“Wow, that makes me emotional.” Groningen applauds the launch of the super space telescope

A 70-meter-tall Falcon 9 rocket launched Europe’s Euclid space telescope into space in Florida on Saturday. The launch was closely monitored at the DOT in Groningen. The mission has been worked on for years, also by residents of Groningen.

Loud applause rang out at two to six in the multifunctional center in downtown Groningen. Students, scientists and other interested parties were remarkably calm when at a quarter past five the rocket departed Capa Canaveral with a huge ball of fire. Because the lift off is one thing, making contact with the satellite is another. If it doesn’t work, it’s for nothing.

“The satellite is talking to us! Now let’s have a toast. Let’s go to the cava,’ Groningen astronomer Gijs Verdoes Kleijn exclaims enthusiastically, as the image of Euclid on the giant DOT screen slowly shrinks. “Wow, that makes me emotional.”

Huge vibrations

His colleague Edwin Valentijn, professor of astronomical computer science at the University of Groningen, has just explained to the public that it is not a punch that an artificial moon can make contact with the earth immediately after its launch. Such a satellite has been thoroughly tested. But it undergoes enormous vibrations at launch. Just wait and see if everything works out.”

“We have been working on this for years. The time has finally come,” applauds his colleague Karina Caputi, astronomer and professor at RUG. “Euclid shows us the big picture see. The satellite observes 400,000 galaxies, 50 of which are very old. The light we see from these galaxies today was very young when the universe formed. We are now opening a very large window on space.”

The satellite is named after the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, the founder of geometry. More than 2,700 scientists from 300 scientific institutes are collaborating in the European Space Agency project for the super telescope. Not only in Europe, but also in the United States, Australia and Canada. It is a very ambitious program. The main objective is to painstakingly map the universe over a period of five years and thus collect a huge amount of data.

mysterious phenomenon

All of this data – which is stored and processed in Groningen, among other places – should provide new insights into the most mysterious phenomenon in space: dark matter and dark energy. It is not visible, but its presence can be inferred from its influence on gravity. Scientists believe that 95% of the invisible matter in the universe consists primarily of this energy.

Groningen astronomers expect a lot from the project. “Euclid is our baby,” says Valentijn. “That’s really the mission on our dark matter and energy issues. We don’t know what it is, just that there’s an extra force we don’t know about. There is a lot of speculation. We just know it’s about gravity. With Euclid, we try to collect as much data as possible in five years to solve the puzzle. We are building a universe in our computer.”

Nobel prize

Also in Darmstadt, at the headquarters of European space from where the space telescope will soon be piloted, the enthusiasm knows no bounds. “The Nobel Prizes will soon be won thanks to this marvelous science,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher rejoiced during the live broadcast.

In fact, a Soyuz rocket would launch the European satellite into space. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ESA had to quickly search for another launcher. It was found in Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. His two-stage Falcon has become a space workhorse and is widely used. The peculiarity is that a large part of the rocket falls back to earth after its launch and ends up on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean. This way it can be reused.

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