The Euclid mission, led by the European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with NASA, aims to unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter and create a comprehensive 3D map of the “invisible universe”. However, like many space missions, Euclid encountered initial setbacks that required swift action from its team.
Shortly after its launch in July, the spacecraft was plagued by issues caused by high energy radiation, both from cosmic sources and solar flares. These radiation-induced artefacts and false signals hindered Euclid’s observations, affecting its Fine Guidance Sensor, a crucial component for capturing accurate data over the mission’s anticipated six-year lifespan. Despite these challenges, the Euclid team has successfully updated the Fine Guidance Sensor’s software and conducted extensive in-orbit testing, providing reassurance for the mission’s future endeavors.
Recently, ESA released five early science images that surpassed expectations. However, due to the guidance issues, only the high-quality Early Release Observation (ERO) data was made available to the public. Yet, there is optimism that ESA will have an opportunity to revisit the observations affected by the guidance problems once the system is fully repaired.
As Euclid transitions from its commissioning phase to Phase Diversity Calibration, the mission’s next phase, the team plans to slightly adjust elements of the telescope, such as the distance between primary and secondary mirrors. By capturing images of stars during this calibration period, scientists can build a precise model of the telescope’s Point Spread Function, crucial for accurately measuring the shapes of galaxies.
Euclid’s ultimate goal is to survey approximately seven square degrees of the sky each day for six years. With contributions from NASA, the mission promises to thoroughly map the influence of dark matter and dark energy on galaxies, stars, and nebulae, thereby revealing the true nature of the hidden cosmos.
What is the purpose of the Euclid mission?
The Euclid mission aims to map the influence of dark matter and dark energy on the visible universe, creating a comprehensive 3D map of the “invisible universe.”
What challenges did the mission face?
Euclid encountered issues caused by high energy radiation, resulting in artefacts and false signals in its observations, which impacted the functioning of its Fine Guidance Sensor.
How did the Euclid team overcome these challenges?
The team successfully updated the Fine Guidance Sensor’s software and conducted in-orbit testing to address the issues and ensure the sensor’s optimal performance.
Will Euclid observe asteroids?
Although not initially designed for asteroid study, Euclid is expected to observe more than 150,000 asteroids as foreground objects in its images, providing valuable data on smaller and more distant asteroids.
When will routine science observations begin?
Routine science observations are anticipated to commence no earlier than mid-January, once the mission enters its next phase of Phase Diversity Calibration.
Can the Euclid mission be extended beyond its nominal six-year lifespan?
Yes, Euclid carries sufficient fuel onboard, and with the use of cold gas micro propulsion thrusters, the mission could potentially be extended by several years.