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XMM-Newton mission graphic

X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission

Phase: Operating

Launch Date: December 10, 1999

Mission Project Home Page -

Program(s):Physics of the Cosmos

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XMM-Newton and Hubble View Jupiter's Ghost
This image combines X-ray data collected in 2003 by ESA’s XMM-Newton (blue) with optical observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (green and red).

Copyright ESA/XMM-Newton & Y.-H. Chu/R.A. Gruendl/M.A. Guerrero/N. Ruiz (X-ray); NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope & A. Hajian/B. Balick (optical)

XMM-Newton, the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, is the second cornerstone of the Horizon 2000 program of the European Space Agency (ESA). XMM-Newton was launched on December 10, 1999.

Since Earth's atmosphere blocks out all X-rays, only a telescope in space can detect and study celestial X-ray sources. The XMM-Newton mission will help scientists solve a number of cosmic mysteries, ranging from the enigmatic black holes to the origins of the Universe itself. Observing time on XMM-Newton is being made available to the scientific community, applying for observational periods on a competitive basis.

XMM-Newton images over a 30 arc minute field of view with moderate spectral resolution using the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC), which consists of two MOS and one PN CCD arrays. High-resolution spectral information (E/dE~300) is provided by the Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) that deflects half of the beam on two of the X-ray telescopes. The observatory also has a coaligned 30 cm optical/UV telescope, the Optical Monitor (OM).

Besides having funded elements of the XMM-Newton instrument package, NASA also provides the NASA Guest Observer Facility (GOF) at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). The GOF provides a clearing house for project-generated technical information and analysis software as well as budget support for U.S. astronomers who apply for XMM-Newton observation time.

Following in Newton's footsteps, the European Space Agency has decided to honor one of the world's most illustrious scientists by giving the name of Isaac Newton to the XMM mission, the XMM-Newton observatory. The work of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in the field of mathematics, optics and physics laid the foundations for modern science. He made a major impact on theoretical and practical astronomy and today one cannot evoke an apple, a reflecting telescope, a light-splitting prism and or a sextant without recalling Newton's contributions to science.

Science Highlights

In orbit for more than 15 years, XMM-Newton has provided many insights into the workings of the universe, near and far. Here are a few examples:

  • Determined that Milky Way's Black Hole is believed to have woken up violently about 400 year ago and then turned off again about 100 years later.
  • Identified the potential signatures of solar axions, dark matter particle candidates.
  • Measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole for the first time in collaboration with NuSTAR.
  • Acquired the first large-scale map of the dark matter and baryon distributions in the universe.
  • Detected for the first time a switching X-ray emission when monitoring a highly variable pulsar - reopened the debate about the physical mechanisms powering the emission from pulsars.
  • Discovered that the Orion Nebula contains a huge cloud of extremely hot gas, or plasma, heated to millions of degrees.
  • Constructed the largest catalog of cosmic X-ray emitting objects.
  • Showed that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all direction in collaboration with NuSTAR.
  • Discovered 2XMM J083026+524133, the most massive cluster of galaxies seen in the distant Universe up to that time.
  • Discovered the first definite detection of charge exchanged induced by X-ray emission on Mars.
  • Acquired images of gamma-ray burst GRB 031203 that revealed the first detection of a time-dependent dust-scattered X-ray halo around a gamma-ray burst.
  • Analysed spectra of a distant active galaxy, 1H0707-495, which revealed two bright features of iron emission (the iron L and K lines) in the reflected X-rays that had never been seen together in an active galaxy.


Last Updated Date: April 2, 2015

Related Links
  • ESA XMM-Newton Website -
  • XMM-Newton on iSat -