ESA’s mission to unlock the mysteries of the dark universe is about to begin. After a one-year delay due to the invasion of Ukraine, the launch of the Euclid Space Telescope is scheduled for July 1 at 17:11 CEST from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA.
Named after the famous Greek mathematician, the telescope will embark on a month-long journey to reach its destination at a position in space known as the second Lagrange point (L2) – 1.5 million kilometers from our planet. There it will be able to observe space, with the sun, earth and moon behind it.
Euclid Photo credit: ESA
Euclid’s mission is to shed light on two of the universe’s most puzzling mysteries: dark energy and dark matter, thought to make up 95% of the cosmos.
Scientists suspect that dark energy is responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe and that dark matter acts as the cosmic glue that holds galaxies together. However, the nature of these components is still unknown.
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To help us understand its role, the probe will explore how the universe formed and expanded by mapping the last 10 billion years of cosmic history in 3D across more than a third of the sky.
“A revolution in physics is almost guaranteed.
The data brought back by Euclid could not only determine what dark energy is, but also whether or not our models of the universe are correct, said Professor Tom Kitching of UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, one of the four science coordinators of the ESA-led project project .
“Is it vacuum energy – the energy of virtual particles appearing and disappearing in empty space? Is it a new particle field that we didn’t expect? Or it could be that Einstein’s theory of gravity is wrong,” explained Kitching. “A revolution in physics is almost guaranteed.”
During its six-year mission, Euclid will use gravitational lensing and baryonic acoustic oscillations (BAOs) to measure galaxy shapes and distortions and in turn analyze the distribution and evolution of dark energy and matter.
The ship is equipped with a near-infrared light instrument called NISP, which captures light in the invisible spectrum to measure the distance to galaxies and study how fast the universe is expanding.
It is also equipped with an optical camera called VIS that captures visible light. According to Professor Mark Cropper, leader of the VIS team, the camera is able to provide nearly the same resolution as the Hubble telescope and to survey more of the Universe in one day than Hubble has managed in 25 years.
“People will never have seen the universe in this level of detail before,” Cropper said. “There will be new things in every 10-minute exposure sent to Earth.”
〰️🟥 The NISP infrared light instrument will measure the distance to galaxies
NISP has the widest field of view of any infrared instrument ever flown in space. pic.twitter.com/aD7dMFXdW9
— ESA Euclid Mission (@ESA_Euclid) June 23, 2023
Led by ESA, the €1 billion mission will be supported by various industrial partners, NASA and the Euclid Consortium, which brings together 2,000 scientists from 17 different countries.
If Euclid is successful, it will provide us with an unprecedented chronology of the history of the cosmos and help us unlock the mysteries of the universe – and our own existence. You can watch the launch live on ESA Web TV or via the ESA YouTube live stream.