Skip to main content

Euclid mission launches to probe the mysteries of dark matter

The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched its Euclid space telescope to study the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. The spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with liftoff at 11:12 a.m. ET (8:12 a.m. PT).

This artist’s concept shows the ESA (European Space Agency) Euclid mission in space.
This artist’s concept shows the ESA (European Space Agency) Euclid mission in space. ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The space telescope separated from the Falcon 9 rocket and is now on its way to its orbit around the sun. It will orbit at the second Lagrange point, called L2, which is the same orbit used by the James Webb Space Telescope as well as other space telescopes. This orbit has the advantage of requiring minimal power to maintain and being extremely stable. That stability is important because the telescope will take very detailed images of large portions of the sky, and these need to be highly accurate to measure the subtle effects of dark matter and dark energy.

Unlike some telescopes like James Webb, which are folded up for launch and must unfold once they arrive in space, Euclid will only deploy a single high gain antenna as it travels to L2. That’s also due to the need for stability for the very sensitive readings it must take.

The idea of the Euclid mission is to examine some of the biggest questions in cosmology about the nature of dark matter and dark energy. To understand these phenomena, the mission will take images of over one-third of the sky, looking beyond the Milky Way at distant background galaxies. By looking at how galaxies cluster in space, researchers can see the effects of dark energy which affects the expansion of the universe. And by making use of a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, they can see the differences between the perceived and actual mass of galaxies — with the difference being due to dark matter.

“Today we celebrate the successful launch of a ground-breaking mission that places Europe at the forefront of cosmological studies,” said Carole Mundell, ESA’s Director of Science. “If we want to understand the Universe we live in, we need to uncover the nature of dark matter and dark energy and understand the role they played in shaping our cosmos. To address these fundamental questions, Euclid will deliver the most detailed map of the extra-galactic sky. This inestimable wealth of data will also enable the scientific community to investigate many other aspects of astronomy, for many years to come.”

Euclid is scheduled to arrive at its orbit at L2 in around four weeks’ time, where it will spend around two months preparing its instruments before beginning science operations.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Image of darkness and light shows new stars being born in Lupus 3 nebula
The two young, low-mass proto-stars HR 5999 and HR 6000 illuminate nearby dust, creating the reflection nebula Bernes 149. These stars grew out of the dusty dark cloud of Lupus 3, part of a larger complex of as many as nine dark clouds.

A gorgeous new image of a nebular 500 light-years away gives a peek into the process of star formation.

This image from the Dark Energy Camera shows both the dark cloud of Lupus 3 and the shining bright young stars of the nebula Bernes 149. The dark cloud here is essential to the star formation process, as it is a collection of gas and dust which provides the building blocks for new stars to be born. Known as a dark nebula because of its density, Lupus 3 obscures the light of the stars behind it, giving the impression of a swath of black across the starry sky.

Read more
How to watch JUICE mission launch to Jupiter’s icy moons
The European Space Agency's JUICE spacecraft.

[UPDATE: The original target launch date of Thursday, April 13, was called off due to poor weather conditions at the launch site. The JUICE mission is now targeting the morning of Friday, April 14. Full details below.]

Juice launch to Jupiter

Read more
NASA and SpaceX Crew-6 mission ready for launch tonight
From left, NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dress rehearsal for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission launch on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station, with preparations underway and launch scheduled for late tonight PT. The Crew-6 mission is set to launch at 1:45 a.m. ET on Monday, February 27 (10:45 p.m. PT on Sunday, February 26) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a SpaceX Cargo Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket.

In a press conference following a readiness review on Saturday, February 25, NASA officials said that the crew and hardware had been given the go-ahead. "We had a good launch readiness review and we're on track for the 27 launch," said Dana Weigel, deputy manager of the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This morning I had a chance to talk to the crew. They're doing great. Spirits are high and they are ready to go."

Read more