ESA's Athena Concept
Credit: ESA

The Spectral Shape of Things to Come

Exploring the hot and energetic Universe is the European Space Agency's approved new science theme, to be explored with a large X-ray telescope observatory called the Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics, or Athena for short. Athena is designed to be a full-service X-ray facility, a worthy successor to major space observatories like XMM-Newton and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Athena is designed to address two major questions: How does ordinary matter form the large-scale structures that we see today? And how do black holes grow and shape the Universe? Athena will do this using two major science instruments: the X-ray Integral Field Unit, a 3-D camera designed to provide an unprecedented combination of X-ray spectral and spatial resolution; and the Wide-Field Imager, which will provide sensitive, spatial and spectral images of the hot gas permeating the Universe. The image above is an artist's conception of Athena, projected on a model of a black-hole powered nucleus of an active galaxy. Involvement by NASA in Athena is under discussion. ESA's current timeline calls for launch of Athena by 2028.
Published: December 2, 2013

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 09-Dec-2013 08:05:49 EST