What to Know About Euclid, Europe’s Space Telescope Launched to Study the ‘Dark Universe’ | Smart News | Space

Euclid will travel almost a million miles from Earth to image distant galaxies.
Valery Hache / AFP via Getty Images.

At its orbit roughly one million miles away from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope is about to get a companion: At 11:12 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, another high-tech observatory—the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid Space Telescope—launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Euclid will image light that has traveled for ten billion years, build the most accurate and largest map of the cosmos and—scientists hope—provide insights about the “dark universe.”

By looking at how space has evolved over time, astronomers want to learn about dark energy, the mysterious cause of the universe’s increasing rate of expansion. The mission will also study the invisible, hypothetical form of matter in the universe, dubbed dark matter.

“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,” Carole Mundell, the ESA’s director of science, says in a statement. “To address these fundamental questions, Euclid will deliver the most detailed map of the extra-galactic sky.”

Until the 1990s, scientists thought that the rate of the universe’s expansion must be slowing, since the gravity of all the matter in the cosmos should be pulling objects together, fighting against the universe’s expansion. But the Hubble telescope discovered that the universe is actually expanding faster now than it used to be.

Scientists don’t know exactly what’s causing this acceleration, but they call it dark energy. About 68 percent of the universe is dark energy, and an additional 27 percent is dark matter, which holds galaxies together. Galaxies don’t have enough “regular” matter to do the…

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