The European Space Agency (ESA) has presented the first spectacular color images taken by the Euclid space mission from the depths of the universe.
These are the best quality astronomical images ever taken, depicting distant galaxies and other celestial bodies in exquisite detail. The 5 images released show the enormous potential of the Euclid Space Telescope to capture details in galaxies billions of light-years away. This will help scientists better study phenomena such as dark matter and dark energy.
Over the next 6 years, Euclid will map and study billions of galaxies throughout the universe. In doing so, it will create the most detailed 3D map of the universe ever made. The 5 published images cover a wide variety of astronomical objects such as galaxy clusters and groups, spiral and irregular galaxies as well as bright nebulae where new stars are born.
The exceptional quality and richness of detail of these images confirms the excellent performance of the space telescope and Euclid instruments. This means the mission is fully ready to begin regular science observations in early 2024, which will generate an invaluable treasure trove of data. Euclid’s data will be freely available to the global astronomical community for further analysis and exciting new discoveries about the structure and evolution of the universe as well as the mysteries of dark matter and energy that continue to challenge the human intellect.
In detail, the five photos of Euclid are as follows:
This incredible snapshot from ‘Euclid’ is a revolution for astronomy. The image shows 1,000 galaxies belonging to the Perseus cluster and more than 100,000 additional galaxies further out in the background.
Many of these faint visible galaxies were not previously visible. Some of them are so far away that their light took 10 billion years to reach us. By mapping the distribution and shapes of these galaxies, cosmologists will be able to learn more about how dark matter shaped the Universe we see today.
This is the first time that such a large image has allowed us to capture so many Perseus galaxies in such a high level of detail. Perseus is one of the most massive structures known in the Universe, and is “only” 240 million light-years away from Earth.
Astronomers have shown that galaxy clusters like Perseus can only have formed if there is dark matter in the Universe. “Euclid” will observe, throughout cosmic time, numerous clusters of galaxies of a similar type as Perseus, revealing the “dark” element that holds them together.
During his lifetime, our dark universe detective will image billions of galaxies, revealing the unseen influence that dark matter and dark energy have on them. That’s why it’s fitting that one of the first galaxies spotted by Euclid is nicknamed the ‘Hidden Galaxy’, also known as IC 342 or Caldwell 5. Thanks to its infrared view, Euclid has already reveal crucial information about the stars in this galaxy, which resembles our own.
To create a three-dimensional map of the Universe, Euclid will observe light from galaxies 10 billion light-years away. Most galaxies in the early Universe do not look like basic spiral galaxies, but are small and irregular in shape. They are the building blocks for larger galaxies like our own, and we can still find some of these galaxies relatively close to us. This is the first irregularly shaped dwarf galaxy observed by ‘Euclid’ called NGC 6822 and it is located nearby, just 1.6 million light-years from Earth.
This sparkling image shows the Euclidean view of a globular cluster called NGC 6397. This is the second-closest globular cluster to Earth, located about 7,800 light-years away. Globular clusters are collections of hundreds of thousands of stars held together by gravity. Currently, no telescope other than Euclid can observe an entire globular cluster in a single observation and simultaneously distinguish so many stars in the cluster. These faintly visible stars “tell” us about the history of our Galaxy and where dark matter resides.
“Euclid” shows us an impressively panoramic and detailed view of the Horse’s Head Nebula, also known as Barnard 33 and part of the constellation Orion. In Euclid’s new observation of this stellar nursery, scientists hope to find many faint and invisible Jupiter-mass planets in their celestial infancy, as well as young brown dwarfs and baby stars.
Euclid was launched to the Sun-Earth 2 Lagrange point on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida, USA, at 17:12 CEST on July 1, 2023. In the months following the launch, scientists and engineers have been engaged in an intense phase of testing and calibrating Euclid’s scientific instruments. The team is finalizing the spacecraft before normal science observations begin in early 2024.
Over the next six years, Euclid will survey a third of the sky with unprecedented precision and sensitivity. As the mission progresses, the Euclid databank will be published once a year and made available to the global scientific community through the Astronomy Science Archives housed at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center in Spain.