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See detailThe ATHENA X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU)
Barret, Didier; Lam Trong, Thien; den Herder, Jan-Willem et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2018, July 01)

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 ... [more ▼]

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. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Athena X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU)
Barret, Didier; Trong, Thien Lam; den Herder, Jan-Willem et al

in Proc. SPIE. 9905, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray, 99052F. (August 17, 2016) (2016, August 01)

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 ... [more ▼]

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 arc second 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 briefly 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 X-IFU will be provided by an international consortium led by France, The Netherlands and Italy, with further ESA member state contributions from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and two international partners from the United States and Japan. [less ▲]

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See detailThe X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) for Athena
Ravera, Laurent; Barret, Didier; den Herder, Jan Willem et al

in Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) Conference Series (2014, July 01)

Athena is designed to implement the Hot and Energetic Universe science theme selected by the European Space Agency for the second large mission of its Cosmic Vision program. The Athena science payload ... [more ▼]

Athena is designed to implement the Hot and Energetic Universe science theme selected by the European Space Agency for the second large mission of its Cosmic Vision program. The Athena science payload consists of a large aperture high angular resolution X-ray optics (2 m2 at 1 keV) and twelve meters away, two interchangeable focal plane instruments: the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) and the Wide Field Imager. The X-IFU is a cryogenic X-ray spectrometer, based on a large array of Transition Edge Sensors (TES), offering 2:5 eV spectral resolution, with ~5" pixels, over a field of view of 50 in diameter. In this paper, we present the X-IFU detector and readout electronics principles, some elements of the current design for the focal plane assembly and the cooling chain. We describe the current performance estimates, in terms of spectral resolution, effective area, particle background rejection and count rate capability. Finally, we emphasize on the technology developments necessary to meet the demanding requirements of the X-IFU, both for the sensor, readout electronics and cooling chain. [less ▲]

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See detailThe Hot and Energetic Universe: A White Paper presenting the science theme motivating the Athena+ mission
Nandra, Kirpal; Barret, Didier; Barcons, Xavier et al

Report (2013)

This White Paper, submitted to the recent ESA call for science themes to define its future large missions, advocates the need for a transformational leap in our understanding of two key questions in ... [more ▼]

This White Paper, submitted to the recent ESA call for science themes to define its future large missions, advocates the need for a transformational leap in our understanding of two key questions in astrophysics: 1) How does ordinary matter assemble into the large scale structures that we see today? 2) How do black holes grow and shape the Universe? Hot gas in clusters, groups and the intergalactic medium dominates the baryonic content of the local Universe. To understand the astrophysical processes responsible for the formation and assembly of these large structures, it is necessary to measure their physical properties and evolution. This requires spatially resolved X-ray spectroscopy with a factor 10 increase in both telescope throughput and spatial resolving power compared to currently planned facilities. Feedback from supermassive black holes is an essential ingredient in this process and in most galaxy evolution models, but it is not well understood. X-ray observations can uniquely reveal the mechanisms launching winds close to black holes and determine the coupling of the energy and matter flows on larger scales. Due to the effects of feedback, a complete understanding of galaxy evolution requires knowledge of the obscured growth of supermassive black holes through cosmic time, out to the redshifts where the first galaxies form. X-ray emission is the most reliable way to reveal accreting black holes, but deep survey speed must improve by a factor ~100 over current facilities to perform a full census into the early Universe. The Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (Athena+) mission provides the necessary performance (e.g. angular resolution, spectral resolution, survey grasp) to address these questions and revolutionize our understanding of the Hot and Energetic Universe. These capabilities will also provide a powerful observatory to be used in all areas of astrophysics. [less ▲]

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