The X-ray astronomical telescopes in use today, such as Chandra and XMM-Newton, use X-ray grating spectrometers to probe the high energy physics of the Universe. These instruments typically use reflective optics for focussing onto gratings that disperse incident X-rays across a detector, often a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD). The X-ray energy is determined from the position that it was detected on the CCD. Improved technology for the next generation of X-ray grating spectrometers has been developed and will be tested on a sounding rocket experiment known as the Off-plane Grating Rocket Experiment (OGRE). OGRE aims to capture the highest resolution soft X-ray spectrum of Capella, a well-known astronomical X-ray source, during an observation period lasting between 3 and 6 minutes whilst proving the performance and suitability of three key components. These three components consist of a telescope made from silicon mirrors, gold coated silicon X-ray diffraction gratings and a camera that comprises of four Electron-Multiplying (EM)-CCDs that will be arranged to observe the soft X-rays dispersed by the gratings. EM-CCDs have an architecture similar to standard CCDs, with the addition of an EM gain register where the electron signal is amplified so that the effective signal-to-noise ratio of the imager is improved. The devices also have incredibly favourable Quantum Efficiency values for detecting soft X-ray photons. On OGRE, this improved detector performance allows for easier identification of low energy X-rays and fast readouts due to the amplified signal charge making readout noise almost negligible. A simulation that applies the OGRE instrument performance to the Capella soft X-ray spectrum has been developed that allows the distribution of X-rays onto the EM-CCDs to be predicted. A proposed optical model is also discussed which would enable the missions minimum success criteria's photon count requirement to have a high chance of being met with the shortest possible observation time. These results are compared to a Chandra observation to show the overall effectiveness of the new technologies. The current optical module is shown to narrowly meet the minimum success conditions whilst the proposed model comfortably demonstrates the effectiveness of the technologies if a larger effective area is provided.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Mathematical Physics