The first images from Euclid, the European Space Agency’s space telescope launched earlier this year, were released on Monday, offering a stunning glimpse of previously unseen galaxies—amid a six-year journey to observe galaxies and star clusters as far as 10 billion light-years away.
Euclid captured an image of IC 342, a spiral galaxy often referred to as the “hidden galaxy” because it sits behind the disk of the Milky Way and is normally obscured by cosmic gas, dark dust and bright stars, though Euclid’s infrared imaging allowed the telescope to capture light from the galaxy’s stars, the ESA said.
One photo captures 1,000 galaxies in the Perseus Cluster, one of the largest structures in the galaxy that sits about 240 million light-years away from Earth, according to the ESA, which said some of the galaxies shown in the image were previously unseen.
One image shows Euclid’s view of the NGC 6397 globular cluster—a collection of thousands to millions of stars bound together by gravity—located about 7,800 light-years away from Earth, according to the ESA, which noted the stars in the clusters could provide information about dark matter and the history of the Milky Way.
Euclid also captured the latest image of the Horsehead Nebula, a large, molecular cloud located about 1,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Orion.
“We have never seen astronomical images like this before, containing so much detail,” René Laureijs, a project scientist on the Euclid mission, said.
$1.6 billion. That’s how much it cost to make the Euclid satellite, according to OHB Italia, a contractor for the ESA.
Euclid—named after the ancient Greek mathematician—was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, earlier this year and features contributions from NASA. The telescope was created to “investigate how dark matter and dark energy have made our universe look like it does today,” according to ESA, which estimated about 95% of the universe is made up of “dark” entities. The satellite will travel over the next six years to capture one-third of the sky in an effort to create “the largest cosmic 3D map ever made,” the ESA said. The agency expects to begin routine observations from the telescope in early 2024 and annually release images from Euclid’s “bank of data.”