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New batch of brilliant images from the Euclid mission live up to the hype

ESA’s Euclid space mission has released five unprecedented new views of the Universe. These never-before-seen images showcase Euclid’s extraordinary capabilities in unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos.

From hunting for rogue planets to studying mysterious matter and exploring the evolution of the Universe, Euclid is set to revolutionize our understanding of the dark Universe.

Treasure trove of Euclid data and images

“Euclid is a unique, ground-breaking mission, and these are the first datasets to be made public – it’s an important milestone,” says Valeria Pettorino, ESA’s Euclid Project Scientist.

She emphasizes the incredible diversity of the images and associated science findings, spanning a wide range of objects and distances. Despite representing just a single day of observations, these early results showcase Euclid’s immense potential.

Pettorino expresses excitement for the wealth of data that will be gathered over the mission’s six-year duration, promising to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe.

The early observations targeted 17 astronomical objects, ranging from nearby clouds of gas and dust to distant clusters of galaxies. This diverse selection serves as a prelude to Euclid’s main survey, which aims to uncover the secrets of the dark cosmos and reveal how and why the Universe looks as it does today.

“This space telescope intends to tackle the biggest open questions in cosmology,” Pettorino added. “And these early observations clearly demonstrate that Euclid is more than up to the task.”

Unprecedented sharpness and depth

Euclid’s images are at least four times sharper than those captured by ground-based telescopes. They cover large patches of sky at unrivalled depth, peering far into the distant Universe using both visible and infrared light.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the results we’re seeing from Euclid are unprecedented,” states Prof. Carole Mundell, ESA Director of Science.

She notes that the telescope’s first images, released in November, showcased its immense potential for exploring the dark Universe, and the second batch of observations continues to deliver groundbreaking results.

Mundell highlights Euclid’s unparalleled ability to capture a wide range of cosmic objects in a single image, from the faintest and most distant galaxies to nearby star clusters and even small planets.

“This amazing versatility has resulted in numerous new science results that, when combined with the results from Euclid’s surveying over the coming years, will significantly alter our understanding of the Universe,” she concludes, emphasizing the mission’s transformative impact on cosmology.

Scientific secrets revealed

Beyond their visual appeal, the images reveal new physical properties of the Universe thanks to Euclid’s novel and unique observing capabilities.

These scientific secrets are detailed further in a number of accompanying papers released by the Euclid collaboration, made available on arXiv, along with five key reference papers about the Euclid mission.

The early findings showcase Euclid’s ability to:

  • Search star-forming regions for free-floating ‘rogue’ planets just four times the mass of Jupiter
  • Study the outer regions of star clusters in unprecedented detail
  • Map different star populations to explore how galaxies have evolved over time
  • Detect individual star clusters in distant groups and clusters of galaxies
  • Identify a rich harvest of new dwarf galaxies
  • See the light from stars ripped away from their parent galaxies

Euclid produced this early catalogue in just a single day, revealing over 11 million objects in visible light and 5 million more in infrared light. This catalogue has already resulted in significant new science.

Cooperation made the Euclid mission possible

“Euclid demonstrates European excellence in frontier science and state-of-the-art technology, and showcases the importance of international collaboration,” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

He emphasizes that the mission’s success is a testament to the tireless efforts of scientists, engineers, and industry professionals from across Europe and the global Euclid scientific consortium.

Aschbacher commends their outstanding achievement, noting that the groundbreaking results are a remarkable accomplishment for such an ambitious mission tackling complex fundamental science.

“Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the Universe,” he concludes, highlighting the immense potential for further discoveries as the mission continues.

This early release of the stunning images below is just a taste of the incredible science that lies ahead, promising to revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos.

Abell 2390

Euclid’s image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390 reveals more than 50 000 galaxies and shows a beautiful display of gravitational lensing, depicting giant curved arcs on the sky – some of which are actually multiple views of the same distant object.

Galaxy cluster Abell 2390 from Euclid. Credit: ESA

Euclid will use lensing (where the light travelling to us from distant galaxies is bent and distorted by gravity) as a key technique for exploring the dark Universe, indirectly measuring the amount and distribution of dark matter both in galaxy clusters and elsewhere.

Euclid scientists are also studying how the masses and numbers of galaxy clusters on the sky have changed over time, revealing more about the history and evolution of the Universe.

