NASA to Participate in ESA's Euclid 'Dark Universe' Mission

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NASA has announced that it intends to joint with the European Space Agency in the Euclid mission, a space telescope schedule to launch in 2020 that will examine the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter.

NASA participates in Euclid Mission

According to NASA, the space agency will provide 16 infrared detectors and four spares for one of the science instruments that will fly aboard the Euclid. In addition to the 14 American scientists already participating in the mission, NASA will nominate three teams of experts for a total of 40 to the Euclid Consortium, currently numbering 1,000 people, which will develop the telescope and its instruments, operate the Euclid, and analyze the data it returns. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a Euclid Office that will contribute the infrared detectors. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will test the detectors before delivery to the ESA.

The Euclid Space Telescope

According to the Euclid Consortium, the Euclid is a 1.2-meter space telescope that will have three imaging and spectroscopic instruments. It will measure the expansion of the universe by examining distant galaxies in the visible and near infrared spectra. The telescope will ascertain the expansion history of the universe and the evolution of cosmic structures such as galaxies by measuring the red shifts and shapes of galaxies as well as the distribution of clusters of galaxies across the universe, NASA adds that the Euclid will ascertain the role that dark matter and dark energy have in the expansion of the universe.

Dark energy

According to NASA, dark energy is an undetected phenomenon or perhaps, as Einstein postulated, a feature of the universe itself. Scientists know that dark energy exists because it is affecting the expansion of the universe, causing it to accelerate over time. The only thing that scientists know about dark energy is that it constitutes roughly 70 percent of the universe.

Dark matter

Dark matter is postulated to be matter that does not interact with light, but does interact with other matter, according to NASA. Observations have ascertained that there is far too little visible matter to account for the 25 percent required by those observations. It is theorized that dark matter binds galaxies together like some kind of gravitational "glue." Thus far dark matter has not been directly detected, but it is postulated that it constitutes 25 percent of the universe. That means the observable, visible universe, planets, stars, and everything else comprise just 5 percent of the actual matter and energy in the universe.

Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.

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