The New Dark Matter/Dark Energy Explorer ready to mark the history of world cosmology

Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA) 1st July 2023 – Today at 17:12 (CET Time) the EUCLID Telescope was launched from Kennedy Space Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

EUCLID is the second European Space Agency (ESA) medium-class astronomy and astrophysics, developed with the fundamental contribution of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).

The main target of the mission is to explore the “Dark Universe” by performing the largest and most accurate 3D map of the Universe through the observation of the shape, position and distance of billions of galaxies outside the Milky Way. This will allow to understand the nature of the dark energy and dark matter that constitute up 95% of the Universe, how it has expanded and how its structure has been formed throughout the cosmic history.

OHB Italia developed the extremely sophisticated electronic units of the payload, which represent the “brain” of the system. OHB Italia has also designed and manufactured the “grism wheel” of the NISP instrument (Near Infrared Spectro-Photometer) which will position the grisms (a combination of a prism and a grating arranged to let only a specific wavelength to pass through) into the optical beam.

The satellite has an height of 4.7m, a diameter of about 3.7m and consists of four main components: the payload, which includes a telescope with a 1.2m diameter mirror and will provide extremely accurate and sharp images over a very wide field of view; the sophisticated NISP instrument consisting of a spectrometer and a photometer that will be responsible for taking images from the telescope and measuring the redshift of light caused by the expansion of the universe and thus the distance of galaxies; the VIS (VISible instrument), a camera that is sensitive to visible light and will provide an accurate measurement of the distribution of matter in the universe in its various evolutionary stages; the service module containing the satellite systems.

EUCLID will be placed in orbit at 1.5 mil. km from Earth (the Lagrangian point 2, called L2, where the James Webb Space Telescope is also located). This means that it will be at a distance 4 times further from our Planet than the Moon. “L2” is an ideal place to observe the universe as the attraction of the Sun and Earth balance each other, providing a very stable vantage point of view.

After two-month calibration phase, EUCLID will begin its six-year scientific operations and during this time EUCLID will map as much as 1/3 of the celestial vault.
The contribution to the ESA mission was unprecedented: 3.500 people, 21 nations, 300 institutions. The Italian contribution to the EUCLID Consortium, led by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defence and Space, was very significant, covering various roles of responsibility, the Italian Space Agency first. The scientists are now ready to discover the unrevealed energy that is controlling the Universe since the beginning of its creation and to observe the deformations on the visible part caused by the invisible one. They would be able to understand where the dark matter is concentrated, in which direction and at what distance from the Earth (back in time).

“EUCLID is the most complex mission in terms of scientific targets ever developed and OHB Italia is very proud to take part to this project” – stated Roberto Aceti, Managing Director of OHB Italia. “The current cosmological model predicts the Universe is composed of 5% visible matter, 25% dark matter that does not generate light and cannot be seen but can be weighed and 70% dark energy. Starting from this theoretical framework, the scientists have the ambition to understand why the Universe is moving faster than the model predicts and whether dark matter and dark energy play a role in this acceleration. EUCLID will give a response to the fundamental questions of modern cosmology and it would not be the first time that physical theories have been completely changed.”