Paris: Europe’s Euclid telescope is ready to begin its quest to understand the greatest mysteries in the Universe. Exquisite imagery from the space observatory shows its capabilities to be exceptional.
Over the next six years, Euclid will survey a third of the heavens to get some clues about the nature of so-called dark matter and dark energy, BBC news reported. These unknown “influencers” appear to control the shape and expansion of everything that’s out there.
Researchers concede, however, they know virtually nothing about them, even though they probably account for 95% of the contents of the cosmos. Neither dark matter nor dark energy are directly detectable.
Our only hope of gaining some understanding is to trace their subtle signals in the things we can see.
This will be Euclid’s job: to observe the contours, distances and motions of billions of galaxies, some of whose light has taken almost the entire age of the Universe to reach us. Somewhere in the statistics of this 3D cosmic map – the largest ever made – scientists expect to find answers.
Euclid’s survey will be the most fundamental of inquires, argued Prof Carole Mundell, the director of science at the European Space Agency (Esa).
Dark matter and dark energy are among the biggest puzzles in modern astrophysics. The former could be some as-yet-undetected particle. Astronomers infer its presence from the gravitational pull it exerts on the matter we can see. Galaxies would fly apart if it wasn’t there.
The latter represents a very different problem. It could be some kind energy in the vacuum of space. Whatever it is, it appears to be working against gravity to push galaxies apart at an ever-accelerating rate.
The €1.4bn (£1.2bn) Euclid telescope went into space in July. Since then, engineers have been fine-tuning it. There were some early worries. Initially, Euclid’s optics couldn’t lock on to stars to take a steady image.
This required new software for the telescope’s fine guidance sensor. Engineers also found some stray light was polluting pictures when the observatory was pointed in a certain way.
But with these issues all now resolved, Euclid is good to go – as evidenced by the release of five sample images today. No previous space telescope has been able to combine the breadth, depth and sharpness of vision that Euclid can.
The astonishing James Webb telescope, for example, has much higher resolution, but it can’t cover the amount of sky that Euclid does in one shot.
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