HEA Technology: X-Ray Optics

Goals: Many future X-ray astronomy missions will need large collecting area telescopes that are at least an order of magnitude improvement over the current generation of missions. These large optical systems must be low mass in order to be lifted into orbit. At the same time as the mass per unit collecting area must be reduced, the angular resolution of future X-ray telescopes must be improved. A goal of one tenth arcsecond resolution over an arcminute field of view, with 10's of square meters of collecting area has been set for Gen-X, a NASA Vision Mission for the 2030's.

To achieve these two performance goals is a challenge. There will be steps along the way. The optics being developed for Constellation-X will be lightweight compared with the Chandra optics, but will have 5 to 15 arcsecond angular resolution. A small area tenth arcsecond resolution optic could be the basis of an Explorer class mission that could study the few very brightest extended X-ray sources. X-ray optics with good performance over a several arcminute field of view could carry out large area surveys for clusters of galaxies.

Basic approach: The CXT X-ray optics program is working towards these goals. The first step is to to improve mirror fabrication metrology. "You can?t build what you can?t measure". Second is to determine fundamental limits to mirror fabrication approaches such as glass slumping, selective deposition, and polishing. Then it is necessary to determine efficacy of alternative approaches such as active, or adjustable, optics.


Paul Reid, Suzanne Romaine, Mark Freeman, Jon Chappell, Martin Elvis, Stephen Murray


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