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New Technology Enables a Deeper Look into the X-ray Universe

USRA/CRESST researchers are working to introduce the next generation of cutting-edge technologies that will further unravel the outstanding mysteries of the high-energy Universe. USRA plays a leading role through its involvement in developing direct imaging of X-ray sources with very high angular resolution by using Phase Fresnel lenses on future formation-flying spacecraft observatories. USRA/CRESST scientists are also managing the fabrication of new, lightweight, high-throughput thin foil mirrors for future X-ray observatories to look even deeper into the X-ray Universe. The use of thin foils, which have a smaller angle to the optical axis, produces higher sensitivities. Additionally, in comparison to telescopes that use thicker shells, the thin shells allow for a larger number of shells to be utilized in gathering data, and do not have such a high density, thus lightening the overall load.

CRESST Scientist Zaven Arzoumanian is the deputy Principal Investigator of the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer. NICER is an X-ray instrument which will be mounted on the International Space Station and which will provide ultra-precise timing of neutron star X-ray pulsars. Analysis of the time signals from a sample of pulsars will help quantify various general relativistic effects, establish the neutron star mass-to-radius relation, and thus determine the equation of state of the neutron star interior, which exists at densities which cannot be reproduced on earth. NICER has been integrated and is undergoing testing for launch to the space station in late 2016.

Other advances in X-ray technology include work from USRA's Science and Technology Institute. Scientist Kiranmayee Kilaru has used differential deposition, an innovative technique which provides much smoother optical surfaces in grazing-incidence X-ray optics. This technique includes metrology of the figure profile of the grazing-incidence optical element, computer simulations to model the effect of figure deviation on imaging quality, magnetron sputter deposition of the mirror coating, and metrology to quantify the improvement in mirror surface.