We have proposed the development of X-ray interferometry as part of ESA’s Voyage 2050 programme, to reveal the universe at high energies with ultra-high spatial resolution. With only a 1 m baseline, which could be accommodated on a single spacecraft, X-ray interferometry can reach 100 μas resolution at 10 Å (1.24 keV) and exceed that of the Event Horizon Telescope at 2Å (6.2 keV). A multi-spacecraft ‘constellation’ interferometer would resolve well below 1 μas. Here we focus on the single-spacecraft interferometer design and discuss the process of fringe detection and image reconstruction from multiple baselines, showing simulated images of test cases from our Voyage 2050 White Paper. We also discuss the challenges and feasibility of reaching the technical requirements needed for a single-spacecraft interferometer. Most key requirements are already feasible or within easy reach. Besides a ground-based testbed, covered elsewhere in these proceedings, the most important areas for development include large format, small-pixel X-ray detectors and pointing which is stable or can be reconstructed to tens of µas precision.
The first detected exoplanets found were "hot Jupiters"; these are large Jupiter-like planets in close orbits with their host star. The stars in these so-called "hot Jupiter systems" can have significant X-ray emission and the X-ray flux likely changes the evolution of the overall star-planetary system in at least two ways: (1) the intense high energy flux alters the structure of the upper atmosphere of the planet - in some cases leading to significant mass loss; (2) the angular momentum and magnetic field of the planet induces even more activity on the star, enhancing its X-rays, which are then subsequently absorbed by the planet. If the alignment of the systems is appropriate, the planet will transit the host star. The resulting drop in flux from the star allows us to measure the distribution of the low-density planetary atmosphere. We describe a science mission concept for a SmallSat Exosphere Explorer of hot Jupiters (SEEJ; pronounced "siege"). SEEJ will monitor the X-ray emission of nearby X-ray bright stars with transiting hot Jupiters in order to measure the lowest density portion of exoplanet atmospheres and the coronae of the exoplanet hosts. SEEJ will use revolutionary Miniature X-ray Optics (MiXO) and CMOS X-ray detectors to obtain sufficient collecting area and high sensitivity in a low mass, small volume and low-cost package. SEEJ will observe scores of transits occurring on select systems to make detailed measurements of the transit depth and shape which can be compared to out-of-transit behavior of the target system. The depth and duration of the flux change will allow us to characterize the exospheres of multiple hot Jupiters in a single year. In addition, the long baselines (covering multiple stellar rotation periods) from the transit data will allow us to characterize the temperature, flux and flare rates of the exoplanet hosts at an unprecedented level. This, in turn, will provide valuable constraints for models of atmospheric loss. In this contribution we outline the science of SEEJ and focus on the enabling technologies Miniature X-ray Optics and CMOS X-ray detectors.
Arcus provides high-resolution soft X-ray spectroscopy in the 12-50 Å bandpass with unprecedented sensitivity, including spectral resolution < 2500 and effective area < 250 cm2. The three top science goals for Arcus are (1) to measure the effects of structure formation imprinted upon the hot baryons that are predicted to lie in extended halos around galaxies, (2) to trace the propagation of outflowing mass, energy, and momentum from the vicinity of the black hole to extragalactic scales as a measure of their feedback, and (3) to explore how stars form and evolve. Arcus uses the same 12 m focal length grazing-incidence Silicon Pore X-ray Optics (SPOs) that ESA has developed for the Athena mission; the focal length is achieved on orbit via an extendable optical bench. The focused X-rays from these optics are diffracted by high-efficiency Critical-Angle Transmission (CAT) gratings, and the results are imaged with flight-proven CCD detectors and electronics. Combined with the high-heritage NGIS LEOStar-2 spacecraft and launched into 4:1 lunar resonant orbit, Arcus provides high sensitivity and high efficiency observing of a wide range of astrophysical sources.