HEAD Division Meeting 1999, April 1999
Session 12. Missions
Oral, Monday, April 12, 1999, 4:30pm-6:10pm, Colonial Room

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[12.03] The Astro-E X-Ray Observatory

R.L. Kelley (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

The Astro-E Observatory is the next in a series of highly successful Japanese collaborative missions designed to study the universe in X-rays. The Observatory will consist of a high resolution X-ray spectrometer based on a microcalorimeter array, four CCD X-ray cameras, and a hard X-ray telescope to enable a composite band pass of 0.3-700 keV. The X-ray Spectrometer (XRS) is based on a new approach to X-ray spectroscopy, the X-ray microcalorimeter. This device senses the energies of individual X-ray photons as heat with extreme precision. A 32 channel array of cryogenically cooled microcalorimeters is being employed, each with an energy resolution of about 12 eV at 6 keV. This will provide 10 times higher spectral resolving power in the Fe-K region. The instrument incorporates a three stage cooling system capable of operating the array at 60 mK for about two years in orbit. The X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (XIS) consists of four individual CCD cameras that provide imaging and moderate spectral resolution. The field of view of each XIS camera is much larger than the XRS and the spatial resolution is also much better, essential for obtaining a more complete understanding of many celestial objects. The XRS and XIS both use high throughput conical X-ray mirrors that provide a band pass to 12 keV. The Hard X-Ray Detector (HXD) covers the energy band 10-700 keV with collimated gadolinium silicate well-type phoswich counters and silicon PIN diodes. The HXD has low residual instrumental background which results in significantly higher sensitivity than previous missions in the high energy band. These new capabilities will enable the study of a wide range of high energy astrophysical sources with unprecedented spectral sensitivity. We will describe the basic characteristics of the instruments on Astro-E, with an emphasis on the XRS, and describe some of the capabilities for astrophysical investigations.

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