The Euclid Space Telescope “The Dark Universe” is on a mission to uncover the deepest cosmic mysteries

On July 1, 2023, the Euclid spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), was successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The spacecraft aims to explore the mysterious components of the universe, dark matter and dark energy. Credit: SpaceX

ESA’s Euclid spacecraft lifted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA, at 11:12 a.m.[{” attribute=””>EDT on July 1, 2023. The successful launch marks the beginning of an ambitious mission to uncover the nature of two mysterious components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy, and to help us answer the fundamental question: what is the Universe made of?

Following launch and separation from the rocket, ESA’s European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed acquisition of signal from Euclid via the New Norcia ground station in Australia at 17:57 CEST (11:57 a.m. EDT).

The European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid spacecraft was successfully launched on July 1, 2023, to reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy in the universe. You will create an accurate 3D map of the universe by observing billions of galaxies and using advanced science tools to analyze these galaxies. The mission is scheduled to last six years and will provide an unprecedented survey of the skies. credit:[{” attribute=””>SpaceX

“The successful launch of Euclid marks the beginning of a new scientific endeavor to help us answer one of the most compelling questions of modern science,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. “Euclid has been made possible by ESA’s leadership, the effort and expertise of hundreds of European industrial and scientific institutions, and through collaboration with international partners. The quest to answer fundamental questions about our cosmos is what makes us human. And, often, it is what drives the progress of science and the development of powerful, far-reaching, new technologies. ESA is committed to expanding Europe’s ambitions and successes in space for future generations.”

ESA Euclid Lift-Off

On July 1, 2023, at 11:12 a.m. EDT, ESA’s latest astrophysics mission, Euclid, lifted off on a Space X Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. Euclid has now started its month-long journey to Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, in the opposite direction from the Sun. Credit: ESA – S. Corvaja

“The Euclid mission is the result of the passion and expertise of those who contributed to designing and building this sophisticated space telescope, the competence of our flight operations team, and the inquiring spirit of the science community,” says Giuseppe Racca, ESA’s Euclid Project Manager. “There have been many challenges during the project, but we have worked hard and now we have successfully reached this launch milestone together with our partners in the Euclid Consortium and NASA.”

The Euclid Consortium contributed the two highly advanced scientific instruments – the visible-wavelength camera (VIS) and the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). NASA provided the detectors for NISP.

Euclid's Visible and Infrared Instruments

ESA’s Euclid will examine visible and infrared light from distant galaxies using two scientific instruments on board. These instruments will measure the accurate position and shapes of galaxies in visible light, and their redshift (from which their distance can be derived) in the infrared light. With these data, scientists can construct a 3D map of the distributions of both the galaxies and the dark matter in the Universe. The map will show how large-scale structure evolved over time, tracing the role of dark energy.
The VISible instrument (VIS) takes very sharp images of galaxies over a much larger fraction of sky than would be possible from the ground. These observations will be used to measure the shapes of over a billion galaxies.
As the name suggests, VIS collects visible light. It is sensitive to wavelengths from green (550 nanometres) up to near infrared (900 nm). The instrument uses a mosaic of 36 CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices, a type of camera sensor), each of which contains more than 4000 pixels by 4000 pixels. This gives the detector a total of about 600 megapixels, equivalent to almost seventy 4K resolution screens.
Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) is dedicated to making spectroscopic measurements of galaxies, which involves determining how much light they emit per wavelength. This is useful for measuring the galaxies’ redshift, which cosmologists can use to estimate the distance to each galaxy. NISP has the largest field of view for an infrared instrument ever flown in space. The instrument measures near-infrared light (900–2000 nm) using a grid of 16 detectors, each containing more than 2000 by 2000 pixels.
Credit: ESA

Exploring the dark Universe

Euclid will observe billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years to create the largest, most accurate 3D map of the Universe, with the third dimension representing time itself. This detailed chart of the shape, position, and movement of galaxies will reveal how matter is distributed across immense distances and how the expansion of the Universe has evolved over cosmic history, enabling astronomers to infer the properties of dark energy and dark matter. This will help theorists to improve our understanding of the role of gravity and pin down the nature of these enigmatic entities.

“Today we celebrate the successful launch of a ground-breaking mission that places Europe at the forefront of cosmological studies,” says Carole Mundell, ESA’s Director of Science. “If we want to understand the Universe we live in, we need to uncover the nature of dark matter and dark energy and understand the role they played in shaping our cosmos. To address these fundamental questions, Euclid will deliver the most detailed map of the extra-galactic sky. This inestimable wealth of data will also enable the scientific community to investigate many other aspects of astronomy, for many years to come.”

