NASA joins forces to build a telescope to discover dark energy

January 28, 2013

NASA joins forces to build a telescope to discover dark energy

NASA launches mission to track down dark matter.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have announced plans to create a new spacecraft that will hold an important new telescope. The mission has been called Euclid and will include a new telescope aboard the 4,760 pound spacecraft that will be able to look at billions of galaxies, develop a map and accurate measure of the universe, and learn more about the mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

Dark matter was first discovered in 1932 and has remained one of science’s biggest mysteries. Regular matter is what everything we can see is made of, be it computers, plants, the human body, and even whole planets and galaxies. In 1932 it was discovered that the type of matter we know and see is just a fraction of what is actually there, dark matter makes up the rest. Dark matter is apparently all around us, but has never been seen.

Since the discovery of dark matter, scientists have found that it encompasses all of our galaxy and many others. Dark matter is reportedly five times more prevalent than regular matter and is present throughout all of space.It makes up about 85 percent of the universe, but very little is understood about it. Dark matter was so named because it does not interact with light. It does, however, interact with regular matter through gravity. Together, dark matter and ordinary matter bind galaxies together through their interactions.

The existence of dark matter is only known because of the gravitational force it puts on other objects. No one has ever seen dark matter and it has remained a mystery to scientists for decades. In fact, aside from knowing that it exists, researchers know next to nothing about the elusive substance that makes up much of our galaxy.

While scientists known relatively nothing about dark matter, they know even less about dark energy. What they do know is that the expansion of the universe is happening at a very quick pace. Researchers believe that this expansion is due to dark energy. According to astronomers, expansion of the universe depends on the balance between gravity, which slows growth down, and dark energy, which speeds growth up.

Scientists know one more thing about dark energy: they think it makes up most of the energy in the universe. Astrophysicists have estimated that dark energy makes up at least three quarters of all of the universe’s energy. What we commonly think of energy sources, such as the stars and galaxies, only make up roughly 5 percent of the energy in the universe.

The Euclid mission hopes to reveal some insight into what makes up most of the universe. After launching to a gravitationally stable spot called the sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, the 4,760-pound (2,160-kilogram) spacecraft will spend six years mapping and studying up to 2 billion galaxies throughout the universe.

The Euclid spacecraft is expected to map out about two billion galaxies using an on board telescope that will work with two scientific instruments. Scientists involved in the mission hope that the spacecraft will provide them with information on how the galaxies were made. They hope to then draw some conclusions about the universal expansion and what it has to do with dark matter and dark energy.


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