The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) was studied within ESA M3 Cosmic Vision framework and participated in the final downselection for a launch slot in 2022-2024. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument, LOFT will study the behaviour of matter under extreme conditions, such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions of accretion flows close to black holes and neutron stars, and the supranuclear densities in the interior of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, 10 m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1° collimated field of view) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM, 2-50 keV, 4 steradian field of view, 1 arcmin source location accuracy, 300 eV spectral resolution). The WFM is equipped with an on-board system for bright events (e.g. GRB) localization. The trigger time and position of these events are broadcast to the ground within 30 s from discovery. In this paper we present the status of the mission at the end of its Phase A study.
The LOFT mission concept is one of four candidates selected by ESA for the M3 launch opportunity as Medium Size missions of the Cosmic Vision programme. The launch window is currently planned for between 2022 and 2024. LOFT is designed to exploit the diagnostics of rapid X-ray flux and spectral variability that directly probe the motion of matter down to distances very close to black holes and neutron stars, as well as the physical state of ultradense matter. These primary science goals will be addressed by a payload composed of a Large Area Detector (LAD) and a Wide Field Monitor (WFM). The LAD is a collimated (<1 degree field of view) experiment operating in the energy range 2-50 keV, with a 10 m2 peak effective area and an energy resolution of 260 eV at 6 keV. The WFM will operate in the same energy range as the LAD, enabling simultaneous monitoring of a few-steradian wide field of view, with an angular resolution of <5 arcmin. The LAD and WFM experiments will allow us to investigate variability from submillisecond QPO’s to yearlong transient outbursts. In this paper we report the current status of the project.
Xenia is a medium-sized mission optimized to study cosmic reionization, cluster formation and evolution, and
the WHIM, following cosmo-chemical evolution from the very earliest times to the present. Reconstructing
the cosmic history of metals, from the first population of stars to the processes involved in the formation of
galaxies and clusters of galaxies, is a key observational challenge. Most baryons reside in diffuse structures, in
(proto)-galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and are predicted to trace the vast filamentary structures created by
the ubiquitous Dark Matter. X-ray spectroscopy of diffuse matter has the unique capability of simultaneously
probing a broad range of elements (C through Fe) in all their ionization stages and all binding states (atomic,
molecular, and solid), and thus provides a model-independent survey of the metals. Xenia - proposed to the
Astro2010 Decadal Survey - will combine cryogenic imaging spectrometers and wide field X-ray optics with
fast repointing to collect essential information from three major tracers of metals: Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs),
Galaxy Clusters, and the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM). We give an overview of the mission and
discuss the instruments designed to carry out these observations.
How structures of various scales formed and evolved from the early Universe up to present time is a fundamental
question of astrophysics. EDGE will trace the cosmic history of the baryons from the early generations of massive
stars by Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) explosions, through the period of galaxy cluster formation, down to the very low
redshift Universe, when between a third and one half of the baryons are expected to reside in cosmic filaments undergoing
gravitational collapse by dark matter (the so-called warm hot intragalactic medium). In addition EDGE, with its
unprecedented capabilities, will provide key results in many important fields. These scientific goals are feasible with a
medium class mission using existing technology combined with innovative instrumental and observational capabilities
by: (a) observing with fast reaction Gamma-Ray Bursts with a high spectral resolution (R ~ 500). This enables the study
of their (star-forming) environment and the use of GRBs as back lights of large scale cosmological structures; (b)
observing and surveying extended sources (galaxy clusters, WHIM) with high sensitivity using two wide field of view
X-ray telescopes (one with a high angular resolution and the other with a high spectral resolution). The mission concept
includes four main instruments: a Wide-field Spectrometer with excellent energy resolution (3 eV at 0.6 keV), a Wide-
Field Imager with high angular resolution (HPD 15") constant over the full 1.4 degree field of view, and a Wide Field
