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Novel X-ray Instrumentation for Astronomy

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posted on 31.07.2008, 08:51 by Adrian Martindale
This thesis describes experimental and theoretical work and technology development directed towards the next generation of X-ray astronomical instrumentation. A great heritage exists of instruments which are sensitive to X-rays which operate on board space based observatories. The next generation of such telescopes will take advantage of the rapid technology advancement of the last four decades of more accurately observe the universe and give greater insight into the objects within it, how they formed and how they will evolve. Chapters 2 and 3 describe the investigation of extremely high speed microchannel plate detectors capable of counting individual photons with a timing accuracy of a few tens of picoseconds (1 ps = 10-12s)at extremely high spatial resolution. Although many early X-ray astronomical instruments were based on MCP detectors, it is only recent manufacturing improvements which have enabled the production of such small pore diameters, enabling the unparalleled temporal and spatial resolution. Prospects for future application exist in fields as diverse as X-ray and ultraviolet astronomy and the life sciences. Chapters 4 and 5 report the testing of Microchannel plates as low mass X-ray optics where the development of square pore geometrics has made true imaging MCP telescopes possible. Two flight programs are identified as areas where such optics will provide tangible benefits: These are BepiColombo, a European mission to the planet Mercury which will contain the first ever imaging X-raytelescope on a planetary science mission and Lobster-ISS, a wide field of view telescope for X-ray astronomy which will provide coverage of, almost, the whole sky every 90 minute orbit. Testing reported herein finds that the manufacturing techniques are maturing to a point where they can exceed the <5 arcmin resolution required for these missions. Chapters 6 and 7 comprise a description of a completely novel X-ray polarimeter. For the past three decades, little or now progress has been made in the field of X-ray astrophysical polarimetry owing to the lack of suitable instrumentation, this is despite intense scientific interest in such measurements. A simple optical design for a polarimeter is made possible using highly ordered materials which exhibit dichroism at fixed, narrow energy bands, for the first time allowing simultaneous measurement of ALL astronomically pertinent observables. The areas of science influenced by these three areas of instrument development are shown to be very broad, including; astrophysics and cosmology, planetary science, life sciences, nano-science and even fundamental chemistry.


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University of Leicester

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