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Microcalorimeter Arrays for X-ray Astrophysics: Astro-H SXS and TES Detector Development

Abstract: High-resolution X-ray spectroscopy is a powerful tool for probing the high-energy Universe. We are developing instruments and detector technologies for future x-ray observatories using microcalorimeters, a type of x-ray detector designed for very high energy resolution. These instruments will enable non-dispersive imaging spectroscopy over the soft X-ray band (~0.1-12 keV), allowing spectroscopy of spatially extended sources and providing excellent energy resolution across the bandpass (<5 eV FWHM at E~6 keV). Microcalorimeters consist of an x-ray absorber, a sensitive thermometer, and a weak link to a thermal bath. The energy of a single incoming photon raises the temperature of the absorber and the resulting change is measured precisely by the thermometer before the absorber cools through the weak link. I will describe our detector arrays that utilize superconducting transition-edge sensors (TESs), a technology that can be used not only for x-ray astrophysics but for applications across the electromagnetic spectrum. I will present our state-of-the-art results from kilo-pixel arrays designed for future x-ray missions (e.g., IXO, ATHENA) and a novel device optimization that has achieved unprecedented spectral performance (dE=1.3 eV at 1.5 keV and 1.6 eV at 6 keV). In addition, I will discuss our upcoming flight projects, including the Soft X-ray Spectrometer for Astro-H (launch 2014) and the Micro-X Sounding Rocket Experiment.
Speaker: Megan Eckart - NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and CRESST/UMBC
Speaker Bio: Megan Eckart is a research associate in the X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where she focuses on low-temperature detector development for X-ray imaging spectroscopy. With the X-ray Microcalorimeter Group, she is developing the TES microcalorimeter array for the Micro-X Sounding Rocket Experiment as well as kilopixel TES arrays for future X-ray missions (e.g., IXO, ATHENA). She also serves as lead calibration scientist for the Astro-H Soft X-ray Spectrometer, a JAXA-led mission set for launch in 2014. Megan received her A.B. from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in physics from Caltech in 2007. Her thesis included observational work studying AGN that dominate the 2-10 keV X-ray background using Chandra data and multi-wavelength followup, as well as detector development of Microwave Kinetic Inductance Detectors (MKIDs) for X-ray astrophysics.
Poster Link: Poster
Presentation: Presentation on 9/14/2011 (PDF)