XMM-Newton is an X-ray satellite launched into Earth orbit on December 10, 1999
European Space Agency (ESA).
XMM-Newton is actually a fully-functioning observatory, carrying
three very advanced X-ray telescopes. They each contain 58 high-precision
concentric mirrors, nested to offer the largest collecting
area possible to catch X-rays.
Unlike many other telescopes, which only make images of the objects they
observe, XMM-Newton takes both images and
This means it can measure the energy
of the X-rays emitted by an astronomical object,
which allows scientists
to determine many of its physical characteristics.
XMM-Newton was initially called just "XMM", which stands
for "X-ray Multi-Mirror" due to the design of the mirrors.
To honor one of the world's most famous
scientists, ESA attached the name of Isaac Newton to the XMM mission.
XMM-Newton can obtain spectra of far fainter objects than any previous spectroscopic X-ray mission because its mirrors have more collection area and are smoother than on any previous mission. The detectors onboard XMM-Newton are also much more sensitive, allowing fainter objects to be observed. A third advantage is that it has an unusual orbit that takes it out to nearly one third of the distance to the Moon. This highly elliptical orbit means that XMM-Newton can make long, uninterrupted observations, giving it the time it needs to see fainter astronomical objects.
Although managed and operated by the European Space Agency (see
ESA's XMM-Newton outreach site),
XMM-Newton has several American components:
- Columbia University
Astrophysics laboratory has been working with both the software
and the hardware of the Reflection
Grating Spectrometer, the instrument which will give astronomers
the most precise spectral information.
- University of California
- Santa Barbara is in charge of the on-board software for the
- GSFC is the coordinator of the US effort and participation in
XMM-Newton. GSFC also manages the
Guest Observer Facility.