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    Athena in brief

    The Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics (ATHENA) is a X-ray observatory proposed to ESA in the framework of Cosmic Vision to address the two main astrophysical questions posed in the theme The Hot and Energetic Universe :

  • How does ordinary matter assemble into the large-scale structures we see today?
  • How do black holes grow and shape the Universe?

  • The mission will addresses scientific objectives as the formation and evolution of groups and clusters of galaxies, the chemical evolution of hot baryons, the formation of black holes and the physics of accretion onto supermassive black holes hosted in active galactic nuclei. The launch is foreseen in 2028 and the operation orbit will be at L2, the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system.

    ATHENA will consist of an X-ray telescope with a 12 m focal length and an effective area of ~2 m2 at 1 keV based on Silicon Pore Optics (SPO) technology and two instruments at the focal plane: an X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) for high-spectral resolution imaging and a Wide Field Imager (WFI) for high count rate and moderate resolution spectroscopy over a large field of view.

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    IASF Palermo main activities

    Chandra and XMM-Newton missions showed that X-ray telescopes are able to focus soft protons (100keV-1MeV) with grazing incident angles as well as photons. This unexpected phenomenon, that caused the damage of Chandra CCD and reduction of XMM observation time, need to be carefully considered in the design of the next generation of X-ray missions planned for working in the Lagrangian point L-2, as ATHENA. In this environment, in fact, the geomagnetic field is not strong enough to shield the telescope from soft solar protons. The rate of focused protons can be evaluated from simulations introducing realistic models of the physical phenomenon.

    The IASF Palermo has a long experience in the production of ray-tracing codes able to simulate the optics transmission either for input photons or protons in the X band. The main activities of IASF Palermo researchers, then, are:

  • production of sets of mathematical functions and numerical tables that starting from theoretical model or from experimental data allow to compute the proton reflection efficiency and the scattering angles as function of the input energies and directions of protons.
  • production of a ray-tracing code able to simulate the transmission at the focal plane of grazing incident protons in order to evaluate its contribution to the total background.
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    The Athena Team at IASF-Palermo

    * Teresa Mineo (Respons.)
    * Giancarlo Cusumano
    * Valentina La Parola
    * Fabio D'Anna

    Contact person at IASF-Palermo:

    • Teresa.Mineo at

    Useful links :

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    Last Modification: Tuesday, March 10 2015
    Edit by Teresa Mineo

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