New European space telescope to sniff out dark matter
Scheduled to launch in 2019, the European Space Agency's Euclid space telescope will attempt to detect the dark matter and dark energy that accounts for most of the universe.
When the European Space Agency's Euclid spacecraft launches in 2019, it will kick off an ambitious mission to map more than 70 million galaxies with a single goal: shining a light on the invisible dark matter and dark energy binding the universe together.Skip to next paragraph
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Named for the ancient Greek mathematician, Euclid will peer into space in the visible and near- infrared spectrum in search of signs of dark matter and its counterpart, dark energy. Both are challenging because they cannot be measured directly. Instead, astronomers measure the phenomena by their gravitational influence on visible matter, such as stars and galaxies.
"Euclid is designed to study the dark universe," Bob Nichol, Euclid Consortium Communications Lead, told SPACE.com in an email.
The $788 million Euclid space telescope is a 4,760-pound (2,160-kilogram) spacecraft that will use 3.9-foot (1.2-meter) telescope equipped with a 576 million-megapixel camera to observe galaxies in visible light. A near-infrared camera on the spacecraft will track the distribution of galaxies to measure cosmic acceleration, the accelerating expansion of the universe that scientist think is driven by dark energy.[7 Surprising Things About the Universe]
Dark matter in crosshairs
By tracking the movement of celestial objects, scientists have determined that more matter exists than can directly be accounted for. Known as dark matter, the unseen material can only be studied as it warps the space-time surrounding other, visible objects.
The high sensitivity of the new Euclid space telescope will aid scientists in the search for the elusive material.
"Euclid will deliver images of Hubble-like clarity across a third of the sky," Nichol said, referring to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope that has snapped amazing space images for more than 20 years. "Such a measurement is impossible from the ground."
Astronomers will use the new measurements to search for the small distortions caused by gravity. Just as a glass lens deflects light waves, gravity also changes the way light moves. Using Euclid to spot the warps in space-time, astronomers will be able to pinpoint dark matter with greater precision.