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Integrated Activities for the High Energy Astrophysics Domain

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AHEAD2020 (Integrated Activities for the High Energy Astrophysics Domain)

Reporting period: 2020-03-02 to 2021-09-01

The overall objective of AHEAD2020 is to integrate the activities in the field of high energy astrophysics in space, extending the integration to the multi-messenger community, and to promote the domain at the European level, keeping the community at the cutting edge of science and technology and ensure that space observatories for high-energy astrophysics and Multi-messenger facilities are at the state of the art.
AHEAD2020 involves 38 participants from 16 countries, including major European institutions in the field, one large space company and 3 SMEs and it offers to users 30 facilities for instrument tests and calibration of space-based sensors and electronics, data analysis and computational astrophysics/multimessenger modelling, including one virtual access for gravitational and multimessenger data. The technological development will focus on the improvement of selected critical technologies, like sensors and X-ray mirrors, for the benefit of future high energy missions like Athena and of the novel opportunities offered by wide-field detectors based on Lobster-eye optics and nanosat constellations in the field of time-domain and multi-messenger astronomy. Full exploitation of the new observing capabilities catered by high energy astrophysics space missions and by existing and future multi-messenger facilities will be achieved by the improvement of tools for data analysis, models and atomic database, with a dedicated effort in facilitating the accessibility and the analysis of data from the different facilities in the multi-messenger context. The advancement in cutting-edge sensor technology in Europe will enable the development of new technologies and the growth of the related European market with a dedicated technology innovation package for the benefit of the society. Through AHEAD2020, studies of future space-based high energy missions and multi-messenger facilities, such as the next generation of GW interferometers (Einstein Telescope) will be also carried out. Finally, AHEAD2020 will support the community via grants for collaborative studies, dissemination of results, and promotion of workshops, and a strong public outreach package will ensure that the domain is well publicized at national, European and International level. AHEAD2020 activities and their links are visualized in Figure 1.
Notwithstanding the pandemic all JRA activities in AHEAD2020 are in line with the planning and are all providing expected results. Two out of the seven JRA, JRA1& 2 are focused on detector and mirror technology developments linked to the large X-ray observatory Athena, to be launched in the 2030s, and other space missions to be launched in the closer future. The activities carried out in this first period have proved to be successful. Improvements on the instrument design are being incorporated in the baseline of Athena and the measurements of mirrors of various missions are boosting their development and improving calibrations. Enhancing the development of the next generation of high-energy space experiments for multi-messenger and time domain astronomy is the scope of JRA3, that is in particular focusing on the the novel Lobster-eye technology for by wide sky monitors and the new venue offered by nanosat constellations.
Full exploitation of the new observing capabilities catered by high energy astrophysics space missions and by existing and future multi-messenger facilities require a significant improvement in tools for data analysis, models and atomic database, that is the scope of JRA 4, 5 &6, that are progressing as expected. Applications of the innovative technologies developed under the aforementioned JRAs for the benefit of the society are being studied and engineered in the innovation JRA7, that has carried out in this period extensive design activities.

Networking activities are also proceeding as expected. NA1 is delivering a strong visiting programme via competitive calls, that has been booked by the community in line with the expectations, considering the pandemic outbreak. The workshops organized within NA1 are based on issues with strong interest in high energy and multi-messenger astronomical communities. In this first RP they took place in virtual mode. Noteworthy is the support to the Athena-multimessenger team, on science synergies with key multi-messenger facilities in X-rays, GW, VHE and neutrinos (see Fig.2). The results are being published in a White Paper. Specifically devoted to the multi-messenger networking, with emphasis on GW and high energy astrophysics synergies, is NA2. Also in this case, networking and meetings took place in virtual mode. One of the most important result of this activity is the success of the Einstein Telescope proposal to ESFRI. The public outreach programme (NA3) is ramping up, already delivering excellent products (video, PR, educational material, social media, web page). The AHEAD2020 dome video (Fig.3) on high energy and multi-messenger Astrophysics has received an international prize, and is being played all over the world, reaching already 1 million views, with a projected target of several millions of spectators.

The three TA activities have offered a common venue to the community to require access to 30 European facilities for experimental test and calibration, data analysis and computational astrophysics facilities via competitive calls, as planned within this first period. Preparatory activities for improving access to GW data via virtual access (VA1) are proceeding, integrating and developing new modules in the existing infrastructure and offering a specific web page for access.

In summary, the activities are overall in schedule and key results are in line with the strategic goals of AHEAD2020.
Three JRAs are hinged on instrument developments beyond the baseline of Athena and to space missions in time domain. Activities are focussed in a few strategic areas, thus aiming at a long-standing impact, and where the investment can be more effective, including sensor and mirror technologies, reduction of particle background, on the LOBSTER-eye wide-field X-ray based missions (SMILE, Einstein Probe, THESEUS, Gamow…), and nanosat constellations.

Adequate tools are equally important to enhance the science return of the new and more capable observing facilities. This is the scope of three other JRA. One of them brings effectively together the high energy astrophysics and astro-particle communities, in developing tools for multi-messenger astronomy. Another JRA aims at improving the knowledge of atomic transitions in the X-ray regime, that is needed to exploit the high-resolution spectra provided by XRISM and Athena. This is tackled with theoretical studies and experimental measurements. Advanced tools for X-ray missions such as XRISM, ERosita, Einstein Probe, Athena are being defined and developed in another JRA.

Technology innovation focuses on the application of AHEAD2020 technologies for our society. This activity is led by a space company, strengthening the technological transfer from pure research to industry. A key application is the use of cryogenic microcalorimeters in a PIXE system suited for non-invasive analysis on fine arts/archeology items or for high-sensitivity measurements of air pollution. The realization of a movable array of robots equipped with environmental sensors for use in GW observatories can be also applied to the monitoring of geophysical risks.
The AHEAD2020 activities and their relationship with society.
The Athena-Multi-messenger Synergy project in X-rays, GW, VHE and neutrinos.
The dome video produced by AHEAD2020 has reached already about 1 million views