Athena (Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics) is the future large-class X-ray Observatory selected by ESA to study the Hot and Energetic Universe. It is due for launch in 2028.

Athena main goals will be:
– the study the evolution and formation of the hot baryons in the large-scale virialized and unvirialized structures across the cosmic epochs;
– understand the physics of accretion in compact objects;
– trace the growth of the first accreting supermassive black holes (SMBH);
– shed light on AGN feedback mechanisms whereby the central SMBH influences the evolution of galaxies and clusters.

Athena will be hundreds of times more sensitive than current major X-ray observatories Chandra and XMM.
It will operates in the energy range 0.1-15 keV and it will use a novel european technology (High-performance Si pore optics) to efficiently focalize low energy X-rays.

Athena will contain two instruments:
Wide Field Imager (WFI): a DEPFET detector providing a large field of view (40×40 arcmin^2) with good imaging capabilities (half energy width of ~5 arcsec) and low spectral resolution (< 150 eV at 6 keV), which will be used primarily as an efficient survey machine;
X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU): a cryogenic X-ray spectrometer based on a large array of Transition Edge Sensors (TES) which will enable, on a field of 5 arcmin, unprecedented spatially resolved high-resolution (2.5 eV) X-ray spectroscopy.

Thanks to its unprecedented capabilities it will able to operate in efficient synergy with all the other large observatories which will be available when it will be operative (ALMA, E-ELT, JWST, SKA, CTA, LSST)

INAF-OAR participates to the Athena project by contributing to the following working groups:
– Understanding the build up of SMBH and galaxies (SWG2.2)
– Advanced Analysis Tools (MWG5.5)
– Missing Baryons and Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (SWG1.4)
– Feedback in local AGN and star forming galaxies (SWG2.3)
– End Points of Stellar Evolution (SWG3.3)


Within these working groups members of OAR are working on the prospects of:
– studying through the high resolution spectrometer X-IFU pervasive Supermassive Black Hole relativistic winds at epochs of maximum AGN/Galaxy co-evolution;
– simulating deep WFI survey fields to detect the first sources responsible for the re-ionization of the Universe;
– developing new tools to maximize the analysis of the massive amount of data Athena will be able to deliver;
– solve the Universe “missing baryons” problem by detecting and characterizing them
– study the interplay between the viralized and non-virialized Universe
– studying compact objects under extreme physical conditions

Athena people at OAR:
F. Fiore (MWG5.5 panel chair), G. Israel (SWG3.3 member), F. Nicastro (XST, SWG 1.4, SWG 2.3 member), E. Piconcelli (SWG2.2, MWG5.5 member), L. Zappacosta (SWG2.2, MWG5.5 member)