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XMM-Newton mission graphic

X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission

Phase: Operating

Launch Date: December 10, 1999

Mission Project Home Page -

Program(s):Physics of the Cosmos

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XMM-Newton, the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, is the second cornerstone of the Horizon 2000 program of the European Space Agency (ESA). XMM-Newton was launched on December 10, 1999.

Since Earth's atmosphere blocks out all X-rays, only a telescope in space can detect and study celestial X-ray sources. The XMM-Newton mission will help scientists solve a number of cosmic mysteries, ranging from the enigmatic black holes to the origins of the Universe itself. Observing time on XMM-Newton is being made available to the scientific community, applying for observational periods on a competitive basis.

XMM-Newton images over a 30 arc minute field of view with moderate spectral resolution using the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC), which consists of two MOS and one PN CCD arrays. High-resolution spectral information (E/dE~300) is provided by the Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) that deflects half of the beam on two of the X-ray telescopes. The observatory also has a coaligned 30 cm optical/UV telescope, the Optical Monitor (OM).

Besides having funded elements of the XMM-Newton instrument package, NASA also provides the NASA Guest Observer Facility (GOF) at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The GOF provides a clearing house for project-generated technical information and analysis software as well as budget support for U.S. astronomers who apply for XMM-Newton observation time.

Following in Newton's footsteps, the European Space Agency has decided to honor one of the world's most illustrious scientists by giving the name of Isaac Newton to the XMM mission, the XMM-Newton observatory. The work of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in the field of mathematics, optics and physics laid the foundations for modern science. He made a major impact on theoretical and practical astronomy and today one cannot evoke an apple, a reflecting telescope, a light-splitting prism and or a sextant without recalling Newton's contributions to science.