NASA Joins ESA In Euclid Mission
January 24, 2013

NASA And ESA Partnering To Study Dark Matter And Energy

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are partnering up on the Euclid mission to investigate dark matter and dark energy together.

The Euclid space telescope will launch in 2020 with about a 4-feet-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments that will map the shape, brightness and 3D distribution of two billion galaxies.

With the mission, "scientists hope to solve key problems in our understanding of the evolution and fate of our expanding cosmos: the roles played by ℠dark matter´ and ℠dark energy´," according to an ESA statement.

Dark matter is invisible, and has gravity, slowing the expansion of the universe, while dark energy accelerates the expansion seen around us today.

These two components are thought to make up more than 95 percent of the mass and energy of the Universe, with "normal" matter and energy making up the remaining 5 percent.

NASA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ESA outlining its contribution to the mission. The space agency will be providing 20 detectors for the near-infrared instrument.

NASA also nominated 40 U.S. scientists to become members of the Euclid Consortium, which is a group who will build the instruments and analyze the science data returned from the mission. The consortium already includes nearly 1,000 scientists from 13 European countries and the U.S.

“ESA´s Euclid mission is designed to probe one of the most fundamental questions in modern cosmology, and we welcome NASA´s contribution to this important endeavor, the most recent in a long history of cooperation in space science between our two agencies,” said Alvaro Giménez Cañete, ESA´s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said that NASA is proud to help contribute to the Euclid mission to understand "perhaps the greatest science mystery of our time."

Scientists first discovered that the universe was expanding at an accelerated rate in 1998, but they still do not understand what causes it.

Dark energy is often referred to the mysterious force driving the acceleration. Euclid will help study its effects on galaxies and galaxy clusters throughout the Universe, and astronomers hope it will come closer to understanding its role in the cosmic story.

“The official signing of the Memorandum is a positive step for the Euclid mission and we´re looking forward to welcoming our US colleagues onto the team,” said René Laureijs, ESA´s Euclid project scientist.