spaceSpace and PhysicsspaceAstronomy

European Dark Universe Hunter Sends Back Stunning First Pictures Of The Cosmos

Euclid will produce an incredible 3D map of the universe to track its invisible components.


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

The image on the left was taken by the VISible instrument (VIS). The image on the right was taken by the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). They are on the same scale, with the full versions of these images each being seven by seven arcminutes. These early test images were taken to check the instruments and review how the spacecraft can be further tweaked and refined.

The test images from the two instruments side by side. Each dot is a very distant galaxy.

Image Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Our best understanding of the universe tells us that we are only familiar with about 5 percent of everything that there is in the cosmos. That’s the matter and energy that makes us. The remaining 95 percent is invisible to us and yet to be proven experimentally. We call them dark matter and dark energy.

To understand this dark universe, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a new telescope called Euclid one month ago. Its mission is to create the biggest ever three-dimensional map of the cosmos. This will allow us to constrain the properties of dark matter and dark energy. Now, the first test images have been taken ahead of the science mission beginning in a few months.


“After more than 11 years of designing and developing Euclid, it’s exhilarating and enormously emotional to see these first images,” Euclid project manager Giuseppe Racca said in a statement. “It’s even more incredible when we think that we see just a few galaxies here, produced with minimum system tuning. The fully calibrated Euclid will ultimately observe billions of galaxies to create the biggest ever 3D map of the sky.”

Euclid’s Visible instrument, also known as VIS, will take super sharp images of galaxies in visible light. That’s where half of the incredible map will come from. The other half will be from the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP), which can image galaxies in infrared as well as as being able to work out how far away these objects really are.

Four images showisn a large number of galaxies are put together in this photo
Some of the VIS test images. The streaks in the images are cosmic rays.
Image Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“Our teams have worked tirelessly since the launch of Euclid on 1 July and these first engineering images give a tantalising glimpse of the remarkable data we can expect from Euclid,” Carole Mundell, ESA’s Director of Science stated.

The two instruments together will allow scientists to work out how galaxies are distributed across the universe and how that distribution has changed over time. This depends on the properties of both dark energy and dark matter.

16 test images from the NISP instruments each full of tiny dots of light, distant galaxies, and some bigger clearer galaxies in the foreground
The sheer amount of galaxies in each of these images is just enormous.
Image Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“We’ve seen simulated images, we’ve seen laboratory test images – it’s still hard for me to grasp these images are now the real Universe. So detailed, just amazing,” added NISP instrument scientist Knud Jahnke.

The images are quite brilliant but are yet to reveal the full potential of the telescope. The team is now working on further tweaking and refining both VIS and NISP. The images have also not been processed to look their best – you can see cosmic ray strikes in the VIS images for example. The best is definitely yet to come.


spaceSpace and PhysicsspaceAstronomy
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  • dark matter,

  • dark energy,

  • Astronomy,

  • Euclid,

  • Euclid space telescope