What is the Euclid near infrared space telescope?

 Euclid Telescope. Credit:  European Space Agency

July 02, 2023 - Euclid Near-Infrared Space Telescope: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Dark Universe - The Euclid Near-Infrared Space Telescope is a groundbreaking spacecraft developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Euclid Consortium. Equipped with a 600-megapixel camera to capture visible light, as well as a near-infrared spectrometer and photometer, this mission aims to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter that shape our universe. Named after the renowned ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, this medium-class ("M-class") mission is part of ESA's Cosmic Vision campaign under the Science Programme.

The primary objective of the Euclid mission is to precisely measure the acceleration of the universe, leading to a deeper understanding of dark energy and dark matter. By analyzing the shapes of galaxies at varying distances from Earth and examining the relationship between distance and redshift, scientists hope to shed light on the accelerated expansion of the universe, which is attributed to dark energy. This knowledge will contribute to refining our understanding of this mysterious force and its impact on the cosmos.

To achieve its goals, Euclid will employ several scientific methods. Gravitational lensing, also known as gravitational shear, will be utilized to study the deflection of light rays caused by the presence of matter, including dark matter, along the line of sight. By measuring this distortion, scientists can infer the distribution of dark matter in the universe, providing valuable insights into its composition and role in cosmic structures.

Spectroscopic measurements will play a crucial role in Euclid's mission. By measuring the redshifts of galaxies and determining their distances using Hubble's Law, scientists can reconstruct the three-dimensional distribution of galaxies in the universe. This data will enable them to study the statistical properties of dark matter and galaxies and observe how these properties evolve over time as Euclid looks further back in cosmic history. The mission aims to acquire highly precise images and calibrate any sensor distortions to ensure accurate and valuable data.

The Euclid spacecraft itself is an impressive feat of engineering. It measures 4.5 meters in length with a diameter of 3.1 meters and weighs 2160 kilograms. The spacecraft's payload module includes a Korsch telescope with a 1.2-meter primary mirror, which covers an area of 0.5 square degrees. The visible-light camera (VIS) and the near-infrared spectrometer and photometer (NISP) are provided by an international consortium of scientists from 13 European countries and the United States. These instruments will map the 3D distribution of up to two billion galaxies, covering over a third of the entire sky.

Euclid was successfully launched on July 1, 2023, following a transfer time of 30 days. It will orbit the Sun-Earth Lagrangian point L2, approximately 1 million kilometers away from Earth, in an eclipse-free Halo orbit. During its nominal mission, expected to last at least six years, Euclid will observe about 15,000 square degrees of the sky, focusing on the extragalactic sky and conducting additional observations of three deep fields. These deep fields will serve as calibration points and monitor the performance of the telescope and instruments while providing scientific data on the most distant galaxies and quasars in the universe.

Capabilities and Instruments

The Euclid telescope is equipped with a suite of advanced instruments that enable it to carry out its ambitious mission:

Revolutionizing Cosmology and Astrophysics

The Euclid Near-Infrared Space Telescope is poised to have a transformative impact on our understanding of the universe:

The Euclid mission represents a monumental effort in international collaboration, involving more than 1200 scientists from over 100 laboratories in 15 countries. The vast amount of data collected by Euclid will be processed by a dedicated team of researchers and engineers to deliver data products to the scientific community. This data, comprising images, catalogues, and spectra, will not only contribute to cosmology but also provide a valuable resource for other astronomical missions and observatories, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Atacama Large Millimeter Array.