15 November 2007
At their 12-13 November meeting, ESA's Science Programme Committee has unanimously approved an extension for the XMM-Newton mission, pushing back the mission end date from 31 March 2010 to 31 December 2012.
XMM-Newton, the second cornerstone of the Horizon 2000 programme, was launched on 10 December 1999. Operations were originally approved for an initial period of 2 years and 3 months, which was later extended for an additional 8 years. The spacecraft remains in excellent health and its on-board consumables (including power, fuel, gyros usage) are in principle sufficient to operate for at least another 10 more years.
The mission continues to successfully deliver medium- to high-resolution spatially resolved spectroscopy for a very wide variety of astrophysical objects in the 0.2-12 keV X-ray band, as well as simultaneous optical and UV monitoring of the X-ray fields.
An example of the research fields where XMM-Newton is well-equipped for to advance scientific investigations in over the next five years of extended operations is:
- Star and planet formation
Combining the spectroscopic diagnostics from XMM-Newton and Herschel will provide unprecedented insights into the accretion and outflow processes and into the role played by magnetic fields in proto-stars and young stellar systems. ALMA and XMM-Newton will provide complementary views on the effects of stellar radiation on proto-planetary disks.
- Relativistically broadened lines
XMM-Newton has the unique ability of gathering long, un-interrupted, high signal-to-noise timing series and spectra to study relativistically broadened iron lines emitted directly in the vicinity of black holes, as well as their variability. The power of XMM-Newton in this field is illustrated by the large number of recent results such as the first detection of a relativisitically broadened line from a neutron star, which has opened a whole new area of science.
- Dark Matter
A major step in our understanding of dark matter structure formation and dark energy is expected by combining XMM-Newton and the forthcoming Planck, ALMA and South Polar Sunyaev-Zel'dovich experiment data. Planck will increase, by a factor 100, the number of massive clusters known at red-shifts greater than 0.6. XMM-Newton observations will be crucial in fully exploiting this sample, allowing constraints on the Dark Energy equation of state, and its evolution (if any) with cosmic time. This will provide the only direct measurement of the distance to high red-shift objects other than that from type Ia supernova. This independent measurement of distances is crucial in determining how reliable are the determination of cosmological parameters. In addition, these combined Sunyaev-Zel'dovich/X-ray data will produce a precise calibration of the mass/Sunyaev-Zel'dovich observable relation, allowing independent constrains on cosmological parameters from cluster abundance.