XMM-Newton observers the Universe with X-ray vision. XMM-Newton is the European X-ray Multi-Mirror (XMM) telescope, named in memory of Issac Newton, and is dedicated to investigating the many astronomical objects that emit X-rays. X-rays originate from where ever gas is heated to millions of degrees centigrade, or where strong magnetic fields exist. To mention just a few examples, XMM-Newton observes:

  • Gas falling into Black-holes
  • Stars with powerful magnetic fields
  • Shock fronts surrounding comets
  • Aurora around planets
  • Compact objects, like neutron stars and white dwarfs
  • Glowing nebula left behind by dying stars

The telescope itself was launched from Kourou in French Guiana on Ariane 504 on Friday December 10, 1999. The orbit is highly eccentric, orbiting from just 7,000 km above the Earth to a third of the distance to the Moon! This allows XMM-Newton to observe the Universe for 42 hours each orbit.

XMM-Newton is the most sensitive X-ray telescope ever built, thanks to its 58 mirrors collecting more X-rays than any other previous X-ray observatory. XMM-Newton's scientific objective is to perform spectroscopy of cosmic X-ray sources over a range of energies from around 0.1keV to 12keV. The Earth's atmosphere absorbs most cosmic X-rays, so space-based instruments such as those on-board XMM are required to study these sources.

XMM-Newton's scientific payload comprises three instruments:

  • European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC)
    The main focal plane instrument providing CCD imaging and spectroscopy at the focus of three XMM-Newton mirror systems. Two of the three cameras heads employ Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) CCDs (manufactured by EEV of Chelmsford, UK) and the third contains pn CCDs. The MOS CCD cameras are the responsibility of the United Kingdom (Leicester University and Birmingham University). The pn CCD camera is the responsibility of the German groups at AI Tuebingen and MPE Garching.
  • Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS)
    The RGS consists of gratings mounted behind two of the mirrors of XMM-Newton. These gratings produce X-ray spectra on two strips of EEV MOS CCDs.
  • Optical Monitor (OM)
    This is an optical telescope with a sensitivity down to the 24th magnitude. Its role is to monitor the optical flux from X-ray sources observed by EPIC, and to aid in identification.

The European Photon Imaging Camera


The European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC) is the main focal plane instrument of XMM-Newton. The EPIC consortium comprises groups from the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany. The University of Leicester is the Principal Investigating Institute for EPIC.

EPIC consists of two MOS CCD cameras, and one pn-type CCD camera. Each MOS camera contains an array of seven MOS CCDs; the pn camera contains an array of 12 pn-type CCDs.

Page maintained by Tao Song

Share this page: