This page gives information on the background analysis of all XMM-Newton instruments (EPIC, RGS, OM) in order that a proper data reduction may be undertaken.
The XMM-Newton observatory provides unrivalled capabilities for
detecting low surface brightness emission features from extended and
diffuse galactic and extragalactic sources, by virtue of the large
field of view of the X-ray telescopes and the high throughput yielded
by the heavily nested telescope mirrors. In order to exploit the
excellent EPIC data from extended objects, the EPIC background, now
known to be higher than estimated pre-launch, needs to be understood
There are several different components to the EPIC background:
A table summarizing the temporal, spectral and spatial properties of these EPIC background components is available here.
- The astrophysical background, dominated
by thermal emission at lower energies (E<1 keV) and a power law at
higher energies (primarily from unresolved cosmological sources). This
background varies over the sky at lower energies.
- Solar wind charge exchange.
- Single reflections from outside the field of view, out-of-time events etc.
- Soft proton flares with spectral variations from flare to flare. For
weak sources the only option is to select quiet time periods from the
data stream for analysis.
- Internal (cosmic-ray induced) background, created directly by
particles penetrating the CCDs and indirectly by the fluorescence of
satellite material to which the detectors are exposed.
- Bright pixels, columns etc., readout noise etc.
There have been various attempts to describe/model the EPIC Background
in the past. This page will provide an overview on all sources of
background analysis and modelling pointing out the recommended
mainstream for background treatment by the EPIC consortium.
In 2005 the XMM-Newton EPIC Background working group was founded as a
steering and supervising committee to provide the user with clear
information on the EPIC Background and (SAS)-Tools (TBD) to treat the
EPIC Background correctly for various TBD scenarios.
Current progress of the XMM-Newton EPIC Background working group can
- XMM-Newton Extended Source Analysis Software package, XMM-ESAS
As of SAS version 9.0, the XMM-ESAS package is integrated in SAS.
XMM-ESAS allows the user to model the quiescent particle background
for both spectral and spatial analysis of EPIC pn and EPIC MOS observations.
- XMM-Newton 'blank sky' background event files
XMM-Newton EPIC blank sky user facility released in August
2010 following a processing of the XMM-Newton archive (up to
revolution 1789) using SAS 9.0. Users within the community are
invited to request blank sky files specifically catered for,
and precisely tuned to their own particular needs.
- Filter Wheel Closed data
Updated in March 2012 by the EPIC Background Working Group the stacked collections of Filter Wheel Closed (FWC) data are available for the MOS and pn cameras.
Exospheric solar wind charge exchange affected observations
Lines-of-sight to XMM-Newton targets sometimes traverse regions
of X-ray emission in the vicinity of the Earth. This emission
results from a charge transfer process between ions in the solar
wind and neutral gas (primarily hydrogen) close to the Earth, and
can exhibit temporal signatures that make it possible to identify
- Further EPIC Background Scripts
Other Useful Information
The following sources of information (including historical collections of background blank sky fields) are also available:
"Radial temperature profiles for a large sample of galaxy clusters observed with XMM-Newton", A. Leccardi, S. Molendi,
A&A 486, L359 (2008)
"The EPIC-MOS particle-induced background spectra", Kuntz, K. D. & Snowden, S. L.,
A&A 478, 575 (2008)
"The XMM-Newton EPIC background and the production of background blank sky event files", J. A. Carter & A. M. Read,
A&A 464 (2007)
Web site: XMM-Newton EPIC 'Blank Sky' Background
"The XMM-Newton EPIC background: Production of background maps and event files", A.M. Read & T.J. Ponman,
A&A 409, 395 (2003)
Web site: Related EPIC background event files, maps, software, analysis techniques etc.
"XMM-Newton EPIC background modelling for extended sources", J. Nevalainen, M. Markevitch & D. Lumb,
ApJ 629, 172 (2005)
Web site: Supporting data, background event files etc.
Paper: "X-ray background measurements with XMM-Newton EPIC", D. Lumb, R.S. Warwick, M. Page & A. De Luca, A&A 389, 93 (2002)
"The EPIC/MOS view of the 2-8 keV Cosmic X-ray Background Spectrum", A. De Luca & S. Molendi,
A&A 419, 837 (2004)
"XMM-Newton Data Processing for Faint Diffuse Emission: Proton Flares, Exposure Maps and Report on
EPIC MOS1 Bright CCDs Contamination",
J. Pradas & J. Kerp, A&A 443, 721 (2005)
"Identifying XMM-Newton observations affected by solar wind charge exchange - Part II",
J.A. Carter, S. Sembay & A.M. Read, A&A 527, 115 (2011)
Table of temporally-variable SWCX-affected observations
The RGS background is dominated by soft protons entering through the telescope mirrors. The shape of the spectrum of the background is clearly correlated with its intensity. Therefore, the background spectrum of a given observation is determined entirely by the time-dependent background within the observation, and can be computed as a linear combination of several 'templates' of different intensities (see a detailed description of the method in XMM-SOC-CAL-TN-0058
An accurate determination of the RGS background is particularly important for extended sources, but the use of a model background, with far better signal-to-noise ratio than the background extracted from the the observation itself, also improves the detectability of weak sources and weak spectral features.
The RGS background model is computed by the SAS task rgsbkgmodel
- Sky Background Calculations for the Optical Monitor, T.S. Poole, 2005. (pdf)
- OM background for different filters as measured in real time by XMM-Newton INSCONS on the Quick Look Analysis (QLA) images, N. Loiseau and XMM-Newton INSCONS, 2005. (pdf)