Euclid “Dark Universe” Space Telescope Holds Quest to Unravel Deep Cosmic Mysteries

On July 1, 2023, the Euclid spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), successfully launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The spacecraft aims to explore the mysterious elements of the universe, dark matter and dark energy. Credit: SpaceX

ESA’s Euclid spacecraft launched at 11:12 a.m. on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA.[{” attribute=””>EDT on July 1, 2023. The successful launch marks the beginning of an ambitious mission to uncover the nature of two mysterious components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy, and to help us answer the fundamental question: what is the Universe made of?

Following launch and separation from the rocket, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed acquisition of signal from Euclid via the New Norcia ground station in Australia at 17:57 CEST (11:57 a.m. EDT).

ESA’s Euclid spacecraft successfully launched on July 1, 2023 to explore the nature of dark matter and dark energy in the universe. It will create a precise 3D map of the universe by observing billions of galaxies and use advanced scientific instruments to analyze these galaxies. The mission will last six years and will provide an unprecedented survey of the sky. debt:[{” attribute=””>SpaceX

“The successful launch of Euclid marks the beginning of a new scientific endeavor to help us answer one of the most compelling questions of modern science,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. “Euclid has been made possible by ESA’s leadership, the effort and expertise of hundreds of European industrial and scientific institutions, and through collaboration with international partners. The quest to answer fundamental questions about our cosmos is what makes us human. And, often, it is what drives the progress of science and the development of powerful, far-reaching, new technologies. ESA is committed to expanding Europe’s ambitions and successes in space for future generations.”

ESA Euclid Lift-Off

On July 1, 2023, at 11:12 a.m. EDT, ESA’s latest astrophysics mission, Euclid, lifted off on a Space X Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. Euclid has now started its month-long journey to Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, in the opposite direction from the Sun. Credit: ESA – S. Corvaja

“The Euclid mission is the result of the passion and expertise of those who contributed to designing and building this sophisticated space telescope, the competence of our flight operations team, and the inquiring spirit of the science community,” says Giuseppe Racca, ESA’s Euclid Project Manager. “There have been many challenges during the project, but we have worked hard and now we have successfully reached this launch milestone together with our partners in the Euclid Consortium and NASA.”

The Euclid Consortium contributed the two highly advanced scientific instruments – the visible-wavelength camera (VIS) and the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). NASA provided the detectors for NISP.

Euclid's Visible and Infrared Instruments

ESA’s Euclid will examine visible and infrared light from distant galaxies using two scientific instruments on board. These instruments will measure the accurate position and shapes of galaxies in visible light, and their redshift (from which their distance can be derived) in the infrared light. With these data, scientists can construct a 3D map of the distributions of both the galaxies and the dark matter in the Universe. The map will show how large-scale structure evolved over time, tracing the role of dark energy.
The VISible instrument (VIS) takes very sharp images of galaxies over a much larger fraction of sky than would be possible from the ground. These observations will be used to measure the shapes of over a billion galaxies.
As the name suggests, VIS collects visible light. It is sensitive to wavelengths from green (550 nanometres) up to near infrared (900 nm). The instrument uses a mosaic of 36 CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices, a type of camera sensor), each of which contains more than 4000 pixels by 4000 pixels. This gives the detector a total of about 600 megapixels, equivalent to almost seventy 4K resolution screens.
Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) is dedicated to making spectroscopic measurements of galaxies, which involves determining how much light they emit per wavelength. This is useful for measuring the galaxies’ redshift, which cosmologists can use to estimate the distance to each galaxy. NISP has the largest field of view for an infrared instrument ever flown in space. The instrument measures near-infrared light (900–2000 nm) using a grid of 16 detectors, each containing more than 2000 by 2000 pixels.
Credit: ESA

Exploring the dark Universe

Euclid will observe billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years to create the largest, most accurate 3D map of the Universe, with the third dimension representing time itself. This detailed chart of the shape, position, and movement of galaxies will reveal how matter is distributed across immense distances and how the expansion of the Universe has evolved over cosmic history, enabling astronomers to infer the properties of dark energy and dark matter. This will help theorists to improve our understanding of the role of gravity and pin down the nature of these enigmatic entities.

