Exploring the hot and energetic Universe is the European Space Agency's approved new science theme, which was to be explored with a flagship X-ray telescope observatory, the Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics, or Athena for short (shown above in an artist's illustration). Athena was 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.
Sadly, delays due to the pandemic, and the ever-present challenges of developing cutting-edge technology caused the Athena mission to risk exceeding anticipated cost caps, endangering funding for other ESA missions. In 2022, ESA called for a re-definition of Athena, asking a team of world-renowned high energy astrophysicists whether Athena could be changed to be less costly and still provide state-of-the art observations of the X-ray sky to obtain answers to our important outstanding questions: how does ordinary matter form the large-scale structures that we see today? how do black holes grow and shape the Universe? On November 8, the Athena Science Redefinition Team released their report on a concept dubbed "NewAthena". By relaxing some of the stringent, cutting-edge requirements of Athena, NewAthena, has almost all the science capabilities of the Athena mission, but at a more supportable cost. Work on NewAthena is expected to start in 2024, with NASA participation, and mission adoption in 2027.
Published: November 13, 2023
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 20-Nov-2023 12:44:38 EST