June 22, 2024
'Dark universe’ spacecraft reveals first colour images of the cosmos


A spacecraft that’s exploring the dark universe has released its first full-colour images of the cosmos.

Named Euclid after the ancient Greek “father of geometry,” the satellite was developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Its mission: produce the world’s largest, most accurate 3D map of the universe — with time as the third dimension. 

Over a six-year journey that launched in July, the €1bn probe will monitor more than a third of the sky and billions of galaxies.

The observations will explore the influence of dark matter and dark energy on the formation of the universe. Together, these entities comprise 95% of our cosmos — but we still don’t understand exactly what they are.

To find out, Euclid will observe the shapes, distances, and motions of billions of galaxies that are up to 10 billion light-years away.

“Dark matter pulls galaxies together and causes them to spin more rapidly than visible matter alone can account for; dark energy is driving the accelerated expansion of the universe,” said Professor Carole Mundell, ESA’s director of science.

Euclid will for the first-time allow cosmologists to study these competing dark mysteries together.”

On board the 4.7 metre satellite is one of the most precise telescopes ever sent to space. The telescope is equipped with two cameras: VIS, which captures the cosmos in visible light, and NISP, which measures the distances to galaxies and the expansion speed of the universe.

Today’s pictures are a showcase of their capabilities. According to ESA, a telescope has never previously produced this quality of astronomical images across such a large expanse of the sky, and so deep into the distant Universe.

In the coming months, Euclid’s scientists will analyse the snapshots for a series of scientific papers. But you can check the first five out right now.

1. The Perseus Cluster of galaxies

Astronomical image showing thousands of galaxies across the black expanse of space. The closest thousand or so galaxies belong to the Perseus Cluster.