Earlier this week, scientists revealed some of the first photos taken by the European Space Agency (ESA)’s Euclid space telescope, which was launched in July this year.
“Never before has a telescope been able to create such razor-sharp astronomical images across such a large patch of the sky, and looking so far into the distant Universe. These five images illustrate Euclid's full potential; they show that the telescope is ready to create the most extensive 3D map of the Universe yet, to uncover some of its hidden secrets,” ESA said on its website.
Very little is known about the ‘dark matter and energy’. According to the ESA, 95% of our cosmos appears to be made of these mysterious ‘dark’ entities. But we don’t understand what they are because their presence causes only very subtle changes in the appearance and motions of the things we can see, the space agency explains on its website.
Euclid will investigate how dark matter and dark energy have made our Universe look like it does today over the next six years, observing the shapes, distances and motions of billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years. “By doing this, it will create the largest cosmic 3D map ever made," ESA explains on its website.
The images show everything from bright stars to faint galaxies. According to ESA, Euclid can “create a remarkably sharp visible and infrared image across a huge part of the sky in just one sitting.”
“Dark matter pulls galaxies together and causes them to spin more rapidly than visible matter alone can account for; dark energy is driving the accelerated expansion of the Universe. Euclid will for the first-time allow cosmologists to study these competing dark mysteries together,” ESA Director of Science, professor Carole Mundell said in a statement.
“We have never seen astronomical images like this before, containing so much detail. They are even more beautiful and sharp than we could have hoped for, showing us many previously unseen features in well-known areas of the nearby Universe. Now we are ready to observe billions of galaxies, and study their evolution over cosmic time,” René Laureijs, ESA’s Euclid project scientist explained.
Here's a closer look at the images.
The image shows 1000 galaxies belonging to the Perseus Cluster. According to the ESA website, many of these faint galaxies were previously unseen. Some of them are so distant that their light has taken 10 billion years to reach us.
This first irregular dwarf galaxy that Euclid observed is called NGC 6822 and is located close by, just 1.6 million light-years from Earth.
Thanks to its infrared view, Euclid has already uncovered crucial information about the stars in the IC 342 or Caldwell 5 galaxy, which is a look-alike of our Milky Way.
NGC 6397 is the second-closest globular cluster to Earth, located about 7800 light-years away. According to ESA, currently no other telescope than Euclid can observe an entire globular cluster in one single observation.