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A vibrant nursery of star formation enveloped in a shroud of interstellar dust or purple, red and white

Our scientists are involved in a major international space mission that has released five unprecedented new images of the Universe.

Durham University is a key partner of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid space telescope, which is on a six-year mission to map the dark Universe to understand how it looks as it does today.

The new images show clusters containing thousands of galaxies, star forming nurseries and galaxy mergers.

First scientific results

The final part of Euclid’s Early Release Observations (ERO), the images are accompanied by the mission’s first scientific results. The new data come less than a year after the space telescope’s launch.

Euclid will help scientists hunt for rogue planets, use gravitational lensing – where light from more distant galaxies is bent and distorted by the mysterious dark matter – and explore the evolution of the Universe.

Messier 78, a vibrant nursery of star formation enveloped in a shroud of interstellar dust of purple, red and white colours

Captured by Euclid, Messier 78 is a vibrant nursery of star formation enveloped in a shroud of interstellar dust.

A spiral galaxy against a starry space backdrop

NGC 6744, one of the largest spiral galaxies beyond our local patch of space. NGC 6744 lies 30 million light-years away within the Local Group

Two bright white galaxies against a starry space backdrop

A close-up cutout from a larger frame of the Dorado Group, showing two of the group’s constituent dwarf galaxies.

A galaxy cluster showing bright galaxies against a black, starry backdrop

Galaxy cluster Abell 2390 reveals more than 50,000 galaxies and shows a beautiful display of gravitational lensing, depicting giant curved arcs on the sky.

A bright star against a space black space backdrop showing stars and galaxies

The galaxy cluster Abell 2764. This picture focuses on a bright star lying near to the cluster: V*BP-Phoenicis, a star within our galaxy and in the southern hemisphere that’s bright enough to be seen by the human eye.

Today’s images show the capacity Euclid has to see structures and objects in the dark Universe in detail that we have never seen before. This is a hugely exciting time, which will significantly advance our knowledge and understanding of the evolution of our Universe.

Professor Richard Massey
Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, Department of Physics

Supercomputer simulations

Durham’s physicists have used supercomputer simulations to create mock data used to train Euclid’s analysis software.

Our researchers will also compare Euclid’s real observations against these simulations to help them interpret the information captured by the telescope.

Professor Richard Massey, of our Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, is a founder of the Euclid mission and has been developing its design and science goals for 20 years. Professors Carlton Baugh and Mathilde Jauzac, of Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, are also members of the Euclid Consortium.

Professor Massey leads monitoring and modelling radiation damage caused to Euclid by the Sun’s activity, such as the burst of solar radiation which led to the recent spectacular Northern Lights show across Europe.

Scientists then correct Euclid’s data and scientific conclusions, taking into account the effects of the Sun’s radiation.

Professor Jauzac is part of the team which produced the gravitational lensing analysis of two ERO galaxy clusters using Euclid.

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