Durham scientists part of space mission to find dark energy

by Emma Charles

Scientists from Durham University’s Institute of Computational Cosmology will be working with researchers from eight other UK universities for the new Euclid project.

The project aims to use the Euclid camera to give scientists a new insight into dark energy and dark matter.

Euclid is one of the largest optical digital cameras to be sent into Space. Durham’s researchers will be using computer simulations to model the previous growth of the Universe’s structures and then design the Space mission by predicting what Euclid will see.

The camera will be able to see some galaxies as they appeared 10 billion years ago and create a map showing how the universe expanded.

Professor Mark Cropper, a UCL researcher who will be working with the Durham team on the project, explained: “The camera can take pictures of the sky more than 100 times larger than Hubble can” and “will image half of the sky in six years.”

Recent theories have suggested that dark energy has caused the Universe to expand faster now than it did billions of years ago. The map produced by the Euclid camera will include an imprint of the Universe’s expansion pattern, providing a new insight into recent cosmic history.

Professor Carlos Frenk, the Director of Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said: “Dark energy is bizarre and unravelling its identity ranks as one of the great scientific challenges of the 21st Century.

“Euclid will give us the chance to pin down the nature of dark energy and it is exciting that Durham will be part of this mission.”

The Euclid Project is part of the European Space Agency’s Cosmic Vision programme. Both it and a Solar Orbiter project are funded by the UK Space Agency and will be launched between 2017 and 2019.

The UK Space Agency’s Chief Executive cited the UK’s involvement in the Space projects as “prime example[s] of collaboration between academia and the UK high-tech industry” and suggested that the projects “could help us unlock some of the greatest mysteries of our universe.”

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