24 July 2014 The wide field imager instrument for Athena
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The "Hot and Energetic Universe" has been selected as the science theme for ESA's L2 mission, scheduled for launch in 2028. The proposed Athena X-ray observatory provides the necessary capabilities to achieve the ambitious goals of the science theme. The X-ray mirrors are based on silicon pore optics technology and will have a 12 m focal length. Two complementary camera systems are foreseen which can be moved in and out of the focal plane by an interchange mechanism. These instruments are the actively shielded micro-calorimeter spectrometer X-IFU and the Wide Field Imager (WFI). The WFI will combine an unprecedented survey power through its large field of view of 40 arcmin with a high countrate capability (approx. 1 Crab). It permits a state-of-the-art energy resolution in the energy band of 0.1 keV to 15 keV during the entire mission lifetime (e.g. FWHM ≤ 150 eV at 6 keV). This performance is accomplished by a set of DEPFET active pixel sensor matrices with a pixel size matching the angular resolution of 5 arcsec (on-axis) of the mirror system. Each DEPFET pixel is a combined detector-amplifier structure with a MOSFET integrated onto a fully depleted 450 micron thick silicon bulk. The signal electrons generated by an X-ray photon are collected in a so-called internal gate below the transistor channel. The resulting change of the conductivity of the transistor channel is proportional to the number of electrons and thus a measure for the photon energy. DEPFETs have already been developed for the "Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer" on-board of ESA’s BepiColombo mission. For Athena we develop enhanced sensors with integrated electronic shutter and an additional analog storage area in each pixel. These features improve the peak-to-background ratio of the spectra and minimize dead time. The sensor will be read out with a new, fast, low-noise multi-channel analog signal processor with integrated sequencer and serial analog output. The architecture of sensor and readout ASIC allows readout in full frame mode and window mode as well by addressing selectively arbitrary sub-areas of the sensor allowing time resolution in the order of 10 μs. The further detector electronics has mainly the following tasks: digitization, pre-processing and telemetry of event data as well as supply and control of the detector system. Although the sensor will already be equipped with an on-chip light blocking filter, a filter wheel is necessary to provide an additional external filter, an on-board calibration source, an open position for outgassing, and a closed position for protection of the sensor. The sensor concept provides high quantum efficiency over the entire energy band and we intend to keep the instrumental background as low as possible by designing a graded Z-shield around the sensor. All these properties make the WFI a very powerful survey instrument, significantly surpassing currently existing observatories and in addition allow high-time resolution of the brightest X-ray sources with low pile-up and high efficiency. This manuscript will summarize the current instrument concept and design, the status of the technology development, and the envisaged baseline performance.
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Norbert Meidinger, Kirpal Nandra, Markus Plattner, Matteo Porro, Arne Rau, Andrea E. Santangelo, Chris Tenzer, Jörn Wilms, "The wide field imager instrument for Athena", Proc. SPIE 9144, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray, 91442J (24 July 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2054490; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2054490

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