A new satellite which will investigate dark energy will be developed by the largest collaboration of astronomers in the world, the European Space Agency (ESA) has announced today.
University of Portsmouth cosmologists are part of a world-wide consortium supporting Euclid, a satellite which will be the most precise probe yet into dark energy, the name adopted for the fundamental agent driving the acceleration of the Universe about which little is known. Euclid will trace the distribution and evolution of the enigmatic dark energy throughout the Universe.
Today’s announcement is the final phase in the selection of Euclid as part of ESA’s `Cosmic Vision’ programme which mounts quests into the advancement of space science. It sets in motion an army of physicists and engineers to build and fly this new mission by the end of this decade and for cosmologists to interpret the data.
Nearly 1000 scientists are involved in the collaboration from across Europe and other parts of the world, including a team from the University’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation (ICG). ICG scientists will pioneer key aspects of the mission, developing techniques to measure and understand the patterns seen in the distribution and shapes of distant galaxies. ICG members will also play important roles in using supernova explosions to probe the effects of dark energy, and studying the evolution of galaxies from early times to the present day.
ICG’s Dr David Bacon said that although the satellite won’t launch until 2020, the development work is already underway.
“The Euclid Consortium is the biggest astronomy collaboration ever created, which shows the immense interest in Euclid science across Europe and we’re delighted to be a fundamental part of it.”
The Euclid Consortium will provide two instruments to ESA, a visible imaging instrument (VIS) and a near infrared imaging and spectrograph instrument (NISP). These state-of-the-art instruments, equipped with wide field cameras, will collect a huge amount of exceptional quality data over a large fraction of the sky. It will require sophisticated and dedicated computer resources and hundreds of scientists spread throughout Europe to analyse these data.
Lado Samushia of the ICG said: “This is a high-precision experiment that will demand exquisite measurements of positions and shapes of billions of stars and galaxies – a huge challenge. Everyone wants to get their hands on the sharp Hubble-like images across the whole sky.
“Euclid will address fundamental questions in physics and provide a rich and diverse dataset that will enhance all of astronomy.”