ESA’s Euclid mission is designed to reveal the properties and effects of dark matter and elusive dark energy, entities thought to dominate the formation of the universe but which remain directly undiscovered. Euclid would create a three-dimensional map of the universe, using time as its third dimension, by observing billions of galaxies as far as 10 billion light-years away. This comprehensive mapping will help scientists map the position and speed of galaxies across vast distances and throughout cosmic history, shedding light on the expansion of the universe over time. Credit: ESA

To achieve his ambitious science goal, Euclid is equipped with a 1.2-meter reflecting telescope that feeds two innovative scientific instruments: VIS, which takes sharp-resolution images of galaxies over a large part of the sky, and NISP, which can analyze the infrared radiation of galaxies. light by wavelength to accurately determine the distance between them.

Spacecraft and communications will be controlled by ESOC. To handle the huge amounts of data that Euclid would receive, the European Space Agency’s Estrack network of deep space antennas was upgraded. This data will be analyzed by the Euclid Consortium – a group of more than 2,000 scientists from more than 300 institutes across Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Astronomy Archives Maximizing Science from ESA Missions

For other ESA missions, spacecraft data arrives at the European Space Agency’s European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany, via ground stations around the world.
The raw data is sent to the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Spain. From ESAC, the data is distributed to the processing centers of the Geosciences Sector of the Euclid Union, based in a number of European countries and the USA.
The Euclid Consortium (EC) is an organization of more than 2,000 researchers in theoretical physics, astrophysics, and astronomy, engineers, technicians, and administrative staff. It was chosen by the European Space Agency to be the sole official science consortium responsible for science instruments, data production and leading the mission’s scientific exploitation through to completion.
The EC Sciences Ground segment is responsible for the design, development tests, integration and operation of data processing tools, pipelines and data centers. Processed data products include calibrated images and spectra, catalogs of scientific measurements, and documentation.
At regular intervals, the trove of processed Euclid data will be made publicly available via ESAC’s astronomy archives. It is from ESAC that science operations are planned, where all scientific data produced by the ESA mission are archived and made available to the world.
Credit: ESA

As the mission progresses, Euclid’s treasure trove of data will be released on an annual cadence and will be made available to the global scientific community through the scientific archive hosted by the European Space Agency’s European Center for Space Astronomy in Spain.

“This is a great moment for science, a moment we’ve been looking forward to for a long time: the launch of Euclid, on a mission to decipher dark matter and dark energy,” says René Lorig, ESA’s Euclid Project Scientist. “The great mystery of the fundamental components of the universe stares us in the face, presenting an enormous challenge. With his advanced telescope and powerful scientific instruments, Euclid is poised to help us unravel this mystery.”

Euclid's Journey to L2 Infographic

The European Space Agency’s Euclid will orbit a second Lagrangian point (L2), 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the opposite direction from the sun. L2 is the equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system that follows the Earth around the Sun.
In its orbit at L2, Euclid’s sun visor can always block light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon while pointing his telescope toward deep space, ensuring a high level of stability for his instruments.
At L2, Euclid is joined by ESA’s Gaia mission and the ESA/NASA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which also orbit this equilibrium point, each following well-separated paths.
Credit: ESA

Excursion to Lagrange Point 2

In the next four weeks, Euclid will travel toward the Lagrangian point 2 of the Sun and Earth, an equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth (about four times the distance between Earth and the Moon) in the opposite direction from the Sun. There, Euclid will be maneuvered into orbit around this point and mission controllers will begin activities to verify all spacecraft functions, check the telescope and eventually operate science instruments.

The scientists and engineers will then participate in an intensive two-month phase of testing and calibrating Euclid’s scientific instruments and preparing for routine observations. Over the course of six years, Euclid will survey an unprecedented third of the sky[{” attribute=””>accuracy and sensitivity.

ESA Euclid Dark Matter Energy Space Telescope

ESA’s Euclid mission is a highly ambitious project undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate and understand the nature of two enigmatic components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy. Launched on July 1, 2023, the spacecraft will observe billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away to construct the most accurate 3D map of the Universe ever made. Credit: ESA

About Euclid

Euclid is a European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. The Euclid Consortium is responsible for providing the scientific instruments and scientific data analysis. ESA selected Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the construction of the satellite and its service module, with Airbus Defence and Space chosen to develop the payload module, including the telescope. NASA provided the detectors of the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, NISP. Euclid is a medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision Programme.

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