On November 28, 2013 "The Hot and Energetic Universe" was selected as the theme for ESA's next major scientific satellite mission (called L2). In response to the call for mission concepts on this topic in January 2014, the revised proposal for the X-ray observatory ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics) was handed over to ESA on April 10, 2014 and later successfully selected.
The framework conditions for the proposed ATHENA mission are as follows:
ATHENA is a Wolter X-ray telescope with a focal length of approx. 12 m, an effective area of about 1.2 m2 (at 1 keV) and an angular resolution of about 5 arc seconds (axial). Two scientific instruments are planned (the mirror is tilted towards the active instrument): a Wide Field Imager (WFI) with a large field of view (approx. 40 x 40 arc minutes), high spatial and good spectral resolution and high counting rate capacity, and a Transition Edge Sensor-based X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) with very high spectral resolution and a smaller field of view.
It is scheduled to be launched in 2030.
ATHENA will replace the current telescope generation (XMM-Newton, Chandra) and will then be the most sensitive X-ray telescope in the world. The task is to observe the sky in the energy range of 200 eV to 15 keV and to contribute to the elucidation of the questions "How has matter come together in the visible structures of the universe today" and "How do black holes grow and how do they influence the universe?"
A central object of research is the formation and evolution of galaxy groups and clusters in the universe, investigating the feedback effect of active galactic nuclei and the chemical development of hot baryons. Another current topic that ATHENA will make easy to follow due to its high sensitivity is the growth of black holes on all size scales.
ATHENA will above all be a very versatile instrument and available to a very broad research community, so that scientific topics from many areas of astrophysics can be addressed.
Last Update 08/2018: Joachim Zinßer, Inga Saathoff, Chris Tenzer