Monitor with a FOV of 1/4 of the sky, which will trigger the fast repointing to the GRB. Extension of its energy response
up to 1 MeV will be achieved with a GRB detector with no imaging capability. This mission is proposed to ESA as part
of the Cosmic Vision call. We will briefly review the science drivers and describe in more detail the payload of this
The next large NASA mission in the field of gamma-ray astronomy, GLAST, is scheduled for launch in 2007. Aside from the main instrument LAT (Large-Area Telescope), a gamma-ray telescope for the energy range between 20 MeV and > 100GeV, a secondary instrument, the GLAST burst monitor (GBM), is foreseen. With this monitor one of
the key scientific objectives of the mission, the determination of the high-energy behaviour of gamma-ray bursts and transients can be ensured. Its task is to increase the detection rate of gamma-ray bursts for the LAT and to extend the energy range to lower energies (from ~10 keV to ~30 MeV). It will provide real-time burst locations over a wide FoV with sufficient accuracy to allow repointing the GLAST spacecraft. Time-resolved spectra of many bursts recorded with LAT and the burst monitor will allow the investigation of the relation between the keV and the MeV-GeV emission from GRBs over unprecedented seven decades of energy. This will help to advance our understanding of the mechanisms by which gamma-rays are generated in gamma-ray bursts
One of the scientific objectives of the GLAST mission is the study of
gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) which will be measured by the Large-Area Telescope, the main instrument of GLAST, in the energy range from ~20 MeV to ~300 GeV. In order to extend the energy measurement towards lower energies a secondary instrument, the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM)
will measure GRBs from ~10 keV to ~25 MeV and will thus allow the investigation of the relation between the keV and the MeV-GeV emission from GRBs. The GBM consists of 12 circular NaI crystal discs and 2 cylindrical BGO crystals. The NaI crystals are optimized for gamma radiation from ~10 keV to ~1 MeV and the BGO crystals from
~150 keV to ~25 MeV. The NaI crystals are oriented in such a way that the measured relative counting rates allow a rapid determination of the position of a gamma-ray burst within a wide FoV of ~8.6 sr. This position will be communicated within seconds to the LAT which may then be reoriented to observe the long-lasting high-energy gamma-ray emission from GRBs. This will allow the exploration of the unknown aspects of the high-energy burst emission and their connection with the well-known low-energy emission. Another important feature of the GBM is its high time resolution of ~10 microseconds for time-resolved gamma-ray spectroscopy.
We are studying a gamma-ray burst mission concept called burst arcsecond imaging and spectroscopy (BASIS) as part of NASA's new mission concepts for astrophysics program. The scientific objectives are to accurately locate bursts, determine their distance scale, and measure the physical characteristics of the emission region. Arcsecond burst positions (angular resolution approximately 30 arcsec, source positions approximately 3 arcsec) will be obtained for approximately 100 bursts per year using the 10 - 100 keV emission. This will allow the first deep, unconfused counterpart searches at other wavelengths. The key technological breakthrough that makes such measurements possible is the development of CdZnTe room-temperature semiconductor detectors with fine (approximately 100 micron) spatial resolution. Fine spectroscopy will be obtained between 0.2 and 150 keV. The 0.2 keV threshold will allow the first measurements of absorption in our galaxy and possible host galaxies, constraining the distance scale and host environment.
We have proposed a gamma-ray burst mission concept called burst arcsecond imaging and spectroscopy (BASIS) in response to NASA's announcement for new mission concept studies. The scientific objectives are to accurately locate bursts, determine their distance scale, and measure the physical characteristics of the emission region. Arcsecond burst positions (angular resolution approximately 30 arcsec, source positions approximately 3 arcsec for greater than 10-6 erg cm-2 bursts) are obtained for about 100 bursts per year using the 10 - 200 keV emission. This allows the first deep, unconfused counterpart searches at other wavelengths. The key technological breakthrough that makes such measurements possible is the development of CdZnTe room-temperature semiconductor detectors with fine (approximately 100 micron) spatial resolution. Fine spectroscopy is obtained between 0.2 keV and 200 keV. The 0.2 keV threshold allows the first measurements of absorption in our galaxy and possible host galaxies, constraining the distance scale and host environment. The mission concept and its scientific objectives are described.