Live video: SpaceX launches Euclid telescope to study the dark universe

The European Space Agency’s Euclid spacecraft is set to sail on its mission to chart the history of the universe 10 billion years ago.

The map made by the spacecraft, named after the Greek mathematician known as the father of geometry, will be used to explore how dark matter and dark energy — the mysterious stuff that makes up 95 percent of our universe — affected what we see when we look through space and time.

The Euclid mission lifted off on time at 11:12 a.m. ET aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket will now complete a number of maneuvers in space before it reaches its planned orbit, after which the spacecraft will separate and begin its journey of more than a million miles.

The European Space Agency planned to launch the spacecraft on either of them Russian Soyuz missile Or the new Ariane 6 missile. But due to the rupture of European-Russian space relations after the invasion of Ukraine, and the delay of Ariane 6, the European Space Agency Moved some launches to SpaceXincluding Euclid.

The Euclid Space Telescope aims to explore how dark matter and dark energy have shaped the universe throughout space and time. At near infrared and visible wavelengths, the mission will record more than a third of the sky over the next six years, looking back into the past to observe galaxies just four billion years old.

Unlike the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, which focus deeply on one part of the sky at a time, scientists will use Euclid to cover large swaths of sky outside the galaxy at once. In three of the areas he recorded, Euclid would go back even further, to depict the structure of the universe about a billion years after the Big Bang.

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Dark matter – an invisible type of matter that does not emit, absorb or reflect light – has so far evaded direct detection. But scientists know they exist because of their gravitational influence on galaxies moving through the universe. Maps of the universe created with data from the Euclid Space Telescope will reveal how dark matter is distributed across space and time through the way it slightly distorts light from the galaxies behind it. This effect is known as weak gravitational lensing.

Euclid will also study dark energy, an even more mysterious force that acts like the opposite of gravity: instead of pushing things together, it pulls them apart — so much so that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.

Scientists hope that with Euclid’s data they will be able to test whether Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity works differently on cosmic scales. That could be related to the nature of dark energy: whether it be a static force in the universe, or a dynamic force with properties that vary with time — that would revolutionize fundamental physics as scientists know it. Such a discovery could shed light on the ultimate fate of what appears to be our ever-expanding universe.

The mission hosts a visual imager that consists of a 600-megapixel camera that can image an area up to two full moons wide at once. With this tool, scientists will be able to see how the shapes of galaxies are distorted by the dark matter in front of them.

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Euclid also has a near-infrared spectrometer and a photometer to measure the redshift of each galaxy, or the wavelength-broadening effect that occurs in light from the distant universe. When used in conjunction with ground-based instruments, it will be able to convert the redshift into longitude to infer distances for each galaxy.

After Euclid lifts off, it will travel nearly a million miles from our planet to the orbit of what is known as the second Lagrangian point, or L2. At L2, the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Sun cancels out. This location strategically places Euclid somewhere to make sweeping surveys of the sky without the Earth or the Moon obscuring her view. The James Webb Space Telescope orbits L2 for the same reason.

It will take the spacecraft a month to arrive, and another three months to test the performance of Euclid’s instruments before it begins sending data back to Earth for scientists to analyze.

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