Instruments on board the probe, with a significant contribution from Italy, are about to open a new window on the Universe, as scientists prepare for discoveries on dark matter and energy
From the depths of space, ESA’s Euclid Space Telescope is transmitting for the first time astonishingly clear images of the Universe, from 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. The precision of these images is so impressive that scientists have described them as “fascinating”. Two crucial instruments aboard the spacecraft, VIS (VISible Instrument) and NISP (Near Infrared Spectrometer Photometer), currently under calibration, are responsible for this achievement. The Italian Space Agency (ASI), the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) have made a significant contribution to the realization of these instruments.
Although Euclid has not yet begun its primary mission of observing the cosmos, the scientists and engineers involved in the project are full of optimism about the functioning of the telescope and its instruments. “It is incredibly exciting to see these first images after more than a decade of designing and developing Euclid,” says Giuseppe Racca, Euclid Project Manager at ESA. VIS and NISP are two amazing tools on board Euclid. Their mission will be to capture high-definition images of billions of galaxies, analyze their shapes and measure the light they emit at different wavelengths. These measurements will allow scientists to determine the distance to each galaxy and create a detailed map of their distribution in the Universe.
This ambitious project will not only allow us to better understand the distribution of galaxies, but could also shed light on the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy – two key elements that make up most of the Universe, but are still poorly understood. The Euclid mission involves more than two hundred Italian researchers from ASI, INAF, INFN and various universities. In the coming months, ESA will continue its tests and checks to ensure that Euclid works to the best of its ability, before kicking off the main science phase of the project.