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10-09-2020 - Astronomers take actions to raise awareness on climate change

The Nature Astronomy journal has published, this Thursday, 10th of September, a series of articles written by astronomers about the link between astronomical research and the climate crisis.

This issue¹ highlights the need for urgent actions from all parts of society, including astronomers who, according to the articles, have a higher impact than the average citizen. Our environmental impact has been a major concern for the X-IFU Consortium over the past year (see our article on World Environment Day).

X-IFU’s Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, is co-author of an article focusing on the carbon footprint of large astronomy meetings. This topic is at the core of our commitments as we have decided in 2019 to reduce the number of physical meetings for X-IFU related activities. A move that was sped up due to the current pandemic.

The Nature Astronomy article compares two annual meetings of the European Astronomical Society, one held in Lyon in 2019 and the other held virtually in 2020. The participants’ travel footprint to join the meeting was estimated thanks to Didier Barret’s online travel footprint calculator². For the 2020 virtual edition, the authors evaluated the electrical consumption of both the organisers and the participants.

The results are self-evident:

  • 1,855t CO2-eq in 2019 (for 1,240 attendees in Lyon)
  • 588kg CO2-eq in 2020 (for 1,777 virtual participants)

The writers also offer some thoughts and insights regarding the organisation of future large meetings while continuing to reduce astronomers’ carbon footprint. This paper clearly shows that it is important for astronomers to take actions and we will continue our efforts in the right direction with the X-IFU Consortium.

Other articles from this issue focus on several typical activities of astronomers that result in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on the impact of the climate crisis on astronomical research.

All articles are available at:


¹ Nature Astronomy, Volume 4, Issue 9

² Barret, 2020, Experimental Astronomy, Volume 49, Issue 3, p.183-216



21-07-2020 - Two postdoc positions to join the X-IFU team

Athena is the second large mission of the Cosmic Vision science program of the European Space Agency. Dedicated to the study of the Hot and Energetic Universe, Athena will carry a large aperture X-ray telescope, and two complementary focal plane instruments: the Wide Field Imager (WFI) and the X-ray Integral Field Unit (X-IFU). The X-IFU is a revolutionary instrument providing spatially resolved high resolution X-ray spectroscopy, with 2.5 eV spectral resolution over a field of view of 5 arcminute equivalent diameter. The X-IFU will be developed by an international Consortium, involving Europe, the United States and Japan. The X-IFU Principal Investigator is Didier Barret (IRAP, Toulouse, France). The French Space Agency (CNES) is the technical authority responsible for the overall development of the X-IFU.

The two positions are opened to candidates of any nationality holding a PhD. The applicants should have expertise in X-ray astronomy. They will be hosted at IRAP, and will work closely with members of the CNES project team, also located in Toulouse.



  • Application deadline: Thursday, September 17, 2020
  • Selection deadline: Friday, October 30, 2020
  • Starting date: At the latest Friday, January 1, 2021


More information about the positions and application procedure can be found at:


For any questions, please contact us at xifu [at]



20-07-2020 - The X-IFU Gazette #15 has been released!

This 15th issue brings you the latest X-IFU information right before the summer break!

We will start with an update on the cryostat handover to industry. Our Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, will give you some details about the various exchanges with the Primes considered for this new ESA-funded contract.

This will be followed by short introductions of two of the newly set-up X-IFU Working Groups (WG) written by their respective co-leads: Roland den Hartog and Philippe Peille for the Performance WG; Jean-Michel Mesnager and Jan-Willem den Herder for the System – Interface WG.

Then, you will get to discover the new X-IFU images that are available for download.

Lastly, Jiří Svoboda, as the Czech representative in the X-IFU Consortium Board, will present an overview of his country’s contribution to the instrument, the Remote Terminal Unit, and the work of the two institutes carrying it out. You will also get a glimpse of his own activities in his biography article.

We wish you all to stay safe and enjoy your summer.

Happy reading!



05-06-2020 - Our commitments for World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, it is a perfect opportunity to share our efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the X-IFU Consortium, and in particular our experience as testing ground for a new travel footprint calculator.

