The hot and energetic Universe is a fascinating place, which will be explored in unprecedented detail by ESA's Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics space observatory, otherwise known as Athena. Athena is currently being built for launch in the 2030's, and is designed to provide high spatial and spectral resolution observations of stars, pulsars, black holes and active galaxies, a worthy successor to major space observatories like XMM-Newton and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Athena will address two major questions of modern astrophysics: How does ordinary matter form the large-scale structures that we see today? And how do black holes grow and shape the Universe? Athena will do this using two major science instruments: the X-ray Integral Field Unit, a 3-D camera designed to provide an unprecedented combination of X-ray spectral and spatial resolution; and the Wide-Field Imager, which will provide sensitive, spatial and spectral images of the hot gas permeating the Universe. The image above is an artist's conception of Athena, while in the background is a simulated Athena mosaic of the Andromeda galaxy.
The Athena X-ray Observatory
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