The Euclid Dark Universe Space Telescope rises on a mission to unravel the deepest cosmic mysteries

Euclid's takeoff

On July 1, 2023, the Euclid spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), was successfully launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The spacecraft is intended to explore the mysterious components of the Universe, dark matter and dark energy. Credit: SpaceX

ESA’s Euclid spacecraft took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA, at 11:12 am[{” attribute=””>EDT on July 1, 2023. The successful launch marks the beginning of an ambitious mission to uncover the nature of two mysterious components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy, and to help us answer the fundamental question: what is the Universe made of?

Following launch and separation from the rocket, ESAs European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed acquisition of signal from Euclid via the New Norcia ground station in Australia at 17:57 CEST (11:57 a.m. EDT).

ESA’s Euclid spacecraft was successfully launched on 1 July 2023 to discover the nature of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe. It will create an accurate 3D map of the Universe by observing billions of galaxies and will employ advanced scientific instruments to analyze these galaxies. The mission will last six years and will offer an unprecedented survey of the sky. Credit:[{” attribute=””>SpaceX

The successful launch of Euclid marks the beginning of a new scientific endeavor to help us answer one of the most compelling questions of modern science, says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. Euclid has been made possible by ESAs leadership, the effort and expertise of hundreds of European industrial and scientific institutions, and through collaboration with international partners. The quest to answer fundamental questions about our cosmos is what makes us human. And, often, it is what drives the progress of science and the development of powerful, far-reaching, new technologies. ESA is committed to expanding Europes ambitions and successes in space for future generations.

ESA Euclid Lift-Off

On July 1, 2023, at 11:12 a.m. EDT, ESAs latest astrophysics mission, Euclid, lifted off on a Space X Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA. Euclid has now started its month-long journey to Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, in the opposite direction from the Sun. Credit: ESA S. Corvaja

The Euclid mission is the result of the passion and expertise of those who contributed to designing and building this sophisticated space telescope, the competence of our flight operations team, and the inquiring spirit of the science community, says Giuseppe Racca, ESAs Euclid Project Manager. There have been many challenges during the project, but we have worked hard and now we have successfully reached this launch milestone together with our partners in the Euclid Consortium and NASA.

The Euclid Consortium contributed the two highly advanced scientific instruments the visible-wavelength camera (VIS) and the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). NASA provided the detectors for NISP.

Euclid's Visible and Infrared Instruments

ESAs Euclid will examine visible and infrared light from distant galaxies using two scientific instruments on board. These instruments will measure the accurate position and shapes of galaxies in visible light, and their redshift (from which their distance can be derived) in the infrared light. With these data, scientists can construct a 3D map of the distributions of both the galaxies and the dark matter in the Universe. The map will show how large-scale structure evolved over time, tracing the role of dark energy.
The VISible instrument (VIS) takes very sharp images of galaxies over a much larger fraction of sky than would be possible from the ground. These observations will be used to measure the shapes of over a billion galaxies.
As the name suggests, VIS collects visible light. It is sensitive to wavelengths from green (550 nanometres) up to near infrared (900 nm). The instrument uses a mosaic of 36 CCDs (Charge Coupled Devices, a type of camera sensor), each of which contains more than 4000 pixels by 4000 pixels. This gives the detector a total of about 600 megapixels, equivalent to almost seventy 4K resolution screens.
Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) is dedicated to making spectroscopic measurements of galaxies, which involves determining how much light they emit per wavelength. This is useful for measuring the galaxies redshift, which cosmologists can use to estimate the distance to each galaxy. NISP has the largest field of view for an infrared instrument ever flown in space. The instrument measures near-infrared light (9002000 nm) using a grid of 16 detectors, each containing more than 2000 by 2000 pixels.
Credit: ESA

Exploring the dark Universe

Euclid will observe billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years to create the largest, most accurate 3D map of the Universe, with the third dimension representing time itself. This detailed chart of the shape, position, and movement of galaxies will reveal how matter is distributed across immense distances and how the expansion of the Universe has evolved over cosmic history, enabling astronomers to infer the properties of dark energy and dark matter. This will help theorists to improve our understanding of the role of gravity and pin down the nature of these enigmatic entities.

Today we celebrate the successful launch of a ground-breaking mission that places Europe at the forefront of cosmological studies, says Carole Mundell, ESAs Director of Science. If we want to understand the Universe we live in, we need to uncover the nature of dark matter and dark energy and understand the role they played in shaping our cosmos. To address these fundamental questions, Euclid will deliver the most detailed map of the extra-galactic sky. This inestimable wealth of data will also enable the scientific community to investigate many other aspects of astronomy, for many years to come.

