At 11:12 a.m. Saturday, the Euclid spacecraft was launched into space on its mission to chart the history of our universe going back 10 billion years.
The space telescope, built by the European Space Agency, will use its instruments to record a third of the interstellar sky over the next six years, creating the most accurate three-dimensional map of the universe to date.
The researchers plan to use Euclid’s diagram to explore how dark matter and dark energy — which make up 95 percent of our universe — have affected what we see as we look across space and time.
“Euclid comes at a very interesting time in the history of cosmology,” said Jason Rhodes, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who leads Euclid’s US science team. “We are now entering an age where Euclid excels at answering questions that arise, and I am sure that Euclid will be wonderful at answering questions that we have never imagined.
The shuttle lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The weather was almost perfect for flying. Euclid, still attached to the rocket’s second stage, separated from its booster three minutes after launch amid applause. It entered a stable orbit around the Earth approximately nine minutes after takeoff. After about 40 minutes, the telescope separated from the second stage and began traveling a million miles to a point in space where the mission’s scientific journey would begin.
“Unbelievable,” said Guadalupe Cañas Herrera, a theoretical cosmologist on the Euclid mission, when asked about the launch in an ESA video stream. “I’m very emotional, but I’m also very grateful for everything that’s been done so far to keep the telescope in space.”
European astrophysics mission had no choice but American aircraft. ESA planned to launch the spacecraft A Russian Soyuz rocket Or Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket. But the breakdown in European-Russian space relations after the Ukraine invasion and Ariane 6, ESA’s Moved some launches to SpaceXincluding Euclid.
The spacecraft will not peer into the cold storage of our universe alone. But unlike the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, which focus deeply on one part of the sky at a time, scientists use Euclid to cover vast swathes of the extragalactic sky at once. In the three regions it records, Euclid reaches even farther, capturing the structure of the universe about a billion years after the Big Bang.
One of the targets of a space telescope is dark matter, the invisible glue of the universe that does not emit, absorb or reflect light. Despite physicists’ best efforts, dark matter has so far eluded direct detection, but they know it exists because of its gravitational influence on the way galaxies move.
Dark energy, on the other hand, is the more mysterious force pushing galaxies—our universe—expanding at a faster rate.
Euclid’s diagrams of the universe reveal how dark matter is distributed in spacetime based on how it deflects light from the galaxies behind it, a process known as weak gravitational lensing. (This is distinct from strong gravitational lensing, the more dramatic warping by arcs, rings, or galaxy clusters that produce multiple images of a single source.)
These measurements contribute to more direct efforts to discover what dark matter actually is.
“We’re looking at the same thing from different angles,” said Clara Nellist, a particle physicist at CERN in Europe who was not part of the Euclid mission. Researchers in Earth-based experiments hunt for signs of dark matter particles colliding with their detectors. “Any information we gather about how it’s distributed in our universe helps us search for it in a more focused way in our collisions,” said Dr. Nellis said.
With Euclid, scientists hope to be able to test whether Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity behaves differently on cosmological scales. It may have to do with the nature of dark energy: whether it is a static force in the universe or a dynamic force whose properties change over time.
“If we find that it’s not a constant, but something that changes over time, that would be revolutionary,” said Xavier Dubac, an ESA cosmologist on the Euclid mission, because it would change what is known about fundamental physics. Such a discovery may even shed light on the ultimate fate of our ever-expanding universe.
Euclid features a visible imager with a 600-megapixel camera that can photograph an area as wide as two full moons’ worth of sky at a time. With this instrument, scientists can collect how the shapes of galaxies are distorted by the dark matter in front of them.
It consists of a near-infrared spectrometer and photometer, which will be used to record the two galaxies at invisible wavelengths and measure their redshift, which measures the wavelength-stretching effect on light from the distant universe resulting from the expansion of the universe. When used in conjunction with a set of ground-based tools – incl Subaru And Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes at Mauna Kea Observatory and eventually Vera C. in Chile. Rubin Lab – Scientists can convert redshift into measurements of distance from Earth.
With Euclid’s successful launch, it is now nearly a million miles from Earth in an orbit known as the second Lagrange point, or L2 — the point in the solar system where the gravitational forces of Earth and the Sun diverge. Looking directly from the sun, this position put Euclid in a position to make extensive surveys of the sky without the earth or the moon blocking his view. The James Webb Space Telescope orbits L2 for the same reason.
It will take about a month for the spacecraft to arrive at L2, and another three months to test the performance of Euclid’s instruments before scientists can begin sending data back to Earth for analysis. That data will be made public in 2025, 2027 and 2030.
at one o’clock Preview news conference Last week, Yannick Mellier, an astronomer at the Institut d’Astrophysic de Paris, said that beyond its main scientific goals, Euclid would create a unique astronomical survey of 12 billion galaxies.
Dr Mellier said it would be “a goldmine for all fields of astronomy for decades to come”.