Since 2019, our main environmental commitment is to reduce the travel footprint of the Consortium members for X-IFU activities. X-IFU’s Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, has developed a travel footprint calculator to help the scientific community reduce its environmental impact. It was first tested for travels to X-IFU meetings as a way to better understand the exact travel footprint of the Consortium. As an international partnership, with members based on three continents, involving a lot of travels, it was an ideal testing ground.

Thanks to this tool, it was estimated that the yearly travel footprint of the Consortium was around 500 tons of Co2-eq. It also allowed us to evaluate the site of minimum emissions for the organization of future meetings.

This prompted important discussions between members regarding the steps to take in order to reduce this amount. Last year, it was thus decided by the Consortium board and in agreement with members to:

  • Reduce the number of physical consortium meetings (from twice to once a year);
  • Make the best use of people’s travels by organizing side-meetings and thus reduce the need for additional travels;
  • Select the site of minimum emission for physical meetings;
  • Switch to virtual meetings when possible.

The covid-19 crisis accelerated these changes and in April we tested the organization of a full-scale virtual Consortium meeting with up to 171 participants (an evaluation is available here). An estimated 80 tons of CO2-eq were avoided. This proved to be a positive experience and showed the potential of virtual meetings for X-IFU.

We are already looking into strengthening our environmental commitments and planning the next steps. There is a growing support in the scientific community for such initiatives and we are hoping that our experience will encourage others, individuals and organisations, to take actions as well.

The travel footprint calculator is available online for free and everyone is welcome to use it for their own purposes. If you wish to know more about the research behind it, it is explained in this scientific paper.

For more information about the World Environment Day, you can visit the UNEP website. If you wish to share your own commitments today, you can use the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay and #ForNature on social media.


28-05-2020 - New Video: Discover the heart of the X-IFU

A brand-new video about the X-IFU (X-ray Integral Field Unit) is now available. You will discover the heart of the instrument: its X-ray detection chain.

This new video about the X-IFU is a deep dive into the heart of the instrument. For about two minutes, discover the X-IFU’s detection chain: from the collection of photons by the mirror of the telescope to the data sent back to Earth. The video will reveal the many elements that form the detection chain and are all necessary for the instrument to accomplish all its promises.

The engineers and researchers of the X-IFU consortium are currently developing the innovative technologies used in the detection chain. Thanks to their skills and expertise, the X-IFU will measure the energy of each photon with unprecedented accuracy. This will enable astrophysicists to explore the regions from which the X-ray are emitted, providing, for instance, breakthrough information about the formation and evolution of the large structures of matter observed in the Universe.

This video comes at a time when the X-IFU Consortium is cruising through the preliminary definition phase of the instrument, a key step in the development of the X-IFU.

We would like to give special thanks for their valuable contributions and feedback to our colleagues from IRAP, APC Laboratory, CNES, Goddard, NIST, and SRON.

A first video introducing the X-IFU was released last year, you can watch it here:

The new video is available in English and French, with subtitles currently in English, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

14-05-2020 - The X-IFU Gazette #14 has been released!

The 14th issue of the X-IFU Gazette has been released!

As we move through the Covid-19 pandemic, I first hope that this newsletter finds you and yours healthy and safe. Working conditions for most of us have changed dramatically, from a very interactive environment to a rather isolated one in an office at home, and virtual-only interactions.

Project activities have continued at a regular and intense pace, mostly through video-conferencing. Thanks to the improvements of digital technologies, we have been able to run a full audience consortium meeting via Zoom. Maëva Voltz will report our lessons learned from that rather unique experience. Who ever said that the X-IFU was a smooth and quiet project? At the start of Phase B1, a new procurement scheme for the Dewar is now under consideration. It will be provided through an ESA funded industrial contract. Vincent Albouys and I will come back to this new situation for us. We will also address the status of the Detector Cooling System (DCS) as a key element of the technology demonstration at the Mission Adoption Review (MAR). Randy Doriese on behalf of our NIST, Stanford and Goddard colleagues will tell us all about Time Domain Multiplexing (TDM) which is the new baseline readout scheme to X-IFU. Communicating toward the public is mandatory, because at the end of the day, the funding of X-IFU is through citizens’ money, and it is justified to tell the public why and how we plan to spend it. Maëva has been coordinating the production of a new movie produced by Fab&Fab, presenting the heart of X-IFU. With the release of exclusive images, she will introduce the movie and the key contributors. This newsletter will conclude by highlighting the German contribution to the X-IFU and the bio of Professor Joern Wilms who is the German representative in the X-IFU Consortium Board.

