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ESA launches Euclid spacecraft

Published: 6th Jul, 2023

ESA launches Euclid spacecraft

Context

The European Space Agency launched its Euclid spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to chart the history of the universe as far back as 10 billion years ago.

What is Euclid Mission?

  • The European Space Agency's Euclid mission is designed to study the so-called "dark universe."
  • 3D map of the 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
    • Matter distribution: how matter is distributed across immense distances
    • Evolution: 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 understanding of the role of gravity and pin down the nature of these enigmatic entities.
  • Developed by: Euclid was designed and built entirely by ESA, with the US space agency, NASA, supplying photodetectors for its near-infrared instrument. 
  • Euclid is a medium-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision Programme.

Spacecraft and instruments:

  • The Euclid spacecraft is approximately 4.7 m tall and 3.7 m in diameter. It consists of two major components: the service module and the payload module.
  • Payload module: The payload module comprises a 1.2-m-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments:

The name game

  • The mission is named after the father of geometry, the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid.
  • He lived around the year 300 BCE in the city of Alexandria, which was founded by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. 
  • Visible-wavelength camera (1.2-m reflecting telescope that feeds the two innovative scientific instruments): It takes very sharp images of galaxies over a large fraction of the sky and can view the universe in visible and near-infrared light
  • Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) instrument: It can analyse galaxies’ infrared light by wavelength to accurately establish their distance.
  • Service module: The service module contains the satellite systems: electric power generation and distribution, attitude control, data processing electronics, propulsion, telecommand and telemetry, and thermal control.

What is Dark Matter?

  • Dark matter is the predominant form of matter in the universe.
  • Without it, the stars probably would not have formed in the early universe, and the presence of dark matter across the universe is essential to all cosmic structure formation.
  • Dark matter is not visible and does not absorb radiation.
  • It deflects light because of its gravitational pull and deforms the shape of the galaxies as seen by the observer.
    • This effect is called gravitational weak lensing.

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