It is the dark energy and dark matter that together make up 95% of the universe. Euclid, a new mission in which Europe is engaged, will help to understand them.
|What is Dark Matter and Dark Energy?|
Euclid mission to the dark universeThis satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA), in which several Spanish companies and scientists have participated, will be launched in 2022 and will map the general structure of the universe over 10,000 million light years, revealing its expansion and growth during the last three quarters of its history.
Over the next six years, Euclid's telescope will produce a three-dimensional map of the distribution of up to 2,000 million galaxies and the associated dark matter, covering most of the Milky Way sky, according to Thales Alenia Space, the main contractor for this mission, which will generate thousands of data and images.
According to the European Space Agency, Euclid will examine billions of galaxies with "unprecedented clarity and sensitivity," providing a database for the entire scientific community.
Fourteen countries participate in the missionEuclid, involving 14 European countries, Canada and the USA, is designed to advance two important questions that modern cosmology raises: how the universe originated and why it is expanding at an accelerated rate.
At first, it was believed that this expansion was the product of the 'big bang' with which the whole universe originated; it was generally accepted that at some point this expansion would be slowed down by the opposite effect of the force of gravity that binds matter together, but this is not the case.
Now, the scientific community argues that there is a mysterious force that somehow creates more and more space between galaxies, called dark energy, which makes up about 70% of the cosmos, although neither its source, nor its physics, nor how it works is known; this energy is responsible for a mysterious force that seems to be accelerating the expansion of the universe.
It is known that dark matter, a form of non-luminous matter that was discovered in the 1970s, constitutes about 20% of the universe. It does not emit light, but it exerts gravitational attraction. This is fundamental to understand the way in which the universe is grouped, from the large structures of voids and superclusters of galaxies to the very shape of galaxies like ours, the Milky Way.
Search for new data on the dark side of the universe
Euclid has been designed, according to ESA, to provide important new data on the dark side of the universe, specifically on dark matter and dark energy, two key components of the current model for the formation and evolution of the universe.
"The Euclid mission is important because it will allow us to study the origin of the universe, the history of its expansion and the formation of cosmic structures", sums up Efe Susana Infante, head of the Euclid project at Thales Alenia Space in Spain, the subsidiary that has been in charge of the satellite communications subsystem.
With this mission, according to Infante, the aim will be to answer questions such as whether dark energy can give rise to new paradigms currently unknown, and what is the nature and properties of dark matter or the future of the universe will be.
The main contractor for this mission is Thales Alenia Space in Italy, responsible for the construction of the satellite and its service module or platform, while Airbus Defence & Space in France has developed the payload module, including the space telescope. The integration of the parties will take place in 2021. Representing Spain is Thales' subsidiary in Spain, together with Airbus and Sener.
After two delays, the launch is scheduled for June 2022 on a Soyuz rocket from Kourou (French Guiana); the thermo-structural model of the satellite has already successfully passed thermal tests and the technicians are currently carrying out vibration tests; later, electrical and environmental tests will be carried out with the satellite flight model, according to Thales sources.