (and Portuguese) participation in Athena. In this context, María Díaz Trigo (ESO), Marc Ribó (U. Barcelona, Spain) and Miguel Pérez Torres (IAA, Spain) gave talks on synergies between Athena and ESO, Cerenkov Telescope Array (CTA) and Square Kilometer Array (SKA), respectively, showing how the combined capabilities of Athena and those facilities will be transformational in many fields, ranging from active galactic nuclei to clusters of galaxies and from active stars to exoplanets.


Complementarily, Maite Ceballos (IFCA, Spain) explained some of the outreach activities of the Athena Community Office in a talk on the morning of the same day entitled “From school to space: experience of astronomical outreach at IFCA”.

The emerging field of multi-messenger transient science and its impact on Athena


On Thursday June 28 and Friday June 29, there was a meeting at Radboud University  in the Dutch city of Nijmegen to discuss the potential impact of the emerging field of multi-messenger transient science on Athena. With multi-messenger (MM), we mean here information about cosmic events other than through photons. One should for instance think about gravitational waves, neutrinos and cosmic rays. Many of the multi-messenger signals likely originate from the same astrophysical objects that Athena is studying. Accreting and/or merging black holes of various sizes and masses come to mind. Of course accreting, merging and high magnetic field neutron stars are additional important MM and Athena sources. One of the aspects to consider is the total number of Target of Opportunity observations that Athena is planning to execute. Fortunately, for realistic numbers the expected increase in the number of ToO observations due to the potential follow-up of transient MM events does not drive neither the hardware nor consumables of Athena, but there may be an effect on the mission planning and efficiency. These effects have to be balanced with the new science allowed by these observations and the potential new ways that the existing Athena science goals can be achieved through these observations.

A second aspect that was discussed concerns the possibility to have a system on board at the WFI that allows for an autonomous search for fast X-ray transients through the incoming data. Their existence and rough localisation should then be relayed to Earth. There, follow-up observations in other wavebands can then be quickly initiated. This way Athena would meaningfully contribute to the emerging field of time-domain astronomy. Besides opening up discovery space (unknown unknowns) it would allow the investigation of current known unknowns such as the fast X-ray transients discovered in Jonker et al. (2013), Glennie et al. (2015) and Bauer et al. (2017). However, it was realised that this option should not drive costs up.

Participants: Peter Jonker, Paul O’Brien, Luigi Piro, Elisa Costantini, Eleonora Troja, Arne Rau, David Burrows, Pragati Pradhan, Antonio Martin-Carrillo

The seventh X-IFU consortium meeting: presenting the consolidated baseline of the X-IFU

XIFU 2018


The seventh meeting of the X-IFU consortium was held at the Astroparticle and Cosmology Laboratory (ApC) in Paris from March 19 to 24.

The meeting was attended by some 140 engineers and scientists.

In this meeting, the CNES project team presented the consolidated design of the instrument.

You can read a summary of the meeting, written by Didier Barret on the X-IFU website.

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.


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