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Euclid mission. The telescope will study dark energy and dark matter. The mission with Polish participation will start on Saturday, July 1

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The European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid mission will launch on Saturday. Its goal is to study dark energy and matter in the cosmos, which scientists believe make up 95 percent of the universe’s mass and energy. The telescope, located 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, will map billions of galaxies and show their evolution. Polish companies took part in the preparation of the mission.

The Euclid telescope is to be launched using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral cosmodrome in Florida (USA. The launch will take place around 11 am local time (5 pm in Poland). Euclid is to be located in the so-called point 2. Lagrangian or L2 (the James Webb Space Telescope has been located there since January 2022).

The main goal of the mission, named after the Greek mathematician Euclid, is to explore the dark part of the universe, i.e. dark energy and matter. Ordinary matter is thought to make up only five percent of the mass and energy of the universe, and 25 percent of it. is dark matter, and 70 percent – dark energy. According to the Polish Space Agency (POLSA), Polish companies: Astri Polska, GMV Polska, SENER Polska and SYDERAL Polska (currently AROBS Polska) participated in the preparation of components and systems for the mission. The value of contracts for Polish entities amounted to over EUR 3.24 million.

Dark energy and dark matter

Dark energy drives expansion outer spaceand dark matter determines the shape and evolution of matter-containing structures such as galaxies and their clusters. Without dark energy, it would be impossible to explain why the universe is expanding faster and faster. Without it, gravity should slow down the expansion of the cosmos. Ordinary matter, on its own, would not produce enough gravity to form galaxies and other large cosmic structures. It is estimated that in a typical galaxy, dark matter weighs on average as much as 10 times more than visible matter. The existence and influence of dark matter is mostly revealed by its gravitational influence on ordinary matter. However, despite such a huge impact of dark energy and matter on the Universe, scientists do not really know what they are.

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The Euclid mission will launch from Cape Canaveral, FloridaESA

A map of billions of galaxies will be created

The 4.7 x 3.7 m spacecraft carried a 1.2 m telescope and two sensors – one operating in visible light and the other operating in infrared.

Euclid will map billions of galaxies within 10 billion light years and show how they have evolved over the past 10 billion years. Based on the data provided, the scientists intend to infer various properties of dark energy and matter. The acquired knowledge is also supposed to help in finding answers to questions about the nature of gravity.

The huge area and time of evolution of the Universe to be recorded is not the only novelty. The images of galaxies obtained by the probe are to be at least four times clearer than those provided by ground-based observatories. The infrared camera will additionally enable the study of the chemical properties of stars and galaxies. The instrument is to operate at the 2nd Lagrange point, in the Sun-Earth system. This point is 1.5 million kilometers further from the Sun than Earth and orbits the star together with our planet. This will keep the instrument at a constant distance from Earth.

The mission is scheduled for six years, with the possibility of extension. The maximum operating time of the telescope will be largely determined by the supply of gas used in the propulsion system.

The Euclid telescope will study dark energy and dark matter in spaceESA

Participation of Polish companies in the mission

SENER Polska made an important element of the probe – the ADPM mechanism (Antenna Deployment and Pointing Mechanism), responsible for deploying and directing the antenna used by the probe to communicate with the Earth. The contribution of this company is also a set of 13 devices for ground support of the construction of the satellite (including mechanical ground support devices MGSE, i.e. Mechanical Ground Segment Equipment, and devices for precise satellite movement in many planes, transport to test chambers and placing in the cargo hold of the carrier rocket) – reported POLSA. GMV Polska was responsible for developing the dedicated software Euclid Survey Independent Validation Tool – ESTIVAL. This tool is used to validate the observation plan of the telescope. GMV also provided an analysis of the Mission Operations Concept Documents, its limitations, and a sky survey scenario validation report. The company’s task was also to develop a definition of the functional verification of the on-board software system.

Astri Polska contributed to the central data management system. It provided components related to the storage management unit and ground electrical support segment equipment. SYDERAL Polska (currently AROBS Polska) provided the antenna deployment system and electronics for the steering mechanism. The developed electronics, together with the developed FPGA code, is responsible for precise control of the mechanism in order to maintain communication between the satellite and the ground station. The role of SYDERAL Polska was to develop and verify the FPGA code for some modules responsible for controlling the stepper motors and to prepare the test software. These elements will, among other things, allow for very precise orientation of the antenna when establishing contact between the Euclid probe and ground stations.

Main photo source: ESA

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