Europe turns its new $1.5 billion space telescope on, and happily it works | Space


Enlarge / Euclid’s Visible instrument (VIS) will image the sky in visible light (550–900 nm) to take sharp images of billions of galaxies and measure their shapes. This image was taken during the commissioning of Euclid.

ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA.

Nearly one month after launching into space, a European telescope has begun taking its first images and data of the Universe. And to the delight of scientists at the European Space Agency, everything seems to be working rather well.

As part of the months-long commissioning phase, both the telescope’s visual and infrared-light cameras have started snapping photos of the cosmos. Scientists who helped develop these cameras—VIS for visible light, and NISP for Near Infrared Spectrograph and Photometer—say the new instruments work superbly.

“We are very pleased that the commissioning phase of Euclid is progressing well,” Alessandra Roy, Euclid project manager at the German Space Agency at DLR, said. “The spacecraft will soon reach its final position at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and begin scientific observations.”

Sized for a sky survey

The telescope has a primary mirror that spans 1.2 meters, or about half the size of the Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike Hubble, however, Euclid was not designed to focus on single galaxies or stars or other astronomical phenomenon in great detail. Rather it is intended to look at broad areas of the sky to obtain a more comprehensive view of the cosmos. Over its six-year life, the telescope will survey about 36 percent of the sky.

Euclid will observe large swathes of the universe to detect the shapes of galaxies and attempt to observe distortions that may be caused by mysterious, hidden matter. Scientists believe that only about 5 percent of the matter in the Universe is stuff we can look into the night sky and see—stars and galaxies, mostly…

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