The Euclid Space Telescope got off to a rocky start

ESA’s Euclid Space Telescope It launched from the ground on July 1 and has been preparing ever since to begin its investigations into the Dark Universe. But operating the instrument was not all rainbows and butterflies, as the telescope’s engineers and scientists worked to solve many problems that arose in the process.

You can Read all about Euclid’s mission here; In short, the telescope will study the dark universe – the parts of the universe made up of dark energy and dark matter, About 95% of everything. Euclid is equipped with a visible light camera (VIS), near infrared camera, and a spectrometer (NISP) to conduct his observations. Its current There are three problems: the telescope’s precise pointing sensors sometimes lose track of stars, stray sunlight creeps into the telescope’s early images, and X-rays reaching Euclid’s detectors are unwanted as a result Sun lightspoiling some pictures.

The situation is serious but not critical. according to ESA releaseThe problems “do not threaten Euclid’s mission but could affect how it does its work.”

Telescope The first demo images were released on August 1A month after its launch from Florida. At that point, Euclid had flown to his position in space, his mirrors had been defrosted, and his instruments had seen their first light. The pictures look great. But according to the statement, the Euclid Precision Pointing Sensor — a system of optical sensors that allows the telescope to lock on to the stars to precisely point to an area of ​​the sky for imaging —– Those stars are not constantly locked. The Euclid team uploaded a software fix to Euclid after running tests on a spacecraft simulator and a replica of Euclid at mission control.

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In Euclid's VIS tool, stray light appears at certain angles.

“I feel comfortable saying that the initial tests look good,” Euclid operations director Andreas Rudolf said in an ESA statement. “We have found many stars in all our tests, and although it is too early to celebrate and more observations are needed, the signs are very encouraging.”

Commissioning is a normal part of the space telescope’s schedule, the period after spacecraft launch in which the mission’s various instruments and systems are prepared for scientific observations. The commissioning process takes time; The Webb Space Telescope began operation in Late January 2022 And her first scientific images were not like that Released until July 2022.

But Webb’s operation went relatively smoothly, even though one of the telescope’s mirrors was sore Hit by a small meteorite– A small piece of space rock – in May 2022.

“Only scientific images can provide us with absolute certainty that Euclid’s notation works well,” Giuseppe Racca, director of the Euclid project, said in the same release. “However, all the evidence so far makes us very optimistic. We will continue to keep our fingers crossed, but the restart of the performance validation phase is getting closer every day.”

Euclid needed protection from bright sunlight so he could look into the distant universe. But some sunlight filters into the VIS instrument’s eyeline through the reflection of the thrust arc that emerges from the shadow created by the spacecraft’s sun visor. Euclid’s team believes that reflected light appears in some of the VIS test observations.

Meanwhile, solar flares producing X-rays are a concern. TThe team believes that these X-rays may reach Euclid’s detectors at a certain timengles, thus corrupting some telescope data. An analysis of the telescope revealed that depending on solar activity — solar flares vary in frequency and intensity — Euclid could lose 3% of its data if the problem is not addressed.

The fine orientation sensor issue is currently being addressed, but the light issue will require different approaches. According to the statement, repeating observations and data processing can reduce the influence of X-rays on observations, and telescope scanning can be reprogrammed to mitigate sunlight.

Euclid’s task is a vast one, literally as vast as the universe and its dark secrets. With a little luck — and a lot of attention — problems discovered during operation can be mitigated, and the telescope can begin surveying the universe.

more: The first images from the Euclid Telescope have arrived and they are stunning

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