European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid
mission to explore the hidden side of the universe—dark energy and dark matter—reached
an important milestone that will see it head towards full construction.
Selected in October 2011 alongside Solar Orbiter as one of
the first two medium-class missions of the Cosmic Vision 2015–25 plan, Euclid received final
approval from ESA’s Science Program Committee to move into the full
construction phase, leading to its launch in 2020.
The committee also formalized an agreement between ESA and
funding agencies in a number of its Member States to develop Euclid’s two scientific instruments, a
visible-wavelength camera and a near-infrared camera/spectrometer, and the
large distributed processing system needed to analyze the data they produce.
Finally, the committee agreed on a Memorandum of
Understanding between ESA and NASA that will see the U.S. space agency help to provide
Nearly 1,000 scientists from 100 institutes form the Euclid
Consortium building the instruments and participating in the scientific harvest
of the mission.
“This formal adoption of the mission is a major milestone
for a large scientific community, their funding agencies, and also for European
industry,” said Alvaro Giménez Cañete, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic
“It took a lot of hard work to get this far, but we now have
a solid blueprint for a feasible space telescope which enables very accurate
measurements that will bring to light the nature of dark energy,” said Yannick
Mellier, the Euclid Consortium lead.
In the coming months, industry will be asked to make bids to
supply spacecraft hardware, such as the telescope, power systems, attitude and
orbit controls, and communications systems.
will use a 1.2-m diameter telescope and the two instruments to map the 3D
distribution of up to two billion galaxies and dark matter associated with
them, spread over more than one third of the whole sky.
Stretched across ten billion light-years, the mission will
plot the evolution of the universe’s structure over three-quarters of its
is optimized to answer one of the most important questions in modern cosmology:
why is the Universe expanding at an accelerating rate, rather than slowing down
due to the gravitational attraction of all the matter in it?
The discovery of this cosmic acceleration in 1998 was
rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011 and yet we still do not know
what causes it.
The term ‘dark energy’ is often used to signify this
mysterious force, but by using Euclid
to study its effects on the galaxies and clusters of galaxies across the universe,
astronomers hope to come much closer to understanding its true nature and
“Euclid addresses the cosmology-themed questions of ESA’s
Cosmic Vision and it’s fantastic that we are moving forward into the next stage
of development–we’re one step closer to learning more about the Universe’s
darkest secrets,” said René Laureijs, ESA’s Euclid project scientist.
Source: European Space Agency