Scientists from the Euclid mission gathered in Darmstadt, Germany, to reveal and discuss the first official images from the Euclid telescope. Actually the first test images were published at the end of Julybut they were still far from the real capabilities of this medium.
Rich in color and nuance, the new snapshots capture previously invisible features, even in some cosmic objects that we have been able to study in depth with other telescopes. Euclid is therefore ready to undertake its ambitious task of mapping the universe in search of elusive dark matter and energy, studying billions of galaxies that reside up to 10 billion light-years from Earth. As confirmed by scientists’ enthusiasm, some of these distant objects already appear in the first set of Euclid images.
Euclid is a unique means of capacity, in fact, the telescope can examine vast portions of the sky. Siu talks about areas almost 100 times larger than the James Webb Space Telescope can observe. Each of Euclid’s high-resolution images includes more than 600 million pixels, allowing astronomers to see clearly far into the universe.
In total, it took Euclid just one day to capture all five cosmic objects we see, chosen for public appeal as well as scientific value. Here are the words of Carole Mundell, ESA’s director of science, spoken as she revealed the images.
“I’m absolutely happy to say that this is the point where we say we’ve achieved all of our engineering goals for the mission and are now able to move on to the science phase. It’s truly a special day today.”
Here they are, accompanied by a brief description, then further details on this incredible vehicle in which there is also a bit of Italy.
Over its lifetime, our Dark Universe detective will take images of billions of galaxies, revealing the invisible influence that dark matter and dark energy have on them. That’s why it’s fitting that one of the first galaxies observed by Euclid is nicknamed the “Hidden Galaxy,” also called IC 342 or Caldwell 5. With its infrared view, Euclid has already discovered crucial information about the stars in this galaxy, much like the our Milky Way.
IRREGULAR GALAXY NGC 6822
To create a three-dimensional map of the Universe, Euclid will observe light from galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away. Most galaxies from the dawn of the Universe do not have the appearance of the classic perfectly defined spiral, but are irregular and small in size. These are the building blocks of larger galaxies, like ours, and it is still possible to find some of these galaxies relatively close to us. The first irregular dwarf galaxy observed by Euclid is called NGC 6822 and is located at a short distance, just 1.6 million light years from Earth.
GLOBULAR CLUSTER NGC 6397
This dazzling image shows how Euclid sees the globular cluster NGC 6397. It is the second closest globular cluster to Earth, located about 7,800 light-years away. Globular clusters are made up of hundreds of thousands of stars pulled together by gravity. Currently, no other telescope other than Euclid is capable of observing an entire globular cluster in a single observation and distinguishing such a large number of stars in the cluster at the same time. These faint stars tell the story of the Milky Way and indicate the location of dark matter.
Euclid presents a spectacular and detailed overview of the Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33 and part of the constellation Orion. In Euclid’s new observation of this stellar nursery, scientists hope to find many dim, never-before-seen Jupiter-mass planets in their celestial infancy, as well as young brown dwarfs and newborn stars.
THE PERSEUS CLUSTER OF GALAXIES
This incredible shot of Euclid is a revolution for astronomy. The image shows 1,000 galaxies belonging to the Perseus cluster and over 100,000 more distant galaxies in the background.
Many of these faint galaxies have never been seen before. Some of them are so distant that their light took 10 billion years to reach us. By mapping the distribution and shape of these galaxies, cosmologists will be able to discover more about how dark matter shaped the Universe we see today.
It is the first time that such a large image allows us to immortalize so many galaxies in the Perseus cluster with such a high level of detail. This galaxy cluster is one of the most massive structures known in the Universe, located “only” 240 million light-years away from Earth.
Astronomers have demonstrated that galaxy clusters like Perseus can only have formed in the presence of dark matter in the Universe. Euclid will observe numerous galaxy clusters like that of Perseus over cosmic time, revealing the “dark” element that holds them together.
As initially anticipated, Euclid will have the delicate task of investigating dark matter and dark energy, which although they make up 95% of the cosmos, remain mysterious. To do so, the telescope will observe the shapes, distances and movements of billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away, thus creating the largest three-dimensional cosmic map ever made. What makes Euclid special is its ability to capture extremely detailed visible and infrared images in a single session, opening up new perspectives for understanding the universe and the forces that shape it.
We remind you that Euclid was created in collaboration with North America and Japan, and includes an important effort by Italy which gave its contribution through the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF ) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), involving over 200 Italian scientists. Contributions also came from the academic world starting from the efforts of the University of Bologna followed by those of the University of Ferrara, the University of Genoa, the State University of Milan, the University of Roma Tre, the University of Trieste, SISSA and CISAS.