Czech scientists expand their participation in the large X-ray observatory ATHENA

ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics) is the next large, flagship mission of the European Space Agency‘s Scientific Programme („L2“ mission), currently in the preparatory phase. The large X-ray observatory ATHENA will address key questions in astrophysics, including: How and why does ordinary matter assemble into the galaxies and galactic clusters that we see today? How do black holes grow and influence their surroundings? The ATHENA launch is planned for 2033.

New Czech contribution to ATHENA

In addition to the previously approved project, the Czech participation is being expanded by another scientific team from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Scientific interest is mainly in X-ray astrophysics of black holes and neutron stars. Czech scientists will now take part in the consortium WFI (Wide Field Imager), which is focused on the study of supermassive black holes.

Besides to the previously approved contribution to the X-IFU detector, the Czech contribution to the scientific payload of ATHENA will consist of the design, development and production of the Galvanic Isolation Module (GIM) for the detector electronics of the experiment Wide Field Imager (WFI), which together with X-IFU forms the main scientific instrumentation of the ATHENA mission. Owing to this contribution to the scientific payload of the mission, the Czech team will become a part of the scientific consortium of the mission, and will be able to participate in the scientific preparation and consequently will have exclusive access to the acquired data.

Czech financial contribution is increasing

The above-mentioned new project of Czech participation in the ATHENA’s scientific payload will be supported by about EUR 1.6 million from the contribution of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to the ESA PRODEX Programme. Jointly with the previously approved project, Czech financial contribution to the scientific payload of ATHENA will increase to EUR 4.7 million. Besides this contribution, the Czech Republic will provide funding to the ATHENA mission through the ESA’s Science Programme, which is expected to contribute to the mission by EUR 1.3 million.

The ESA Scientific Programme currently offers many other opportunities for Czech scientific institutes and businesses.

Animation of the ATHENA mission