Airbus Defence and Space

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Clusters of galaxies, centres of galaxies, quasars – even normal stars like the Sun – all emit X-rays. These rays offer a wealth of chemical and physical information about cosmic objects. X-rays are absorbed by the air molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere; they can therefore only be examined by satellite outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The European satellite XMM-Newton (X-ray Multi Mirror), built under contract to ESA by a consortium of 35 European companies with Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor, by far excels its predecessor, the Airbus Defence and Space-built Rosat satellite. The telescope contains three identical X-ray mirror systems thereby attaining a very high degree of sensitivity.

XMM-Newton was the largest European science satellite ever built. After launch by an Ariane 5 in December 1999, the first pictures taken by XMM-Newton were received in February 2000. The telescope continues to send a wealth of new information about the source of X-rays and although the original mission lifetime was two years, it was designed to last 10 years and has now been extended to run until 31 December 2014.

At the end of 2009, XMM-Newton reached a milestone of 10 years in orbit, and has completed its design lifetime with a decade of discoveries and scientific insights. Some of the achievements that have been made include the detection of X-ray emission from solar system objects, detailed studies of star-formation regions, investigation of the formation and evolution of galaxy clusters, probing the environment of supermassive black holes, and mapping dark matter.

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