The EUCLID space observatory, belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA) and whose main objectives are to understand the nature of two of the most enigmatic components of our cosmos, dark energy and matter, has generated the first delivery of observations, carried out in just over eleven months since its launch.

In this package of results, the five images that ESA has just released stand out and that, captured in just 24 hours of observation, demonstrate the great precision with which this telescope can work. Previously, last November, the first EUCLID test images had been published, which had confirmed the perfect functioning of the instrument.

The characteristic that makes EUCLID a unique observatory is its ability to capture, in a single shot of extremely high level of detail, an area of ​​the sky larger than two full moons, thus providing global views that, in the words of Carole Mundell, Scientific Director of the ESA, are unprecedented.

It is expected that when EUCLID completes its mission, in six years, it will have obtained data from more than 1.5 billion galaxies and built a map that will allow us to understand how the universe has evolved in the last 10 billion years.

The first image shows an impressive panorama of the Abell 2390 cluster, in which nearly 50,000 galaxies are identified. However, the highlight of the photograph is not the abundance of objects, but the visualization of one of the phenomena that EUCLID researchers will use most for their analysis: gravitational lensing.

Specifically, the arcs of light that can be seen are repeated copies of very distant galaxies located in the background, behind the cluster. These objects are so distant that they cannot be observed directly. But when its light passes through the foreground region, on its way to our instruments, it is distorted by the cluster’s enormous gravity and appears as distorted and magnified images.

The detailed study of the gravitational lensing effect can reveal the presence and evolution over time of accumulations of dark matter found between distant objects and the Earth.

Messier 78 is the protagonist of the second photograph. This is a region in which stars are forming, and the infrared light observation capacity that EUCLID has allows us to penetrate through the clouds of gas and dust and contemplate the interior of this motherhood.

EUCLID’s instruments are not only prepared to detect light from stars, but also from smaller objects, with masses just a little higher than that of Jupiter. In fact, ESA estimates that this Messier 78 image contains about 300,000 objects in total.

The third EUCLID image portrays the galaxy NGC 6744, a metropolis with intense star-forming activity. The detail captured is extraordinary, and allows us to observe the dust structures found in the spaces between the spiral arms of the galaxy.

As ESA points out, the analysis of observations like this will provide fundamental clues to understand how gas, dust and the different generations and typologies of stars are distributed within spiral galaxies, and also to better understand the process of formation and evolution of the structures of these cosmic cities.

In the fourth photograph, two objects stand out. First, a field rich in galaxies and visible in the upper right part of the image. This is the Abell 2764 cluster, with hundreds of galaxies, some of them in fusion processes. EUCLID’s ability to capture such broad perspectives will allow astronomers to calculate the sizes of clusters.

The second interesting object is the brightest star in the capture. It is Beta Phoenicis, a star belonging to our galaxy and, therefore, located in the foreground.

Usually, the optics of telescopes cause the light from such powerful sources to disperse slightly, forming a halo that prevents us from seeing objects located in the background and close to the same line of sight. However, EUCLID was designed to reduce this effect as much as possible, as demonstrated in this shot, in which some galaxies appear very clearly, visually very close to the image of the star.

The latest capture published by ESA highlights the power of EUCLID to reveal the details of the deformations caused in the structures of galaxies when they approach each other and interact gravitationally.

Furthermore, in this photograph of the group called El Dorado, EUCLID’s wide vision allows us to distinguish the groupings of stars that normally inhabit the halo that surrounds galaxies and are called globular clusters.

ESA wanted to highlight that the images sent by EUCLID are much more than visually impressive portraits. It is from the detailed study of captures like these that we will be able to advance in the understanding of what dark energy is and how it behaves, responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe, and what is the nature of dark matter, a component that It dominates in a ratio of 6 to 1 over ordinary matter made of atoms.

The EUCLID mission will generate about 850 Gb of data per day. An enormous volume of information that will allow, in the coming years, countless studies to be published in the field of astrophysics and cosmology. For now, several scientific studies derived from the analysis of the five images that the ESA has just released will see the light of day tomorrow.

Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA, said that the mission is the result of many years of hard work by scientists and engineers in international teams, and stressed that EUCLID demonstrates “Europe’s excellence in cutting-edge scientific research and latest technologies.”