Euclid’s dark matter and dark energy search approved

December 18, 2015

Designed to map two billion galaxies in search for answers on dark matter and dark energy, Euclid space telescope passed its first review. The review confirmed that the spacecraft, its instruments and telescope can achieve the objectives during its six-year mission, giving it the green light.

An illustration of Euclid Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/C. Carreau

Set to launch in 2020, European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid six-year mission will consist of mapping two billion galaxies, their shapes, positions and movements across a third of the sky. The resulting data will help scientists to better understand dark matter and dark energy.

What are dark matter and dark energy?

Dark matter is a mysterious matter that can’t be seen, but the effects of its gravitational pull are measurable. There is five times more dark matter in our Universe than the “normal”, visible matter. In fact, gravitational pull from visible matter alone wouldn’t keep galaxies together.

Even more elusive is dark energy. It is thought to be responsible for expansion of space itself, as evident in the fact that galaxies farther away from us are moving away even faster than galaxies closer to us. As if the space itself is stretching out and the main suspect is the dark energy. Despite being undetectable at the time, dark energy is calculated to make up almost 70% of our Universe.

Dark matter and dark energy together make up over 95% of our Universe. This makes the Euclid mission important stepping stone in deepening our knowledge of the Universe. Now that the mission has been green-lighted, scientists and engineers can begin producing necessary instruments in order to make sure the mission is indeed a success.

Euclid mission technical details

Euclid was first proposed to ESA in 2007. In October 2011, the mission was selected for ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme. Since then, Euclid’s designs have been studied and refined, with key components being built and tested to assure the review board the mission is achievable.

Euclid will have a telescope that’s 1.2 metres in diameter, feeding its two instruments with necessary light. The two instruments will provide scientists with visible and near-infrared images, offering top-notch accuracy, further refining our theories on dark matter and dark energy.

“This is really a big step for the mission,” says Giuseppe Racca, Euclid’s project manager. “All the elements have been put together and evaluated. We now know that the mission is feasible and we can do the science.”

Set for final review in two years, Euclid will be launched in December 2020 on a Soyuz rocket from Kourou in French Guiana.

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