“Today we celebrate the successful launch of a ground-breaking mission that places Europe at the forefront of cosmological studies,” says Carole Mundell, ESA’s Director of Science. “If we want to understand the Universe we live in, we need to uncover the nature of dark matter and dark energy and understand the role they played in shaping our cosmos. To address these fundamental questions, Euclid will deliver the most detailed map of the extra-galactic sky. This inestimable wealth of data will also enable the scientific community to investigate many other aspects of astronomy, for many years to come.”

ESA’s Euclid mission is designed to reveal the properties and effects of the elusive dark matter and dark energy, which are believed to dominate the composition of the universe but have not been directly detected. Euclid will create a 3D map of the universe, using time as its third dimension, tracking billions of galaxies 10 billion light-years away. This detailed mapping will help scientists chart the positions and velocities of galaxies. Credit: ESA

To achieve its ambitious science goal, Euclid is equipped with the 1.2m Reflecting Telescope, which feeds two innovative science instruments: VIS, which takes very sharp images of galaxies over a large area of ​​the sky, and NISP, which can analyze the infrared of galaxies. Light precisely establishes their distance by wavelength.

Spacecraft and communications will be controlled from ESOC. To cope with the vast amount of data that Euclid receives, ESA’s Estrac network and space antennas have been upgraded. The data will be analyzed by the Euclid Consortium, a group of more than 2,000 scientists from more than 300 institutions in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan.

The Astronomy Science Archive leverages science from ESA missions

As for other ESA missions, spacecraft data is transmitted via ground stations around the world to ESA’s European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany.
The raw data are sent to the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Spain. Data from ESAC are distributed to the processing centers of the Euclid Consortium’s Scientific Grounds Division based in several European states and the United States.
The Euclid Consortium (EC) is an organization that brings together more than 2000 researchers and engineers, technicians and administrative staff in theoretical physics, astrophysics and space astronomy. It is designated by ESA as the single official science consortium responsible for the production of scientific instruments, data, and leading the scientific exploitation of the mission to completion.
The EC Science Ground Division is responsible for the design, development testing, integration and operation of data processing tools, pipelines and data centers. Processed data products include calibrated images and spectra, lists and documents of scientific measurements.
At regular intervals, Euclid’s treasure trove of processed data is made publicly available to the community via the Astronomical Science Archive at ESAC. It is from ESAC that science operations are planned, and all science data produced by the ESA mission will be archived and accessible to the world.
Credit: ESA

As the work progresses, Euclid’s treasure trove of data will be published annually and made accessible to the global scientific community through a science archive hosted at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center in Spain.

“This is a great moment for science, and we have been waiting for it for a long time: the release of Euclid towards understanding the puzzle of dark matter and dark energy,” says René Lauriges, Euclid project scientist at ESA. “The great mystery of the fundamental elements of the universe stares at us, posing a formidable challenge. Thanks to its advanced telescope and powerful scientific instruments, Euclid is ready to help us unravel this mystery.

Euclid's Journey to L2 Infographic

ESA’s Euclid will orbit the second Lagrange point (L2) 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the anti-Sun direction. L2 is the equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system that follows the Earth around the Sun.
In its orbit at L2, Euclid’s solar shield blocks light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon while directing its telescope toward deep space, ensuring greater stability for its instruments.
At L2, ESA’s Gaia mission and Euclid join the ESA/NASA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which also orbit this equilibrium point, each following well-separated trajectories.
Credit: ESA

Journey to Lagrange Point 2

Over the next four weeks, Euclid will travel in the opposite direction from the Sun, about 1.5 million km from Earth (four times the Earth-Moon distance) toward the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2, the equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system. There, Euclid will be maneuvered into orbit around this point and the mission controllers will check all the functions of the spacecraft, check the telescope and finally start the steps to operate the science instruments.

Scientists and engineers will engage in an intensive two-month phase preparing Euclid’s scientific instruments for testing and measurements and routine observations. In six years Euclid would make an unprecedented survey of a third of the sky[{” attribute=””>accuracy and sensitivity.

ESA Euclid Dark Matter Energy Space Telescope

ESA’s Euclid mission is a highly ambitious project undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate and understand the nature of two enigmatic components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy. Launched on July 1, 2023, the spacecraft will observe billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away to construct the most accurate 3D map of the Universe ever made. Credit: ESA

About Euclid

Euclid is a European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. The Euclid Consortium is responsible for providing the scientific instruments and scientific data analysis. ESA selected Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the construction of the satellite and its service module, with Airbus Defence and Space chosen to develop the payload module, including the telescope. NASA provided the detectors of the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, NISP. Euclid is a medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision Programme.

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