ESA has recently selected The Hot and Energetic Universe as the scientific theme to be addressed by its next L2 (Large) mission. In this talk I will present the science theme and the mission implementation that the Athena consortium has proposed. Much like present and future missions, such as Planck or Euclid, have been designed to unveil the nature of the Dark Universe, a dedicated study of the Hot and Energetic Universe is mandatory to understand how ordinary matter emerge from the cosmic dawn and form the complex network of large scale structures that we see today, and how do black holes grow and shape the Universe. The majority of ordinary matter in the Universe consists of hot gas embedded in and delineating the large scale structure of dark matter. While the framework of the Universe is set by the cosmological parameters, the assembly and evolution of baryonic structures are strongly affected by processes of astrophysical origin, particularly those occurring or originating around accreting black holes. These objects have a profound effect on the evolution of galaxies and larger scale structures, as we have just started to appreciate. The challenge is to push the frontier of these studies to the highest redshift, at the epoch of the formation black holes in the Universe and their popIII stars progenitors. These two fundamental questions can only be revealed and fully understood via space-based observations at X-ray energies, with a large X-ray mission offering breakthrough capabilities, Athena, that combines unprecedented throughput with state-of-the-art instrumentation for spatially-resolved high resolution spectroscopy and wide field imaging.
Brief biography: Luigi Piro
Current position: Director of Research of the Istituto Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, INAF, Rome, Italy
Research staff since early 80’s at National Council of Research, currently Director of Research at INAF, he has spent his postdoc in Japan. Back in Italy he led the BeppoSAX satellite as Project Scientist. In more recent years he has been deeply involved in the Athena ESA mission. His primary research activity is High Energy and Relativistic Astrophysics from space, in particular Gamma-Ray Bursts and galaxies harbouring black holes. He is among the most cited authors in all science disciplines, as recognized by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI). He has published 244 articles in refereed journals, 394 other scientific publications (proceedings, circulars,..), given 60 invited reviews in international conferences and organized 40 scientific international conferences in the field, including 10 COSPAR symposia. Member of several national and international boards (ASI, ESA, NASA, JAXA, IAU), referee of Nature, Science, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Astrophysical Journal, .., book reviewer and column writer for Nature. As BeppoSAX Project scientist he has led the activities on GRB with the discovery of the X-ray afterglow. He is involved in the development of experiments and space missions of ESA, ASI, JAXA and NASA. He is leading the development of cryogenic microcalorimeters in Italy. He is one of the European leaders of the Athena mission. Awards: In 1998 Bruno Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society “for the discovery of the X-ray and optical afterglow of gamma-ray bursts, making possible the solution to the 30 year old problem of fixing the distances of gamma-ray bursts sources”. In 2002 Descartes Prize of the European Commission for “Solving the Gamma-ray burst riddle: the Universe's biggest explosions”.