11 July 2016 Updates on the background estimates for the X-IFU instrument onboard of the ATHENA mission
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Abstract
ATHENA is the second large mission in ESA Cosmic Vision 2015-2025, with a launch foreseen in 2028 towards the L2 orbit. The mission addresses the science theme “The Hot and Energetic Universe”, by coupling a high-performance X-ray Telescope with two complementary focal-plane instruments. One of these, the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU) is a TES based kilo-pixel array, providing spatially resolved high-resolution spectroscopy (2.5 eV at 6 keV) over a 5 arcmin FoV.

The background for this kind of detectors accounts for several components: the diffuse Cosmic Xray Background, the low energy particles (< ~100 keV) focalized by the mirrors and reaching the detector from inside the field of view, and the high energy particles (> ~100 MeV) crossing the spacecraft and reaching the focal plane from every direction. In particular, these high energy particles lose energy in the materials they cross, creating secondaries along their path that can induce an additional background component.

Each one of these components is under study of a team dedicated to the background issues regarding the X-IFU, with the aim to reduce their impact on the instrumental performances. This task is particularly challenging, given the lack of data on the background of X-ray detectors in L2, the uncertainties on the particle environment to be expected in such orbit, and the reliability of the models used in the Monte Carlo background computations. As a consequence, the activities addressed by the group range from the reanalysis of the data of previous missions like XMMNewton, to the characterization of the L2 environment by data analysis of the particle monitors onboard of satellites present in the Earth magnetotail, to the characterization of solar events and their occurrence, and to the validation of the physical models involved in the Monte Carlo simulations. All these activities will allow to develop a set of reliable simulations to predict, analyze and find effective solutions to reduce the particle background experienced by the X-IFU, ultimately satisfying the scientific requirement that enables the science of ATHENA.

While the activities are still ongoing, we present here some preliminary results already obtained by the group. The L2 environment characterization activities, and the analysis and validation of the physical processes involved in the Monte Carlo simulations are the core of an ESA activity named AREMBES (Athena Radiation Environment Models and Effects), for which the work presented here represents a starting point.
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S. Lotti, C. Macculi, M. D'Andrea, L. Piro, S. Molendi, F. Gastaldello, T. Mineo, A. D'ai, A. Bulgarelli, V. Fioretti, C. Jacquey, M. Laurenza, P. Laurent, "Updates on the background estimates for the X-IFU instrument onboard of the ATHENA mission", Proc. SPIE 9905, Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2016: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray, 990563 (11 July 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2232381; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2232381
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