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|10 May 2004|
XMM-Newton is the biggest science satellite ever built in Europe. The collecting power of this telescope is the greatest ever launched to work at X-ray wavelengths. The total collecting mirror area is over 120 square metres spread across three individual X-ray telescopes.
Its acronym stands for X-ray Multi-Mirror design and also honours Sir Isaac Newton, the English physicist and mathematician (1642-1727) who advanced theories of gravitation and optics, built the first working reflecting telescope and discovered how to split light into its components to study its spectrum.
Scientific highlights to date
Since its launch, more than 1500 individual scientists (around 15% of the world’s professional astronomers) have been involved in preparing proposals for observing time on XMM-Newton.
Dimensions: Total length is 10 metres and, with its solar arrays, the satellite has a 16-metre span.
Mass: 3.8 tonnes (each X-ray mirror module has a mass of 500 kilograms).
Industrial involvement: The prime contractor was Dornier Satellitensysteme, part of Daimler Chrysler Aerospace (Friedrichshafen, Germany). They led an industrial consortium involving 46 companies from 14 European countries and one in the United States. Media Lario, Como, Italy, developed the X-ray Mirror Modules. About 1000 engineers and 150 scientists were involved in the creation of XMM-Newton.
Principal Investigator: Martin Turner, (X-ray Astronomy Group, University of Leicester, United Kingdom), leading a consortium of 10 institutes from four nations: the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and France. One of the cameras uses a new type of CCD (PN) developed by the Max Planck Institute of Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.
EPIC also incorporates a Radiation Monitor System (ERMS) developed by the Centre d’Étude Spatiale des Rayonnements (CESR) in Toulouse, France. ERMS is a particle detector that will measure the radiation levels either from incoming solar flares or during its passage through Earth’s radiation belts. Such radiation could disturb the sensitive CCD detectors of the main science instruments.
Two Reflection Grating Spectrometers - RGS Two of the telescopes contain structures known as gratings. These deflect about half of the incoming radiation away from the EPIC units and towards their own cameras. The gratings also ‘fan-out’ the incoming X-rays according to their energy, so that astronomers can study the presence of specific chemicals in the celestial object being observed.
Principal Investigator: Jelle Kaastra, High-Energy Astronomy Division SRON, Utrecht, The Netherlands, with Co-investigator Steven Kahn, Columbia University, NY, United States.
Optical Monitor - OM This is a traditional, 30-centimetre aperture Richtey-Chretien telescope, aligned with the main X-ray telescope. Away from the distorting effects of Earth’s atmosphere, the telescope is as sensitive as a 4-metre ground-based telescope and allows the identification of X-ray sources with optical counterparts more easily than ever before.
Principal investigator: Keith Mason, The Mullard Space Science Laboratory, United Kingdom.
Ground control: European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany), using ground stations at Perth (Australia), Kourou (French Guiana) and Santiago de Chile (Chile).
Science Operations: The ESA Vilspa Science Operations Centre in Villafranca, Spain, manages observation requests and the receipt, processing and distribution of XMM-Newton data. The XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre (SSC), University of Leicester, United Kingdom, processes, archives, and correlates all XMM observations with existing data held elsewhere in the world.
ESA Project Scientist: Norbert Schartel
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