The X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) is the high resolution X-ray spectrometer of the ESA Athena X-ray observatory. Over a field of view of 5’ equivalent diameter, it will deliver X-ray spectra from 0.2 to 12 keV with a spectral resolution of 2.5 eV up to 7 keV on ∼ 5” pixels. The X-IFU is based on a large format array of super-conducting molybdenum-gold Transition Edge Sensors cooled at ∼ 90 mK, each coupled with an absorber made of gold and bismuth with a pitch of 249 μm. A cryogenic anti-coincidence detector located underneath the prime TES array enables the non X-ray background to be reduced. A bath temperature of ∼ 50 mK is obtained by a series of mechanical coolers combining 15K Pulse Tubes, 4K and 2K Joule-Thomson coolers which pre-cool a sub Kelvin cooler made of a 3He sorption cooler coupled with an Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerator. Frequency domain multiplexing enables to read out 40 pixels in one single channel. A photon interacting with an absorber leads to a current pulse, amplified by the readout electronics and whose shape is reconstructed on board to recover its energy with high accuracy. The defocusing capability offered by the Athena movable mirror assembly enables the X-IFU to observe the brightest X-ray sources of the sky (up to Crab-like intensities) by spreading the telescope point spread function over hundreds of pixels. Thus the X-IFU delivers low pile-up, high throughput (< 50%), and typically 10 eV spectral resolution at 1 Crab intensities, i.e. a factor of 10 or more better than Silicon based X-ray detectors. In this paper, the current X-IFU baseline is presented, together with an assessment of its anticipated performance in terms of spectral resolution, background, and count rate capability. The X-IFU baseline configuration will be subject to a preliminary requirement review that is scheduled at the end of 2018.
XIPE, the X-ray Imaging Polarimetry Explorer, is a mission dedicated to X-ray Astronomy. At the time of
writing XIPE is in a competitive phase A as fourth medium size mission of ESA (M4). It promises to reopen the
polarimetry window in high energy Astrophysics after more than 4 decades thanks to a detector that efficiently
exploits the photoelectric effect and to X-ray optics with large effective area. XIPE uniqueness is time-spectrally-spatially-
resolved X-ray polarimetry as a breakthrough in high energy astrophysics and fundamental physics.
Indeed the payload consists of three Gas Pixel Detectors at the focus of three X-ray optics with a total effective
area larger than one XMM mirror but with a low weight. The payload is compatible with the fairing of the Vega
launcher. XIPE is designed as an observatory for X-ray astronomers with 75 % of the time dedicated to a Guest
Observer competitive program and it is organized as a consortium across Europe with main contributions from
Italy, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden.
The X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) on board the Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (Athena) will provide spatially resolved high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy from 0.2 to 12 keV, with ~ 5" pixels over a field of view of 5 arc minute equivalent diameter and a spectral resolution of 2.5 eV up to 7 keV. In this paper, we first review the core scientific objectives of Athena, driving the main performance parameters of the X-IFU, namely the spectral resolution, the field of view, the effective area, the count rate capabilities, the instrumental background. We also illustrate the breakthrough potential of the X-IFU for some observatory science goals. Then we brie y describe the X-IFU design as defined at the time of the mission consolidation review concluded in May 2016, and report on its predicted performance. Finally, we discuss some options to improve the instrument performance while not increasing its complexity and resource demands (e.g. count rate capability, spectral resolution).
The use of large-area, fine-pitch Silicon detectors has demonstrated the feasibility of wide field imaging experiments
requesting very low resources in terms of weight, volume, power and costs. The flying SuperAGILE instrument
is the first such experiment, adopting large-area Silicon microstrip detectors coupled to one-dimensional
coded masks. With less than 10 kg, 12 watt and 0.04 m3 it provides 6-arcmin angular resolution over >1 sr field
of view. Due to odd operational conditions, SuperAGILE works in the unfavourable energy range 18-60 keV. In
this paper we show that the use of innovative large-area Silicon Drift Detectors allows to design experiments with
arcmin-imaging performance over steradian-wide fields of view, in the energy range 2-50 keV, with spectroscopic
resolution in the range of 300-570 eV (FWHM) at room temperature. We will show the concept, design and
readiness of such an experiment, supported by laboratory tests on large-area prototypes. We will quantify the
expected performance in potential applications on X-ray astronomy missions for the observation and long-term
monitoring of Galactic and extragalactic transient and persistent sources, as well as localization and fine study
of the prompt emission of Gamma-Ray Bursts in soft X-rays.
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 CIAO (Chandra Interactive Analysis of Observations) software package was first released in 1999 following the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and is used by astronomers across the world to analyze Chandra data as well as data from other telescopes. From the earliest design discussions, CIAO was planned as a general-purpose scientific data analysis system optimized for X-ray astronomy, and consists mainly of command line tools (allowing easy pipelining and scripting) with a parameter-based interface layered on a flexible data manipulation I/O library. The same code is used for the standard Chandra archive pipeline, allowing users to recalibrate their data in a consistent way. We will discuss the lessons learned from the first six years of the software's evolution. Our initial approach to documentation evolved to concentrate on recipe-based "threads" which have proved very successful. A multi-dimensional abstract approach to data analysis has allowed new capabilities to be added while retaining existing interfaces. A key requirement for our community was interoperability with other data analysis systems, leading us to adopt standard file formats and an architecture which was as robust as possible to the input of foreign data files, as well as re-using a number of external libraries. We support users who are comfortable with coding themselves via a flexible user scripting paradigm, while the availability of tightly constrained pipeline programs are of benefit to less computationally-advanced users. As with other analysis systems, we have found that infrastructure maintenance and re-engineering is a necessary and significant ongoing effort and needs to be planned in to any long-lived astronomy software.
We present a mission designed to address two main themes of the ESA Cosmic Vision Programme: the Evolution of the Universe and its Violent phenomena. ESTREMO/WFXRT is based on innovative instrumental and observational approaches, out of the mainstream of observatories of progressively increasing area, i.e.: Observing with fast reaction transient sources, like GRB, at their brightest levels, thus allowing high resolution spectroscopy. Observing and surveying through a X-ray telescope with a wide field of view and with high sensitivity extended sources, like cluster and Warm Hot Intragalactic Medium (WHIM). ESTREMO/WFXRT will rely on two cosmological probes: GRB and large scale X-ray structures. This will allow measurements of the dark energy, of the missing baryon mass in the local universe, thought to be mostly residing in outskirts of clusters and in hot filaments (WHIM) accreting onto dark matter structures, the detection of first objects in the dark Universe, the history of metal formation. The key asset of ESTREMO/WFXRT with regard to the study of Violent Universe is the capability to observe the most extreme objects of the Universe during their bursting phases. The large flux achieved in this phase allows unprecedented measurements with high resolution spectroscopy. The mission is based on a wide field X-ray/hard X-ray monitor, covering >1/4 of the sky, to localize transients; fast (min) autonomous follow-up with X-ray telescope (2000 cm2) equipped with high resolution spectroscopy transition edge (TES) microcalorimeters (2eV resolution below 2 keV) and with a wide field (1°) for imaging with 10" resolution (CCD) extended faint structures and for cluster surveys. A low background is achieved by a 600 km equatorial orbit. The performances of the mission on GRB and their use as cosmological beacons are presented and discussed.