Euclid’s cutout view of Abell 2390 shows the light permeating the cluster from stars that have been ripped away from their parent galaxies and sit in intergalactic space. Viewing this ‘intracluster light’ is a specialty of Euclid, and these stellar orphans may allow us to ‘see’ where dark matter lies.

Messier 78

This breathtaking image features Messier 78, a vibrant star nursery enveloped in interstellar dust.

Star-forming region Messier 78 from Euclid. Credit: ESA

Euclid peered deep into this nursery using its infrared camera, exposing hidden regions of star formation for the first time, mapping its complex filaments of gas and dust in unprecedented detail, and uncovering newly formed stars and planets.

Euclid’s instruments can detect objects just a few times the mass of Jupiter, and its infrared ‘eyes’ reveal over 300 000 new objects in this field of view alone.

Scientists are using this dataset to study the amount and ratio of stars and smaller (sub-stellar) objects found here – key to understanding the dynamics of how star populations form and change over time.

NGC 6744

In this image Euclid showcases NGC 6744, an archetype of the kind of galaxy currently forming most of the stars in the local Universe.

Spiral galaxy NGC-6744 from Euclid. Credit: ESA

Euclid’s large field-of-view covers the entire galaxy, capturing not only spiral structure on larger scales but also exquisite detail on small spatial scales.

This includes feather-like lanes of dust emerging as ‘spurs’ from the spiral arms, shown here with incredible clarity.

Scientists are using this dataset to understand how dust and gas are linked to star formation; map how different star populations are distributed throughout galaxies and where stars are currently forming; and unravel the physics behind the structure of spiral galaxies, something that is still not fully understood after decades of study.

Abell 2764 (and bright star)

This view shows the galaxy cluster Abell 2764 (top right), which comprises hundreds of galaxies within a vast halo of dark matter.

Galaxy cluster Abell 2764 from Euclid. Credit: ESA

Euclid captures many objects in this patch of sky, including background galaxies, more distant clusters, and interacting galaxies throwing off streams and shells of stars.

This complete view of Abell 2764 and surroundings — obtained thanks to Euclid’s impressively wide field-of-view — allows scientists to ascertain the radius of the cluster and see its outskirts with faraway galaxies still in frame.

Euclid’s observations of Abell 2764 are also allowing scientists to further explore galaxies in the distant cosmic dark ages, as with Abell 2390.

Also seen here is a very bright foreground star that lies within our own galaxy (V*BP-Phoenicis/HD 1973, a star within our galaxy and in the southern hemisphere that’s nearly bright enough to be seen by the human eye).

When we look at a star through a telescope, its light is scattered outwards into a diffuse circular halo due to the telescope’s optics.

Euclid was designed to make this scatter as small as possible. As a result, the star causes little disturbance, allowing us to capture faint distant galaxies near the line of sight without being blinded by the star’s brightness.

Dorado Group

Here, Euclid captures galaxies evolving and merging ‘in action’ in the Dorado galaxy group, with beautiful tidal tails and shells seen as a result of ongoing interactions.

Dorado galaxy group from Euclid. Credit: ESA

Scientists are using this dataset to study how galaxies evolve, to improve our models of cosmic history and understand how galaxies form within halos of dark matter.

This image showcases Euclid’s versatility: a wide array of galaxies is visible here, from very bright to very faint.

Thanks to Euclid’s unique combination of large field-of-view, remarkable depth, and high spatial resolution, it can capture tiny (star clusters), wider (galaxy cores) and extended (tidal tails) features all in one frame.

Scientists are also seeking distant individual clusters of stars known as globular clusters to trace their galactic history and dynamics.

Journey ahead: Mapping the dark universe

In summary, as Euclid embarks on its six-year journey to map the structure of the Universe, the early observations serve as a tantalizing preview of the pioneering discoveries that lie ahead.

The space telescope’s unparalleled ability to capture sharp, deep images of the cosmos, combined with the tireless efforts of the international scientific community, positions Euclid at the forefront of cosmological research.

With each new dataset, Euclid will peel back the layers of the Universe’s mysteries, revolutionizing our understanding of the dark cosmos and the fundamental nature of reality.

The mission’s success not only showcases European excellence in space science and technology but also highlights the power of global collaboration in pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

As we eagerly await the next revelations from Euclid, one thing is certain: the Universe will never look the same again.


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