A Quest to Discover Euclid’s Hidden Stars: An Insight into Commissioning’s Stellar Exploration

The Universe is full of secrets waiting to be unraveled, and two of its greatest enigmas are dark energy and dark matter. These mysterious entities, which allegedly make up 95% of the Universe, do not emit, absorb, or reflect light, making them invisible to our current technology. However, a cosmic detective named Euclid is on a mission to understand the hidden structure and composition of our Universe.

Euclid’s engineers and scientists have encountered three issues during the commissioning phase of the mission. While these issues do not pose a threat to Euclid’s mission, they could affect how it carries out its work. But fear not, as the dedicated teams at ESA’s mission control and industry have been working tirelessly to resolve these challenges.

One issue that has arisen is the intermittent loss of track of stars by Euclid’s fine guidance sensors. These sensors are crucial for the spacecraft to navigate accurately and determine where to point its telescope. The real-space conditions in orbit, including cosmic rays from the Sun and the galaxy, have made the job of the Fine Guidance Sensor a real challenge. However, a software fix has been developed and uploaded onto the spacecraft, showing promising results in initial tests.

Another issue stems from stray light detected in the instrument images caused by sunlight reflecting off a thruster bracket. While this does not affect Euclid’s ability to capture precise images, it could impact the efficiency of the survey. Teams have re-designed and optimized Euclid’s survey to minimize the interference caused by stray light.

Euclid also faces challenges from solar flares, sudden eruptions of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun’s surface that include X-rays. While the detectors are shielded from low-energy protons, X-rays emitted during solar flares can occasionally reach the detectors at certain angles, spoiling a portion of the images. However, teams have identified affected pixels and are working on plans to repeat observations to compensate for any data gaps.

Despite these challenges, the teams remain optimistic about the science results to come. Euclid will provide razor-sharp images and deep spectra of our Universe, allowing us to look back 10 billion years. It will conduct the largest cosmological survey ever conducted in the visible and near-infrared, helping us understand the influence of dark energy and dark matter.

As we eagerly await Euclid’s first images, the quest to reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy is about to begin. Stay tuned for updates on this groundbreaking mission that aims to uncover the secrets of our Universe.