PheniX: a new vision for the hard X-ray sky

Abstract : We are proposing a mission devoted to high energy X-ray astronomy that is based on a focusing telescope operating in the 1-200 keV energy range but optimized for the hard X-ray range. The main scientific topics concern: Physics of compact objects: The proximity of compact objects provides a unique laboratory to study matter and radiation in extreme conditions of temperature and density in strong gravitational environment. The emission of high energy photons from these objects is far from being understood. The unprecedented sensitivity in the high energy domain will allow a precise determination of the non-thermal processes at work in the vicinity of compact objects. The full 1-200 keV energy coverage will be ideal to disentangle the emission processes produced in the spacetime regions most affected by strong-gravity, as well as the physical links: disk-thermal emission-iron line-comptonisation-reflection-non-thermal emission-jets. Neutron stars-magnetic field-cyclotron lines: Time resolved spectroscopy (and polarimetry) at ultra-high sensitivity of AXP, milliseconds pulsars and magnetars will give new tools to study the role of the synchrotron processes at work in these objects. Cyclotron lines-direct measurement of magnetic filed-equation of state constraints-short bursts-giant flares could all be studied with great details. AGN: The large sensitivity improvement will provide detailed spectral properties of the high energy emission of AGN's. This will give a fresh look to the connection between accretion and jet emission and will provide a new understanding of the physical processes at work. Detection of high-redshift active nuclei in this energy range will allow to introduce an evolutionary aspect to high-energy studies of AGN, probing directly the origin of the Cosmic X-ray Background also in the non-thermal range (> 20 keV). Element formation-Supernovae: The energy resolution achievable for this mission (<0.5 keV) and a large high energy effective area are ideally suited for the 44Ti line study (68 and 78 keV). This radioactive nuclei emission will give an estimate of their quantities and speed in their environment. In addition the study of the spatial structure and spectral emission of SNR will advance our knowledge of the dynamics of supernovae explosions, of particles acceleration mechanisms and how the elements are released in the interstellar medium. Instrumental design: The progress of X-ray focusing optics techniques allows a major step in the instrumental design: the collecting area becomes independent of the detection area. This drastically reduces the instrumental background and will open a new era. The optics will be based on depth-graded multi-layer mirrors in a Wolter I configuration. To obtain a significant effective area in the hundred of keV range a focal length in the 40-50 meters range (attainable with a deployable mast) is needed. In addition such a mission could benefit from recent progress made on mirror coating. We propose to cover the 1-200 keV energy range with a single detector, a double-sided Germanium strip detector operating at 80 K. The main features will be: (a) good energy resolution (.150 keV at 5 keV and <.5 keV at 100 keV), (b) 3 dimensional event localization with a low number of electronic chains, (c) background rejection by the 3D localization, (d) polarisation capabilities in the Compton regime.
Contributor : Philippe Laurent <>
Submitted on : Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 7:02:25 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 11, 2015 - 9:49:59 AM




J.-P. Roques, E. Jourdain, L. Bassani, A. Bazzano, R. Belmont, et al.. PheniX: a new vision for the hard X-ray sky. Experimental Astronomy, 2012, 34, pp.489-517. <10.1007/S10686-011-9236-3>. <hal-00714861>




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