We describe the Spectroscopic Time-Resolving Observatory for Broadband Energy X-rays (STROBE-X), a probeclass mission concept that will provide an unprecedented view of the X-ray sky, performing timing and spectroscopy over both a broad energy band (0.2–30 keV) and a wide range of timescales from microseconds to years. STROBE-X comprises two narrow-field instruments and a wide field monitor. The soft or low-energy band (0.2–12 keV) is covered by an array of lightweight optics (3-m focal length) that concentrate incident photons onto small solid-state detectors with CCD-level (85–175 eV) energy resolution, 100 ns time resolution, and low background rates. This technology has been fully developed for NICER and will be scaled up to take advantage of the longer focal length of STROBE-X. The higher-energy band (2–30 keV) is covered by large-area, collimated silicon drift detectors that were developed for the European LOFT mission concept. Each instrument will provide an order of magnitude improvement in effective area over its predecessor (NICER in the soft band and RXTE in the hard band). Finally, STROBE-X offers a sensitive wide-field monitor (WFM), both to act as a trigger for pointed observations of X-ray transients and also to provide high duty-cycle, high time-resolution, and high spectral-resolution monitoring of the variable X-ray sky. The WFM will boast approximately 20 times the sensitivity of the RXTE All-Sky Monitor, enabling multi-wavelength and multi-messenger investigations with a large instantaneous field of view. This mission concept will be presented to the 2020 Decadal Survey for consideration.
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 construction of a prototype Schwarzschild-Couder telescope (pSCT) started in early June 2015 at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Southern Arizona, as a candidate medium-sized telescope for the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). Compared to current Davies-Cotton telescopes, this novel instrument with an aplanatic two-mirror optical system will offer a wider field-of-view and improved angular resolution. In addition, the reduced plate scale of the camera allows the use of highly-integrated photon detectors such as silicon photo multipliers. As part of CTA, this design has the potential to greatly improve the performance of the next generation ground-based observatory for very high-energy (E>60 GeV) gamma-ray astronomy. In this contribution we present the design and performance of both optical and alignment systems of the pSCT.
In support of improved gamma-ray detectors for astrophysics and observations of Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs), we have designed a new approach for the collection and detection of optical photons from scintillators such as Sodium Iodide and Lanthanum Bromide using a light concentrator coupled to an Avalanche photodiode (APD). The APD has many advantages over traditional photomultiplier tubes such as their low power consumption, their compact size, their durability, and their very high quantum efficiency. The difficulty in using these devices in gamma-ray astronomy has been coupling their relatively small active area to the large scintillators necessary for gamma-ray science. Our solution is to use an acrylic Compound Parabolic Concentrator (CPC) to match the large output area of the scintillation crystal to the smaller photodiode. These non-imaging light concentrators exceed the light concentration of focused optics and are light and inexpensive to produce. We present our results from the analysis and testing of such a system including gains in light collecting efficiency, energy resolution of nuclear decay lines, as well as our design for a new, fast TGF detector.