Euclid telescope sends back first images from ‘dark universe’ mission
The Guardian:The Euclid space telescope has beamed back its first images in a mission that promises to lift a veil on the “dark universe”.
The €1bn (£850m) European Space Agency (Esa) mission is focused on dark matter and dark energy, which together make up 95% of the universe but their natures are almost entirely mysterious. The first images show the Perseus galaxy cluster and Horsehead nebula in dazzling detail and capture approximately 100,000 galaxies in a single snapshot, showcasing the telescope’s unmatched ability to make razor-sharp observations across a vast expanse of space.
Ultimately the telescope, which can detect galaxies out to 10bn light years, is aiming to create the largest cosmic 3D map ever made. This will allow astronomers to infer the large-scale distribution of dark matter and reveal the influence of dark energy in the early universe. Dark matter pervades the universe and acts as a cosmic glue that holds galaxies together, while dark energy is the name given to an enigmatic force that is thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.Prof Carole Mundell, the Esa’s director of science, said the mission, which launched in July, would push the frontiers of scientific knowledge into uncharted territory “beyond Einstein”.As humans, we’ve managed to figure out how 5% of the universe works and we’ve also figured out that there’s another 95% that remains unknown to us,” she said. “We can’t travel out to the edge of the universe to investigate, but we’re bringing those images back to Earth and studying them on computers – and for only €1.4bn. I think it’s magical.”
Over the next six years, Euclid will observe about 8bn galaxies using infrared and visible light across 36% of the night sky. In some cases, light from these distant bodies will pass close to dark matter on its journey towards Earth. When that happens, its gravitational field will bend the path of the light, making the galaxies appear distorted in the final image. “A background round galaxy might be changed into a banana shape,” said Prof Mark Cropper of University.