XMM-Newton Users Handbook

3 XMM-Newton - a concise overview

XMM-Newton is the second of ESA's four “cornerstone” missions defined in the Horizon 2000 Programme. It was launched on December 10th, 1999 and carries two distinct types of telescope: three Wolter type-1 X-ray telescopes, with different X-ray detectors in their foci (which are described in this chapter), and a 30-cm optical/UV telescope with a microchannel-plate pre-amplified CCD detector in its focal plane (see also below). Thus, XMM-Newton offers simultaneous access to two windows of the electromagnetic spectrum: X-ray and optical/UV.

Figure 1: Sketch of the XMM-Newton payload. The mirror modules, two of which are equipped with Reflection Grating Arrays, are visible at the lower left. At the right end of the assembly, the focal X-ray instruments are shown: The EPIC MOS cameras with their radiators (black/green “horns”), the radiator of the EPIC pn camera (violet) and those of the (light blue) RGS detectors (in pink). The OM telescope is obscured by the lower mirror module. Figure courtesy of Dornier Satellitensysteme GmbH.
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XMM-Newton provides the following three types of science instrument:

  1. European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC)

    3 CCD cameras for X-ray imaging, moderate resolution spectroscopy, and X-ray photometry; the two different types of EPIC camera, MOS and pn, are described in § 3.3. XMM-Newton carries 2 MOS cameras and one pn.

  2. Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS)

    2 essentially identical spectrometers for high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy and spectro-photometry (§ 3.4).

  3. Optical Monitor (OM)

    for optical/UV imaging and grism spectroscopy; § 3.5 provides an overview.

The three EPIC cameras and the two detectors of the RGS spectrometers reside in the focal planes of the X-ray telescopes, while the OM has its own telescope. A sketch of the XMM-Newton payload is displayed in Fig. 1. There are in total six science instruments on board XMM-Newton, which are operated simultaneously (unless prohibited by constraints, for example, excessive target brightness). The instruments can be operated independently and each in different modes of data acquisition. Observers will receive data from all science instruments.

European Space Agency - XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre