Euclid, also known as the ‘detective of the dark universe’, is tasked with investigating how dark matter and dark energy have led to our universe looking the way it does today. Ninety-five percent of our cosmos seems to consist of the mysterious and still misunderstood ‘dark’ ingredients, whose presence causes only very subtle changes in the appearance of the objects we can see.
To reveal the ‘dark’ influence on the visible universe, Euclid will spend the next six years observing the shapes, distances and speeds of billions of galaxies, up to a distance of 10 billion light years. This will create the largest cosmic 3D map ever made. Euclid can create remarkably sharp images of an unprecedentedly large part of the sky in both visible and infrared light in one go.
The images released today illustrate this special ability: from bright stars to faint galaxies. They show objects in their entirety while remaining extremely sharp, even when zooming in on distant galaxies.
“Dark matter holds galaxies together and causes them to spin faster than visible matter alone can explain; dark energy drives the accelerating expansion of the universe. Euclid will allow cosmologists to study these dark mysteries together for the first time,” explains ESA Director of Science Carole Mundell. “Euclid represents a leap in our understanding of the cosmos as a whole and these stunning Euclid images show that the mission is ready to help answer one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics.”
“We have never seen such large astronomical images, with so much detail. They are even more beautiful and sharper than we could have hoped for, and they show us many previously unseen features in known regions of the near universe. Now we are ready to observe billions of galaxies and study their evolution through cosmic time,” says Euclid Project Scientist René Laureijs. Søren Larsen (Radboud University), who works on detailed observations of nearby galaxies and star clusters, adds: “The images released today are spectacular but they are just the beginning: I look forward to Euclid really getting going, and I’m eager to see what the observations will reveal about our own Galaxy and other galaxies in our cosmic neighbourhood in the coming years.”
“Our high standards for this telescope have paid off: the fact that these images are so detailed is all thanks to a special optical design, perfect fabrication and assembly of telescope and instruments, and extremely precise aim and temperature control,” adds Euclid Project Manager Giuseppe Racca. Henk Hoekstra (Leiden University) was closely involved in setting these high standards.
“I would like to congratulate and thank everyone involved in making this ambitious mission a reality. The first images taken by Euclid are awe-inspiring and remind us why it is essential that we go to space to learn more about the mysteries of the universe,” concludes ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.
Check the site of ESA for all the images and their descriptions.