eXTP is a science mission designed to study the state of matter under extreme conditions of density, gravity and magnetism. Primary goals are the determination of the equation of state of matter at supra-nuclear density, the measurement of QED effects in highly magnetized star, and the study of accretion in the strong-field regime of gravity. Primary targets include isolated and binary neutron stars, strong magnetic field systems like magnetars, and stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. The mission carries a unique and unprecedented suite of state-of-the-art scientific instruments enabling for the first time ever the simultaneous spectral-timing-polarimetry studies of cosmic sources in the energy range from 0.5-30 keV (and beyond). Key elements of the payload are: the Spectroscopic Focusing Array (SFA) - a set of 11 X-ray optics for a total effective area of ∼0.9 m2 and 0.6 m2 at 2 keV and 6 keV respectively, equipped with Silicon Drift Detectors offering <180 eV spectral resolution; the Large Area Detector (LAD) - a deployable set of 640 Silicon Drift Detectors, for a total effective area of ∼3.4 m2, between 6 and 10 keV, and spectral resolution better than 250 eV; the Polarimetry Focusing Array (PFA) – a set of 2 X-ray telescope, for a total effective area of 250 cm2 at 2 keV, equipped with imaging gas pixel photoelectric polarimeters; the Wide Field Monitor (WFM) - a set of 3 coded mask wide field units, equipped with position-sensitive Silicon Drift Detectors, each covering a 90 degrees x 90 degrees field of view. The eXTP international consortium includes major institutions of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Universities in China, as well as major institutions in several European countries and the United States. The predecessor of eXTP, the XTP mission concept, has been selected and funded as one of the so-called background missions in the Strategic Priority Space Science Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2011. The strong European participation has significantly enhanced the scientific capabilities of eXTP. The planned launch date of the mission is earlier than 2025.
The Large Observatory For x-ray Timing (LOFT) is a mission concept which was proposed to ESA as M3 and M4 candidate in the framework of the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. Thanks to the unprecedented combination of effective area and spectral resolution of its main instrument and the uniquely large field of view of its wide field monitor, LOFT will be able to study the behaviour of matter in extreme conditions such as the strong gravitational field in the innermost regions close to black holes and neutron stars and the supra-nuclear densities in the interiors of neutron stars. The science payload is based on a Large Area Detector (LAD, >8m2 effective area, 2-30 keV, 240 eV spectral resolution, 1 degree 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 current technical and programmatic status of the mission.
LOFT-P is a mission concept for a NASA Astrophysics Probe-Class (<$1B) X-ray timing mission, based on the LOFT M-class concept originally proposed to ESAs M3 and M4 calls. LOFT-P requires very large collecting area, high time resolution, good spectral resolution, broad-band spectral coverage (2-30 keV), highly flexible scheduling, and an ability to detect and respond promptly to time-critical targets of opportunity. It addresses science questions such as: What is the equation of state of ultra dense matter? What are the effects of strong gravity on matter spiraling into black holes? It would be optimized for sub-millisecond timing of bright Galactic X-ray sources including X-ray bursters, black hole binaries, and magnetars to study phenomena at the natural timescales of neutron star surfaces and black hole event horizons and to measure mass and spin of black holes. These measurements are synergistic to imaging and high-resolution spectroscopy instruments, addressing much smaller distance scales than are possible without very long baseline X-ray interferometry, and using complementary techniques to address the geometry and dynamics of emission regions. LOFT-P would have an effective area of >6 m2, > 10x that of the highly successful Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). A sky monitor (2-50 keV) acts as a trigger for pointed observations, providing high duty cycle, high time resolution monitoring of the X-ray sky with ~20 times the sensitivity of the RXTE All-Sky Monitor, enabling multi-wavelength and multimessenger studies. A probe-class mission concept would employ lightweight collimator technology and large-area solid-state detectors, segmented into pixels or strips, technologies which have been recently greatly advanced during the ESA M3 Phase A study of LOFT. Given the large community interested in LOFT (>800 supporters*, the scientific productivity of this mission is expected to be very high, similar to or greater than RXTE (~ 2000 refereed publications). We describe the results of a study, recently completed by the MSFC Advanced Concepts Office, that demonstrates that such a mission is feasible within a NASA probe-class mission budget.
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.
The past twelve years have seen the discovery, with NASA's Rossi
X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), of several long-predicted phenomena
associated with the accretion of matter onto a neutron star in a
binary (double) star system. These phenomena are observed in the
strong X-ray emission produced by these neutron stars, at
luminosities up to several 100,000 Solar luminosities, and take
place at the dynamical time scale of the strong field gravity region
surrounding a neutron star (~0.001 sec). Physical models for
these millisecond phenomena include the neutron star spin,
thermonuclear burning and release of gravitational energy at the
neutron star surface, and general relativistic orbital and epicyclic
motions in the accreting plasma. The detection and characterization
of these phenomena (some of which are themselves best modeled as
noise phenomena, others of which have a more deterministic nature
but always involve random-process aspects) is done by the estimation
of the Fourier power spectrum of the intrinsic millisecond time
variations in the X-ray luminosity in the presence of dominant
photon counting statistics noise which can be characterized as
Poisson noise modified by instrumental deadtime effects. To a large
extent these methods work well: they give astronomers the
quantitative answers they need. I discuss some of the
methodological challenges as well as some of the main results in
We describe a proposal for an added capability of fast timing to the European x-ray astronomy mission XEUS. The scientific value of fast timing observations for the investigation of compact objects is recognized and has been demonstrated through observations by the Rossi x-ray Timing Explorer. We propose to make use of the huge collecting area of XEUS for timing studies with unparalleled photon statistics and time resolution. We describe the sceintifc motivation, e.g. to probe strong gravity fields around collapsed objects and to constrain the equation of state of dense matter in neutron stars. We discuss options for the implementation of detectors which coudl be small silicon drift detectors out of focus.