Mock catalogs for the extragalactic X-ray sky: Simulating AGN surveys with ATHENA and with the AXIS probe

S. Marchesi, R. Gilli, G. Lanzuisi, T. Dauser, S. Ettori, F. Vito, N. Cappelluti, A. Comastri, R. Mushotzky, A. Ptak, C. Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We present a series of new, publicly available mock catalogs of X-ray selected active galactic nuclei (AGNs), nonactive galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. These mocks are based on up-to-date observational results on the demographic of extragalactic X-ray sources and their extrapolations. They reach fluxes below 10-20 erg cm-2 s-1 in the 0.5-2 keV band, that is, more than an order of magnitude below the predicted limits of future deep fields, and they therefore represent an important tool for simulating extragalactic X-ray surveys with both current and future telescopes. We used our mocks to perform a set of end-to-end simulations of X-ray surveys with the forthcoming ATHENA mission and with the AXIS probe, a subarcsecond resolution X-ray mission concept proposed to the Astro 2020 Decadal Survey. We find that these proposed, next generation surveys may transform our knowledge of the deep X-ray Universe. As an example, in a total observing time of 15 Ms, AXIS would detect ∼225 000 AGNs and ∼50 000 nonactive galaxies, reaching a flux limit of f0.5-2 ∼5 × 10-19 erg cm-2 s-1 in the 0.5-2 keV band, with an improvement of over an order of magnitude with respect to surveys with current X-ray facilities. Consequently, 90% of these sources would be detected for the first time in the X-rays. Furthermore, we show that deep and wide X-ray surveys with instruments such as AXIS and ATHENA are expected to detect ∼20 000 z > 3 AGNs and ∼250 sources at redshift z > 6, thus opening a new window of knowledge on the evolution of AGNs over cosmic time and putting strong constraints on the predictions of theoretical models of black hole seed accretion in the early universe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA184
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Galaxies: active
  • Surveys
  • Telescopes
  • X-rays: galaxies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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