The Euclid telescope unveiled its first set of colorful pictures, showcasing the incredible beauty of the universe in just a short time.
René Laureijs, the scientist leading the Euclid project, expressed his amazement, saying that these astronomical images are unlike any seen before. They’re brimming with intricate details and new aspects of familiar parts of the universe seen for the first time, and they look even more stunning and clearer than expected.
Discussion on the colorful pictures taken by the telescope
In Darmstadt, Germany, a group of scientists gathered to share and talk about the first five colorful pictures taken by the Euclid telescope, portraying various parts of the universe. Although the telescope released test pictures in July, they only scratched the surface of what this telescope can do.
These images reassure astronomers that the telescope is all set to begin its important mission: mapping the hidden, dark side of our universe.
Main goal of Euclid telescope
The main goal is to unlock the secrets of dark matter and dark energy by studying billions of galaxies that are incredibly far away and up to ten billion light-years from Earth. Interestingly, some of these distant objects are already visible in the first set of images from the Euclid telescope.
In one go, the Euclid telescope can scan large sections of the sky that are much bigger than what the James Webb Space Telescope can cover, as revealed by scientists on Tuesday. Each of Euclid’s pictures is very detailed and has more than six hundred million dots (pixels), allowing astronomers to see far into the distant universe.
Carole Mundell, the director of science at the European Space Agency (ESA), expressed her happiness, saying, “I’m absolutely delighted to say that is the point where we…have reached all of our engineering milestones for the mission and we’re now able to move into the science phase.”
Euclid’s first target was a galaxy affectionately called the “Hidden Galaxy,” located approximately eleven million light-years away from Earth. It earned this name because it hides behind our own Milky Way galaxy.
Normally, the Hidden Galaxy is concealed by space materials such as cosmic gas, dark dust, and bright stars. However, Euclid did something remarkable using its near-infrared tool.
In just an hour, it managed to peek through this cosmic curtain and capture the light coming from the stars in the Hidden Galaxy.
Galaxies glowing in the Perseus constellation
In this well-known image, we can see more than a thousand galaxies shining in the Perseus constellation, which is situated approximately 240 million light-years away from Earth. This galaxy cluster is believed to be one of the most enormous structures in the universe, housing thousands of galaxies surrounded by superheated gas.
The larger galaxies in this cluster have a yellowish-white glow around them, similar to streetlights on a foggy night. You might notice thousands of stars with spikes around them, which is caused by the way light bends and spreads around Euclid’s mirrors.
Jean-Charles Cuillandre from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission in Paris mentioned, “With Euclid, we will be able to see them, if they indeed exist in such a large number as predicted.”
NGC 6822, positioned a relatively close 1.6 million light-years from Earth, appears quite different from a typical galaxy. It resembles a delicate mist with pink stars seemingly suspended in the vast darkness of space.
Scientists believe this unusual appearance is because NGC 6822 is likely the starting point for a future, more organized galaxy similar to our Milky Way. What makes NGC 6822 even more intriguing is that it is the first irregular galaxy observed by Euclid.
While it belongs to the same galaxy cluster as our Milky Way, NGC 6822 surprises scientists with its abundance of heavy metal elements, which are not commonly found in young, still-developing galaxies.
Euclid has presented another striking image featuring the NGC 6397 globular cluster. This cluster is comprised of thousands of stars held together by gravity and orbits within the Milky Way’s disk, approximately 7,800 light-years away from Earth.
Giuseppe Racca, the Euclid project manager at the European Space Agency (ESA), expressed her satisfaction, saying, “It is actually the kind of image we were hoping to achieve.”
Using the Euclid telescope, astronomers plan to explore the NGC 6397 globular cluster in search of something called a “tidal tail.” This is a trail of stars that stretches outward from the cluster, caused by gravitational interactions with other galaxies on the outside.
The last image in Euclid’s new collection provides us with an unrestricted view of the famous Horsehead Nebula. This vast, dark molecular cloud is located about 1,500 light-years away from Earth in the Orion constellation.
Above the Horsehead Nebula and just outside of Euclid’s field of view, there is a very bright star known as Sigma Orionis. This star emits intense ultraviolet radiation into the area, resulting in the glow of surrounding clouds.
Scientists are expecting to release their initial scientific findings from the mission early next year. René Laureijs, in charge of the Euclid project, mentioned, “There is really a frenzy in getting this first data out.”