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NASA Joins ESA's Euclid Mission to Study Dark Matter and Energy

Jan 25, 2013 03:32 AM EST
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Euclid mission
This artist's concept shows the Euclid spacecraft. The telescope will launch to an orbit around the sun-Earth Lagrange point L2.
(Photo : ESA/C. Carreau )

NASA has joined the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Euclid mission to study the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy in the universe.

Euclid is a space telescope designed to probe dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter was first postulated in 1932, but has not been detected directly so far. It is called dark matter because it does not interact with light. However, it interacts with ordinary matter through gravity. Dark energy constitutes about 70 percent of the universe. While dark matter binds galaxies together, dark energy affects the expansion of the universe.

The 4,760-pound telescope will be launched in 2020 and will spend six years in space to map the locations and measure the shapes of over 2 billion galaxies spread across the universe.

Euclid will be launched to an orbit around the sun-Earth Lagrange point L2, a location where the gravitational pull of the sun and the Earth equals the force required for an object like Euclid to remain in a relatively stationary position behind Earth as seen from the sun.

NASA will be contributing 16 state-of-the-art infrared detectors and four spares for one of the two telescope's science instruments. "NASA is very proud to contribute to ESA's mission to understand one of the greatest science mysteries of our time," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

In addition to 14 U.S. scientists who are already working in the mission, NASA has also nominated 40 new members for the Euclid Consortium, an international body of 1,000 members who will be overseeing development of the instruments, manage science operations as well as analyze data.

Scientists hope the study will shed light on the evolution of the universe, nature of dark matter and dark energy.

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