Didier Barret
X-IFU Principal Investigator

14-05-2020 - Exclusive images of the next X-IFU video

The new X-IFU video about the heart of the instrument will be published in just a few weeks. As we are all impatiently waiting, we have a little treat for you. Below are some exclusives images from the video.

We have described the creative process for this video in a newsletter article, find it here.

If you have missed the teaser, it's available on our YouTube channel:

This is an artist’s impression of the X-IFU’s Focal Plane Assembly. Credits: X-IFU Consortium.

This is an artist’s impression of the X-IFU’s TES array. Credits: X-IFU Consortium.

This is an artist’s impression of the X-IFU’s micro-calorimeters. Credits: X-IFU Consortium.

This is an artist’s impression of Earth for the X-IFU video. Credits: X-IFU Consortium.

10-04-2020 - The X-IFU Consortium meeting #11 goes virtual

This week, from 6th to 9th of April, the X-IU held its 11th Consortium meeting (CM11), fully virtually for the first time. This proved to be a very positive experience and both X-IFU’s Principal Investigator and Project Manager praised the high quality of the exchanges.

This CM11 was originally supposed to take place in Liège, Belgium. However, due to the COVID-19, the meeting had to be switched to a virtual one. This virtual setting allowed for a greater number of participants than expected during these meetings. Up to 171 people tuned in during the plenary session. With the time zones differences, this meant early mornings for our colleagues in the US, and late nights for our colleagues in Japan. Their participation was thus greatly appreciated.

Another highly positive aspect was the impact on the Consortium’s travel footprint. While a virtual event still has an environmental impact, an estimated 80 tons of CO2 were avoided thanks to this change. This has been a major concern for the Consortium over the past year, you can find out more about it in this article.

As during a regular CM, several sessions were held simultaneously. All with remarkable attendance. Several sub-plenaries took place, as well as meetings of the various X-IFU bodies, and the week ended on Thursday with a Project Managers’ meeting

Among many other topics, a key discussion during CM11 was related to the switch from Frequency Domain Multiplexing to Time Domain Multiplexing. Keep an eye out for the next X-IFU newsletter for more information on this.

Lastly, albeit virtual, this Consortium meeting remained a perfect opportunity to present the teaser for the new X-IFU video to be released in May 2020. You can find it on X-IFU’s YouTube channel:

We would like to thank all the speakers and participants for kindly adapting to these changes and helping us make this CM11 a success.


Whether it is a virtual or a physical meeting, the X-IFU Consortium never misses the opportunity to take its group picture (and these are only the ones with the video turned on).


08-04-2020 - TEASER: Discover the heart of the X-IFU

The X-IFU team has been working on a brand new video and we have a great teaser to share with you. In May 2020, discover the heart of the X-IFU on our YouTube channel!


16-01-2020 - The X-IFU Gazette #13 has been released!

The 13th issue of the X-IFU Gazette has been released!

After all the exceptional achievements of 2019, it is now time to start this new year with the same determination and look forward to many more successes.

To open this first newsletter of 2020, Gregor Rauw, from the University of Liège, will deliver the latest information about our next X-IFU Consortium Meeting and especially about our host for the week, the Belgian city of Liège. We take this opportunity to remind you that registration is mandatory to attend the meeting.

Our Principal Investigator, Didier Barret, and Project Manager, Vincent Albouys, will give us some insights into two important reviews that took place at the end of last year: Athena's Mission Formulation Review and the Critical Design Review of the Detector cooling system. Didier will also briefly describe the excellent outcome of ESA’s Council at Ministerial level.

Then, Gregor, as X-IFU Science Co-Investigator and Belgian representative in the X-IFU Consortium Board, will give us an overview of the Belgian contribution to the instrument and their expertise in the X-ray field. As is customary in this newsletter, he will also take part in the exercise of summarizing his own career.

Following the commitments taken in 2019 to reduce the environmental impact of the consortium, Didier will highlight the growing support in the scientific community for such initiatives and introduce his travel footprint calculator.

Lastly, our colleagues from the Centre Spatial de Liège kept their promise and will present the brand new X-IFU beers.

Happy reading!