X-ray imaging sensors continue to generate data onboard observatory satellite

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The European Space Agency's (ESA) X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton) X-ray observatory satellite, containing e2v CCD imaging sensors, has celebrated its 10th anniversary. The satellite was launched into space on 10 December 1999 and has supplied masses of new data to widen the knowledge of the universe. XMM-Newton's large collecting area and the ability to make long uninterrupted exposures provides highly sensitive observations; providing data that has furthered understanding of black holes, galaxy clusters, dark matter and the atmosphere of Mars, to name a few.

The satellite itself carries six instruments equipped with e2v CCDs: The observatory has three imaging instruments called European Photon Imaging Cameras (EPIC), two of which were built by the University of Leicester. These each use seven e2v CCD22s, optimised for the application, which image extremely weak X-ray radiation and also detect the energy to each photon absorbed.

It also has two Reflection Grating Spectrometers (RGS) built by the Space Research Organisation of the Netherlands (SRON), which gives greater precision on detected photon energy. Each instrument uses nine e2v CCD15s which are back illuminated for maximum soft X-ray quantum efficiency (QE).

Finally it has an Optical Monitor (OM) built by MSSL using an e2v CCD02.  This is a conventional but very sensitive optical/UV monitor, which can observe simultaneously the same regions as the X-ray telescopes, but in the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths.

Although now in its 10th year of operation, the satellite is still in excellent condition and is said to have another 10 years of life ahead of it. Brian McAllister, general manager of Imaging at e2v said: 'We are delighted to be celebrating XMM-Newton's 10th anniversary and the part that e2v imaging sensors have played in its success. The satellite has been vital in learning more about our universe and, with plenty more to study, looks set to continue to be an important source of data for astronomers for many years to come.'