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by Sofia Villegas
23 May 2024
Space telescope releases record-breaking pictures of the universe

The Euclid telescope was developed by the European Space Agency | Alamy

Space telescope releases record-breaking pictures of the universe

A world-leading telescope has provided the largest picture of the universe ever taken from space

The Euclid space telescope has released the images, alongside a “treasure trove” of papers on the dark universe.

Since launching in 2023, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid mission has been observing two billion galaxies to create a 3D map of the dark universe and investigate how it was formed. The UK has secured end-to-end involvement in the investigation.

Gathered from only 24 hours of observation, findings indicate European “excellence” in frontier science and state-of-the-art technology and are just a “taster” of what the telescope can do, experts claim. 

Caroline Harper, head of space science at the UK Space Agency (UKSA), said: “A key part of our purpose as a space agency is to understand more about the universe, what it’s made of and how it works. There is no better example of this than the Euclid mission - we know that most of the universe is made up of invisible dark matter and dark energy, but we don’t really understand what it is, or how it affects the way the universe is evolving.”

University College London, in partnership with Open University and other European teams, has led the 16-year-long research on the VIS optical camera. This instrument captures light from distant galaxies, allowing for more detailed images of a larger part of the sky than ever before.

Supported by £20m from UKSA, it is the largest camera of its kind to be sent into space. 

Professor Mark Cropper, who led the research team, said: “To achieve its core aim of better understanding dark energy and dark matter, Euclid’s measurements need to be exquisitely precise. This requires a camera that is incredibly stable, and incredibly well understood, with conditions inside it needed to be controlled very carefully. The VIS camera we developed will not only contribute beautiful images but help us answer fundamental questions about the role of dark energy and dark matter in the evolution of the universe.”

The University of Edinburgh led the research into weak lensing data processing pipelines, a critical element of the mission’s science. Weak lenses allow for galaxy images to appear distorted, stretched or magnified.

Essex-based company Teledyne e2v provided the telescope’s charged couple of devices. These sensors allow for higher sensitivity, fewer defective pixels, and better image homogeneity. 

In addition, research by the University of Nottingham, examined a group of galaxies known as the Perseus cluster.

This cluster is offers significant insight, as it is immersed in a vast cloud of hot gas, which can only be formed with the presence of dark matter.

Meanwhile, the UK is also playing a major role in the Euclid Science Ground Segment, which processes the telescope’s data into science-ready products.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said: “The mission is the result of many years of hard work from scientists, engineers and industry throughout Europe and from members of the Euclid scientific consortium around the world, all brought together by ESA. They can be proud of this achievement – the results are no small feat for such an ambitious mission and such complex fundamental science. Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the universe.”

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