Euclid Launched: The Space Telescope That Must Uncover One of the Greatest Mysteries of the Universe |  Science and the planet

Euclid Launched: The Space Telescope That Must Uncover One of the Greatest Mysteries of the Universe | Science and the planet

Today is the desired day. At around 5pm Belgium time, the European Space Agency will launch its Euclid space telescope. Euclid will create an unprecedentedly accurate atlas of space and time to discover why the universe continues to expand at an accelerating rate. Scientists hope to gain new insight into one of the biggest questions about our universe: What is dark matter and energy? SpaceX will launch the telescope from Florida.

look. Watch the launch of the Euclid Space Telescope here

The Euclid Space Telescope, named after the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, will measure the structure of the universe on a large scale. This will result in a very detailed map containing two billion galaxies, a large portion of the visible universe. And this map also tells you how all those galaxies have evolved over, say, 10 billion years.

Scientists hope this will help solve pressing cosmic issues. The mysterious dark matter, dark energy, gravity and the evolution of the universe: remains shrouded in mystery. These are the five basic questions Euclid asked.

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SpaceX will launch the telescope from Florida today. © via Reuters

What does our universe consist of?

Our universe consists of many stars and galaxies, as well as some clouds of dust and gas. but? If you ask a cosmologist, this is far from the right answer. All those galaxies are just what we can see. But this is less than five percent of what it really should be.

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At least twenty percent of the universe must be made up of “dark” matter. Things we can’t see but we can measure the gravitational effects of. Then there’s a lot of dark energy, a mysterious scattering force that ensures the expansion of the universe is accelerating. Scientists have no idea what it is.

What is dark matter?

Viewed on a large scale, galaxies in our universe form a kind of cobweb, also called a cosmic web. The gravitational pull of all those galaxies together simply isn’t enough to form such a structure, explains René Lorig, project scientist at Euclid.

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Euclid investigates the gravitational effects of dark matter.
Euclid investigates the gravitational effects of dark matter. © Getty Images / Science Photo Libra

According to many scientists, the invisible “dark matter” must exist between and around galaxies. Its gravity is measurable, but what it consists of is not fully known. By looking closely at the gravitational effects of this dark matter, Euclid will map its distribution. This helps answer the question of what this product is.

What is dark energy?

In the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that all galaxies are moving away from us. So the universe is expanding, like inflating a balloon. In the late 1990s, scientists discovered, against all odds, that this inflation is accelerating.

They called the unknown, distracting force responsible for this dark energy. When gravity pulls, dark energy pushes everything apart. This constant thrust seems to be rooted in empty space itself. The more empty space, the more dark energy. And so everything is being dismantled faster and faster.

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On Earth, we don’t notice any dark energy at all. Even between neighboring galaxies, for example, the gravitational force is still much stronger. Only on the largest cosmic scale does dark energy play a leading role.

If dark energy can change, we need to rethink cosmological theories

Can dark energy change?

So dark energy ensures that the universe is expanding faster and faster. But this acceleration only began about six billion years ago, when the universe was about half its age today. Then dark energy became stronger than gravity.

To understand more about this mysterious form of energy, scientists want to discover, among other things, whether dark energy is constant or undergoes changes, Lorig says. In the latter case, cosmological theories must be reconsidered.

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With Euclid, scientists can watch the formation of the largest cosmic structures over billions of years.
With Euclid, scientists can watch the formation of the largest cosmic structures over billions of years. © AFP

Because the universe is so big and light takes time to reach us, looking deeply into the universe is also seen far back in time. Euclid will look back on that moment six billion years ago, when dark energy became so powerful that it began to interfere with the evolution of the universe.

Is gravity what we think?

The effects of dark matter and the formation of galaxies in a web-like structure are linked to gravity. We understand gravity mainly thanks to Einstein’s general theory of relativity. But is this theory also valid on the largest cosmic scale? Cosmologists don’t know for sure.

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With Euclid, scientists can watch the formation of the largest cosmic structures over billions of years. They may find indications with Euclid that gravity on a cosmic scale works a little differently than previously thought. And even then the theories must be reformed.

Major breakthrough: Scientists hear the sound of the universe for the first time. They hear dead stars a cosmic symphony.

The search for extraterrestrial life is back in full swing. But how do scientists start such a thing? “Maybe our point of view is too narrow” (+)

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