The 2004 Project


The Science Operations and Data Systems Division of ESA's Research and Scientific Support Department develops and runs astronomy projects in space. These projects involve about 10 years building the instruments and software, that are then followed by several years of use making observations devised by the world's astronomers.

During operations, the emphasis shifts to understanding exactly how well the instruments perform in order to reveal as clearly as possible the physics of the sun and stars, neutron stars or black holes, or galaxies at large within the universe. This involves a range of different types of work such as data analysis, software development, and the design of suitable calibration observations, all of which are done through extensive teamwork both within the division and in external collaboration with international partners.

The XMM-Newton Science Operations Center (XMM-SOC) at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC), Villafranca del Castillo near Madrid, Spain currently operates three scientific instruments on board XMM-Newton, a satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) observing the hot X-ray universe. Starting from reception of the observer's proposal to the final delivery of the calibrated scientific products to the observer (and in general to the astronomical community), the activities of the SOC comprise all the necessary steps for ensuring high quality and reliable scientific data. This includes day-by-day operations, calibration of the instruments, user support and scientific research.

Dr. Marcus G. F. Kirsch
XMM-Newton EPIC Calibration Scientist
  One of the main instruments onboard XMM-Newton is the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC). EPIC consists of two MOS and one pn-CCD camera. Both camera systems operate in the energy range from 0.2-15 keV and provide spatial, energy and timing information for the detected X-ray photons. The European EPIC Consortium carries out the calibration of the EPIC camera where major calibration development is performed by the University of Leicester (UK) for the MOS cameras and by MPE and the University of Tübingen (Germany) for the pn-camera.

The EPIC Instrument Dedicated (EPIC-IDT) team at ESAC, coordinated by the EPIC Calibration Scientist, participates in the calibration efforts and transfers all important calibration information into Current Calibration Files (CCF) and/or software products using a major scientific analysis software package, the Scientific Analysis System (SAS), which is needed by observers for optimum scientific exploitation of the XMM-Newton observations performed.
Dr. Andrew M. T. Pollock
XMM-Newton RGS Calibration Scientist
  Dr. Andrew M. T. Pollock is the XMM-Newton RGS Calibration Scientist. He is responsible for making sure everything is in place for astronomers to be able to understand as well as possible the data collected by the high-resolution gratings aboard XMM.

He occupies the seat between the experts who built the instrument, on one hand, and the people who want to use it, on the other. Since growing up and studying physics in England, his career has been spent in the shadowy lands between astronomy and software engineering for projects like COS-B, EXOSAT, ISO and XMM. He especially likes hot stars, such as Wolf-Rayet stars and O stars, which do all sorts of interesting things in X-rays, both by themselves and in binary systems.
Dr. Matthias Ehle
XMM-Newton Scientist
  Dr. Matthias Ehle is a staff astronomer in the XMM-Newton Science Operations Centre. Alongside his EPIC calibration support tasks, he is a member of the User Community Support and Mission Planning Team. As such, he is (amongst other duties) responsible for the helpdesk, documentation and observing proposal handling.

Before moving to Spain, he was a research assistant in the X-ray astronomy group at the Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE) in Garching near Munich. His major research interests are: X-ray and radio emission from galaxies, star-bursts and AGNs, the formation of galactic radio and X-ray halos and the study of cosmic magnetic fields. Some of these topics were already part of his PhD thesis undertaken at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) in Bonn. As a post doc he also spent 1.5 years at the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) in Sydney.

If you want to learn more about his research have a look at his bibliography.