ESA’s Euclid Satellite Mission to Solve the Dark Matter Puzzle is Ready for Launch

By Sophia Francise

July 1, 2023
Euclid fueling for launch

On Saturday, July 1, at 11 a.m. EDT (4 p.m. BST), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) flagship Euclid Dark Energy Satellite Mission.

The six-year Euclid expedition aims to map the dark cosmos using the locations of galaxies and dark matter images created from ‘gravitational lensing distortions’ of distant galaxies.

The galaxy and dark matter maps provide details on the history of the universe’s expansion and the development of its internal structure.

By examining these maps, astronomers can identify dark matter and energy characteristics.

How is Euclid Prepping its Mission?

From June 23 to June 28, Euclid was transported to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) while perched atop a Falcon 9 adapter and enclosed inside a rocket fairing. These images document the significant turning points in this process.

The Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, which serves as the system’s equilibrium point, is Euclid’s final destination. 

This is the perfect location for space telescopes aiming at astronomical observations because it is 1.5 million kilometers (approximately four times the Earth-Moon distance) away from Earth and facing the opposite direction of the Sun.1

Euclid, once launched, will orbit the sun annually, scanning the sky and transmitting data to ESA’s ground stations.

Euclid’s data will be distributed across nine Science Data Centres in Europe and North America, with the UK’s Science Data Centre in Edinburgh. 

These centers will process Euclid data and ground-based surveys, preparing them for scientists to analyze and release to the public. 

Over 2,000 scientists, including the UK, European Space Agency, and industrial teams, came together to design and build Euclid.

How will Euclid Accomplish its Mission?

While dark energy, an enigmatic new phenomenon, pushes galaxies apart and speeds up the universe’s expansion, dark matter, which, unlike normal matter, does not reflect or emit light, holds galaxies together to create the environment for stars, planets, and life.

To do this, the Euclid Consortium team will conduct a highly accurate study of the pictures and distances of 1.5 billion galaxies spread across one-third of the sky. 

Euclid will also measure the spectrum of light from more than 35 million galaxies to precisely calculate the distance between galaxies and Earth.

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To do this, the Euclid spacecraft is equipped with two cutting-edge instruments: a UK-built optical camera (VIS) and a French-led near-infrared (NISP) camera. 

To detect gravitational lensing distortions, the VIS Instrument will produce images as sharp as those from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). 

The NISP instrument will capture multicolor images and the light spectrum of galaxies, allowing for the measurement of their distance. 

The huge instruments and wide field of view of Euclid will allow it to photograph more of the sky in a single day than HST did in its first 25 years of operation.

References

  1. The European Space Agency, ‘ESA – Euclid: preparing for launch’, 30 June 2023, https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Euclid/Euclid_preparing_for_launch?utm_source=ground.news&utm_medium=referral[]
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