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Euclid Space Telescope: Europe’s Dark Energy and Dark Matter Mission Launches

On Saturday, a European space telescope embarked on a mission to explore the enigmatic and unseen realm known as the dark universe. Constructed by the European Space Agency (ESA), this space telescope will utilize its instruments to meticulously record over one-third of the extragalactic sky in the next six years, generating the most precise 3D map of the cosmos ever created. This comprehensive chart, detailing the shape, position, and motion of galaxies, will unveil the distribution of matter across vast distances and trace the evolution of the Universe’s expansion throughout cosmic history. Consequently, astronomers will gain insights into the properties of dark energy and dark matter.

SpaceX successfully launched the ESA’s Euclid observatory, which is destined for a location 1.5 million km away, near the orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope. Researchers aim to utilize Euclid’s map to investigate the influence of dark matter and dark energy—mysterious components constituting 95% of our universe—on our observations of the cosmos across space and time. This endeavor will aid theorists in enhancing our understanding of the role of gravity and unraveling the nature of these enigmatic entities.

Europe’s Euclid Space Telescope Sets Off on Quest to Unveil the Secrets of Dark Energy and Dark Matter

It will take approximately a month for Euclid to reach its destination and an additional two months before it commences its ambitious six-year survey in the upcoming fall. Jason Rhodes, a physicist leading Euclid’s US science team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, expressed, “Euclid is coming at a really interesting time in the history of cosmology.” Equipped with a 1.2-m reflecting telescope, Euclid incorporates two innovative scientific instruments: VIS, which captures high-resolution images of galaxies across a substantial portion of the sky, and NISP, which analyzes galaxies’ infrared light to accurately determine their distances.

Euclid Space Telescope: Europe's Dark Energy and Dark Matter Mission Launches

Flight controllers in Germany celebrated success nearly an hour into the mission, expressing joy and exclaiming “yes” as the telescope established contact after a smooth liftoff. Rhodes further stated, “We are entering a time when Euclid is going to be great at answering questions that are just now emerging. And I am certain that Euclid is going to be fantastic for answering questions we haven’t even thought of.” The spacecraft and its communications will be managed from ESA’s European Space Operations Centre.

Launch of Euclid Space Telescope Marks Europe’s Ambitious Journey into the Realm of Dark Energy and Dark Matter

Named after the ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid will meticulously survey billions of galaxies, covering over one-third of the sky. The weather conditions were almost ideal for the launch. Euclid separated from its booster three minutes after launch, while still attached to the rocket’s second stage, drawing applause from the team. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, it entered a stable orbit around Earth. ESA’s Estrack network of deep space antennas has been upgraded to handle the massive amount of data Euclid will gather.

By precisely pinpointing the location and shape of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away, spanning almost to the moment of the universe’s creation in the Big Bang, scientists hope to gain insights into the dark energy and dark matter that compose the majority of the universe and drive its expansion. “Unbelievable,” exclaimed Guadalupe Cañas Herrera, a theoretical cosmologist involved in the Euclid mission, when asked about the launch during the ESA video stream. “I’m super emotional, but also extremely thankful for everything that has been done so far so that we can actually have a telescope in space.”

Euclid Space Telescope: Unveiling the Mysteries of Dark Energy and Dark Matter, Europe Takes to the Skies

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher declared, “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.” Currently, scientists comprehend only 5% of the universe, consisting of stars, planets, and ourselves. Thus, the European astrophysics mission had no alternative but to rely on American support.

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