ESA’s Euclid mission is designed to discover the properties and effects of elusive dark matter and dark energy, entities believed to dominate the composition of the universe but which are not directly detected. Euclid will create a 3D map of the Universe, using time as its third dimension, observing billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away. This extensive mapping will help scientists track the position and velocity of galaxies across vast distances and throughout cosmic history, shedding light on the expansion of the Universe over time. Credit: ESA

To achieve its ambitious science goal, Euclid is equipped with a 1.2m reflector telescope that powers two innovative science instruments: VIS, which captures razor-sharp images of galaxies over a large fraction of the sky, and NISP, which can analyze infrared light from galaxies by wavelength to pinpoint their distance.

The spacecraft and communications will be controlled by ESOC. To cope with the large amount of data that Euclid will acquire, ESA’s Estrack network of deep space antennas has been upgraded. These data will be analyzed by the Euclid Consortium, a group of over 2,000 scientists from more than 300 institutes in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan.

Astronomy Science Archive Maximizing science from ESA missions

As with other ESA missions, spacecraft data arrives at ESA’s European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany via ground stations around the world.
The raw data is transmitted to the European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Spain. From ESAC, the data is distributed to the processing centers of the Science Ground Segment of the Euclid Consortium, located in some European countries and in the USA.
The Euclid Consortium (EC) is an organization that brings together more than 2000 researchers in theoretical physics, astrophysics and space astronomy, engineers, technicians and administrative staff. It has been selected by ESA as the sole official science consortium with responsibility for scientific instruments, data production and to lead the scientific exploitation of the mission until its completion.
The EC Science Ground Segment is responsible for the design, development testing, integration and operation of data processing tools, pipelines and data centers. Processed data products include calibrated spectra and images, scientific measurement catalogs, and documentation.
At regular intervals, the trove of data processed by Euclids will be made publicly available to the community via ESAC’s Astronomy Science Archive. It is from ESAC that science operations are planned and where all scientific data produced by an ESA mission is archived and made accessible to the world.
Credit: ESA

As the mission progresses, the Euclids data trove will be released annually and will be accessible to the global scientific community via the Science Archive hosted at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center in Spain.

This is a big moment for science, the one we’ve been waiting for: the launch of Euclid, on a mission to decipher the puzzle of dark matter and dark energy, says Ren Laureijs, ESA’s Euclid Project Scientist. The great mystery of the fundamental constituents of the Universe lies before us, offering a formidable challenge. With its advanced telescope and powerful scientific instrumentation, Euclid is ready to help us unravel this mystery.

Infographic about Euclid's journey in L2

ESA’s Euclid will orbit the second Lagrange point (L2), 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun. L2 is an equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system that follows the Earth around the Sun.
In its L2 orbit, Euclids’ sunshield can always block light from the Sun, Earth and Moon as it points its telescope into deep space, ensuring a high level of stability for its instruments.
At L2, Euclid joins ESA’s Gaia mission and the ESA/NASA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, also orbiting this equilibrium point, each following well separated trajectories.
Credit: ESA

Journey to Lagrange Point 2

Over the next four weeks, Euclid will travel to the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, an equilibrium point of the Sun-Earth system located 1.5 million km from Earth (about four times the Earth-Moon distance) in the opposite direction from to the Sun. There, Euclid will be maneuvered into orbit around this point and mission controllers will begin work to verify all spacecraft functions, control the telescope and finally turn on the scientific instruments.

Scientists and engineers will then be engaged in an intensive two-month phase of testing and calibrating Euclids scientific instruments and preparing for routine observations. Over six years, Euclid will survey a third of the sky with unprecedented experience[{” attribute=””>accuracy and sensitivity.

ESA Euclid Dark Matter Energy Space Telescope

ESAs Euclid mission is a highly ambitious project undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate and understand the nature of two enigmatic components of our Universe: dark matter and dark energy. Launched on July 1, 2023, the spacecraft will observe billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away to construct the most accurate 3D map of the Universe ever made. Credit: ESA

About Euclid

Euclid is a European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. The Euclid Consortium is responsible for providing the scientific instruments and scientific data analysis. ESA selected Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the construction of the satellite and its service module, with Airbus Defence and Space chosen to develop the payload module, including the telescope. NASA provided the detectors of the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, NISP. Euclid is a medium-class mission in ESAs Cosmic Vision Programme.

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