Euclid space telescope releases five stunning early images and data

A collage of galaxies and nebula
A collage of galaxies and nebula
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid space mission, which involves collaboration with researchers from the University of Waterloo, has released five new portraits of the universe. These never-before-seen images showcase Euclid’s ability to unravel the secrets of the cosmos, enabling scientists to hunt for rogue planets, using lensed galaxies to study mysterious matter and explore the evolution of the universe.

"The science that Euclid was designed to do requires surveys of large areas, which will take Euclid many years to complete," says Dr. Will Percival, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and a primary science coordinator for the Euclid space mission.

The full set of early observations targeted 17 astronomical objects, from nearby clouds of gas and dust to distant clusters of galaxies, ahead of Euclid’s main survey. This survey aims to uncover the secrets of the dark cosmos and reveal how and why the universe looks as it does today.

Euclid’s image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390 reveals more than 50,000 galaxies and stunning gravitational lensing, with giant curved arcs showing views of distant objects. This lensing technique helps explore the dark universe and helping to measure dark matter’s distribution. Euclid scientists are also studying how the masses and numbers of galaxy clusters on the sky have changed over time, revealing more about the history and evolution of the universe. The cutout view highlights intracluster light from stars in intergalactic space, aiding in locating dark matter.

Euclid’s wide field-of-view provides a comprehensive look at the galaxy cluster Abell 2764 (top right), revealing its dark matter halo and distant galaxies. This view aids in measuring the cluster’s radius and studying its outskirts, even capturing faraway galaxies within the frame. Euclid’s observations extend to galaxies in the cosmic dark ages, exemplified by Abell 2390 above. Additionally, Euclid’s design minimizes light scatter from foreground stars like V*BP-Phoenicis (lower left), enabling clear imaging of faint distant galaxies near the line of sight without being overwhelmed by the star’s brightness.

Euclid captures the dynamic evolution of galaxies in the Dorado galaxy group, showcasing merging galaxies with striking tidal tails and shells. Scientists analyze this data to understand galaxy evolution, refine cosmic history models and study galaxy formation within dark matter halos. The image demonstrates Euclid’s versatility, capturing a wide range of galaxies, from bright to faint, thanks to its large field-of-view, depth and spatial resolution. Euclid also enables the observation of various features like star clusters, galaxy cores and tidal tails simultaneously, aiding in the study of galactic history and dynamics.

This stunning image features Messier 78, a vibrant star nursery enveloped in interstellar dust. Euclid peered deep into this nursery using its infrared camera, exposing hidden regions of star formation for the first time, mapping its complex filaments of gas and dust in unprecedented detail and uncovering newly formed stars and planets. Euclid’s instruments can detect objects just a few times the mass of Jupiter, and its infrared instruments reveal over 300,000 new objects in this field of view alone. Scientists are using this dataset to study the amount and ratio of stars and smaller (sub-stellar) objects found here - key to understanding the dynamics of how star populations form and change over time.

Euclid reveals NGC 6744, a prototypical star-forming galaxy in the local universe. Its wide field-of-view captures the galaxy’s spiral structure and intricate details, such as dust lanes extending like feathers from the arms. Scientists leverage this data to explore the connection between dust, gas, and star formation, map star distribution, and decipher the physics of spiral galaxy structure, a topic still not fully understood despite years of research.

These images are part of Euclid’s early release observations and are accompanied by the mission’s first set of scientific data, also made public today, along with 10 forthcoming science papers. This milestone comes less than a year after the space telescope’s launch, and roughly six months after it returned its first full-colour images of the cosmos.

"It is incredibly exciting that we are now seeing scientific results from the early data taken by Euclid," Percival says. "Just 24 hours of pointing at known astronomical objects has already provided interesting scientific results. Survey operations currently underway will not just look at known objects but will cover a huge patch of the observable universe."

"The potential for future discoveries of previously unknown objects is huge and exciting," he adds.

Euclid’s mission will continue to trace the hidden web-like foundations of the cosmos, map billions of galaxies across more than one-third of the sky, explore how our universe formed and evolved over cosmic history, and study the most mysterious of its fundamental components: dark energy and dark matter. Scientific projects like these demonstrate Waterloo’s dedication to both fundamental and applied research, alongside strong partnerships across the globe, places it at the forefront of fundamental science.

"These images show us the power of Euclid to measure gravitational lensing and map out dark matter over one-third of the whole sky," says Mike Hudson, a professor in Physics and Astronomy who also serves as a vital contributor on the Euclid mission. "With the best and largest dark matter map ever made, we hope to learn new things about the properties of dark matter itself."

See the scientific high-resolution images and explore Euclid’s early release observations science papers on ESA’s website.

Euclid is a European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. Canadian organizations involved in the Euclid mission include the University of Waterloo, the University of British Columbia, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, the Canadian Space Agency and many others.
Jordan Flemming