The Euclid dark matter-hunting telescope has problems with its guidance system

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid space telescope, which was launched in July this year to investigate the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, encountered problems during the commissioning stage. Although the initial calibration images looked good, the telescope has since experienced problems with the instrument that helps it position itself by locking on to certain stars, called the Fine Guidance Sensor.

The Fine Guidance Sensor sometimes failed to lock onto stars, making it difficult to point the telescope in the right direction. If functioning correctly, data from the Fine Guidance Sensor goes to the spacecraft’s attitude and orbit control system which keeps it in the correct orientation. However, because this has not worked as it should, the telescope’s operational phase has been extended so the team can investigate this problem.

ESA’s Euclid mission is designed to explore the composition and evolution of the dark universe. The space telescope will create a large-scale map of the universe’s structure across space and time by observing billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light years away, spread across more than a third of the sky. Euclid will explore how the Universe expanded and how structures formed throughout cosmic history, revealing more about the role of gravity and the nature of dark energy and dark matter. ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA. Background galaxy: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and HUDF Team, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

“The issue of Euclid’s good guidance is something we all worry about. Teams at ESA’s technical center (ESTEC), mission control (ESOC), Astronomy Center (ESAC) and industry have worked day and night, tirelessly for months, and I am very grateful to them for their determination to solve this problem ,” said Euclid Operations Director Andreas Rudolph in a statement. “I’m relieved to say that initial tests look good. We found more stars in all our tests, and although it is too early to celebrate and needs more observations, the signs are very encouraging.”

The team has created updated software to address these issues, and software fixes have been successful on a test version of the spacecraft stored at mission control. The update has now been sent to the telescope as well, and the team will test the telescope to see if it helps fix the issue.

“Of course, this is where we will get the real test of truth, because only a picture of science can give us absolute certainty that Euclid’s opinion works well,” said Giuseppe Racca, Euclid Project Manager. “However, all the evidence so far makes us very optimistic. We will continue to do our best, but the resumption of the performance verification phase is getting closer every day.”

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