Future Missions

Athena Led by ESA with partnership from NASA and JAXA,  Athena is the next large X-ray observatory.  The mission won the recent “L2” launch slot in a recent ESA review, meaning that ATHENA will launch in 2032.  Most importantly, ATHENA will offer 100 times more collecting area for high resolution spectroscopy, and achieve an unprecedented resolution of just 2.5 eV across the full 0.3-10.0 keV band, via an imaging micro calorimeter spectrometer (the X-ray Integral Field Unit, or X-IFU).  As a member of the X-IFU team, I am helping to set science requirements  and performance metrics; as the Chair of one of the ATHENA Science Panels (2.5), I am helping to develop baseline science investigations.

XRISM Led by JAXA with partnership from NASA and ESA, the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission XRISM will fly an X-ray calorimeter with 5 eV resolution across the 0.3-12 keV band, when it launches in 2023. The mission promises to transform astrophysics but particularly studies of accretion-powered sources. It is a bridge from the gratings spectrometers aboard Chandra and XMM-Newton, to the larger X-IFU that will fly aboard ATHENA. I am one of five US “Participating Scientists” that were selected by NASA to help determine the early science goals of XRISM.

Current Missions

NICER The Neutron Star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) was recently launched and has successfully started operations after integration with the International Space Station.  The mission features unprecedented timing accuracy, a large collecting area, and delivers moderate resolution spectra.  As a NICER affiliated scientist, I have helped to design an early science program and to analyze some of the first data.

NuSTAR The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) was launched in 2012, and is the first X-ray mission to make true images out to 79 keV.  The low background and unprecedented sensitivity of the mission make it ideal for spectroscopy of black holes and neutron stars of all types.  As a member of the NuSTAR Science Team, I helped to develop and analyze early data from the mission.

Chandra Launched in 1999, Chandra remains the flagship X-ray observatory, and the premier telescope in NASA’s “Beyond Einstein” program.  The mission offers the best X-ray imaging resolution (0.7″) and spectral resolution currently available.  For five years, I served as the Chair of the Chandra User’s Committee, representing thousands of users to the mission.

Mission Concepts

ARCUS ARCUS is a mission concept that will provide unprecedented X-ray spectral resolution below 2 keV via a dispersive grating spectrometer.  This mission will finally detect the bulk of the warm/hot intergalactic medium, or WHIM, and will revolutionize our understanding of outflows from AGN.  ARCUS was recently approved by NASA for Phase-A study.  As part of the science team, I am helping to develop specific science cases and performance goals.

AXIS The Advanced X-ray Imaging Satellite (AXIS) is a mission concept that aims to deliver the best possible – essentially diffraction-limited – X-ray imaging possible.  The mission would excel at studies of the innermost regions of galaxy clusters where black hole feedback originates, dense star-forming regions and stellar clusters, and discovery science such as binary black hole systems.  As a mission co-investigator, I am helping to develop its science goals and performance needs.

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