The Euclid space observatory, belonging to the European Space Agency (ESA) and whose main objective is to understand the nature of two of the most enigmatic components of our cosmos, energy and dark matter, has generated the first installment of observations, made in just over eleven months since its launch.

In this package of results, we highlight the five images that ESA made public yesterday and that, captured in just 24 hours of observation, demonstrate the great precision with which this telescope can work. Some time ago, in November, the first test images of Euclid were published, which confirmed the perfect functioning of the instrument.

The characteristic that makes Euclid a unique observatory is its ability to capture, in a single shot at a very high level of detail, an area of ​​the sky larger than two full moons, which provides global views that, in the words of Carole Mundell , scientific director of the ESA, have no precedents.

It is planned that when Euclid finishes its mission, six years from now, it will have obtained data from more than 1.5 billion galaxies and will have built a map that allows us to understand how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years.

1. The first of the images 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’s researchers will use most for their analyses: the gravitational lens.

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 far away that they cannot be observed directly. But when its light crosses the foreground region, on its way to our instruments, it is distorted by the cluster’s enormous gravity and appears as distorted, 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.

2. Messier 78 is the protagonist of the second photograph. It is a region where stars are being formed, and Euclid’s ability to observe in infrared light allows him to penetrate, through the clouds of gas and dust, and contemplate the interior of this maternity.

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

3. Euclid’s third image portrays the galaxy NGC 6744, a metropolis with intense star-forming activity. The captured detail is extraordinary and makes it possible to observe the dust structures that exist in the spaces between the spiral arms of the galaxy.

As ESA points out, analysis of observations like this will provide fundamental clues to how gas, dust and different generations and types 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.

4. In the fourth photograph, two objects stand out. First, a field rich in galaxies. This is the Abell 2764 cluster, with hundreds of galaxies, some of which are in the process of merging. Euclid’s ability to capture such wide perspectives will allow astronomers to calculate the sizes of the clusters.

The second interesting object is the star Beta Phoenicis, a star that belongs to our galaxy.

5. The latest image published by the ESA highlights the power of Euclid to reveal the detail of the deformations caused to the structures of galaxies when they approach each other and interact gravitationally.

In addition, in this photograph of the group called El Dorado, Euclid’s wide vision makes it possible to distinguish the groups of stars that normally live in the halo that surrounds galaxies and which are called globular clusters.

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

The Euclid mission will generate around 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. At the moment, several scientific studies will be published today based on the analysis of the five images that the ESA showed yesterday. Josef Aschbacher, director general of the ESA, declared that the mission is the result of many years of hard work carried out by international scientists and engineers, emphasizing that Euclid demonstrates “Europe’s excellence in terms of leading scientific research and the latest technologies”.