ESP2014-53672-C3-1-P: Scientific and technological Development of the X-IFU instrument for ESA's Athena Mission: Assesment Phase

​Participants: M.T.Ceballos (IP), X.Barcons, B. Cobo, S.Martínez-Núñez

This rolling grant requests financial support to conduct scientific and technological developments in Spain in the framework of the instrument X-IFU (X-ray Integral Field Unit) proposed to fly on ESA’s Athena mission in 2028. Athena has been selected as the L2 mission ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme, to address the Hot and Energetic Universe science theme. The instruments will be selected, following an AO, late 2015 and mission adoption is expected to happen early 2019. The overarching science goals of Athena will be to understand how baryons assemble in the large scale-structures that we see today and how the growth of super massive black holes shapes galaxies and large-scale structures.

The X-IFU, a truly revolutionary instrument on the focal plane of Athena, will provide unprecedented spatially resolved high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy. It will enable measurements of hot gas bulk velocities and turbulence in extended sources, detecting very weak emission and absorption lines and perform physical diagnostics from line shapes, multiplet line ratios, etc. The impact of Athena in general, and the X-IFU in particular, will reach all corners of modern Astrophysics.


A) Athena/X-IFU science coordination activities, including the X-IFU Science Team leadership and being part of the X-IFU consortium management, co-chairing an Athena Science Study Team working group on the “Energetic Universe” and liaising with other Spanish contributions to Athena (namely those related to the dewar and associated cryo-warm harness, part of a different rolling grant request).

B) Design, fabricate and test Mo/Au-based TES detectors with Au/Bi absorbers as a potential European technology for the X-IFU Front-End sensor array; this development programme has been agreed with other European partners in the framework of an ESA CTP aimed to trigger the development of an optimized European TES detector.

C) Development, prototyping and integration in an end-to-end simulator of the on-board Event-Processor software, which has in itself two overarching goals which are the demonstration that the algorithms can be implemented in flight-qualified processors and the integration of these algorithms in an end-to-end simulator.

D) Consolidate high-resolution X-ray spectroscopic studies in Spain with current instrumentation, mostly about X-ray binaries and active stars, and further promoting this type of science for the future exploitation of Athena/X-IFU in Spain. In addition to the aforementioned ESA CTP, the team also participates in AHEAD, an H2020 programme, which we expect will lend further support and coordination to several of these activities across Europe.

  • Joint Centre with the combined effort of Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and University of Cantabria (UC)

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    Cantabria, Spain

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