Euclid Dark Matter Mission Now In Development
June 11, 2013

Euclid Dark Matter Mission Now In Development

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency's (ESA's) Euclid module under development in France will be helping to explore dark energy and dark matter in the universe.

Euclid will be launching in 2020 to help scientists better understand the evolution of the Universe since the Big Bang and its present accelerating expansion. Dark matter is invisible to normal telescopes, making it hard to study. However, the elusive subject plays a vital role in forming galaxies and showing the expansion of the Universe, making it important for scientists to understand.

Dark energy causes a force that is overcoming gravity and accelerating the expansion around us. Dark matter and dark energy are believed to make up 95 percent of the mass and energy of the Universe; but their nature remains a mystery.

“Euclid will address the cosmology-themed questions of ESA´s Cosmic Vision 2015—25 program with advanced payload technologies, enabling Europe to become a world leader in this field of research,” says Thomas Passvogel, Head of the Project Department in ESA´s Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration.

Euclid will hold two state-of-the-art, wide-field instruments to map the 3D distribution of up to two billion galaxies and the associated dark matter and dark energy. The mission will plot the evolution of the very fabric of the Universe and the structures within it over three-quarters of its history.

The mission will be addressing one of the most important questions in modern cosmology: Why is the expansion of the Universe accelerating rather than slowing down due to the gravitational attraction of all the matter within it?

Astronomers will be using Euclid to study the effects of dark matter and dark energy on the galaxies and clusters of galaxies, helping them uncover the true nature and influence of these mysteries.

“We are excited that Euclid has reached this important milestone, allowing us to progress towards launch in 2020, and bringing us ever closer to uncovering some of the Universe´s darkest secrets,” says Giuseppe Racca, ESA´s Euclid Project Manager.

Euclid was selected as the second Medium-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision program back in October 2011 and was formally adopted in June 2012 after scientists received a big grant to build the spacecraft. It will be orbiting around the Sun-Earth L2 point about 930,000 miles from our planet.

NASA announced in January that it would be joining in to help ESA out with its Euclid mission. The US space agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ESA outlining its contribution to the mission. It agreed that it would help provide 20 detectors for the near-infrared instrument.

“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.