September 21, 2023

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The secrets of the dark universe are no longer safe because the Euclid space probe is flying in the sky

The secrets of the dark universe are no longer safe because the Euclid space probe is flying in the sky

Starting tomorrow, Euclid will try to reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy. And this will be able to answer many pressing questions about the universe.

Dark matter is still a great mystery. Just like dark energy and the expansion of the universe. Meanwhile, there have been many studies that have tried to explain these phenomena. But no one ever came up with definitive answers. Euclid might change that. Because this space probe, built by the European Space Agency, will take to the skies tomorrow and try to answer some of the most important questions in cosmology.

the mission
The European Space Agency’s Euclid mission is designed to study the formation and evolution of the dark universe. To do this, the probe will create a three-dimensional map of the universe (with time being the third dimension) by observing billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years across, spanning more than a third of the sky. Mapping the position and motion of galaxies over most of the history of the universe allows scientists to see how the shape of the universe has changed over time. We hope this will allow Euclid to reveal how the universe expanded and shaped in cosmic history. From this, astronomers can infer properties of dark energy, dark matter and gravity, which may eventually reveal secrets about their nature.

Key questions
In short, Euclid’s mission promises to be an exciting undertaking, attempting to answer important but still misunderstood fundamental questions about the universe. Because while dark energy accelerates the expansion of the universe and dark matter controls the growth of cosmic structures, scientists remain unsure what dark energy and dark matter actually are. Thus, the main questions they want to address are: What is the structure and history of the cosmic web? What is the nature of dark matter? How has the expansion of the universe changed over time? What is the nature of dark energy? Is our understanding of gravity complete?

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The search for answers begins tomorrow. Because then the long-awaited Euclid will be released. The spacecraft will take to the skies from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 5:11 p.m. Dutch time. Euclid will be propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Its final destination is the so-called second Lagrangian point, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, where it will arrive after a journey of about four weeks. This special location keeps pace with the Earth as we revolve around the sun.

Euclid’s journey to the second Lagrange point. Image: ESA Launch kit

This means that the James Webb and Gaia telescopes will receive a visit, since these two telescopes were previously located near the 2 Lagrangian point.

The Euclid space probe is a giant, about 4.7 meters long and 3.7 meters in diameter. The ship consists of two main components, the service module, which weighs about 850 kg, and the load module, which weighs about 800 kg. The server contains important systems that keep the probe operational. Think of electricity generation systems, propulsion, thermal control, and data processing electronics. The loading unit consists of a telescope with a diameter of 1.2 meters and two scientific instruments, a camera ( visual tool) and a near-infrared spectrometer/camera (de Near infrared spectrometer and photometerNISP).

Instruments onboard Euclid. Image: ESA Launch kit

Euclid will use these tools to take images in visible light and near infrared. These images will eventually show more than a third of the galactic sky outside the Milky Way. Euclid will image billions of cosmic objects, to a distance where light has taken up to 10 billion years to reach us. The image quality will be at least four times clearer than that of ground-based observatories. In addition, Euclid will perform near-infrared spectroscopy of hundreds of millions of stars and galaxies. This allows scientists to study the chemical and kinetic properties of many cosmic bodies in greater detail.

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The probe was not called Euclid for nothing. The ship is named after Euclid of Alexandria, the mathematician who lived around 300 BC and is the founder of geometry. Because the density of matter and energy is related to the geometry of the universe, the mission was named after him.

The Euclid mission is an incredibly large project, involving more than 2,000 scientists from 300 institutes from thirteen European countries, the United States, Canada, and Japan. ESA is selected Thales Alenia Space As the main contractor for the construction of the satellite and service unit, while Airbus Defense and Space To develop a charging unit, including a telescope. NASA presented the NISP’s near-infrared detectors.

Euclid is expected to work for at least six years. Although it is possible that the task will last longer. For example, the researchers do not rule out the possibility of extending the task.

Meanwhile, tension continues to mount as many eagerly await the imminent launch of the Euclid mission. And this is not surprising. At least 95% of the universe is made up of matter that we can’t see. Better understanding dark matter and dark energy is perhaps the biggest challenge in current physics. It will be interesting to see what Euclid reveals about this. Perhaps the probe will finally solve the mystery of the dark universe.