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.
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Dark energy is at least as challenging to study, though its existence drives the expansion of the universe. Although it makes up most of the cosmos, very little is known about what it is or how it functions. But studying dark matter can lead to insights for the pivotal force.Skip to next paragraph
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"Through measuring how the amount of dark matter changes with time, we can constrain dark energy," Nichol said.
The telescope will also map the sky, examining the emissions from more than 70 million galaxies, 10 times more than scientists can study now. The galaxies aren't sitting still in one place, but are moving away from the Milky Way and each other.
As they move, their light waves are stretched out behind them. By calculating the waves' alteration — known as their redshift — astronomers can determine how rapidly the galaxies are traveling and how far they are from Earth, as well as determining their three-dimensional position in space.
Combing the three-dimensional galactic positions with the detailed information on dark matter will allow scientists to improve their estimates of the dark energy and dark matter evolution.
To answer some of the questions about the makeup of the cosmos, almost 1,000 scientists are working together to plan and construct Euclid.
"The size of the collaboration is a reflection of the community interest in the mission across Europe, and in the world," Nichol said.
Scientists from fourteen countries are working to build the instruments and to study the resulting images.
While the payout should help provide clues about dark matter and energy, Nichol says it will also be a "goldmine" for other research fields.
"I expect Euclid to revolutionize many aspects of astronomy."
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