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X-Ray Calorimeter Arrays for AstrophysicsHigh-resolution x-ray spectroscopy is a powerful tool for studying the evolving universe. The grating spectrometers on the XMM and Chandra satellites started a new era in x-ray astronomy, but there remains a need for instrumentation that can provide higher spectral resolution with high throughput in the Fe-K band (around 6 keV) and can enable imaging spectroscopy of extended sources, such as supernova remnants and galaxy clusters. The instrumentation needed is a broad-band imaging spectrometer - basically an x-ray camera that can distinguish tens of thousands of x-ray colors. The potential benefits to astrophysics of using a low-temperature calorimeter to determine the energy of an incident x-ray photon via measurement of a small change in temperature was first articulated by S. H. Moseley over two decades ago. In the time since, technological progress has been steady, though full realization in an orbiting x-ray telescope is still awaited. A low-temperature calorimeter can be characterized by the type of thermometer it uses, and three types presently dominate the field. The first two types are temperature-sensitive resistors - semiconductors in the metal-insulator transition and superconductors operated in the superconducting-normal transition. The third type uses a paramagnetic thermometer. These types can be considered the three generations of x-ray calorimeters; by now each has demonstrated a resolving power of 2000 at 6 keV, but only a semiconductor calorimeter system has been developed to spaceflight readiness. The Soft X-ray Spectrometer on Astro-H, expected to launch in 2013, will use an array of silicon thermistors with I-IgTe x-ray absorbers that will operate at 50 mK. Both the semiconductor and superconductor calorimeters have been implemented in small arrays, kilo-pixel arrays of the superconducting calorimeters are just now being produced, and it is anticipated that much larger arrays will require the non-dissipative advantage of magnetic thermometers.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Kilbourne, Caroline A. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2009
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.