Europe just turned on its new $1.5 billion space telescope and results are amazing

Mary Raleigh
13/10/2023

Nearly one month after its launch into the vast expanse of space, Europe’s latest astronomical marvel, the Euclid Space Telescope, has embarked on a journey to unlock the mysteries of the Universe.

Operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), this €1.5 billion mission has initiated its mission to capture the wonders of the cosmos, and early indications suggest a resounding success.

As part of its meticulous commissioning phase, the Euclid Space Telescope has deployed both visual and infrared-light cameras, aptly named VIS (Visible instrument) and NISP (Near Infrared Spectrograph and Photometer). Scientists, who have tirelessly contributed to the development of these advanced instruments, are thrilled with their exceptional performance.

Alessandra Roy, the Euclid project manager at the German Space Agency (DLR), expresses her enthusiasm, “We are very pleased that the commissioning phase of Euclid is progressing well. The spacecraft will soon reach its final position at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and begin scientific observations.”

The Euclid Telescope boasts a primary mirror spanning an impressive 1.2 meters, nearly half the size of the renowned Hubble Space Telescope. However, its mission differs significantly. Euclid is not designed for detailed observations of individual galaxies or stars. Instead, its objective is to survey broad sections of the night sky, providing a panoramic view of the cosmos. Over its anticipated six-year lifespan, this remarkable telescope will scrutinize approximately 36 percent of the sky.

Euclid’s Visible instrument (VIS) will image the sky in visible light (550–900 nm) to take sharp images of billions of galaxies and measure their shapes. This image was taken during the commissioning of Euclid.

Euclid’s primary mission is to observe vast expanses of the Universe, detecting and analyzing the shapes of galaxies. Furthermore, it aims to uncover distortions that could be attributed to enigmatic, concealed matter. Scientists posit that only about 5 percent of the Universe’s composition consists of observable matter—stars and galaxies. The remaining 95 percent is an enigma composed of dark matter and dark energy.

The fundamental question that Euclid seeks to address is the nature of dark matter and dark energy. Over the past few decades, scientists have unraveled that dark matter constitutes roughly 25 percent of the Universe’s mass. The bulk of the Universe, comprising more than two-thirds of its content, is governed by a mysterious force known as dark energy. This elusive energy is responsible for the Universe’s accelerated expansion.

Euclid, once fully calibrated, will embark on an unprecedented cosmic journey. It will observe billions of galaxies scattered across the night sky, collecting invaluable data to create a three-dimensional map of the Universe. This mission holds immense significance as it is one of the first space-based telescopes tailored specifically to investigate dark energy.

Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, exclaims, “It is fantastic to see the latest addition to ESA’s fleet of science missions already performing so well. I have full confidence that the team behind the mission will succeed in using Euclid to reveal so much about the 95 percent of the Universe that we currently know so little about.”

The European Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA and other partners, will continue testing and fine-tuning the telescope and its scientific instruments in the coming months. This meticulous commissioning process paves the way for the commencement of the science phase, expected to commence later this year.

In conclusion, Europe’s €1.5 billion Euclid Space Telescope represents a beacon of hope for astronomers and cosmologists alike. Its mission to unravel the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy holds the promise of transformative insights into the cosmos, and its early success signals a bright future for space exploration.

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