Euclid Mission Unveils Hidden Dark Universe in New Images

Euclid Messier 78

Messier 78 is a nursery of star formation enveloped in a shroud of interstellar dust located 1,300 light-years away from Earth. Using its infrared camera, Euclid exposed hidden regions of star formation for the first time and mapped complex filaments of gas and dust in unprecedented detail. Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO or ESA Standard License

Euclid, an ESA mission with NASA’s support, aims to map the sky and study dark matter and dark energy. Its new images and data reveal significant scientific findings, including free-floating planets and brown dwarfs, enhancing our understanding of the universe.

The Euclid mission has released five new images that showcase the space telescope’s ability to explore two large-scale cosmic mysteries: dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter is an invisible substance five times more common in the universe than “regular” matter but with an unknown composition. “Dark energy” is the name given to the unknown source causing the universe to expand faster and faster. The Euclid mission is led by ESA (the European Space Agency) with contributions from NASA

Cosmic Mapping and Precision

By 2030, Euclid will create a cosmic map that covers almost a third of the sky, using a field of view that is far wider than NASA’s Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, which are designed to study smaller areas in finer detail. Scientists will then chart the presence of dark matter with higher precision than ever before. They can also use this map to study how dark energy’s strength has changed over time.

Euclid Galaxy Cluster Abell 2764

Galaxy cluster Abell 2764 (top right), imaged by ESA’s Euclid telescope, contains hundreds of galaxies. The area outside the cluster also contains distant galaxies that appear as they did when the universe was only 700 million years old. Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO or ESA Standard License

The five new images feature views of varying sizes — from a star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy to clusters of hundreds of galaxies — and were taken shortly after Euclid’s launch in July 2023 as part of its early release observations program. The mission released five images from that program last year as a preview of what Euclid would offer, before scientists had analyzed the data.

New Images and Research Availability

The new images, related science papers, and data are available on the Euclid website. A pre-recorded program by ESA about these findings is available on ESA TV and YouTube.

Mission planners with NASA’s forthcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will use Euclid’s findings to inform Roman’s complementary dark energy work. Scientists will use Roman, with its better sensitivity and sharpness, to extend the kind of science Euclid enables by studying fainter and more distant galaxies.

Euclid Dorado Group of Galaxies

Euclid’s view of the Dorado group of galaxies shows signs of galaxies interacting and merging. The shells of hazy white and yellow material, as well as curving “tails” extending into space, are evidence of gravitational interaction between the galaxies. Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO or ESA Standard License

Curved Space and Gravitational Lensing

One way Euclid will help scientists study dark matter is by observing how this mysterious phenomenon warps the light from distant galaxies, as seen in one of the new images featuring a cluster of galaxies called Abell 2390. The mass of the galaxy cluster, which includes dark matter, creates curves in space. Light from more distant galaxies traveling over those curves appears to bend or arc, similar to how light looks when passing through the warped glass of an old window. Sometimes the warping is so powerful it can create rings, pronounced arcs, or multiple images of the same galaxy — a phenomenon called strong gravitational lensing.

Scientists interested in exploring the effects of dark energy will primarily look for a subtler effect, called weak gravitational lensing, which requires detailed computer analysis to detect and reveals the presence of even smaller clumps of dark matter. By mapping that dark matter and tracing how these clumps evolve over time, scientists will investigate how the outward acceleration of dark energy has changed dark matter’s distribution.

Euclid Galaxy Cluster Abell 2390

More than 50,000 galaxies are visible in this image of Abell 2390, a galaxy cluster 2.7 billion light-years away from Earth. Near the center of the image, some of the galaxies appear smudged and curved, an effect called strong gravitational lensing that can be used to detect dark matter. Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO or ESA Standard License

Instruments and Observational Capabilities

“Because dark energy is a relatively weak effect, we need larger surveys to give us more data and better statistical precision,” said Mike Seiffert, the NASA project scientist for Euclid at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It’s not something where we can zoom in on one galaxy and study it in detail. We need to look at a much bigger area but still be able to detect these subtle effects. To make that happen, we needed a specialized space telescope like Euclid.”

The telescope uses two instruments that detect different wavelengths of light: the visible-light imager (VIS) and the near-infrared spectrometer and photometer (NISP). Foreground galaxies emit more light in visible wavelengths (those the human eye can perceive), while background galaxies are typically brighter in infrared wavelengths.

“Observing a galaxy cluster with both instruments allows us to see galaxies at a wider range of distances than what we could get using either visible or infrared alone,” said JPL’s Jason Rhodes, principal investigator for NASA’s Euclid dark energy science team. “And Euclid can make these types of deep, wide, high-resolution images hundreds of times faster than other telescopes.”

Euclid Galaxy NGC 6744

Euclid’s large field of view captures the entirety of galaxy NGC 6744 and shows astronomers key areas of star formation. Forming stars is the main way by which galaxies grow and evolve, so these investigations are central to understanding why galaxies look the way they do. Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi; CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO or ESA Standard License

Discoveries Beyond Dark Energy

While dark matter and dark energy are central to the Euclid. The mission has a variety of other astronomical applications. Euclid’s large-area sky map can, for instance, be used to discover faint objects and observe changes in cosmic objects, like a star changing in brightness. Euclid’s new science results include the detection of free-floating planets (planets that don’t orbit stars), which are difficult to find because of their faintness. In addition, the data reveals newly discovered brown dwarfs. Thought to form like stars but not quite large enough to begin fusion in their cores, these objects highlight the differences between stars and planets.

“The data, images, and scientific papers coming out now mark the very beginning of Euclid’s scientific results, and they show a startlingly wide variety of science beyond the primary objective of the mission,” said Seiffert. “What we’re already seeing from Euclid’s wide view has produced results that study individual planets, features in our home Milky Way galaxy, and the structure of the universe at large scales. It’s both thrilling and a little overwhelming to keep up with all the developments.”

Euclid Contributions and Support

Three NASA-supported science teams contribute to the Euclid mission. In addition to designing and fabricating the sensor-chip electronics for Euclid’s Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) instrument, JPL led the procurement and delivery of the NISP detectors as well. Those detectors, along with the sensor chip electronics, were tested at NASA’s Detector Characterization Lab at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Euclid NASA Science Center at IPAC (ENSCI), at Caltech in Pasadena, California, will archive the science data and support U.S.-based science investigations. JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) is a division of Caltech.

1 Comment on "Euclid Mission Unveils Hidden Dark Universe in New Images"

  1. Bao-hua ZHANG | May 27, 2024 at 2:58 pm | Reply

    The universe does not do algebra, formulas, or fractions. The universe is the superposition, deflection, and twisting of geometric shapes, with its core being the spin and synchronization effects of topological vortex gravitational fields.

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