They have never seen such razor-sharp images of the cosmos


Never before has a telescope taken such sharp images of such a large part of the sky. And this is just the beginning. Because ultimately, Euclid – with his razor-sharp vision – was primarily built to unravel the ‘dark’ influence that invisible and extremely mysterious forces have on our cosmos.

The European Space Agency has just released the very first color photos of the cosmos taken by Euclid. These are five images in which you can view the cosmos like never before. “We have never seen such astronomical images, with so much detail,” says René Laureijs, who works within the Euclid team. “They (the images, ed.) are even more beautiful and sharper than we could have hoped for and show us many previously unseen features in known parts of the nearby universe.”

The pictures
Now Laureijs, as one of the Euclid researchers, may be a bit biased. But it’s really not a ‘we-of-the-toilet-duck’ talk. Because it must be said: the first images of Euclid are truly breathtaking. See for yourself!

One of the first galaxies that Euclid looked at is IC 342. According to researchers, the telescope has already discovered crucial information about the stars in this galaxy, which looks a lot like our Milky Way. What exactly this means will become clear in the near future when researchers officially publish their findings based on these recordings. Image: ESA / Euclid / Euclid Consortium / NASA, image editing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.
Here you see the Horsehead Nebula, part of the constellation Orion. It is a very active star-forming region and researchers hope to find many newborn stars, as well as newborn and previously unseen planets with the mass of Jupiter, in this and similar images of Euclid. Image: ESA / Euclid / Euclid Consortium / NASA, image editing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.
The Barnard Galaxy shines in this image: an irregular dwarf galaxy about 1.6 million light-years away from Earth. Image: ESA / Euclid / Euclid Consortium / NASA, image editing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.
This is also a very special photo; Never before have so many galaxies belonging to the Perseus cluster been imaged in such detail. In concrete terms, this photo shows 1,000 galaxies belonging to the Perseus cluster. And more than 100,000 galaxies that are further away, or in the background. Some of those more distant galaxies are so far away that their light takes 10 billion years to reach Euclid. These types of images are very valuable because the distribution and shapes of these galaxies can give scientists a better idea of ​​how dark matter has shaped the universe as we see it today. Image: ESA / Euclid / Euclid Consortium / NASA, image editing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.
Euclid also captured the second closest globular cluster, NGC 6397, located about 7,800 light-years away. This star cluster is home to hundreds of thousands of stars that are held together by gravity. It is a special recording; Currently, no other telescope can observe a large globular cluster at once and simultaneously distinguish so many individual stars within that globular cluster. Image: ESA / Euclid / Euclid Consortium / NASA, image editing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Dark ingredients
Euclid was launched this summer and has settled in Lagrange Point 2. From next year, it will conduct research into the way in which dark matter and dark energy (see box) shape the universe.

Dark matter and dark energy
Everything you see around you – including yourself – is made up of visible matter. But researchers think that the cosmos consists of only 5 percent of this visible matter. The remaining 95 percent is made up of mysterious, ‘dark’ ingredients. Namely: dark matter (about 25 percent) and dark energy (about 70 percent). We cannot see these ‘dark’ ingredients; scientists infer their existence from very subtle changes they cause in the appearance of objects we can see. For example, dark matter, with its gravity, would ensure that galaxies do not fly apart. “Dark matter holds galaxies together and causes them to spin faster than visible matter alone can explain,” explains ESA Director of Science Carole Mundell. And dark energy is believed to be the driving force behind the accelerated expansion of the universe. So we do have ideas about what these dark ingredients roughly do, but we don’t yet know exactly what they consist of. Euclid must change this by more accurately determining how dark energy and dark matter influence and have influenced the universe.

To get a better idea of ​​the influence that dark matter and dark energy have on the cosmos, Euclid will observe the shapes, distances and velocities of billions of galaxies, up to 10 billion light-years away, over the next six years. It should result in the largest cosmic 3D map ever. “Euclid will lead to a leap forward in our understanding of the cosmos as a whole,” Mundell predicts.

The first images from the telescope are already promising and reveal that the telescope is capable of taking exceptionally sharp images of an unprecedentedly large part of the sky in one go (in both visible and infrared light). “Now we are ready to observe billions of galaxies and study their evolution through cosmic time,” said Laureijs. Colleague Søren Larsen agrees. “The images released today are spectacular, but they are just the beginning. I’m looking forward to Euclid really getting to work, and curious to see what observations will reveal about our own Milky Way Galaxy and other galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood in the coming years.”