Space, the first images of Euclid have arrived: they are ‘hypnotizing

Esa: “The space telescope will achieve the scientific objectives for which it was designed and perhaps much more”. Enthusiasm for Italian scientists from ASI, Inaf and Infn. Renzi: “Let’s build Europe like this”

The first images have arrived Euclid which are’mesmerizingaccording to the experts of theHex who made the announcement today. Euclid’s two instruments have captured their first test images and “the mesmerizing results indicate that the space telescope will achieve the scientific goals it was designed to achieve, and perhaps much more,” says theEuropean Space Agency. Enthusiasm also from the Italian scientists who, with ASI, Inaf and Infn, make a significant contribution to Euclid’s mission. Meanwhile, there are those who applaud even from the seats of politics. The leader of Italia Viva Matteo Renzi underlines in a post that “the European space telescope Euclid is sending the first photos from the most remote galaxies in the universe. I shudder to see, think, imagine. The Europe we must build is the one that launches into ambitious and strategic projects like this, not the one that gets lost in bureaucracy and sovereignty”.

Meanwhile, even though Euclid is months away from delivering its real new view of the cosmos, ESA notes that achieving this milestone means the scientists and engineers behind the mission are confident that the telescope and instruments are working well. “After more than 11 years of designing and developing Euclid, it is exhilarating and extremely exciting to see these first images” says Giuseppe Racca, Euclid project manager. Racca points out that “it’s even more incredible if we think we’re seeing just a few galaxies here, produced with minimal system tuning. The fully calibrated Euclid will eventually look at billions of galaxies to create the largest ever 3D map of the sky.” . ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher congratulates Euclid’s team: ‘It’s great to see that the latest addition to ESA’s fleet of science missions is already performing so well. I have every confidence that the team behind the mission will succeed in using Euclid to reveal so much about the 95% of the Universe that we currently know so little about.” Carole Mundell, ESA’s chief scientist agrees: “Our teams have worked tirelessly since the launch of Euclid on 1 July and these first engineering images give a tantalizing glimpse into the extraordinary data we can expect from Euclid.” For Yannick Mellier, head of the Euclid Consortium, “the first exceptional images obtained using Euclid’s visible and near-infrared instruments open a new era for observational cosmology and statistical astronomy. They mark the beginning of the search for true nature of dark energy, which will be undertaken by the Euclid Consortium”.

And there is also great enthusiasm among Italian scientists for the images arriving from the European Euclid probe which is observing the Universe one and a half million kilometers from the Earth. A result in which there is a strong contribution from Italy. With Euclid the spectra of millions of galaxies will be measured and Euclid will investigate dark matter and energy and the contribution of our country through the Italian Space Agency, the National Institute of Astrophysics and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics is fundamental. The images, underline Asi, Inaf and Infn, have arrived on Earth and are so incredible for their sharpness that some scientists have defined them as ‘hypnotizing images’. They were taken up again by the two instruments, with a strong Italian contribution, which have just been switched on: VIS (VISible Instrument) and NISP (Near Infrared Spectrometer Photometer) which are still in the calibration phase. The Italian Space Agency (ASI), the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) played an important role on a continental level. “The images of the VIS and NISP instruments released today demonstrate the goodness of the acquisition chain of the light collected in the field of view of the Euclid telescope” reports Mario Salatti, responsible for ASI for the creation of the Italian contribution to the scientific instruments on board the Euclid satellite. “The industrial team involved in the construction of the heart of the electronic units of the two VIS and NISP instruments and the scientific team that developed the software look with great satisfaction at the quality of these images which confirm the achievement of the project specifications” he also states Salatti.

Euclid’s VISible instrument (VIS) will take super-sharp images of billions of galaxies to measure their shapes. Already from the first image you can see the capacity that the VIS will have; while some galaxies are very easy to spot, many others are fuzzy blobs hidden among the stars, waiting to be unveiled by Euclid in the future. While the image is rich in detail, the area of ​​sky it covers is actually only about a quarter of the width and height of the full moon. “Turning on a space instrument is a unique experience: when everything was ready, we sent the satellite the power-on command and we literally stopped breathing until, a few seconds later, we saw the first telemetry data scrolling screen, reporting the status of the instrument in operation” says Anna Di Giorgio of INAF, who coordinates the Italian activities for the Euclid mission financed by ASI and participated, together with other INAF and INFN researchers, in the testing of the two instruments at the ESA control center. “The emotion – Di Giorgio points out – was great and amid applause and hugs, we all immediately got back to work, aware that this is only the beginning of the adventure”. Di Giorgio observes that the other “critical moment was that of turning on the detectors and acquiring the first data, followed by the amazement of finally being able to see real and not simulated images. Certainly there were some unforeseen events (without which what adventure would that be?), such as the discovery of an unexpected background of diffused light, which in the end gave the whole team the opportunity to work if possible in an even more cohesive and motivated way. Also in these cases the professionalism of the Italian staff both the researchers and the industrial team contributed decisively to keeping the situation under control and defining possible solution strategies”.

Euclid’s Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) instrument has a dual role: photographing galaxies in infrared light and measuring the amount of light that galaxies emit at various wavelengths. This second role allows us to directly understand how far away each galaxy is. Luca Stanco, INFN researcher in the Padua section and responsible for the Euclid mission for INFN, adds that “Euclid represents the first mission of its type to which INFN contributes, and we are very satisfied with this initial important step, made possible also thanks to the role played by INFN, and which demonstrates Euclid’s ability to achieve what it set out to do: an extensive map of the Universe, which will be able to provide decisive measurements even in those sectors in which INFN is most involved, such as neutrino physics, going to complement the research in this area carried out in the laboratory”. By combining distance information with information about the shapes of galaxies measured by the VIS, we will be able to map how galaxies are distributed in the Universe and how this distribution changes over time. Ultimately, this 3D map will lead us to a better understanding of dark matter (which interacts gravitationally with ordinary matter) and dark energy (which causes the current acceleration of the expansion of the Universe). More than two hundred Italian scientists are involved in Euclid, belonging to ASI, INAF, INFN and numerous universities, first of all the University of Bologna and then the University of Ferrara, the University of Genoa, the State University of Milan, University of Roma Tre, University of Trieste, SISSA and CISAS. In the coming months, ESA will continue to carry out all the necessary tests and checks to ensure that Euclid works in the best possible way. Once this “commissioning phase” is complete, the real science will begin. At that point, ESA will release a new set of images showing the mission’s extraordinary capabilities.