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Journal Article

The Athena space X‐ray observatory and the astrophysics of hot plasma


Nandra,  Kirpal
High Energy Astrophysics, MPI for Extraterrestrial Physics, Max Planck Society;

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Barret, D., Decourchelle, A., Fabian, A., Guainazzi, M., Nandra, K., Smith, R., et al. (2020). The Athena space X‐ray observatory and the astrophysics of hot plasma. Astronomische Nachrichten, 341(2), 224-235. doi:10.1002/asna.202023782.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-4F94-B
The properties (temperature, density, chemical composition, velocity) of hot astrophysical plasma and the physical processes affecting them (heating/cooling, turbulence, shocks, acceleration) can be probed by high‐resolution X‐ray spectroscopy, to be complemented by high‐spatial‐resolution imaging. The paper presents the status of the European Space Agency's Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (Athena) mission, particularly focusing on the science performance of its two focal‐plane instruments for studies of extended X‐ray sources: the wide‐field imager and the X‐ray integral field unit. This paper then provides a brief summary of the breakthroughs expected with Athena on the astrophysics of hot plasma, building on the vast heritage of the discoveries and revolutionary results obtained by Chandra and XMM‐Newton in this field. As of November 12, 2019, Athena successfully concluded its feasibility study, and has since then moved into the definition phase, with a launch date scheduled in the early 2030s.