A pioneering astronomy project that will seek to uncover the mystery of dark energy and matter has come a step forward.
University scientists are taking key roles in the largest astronomical collaboration in history, which will design and launch a satellite to map the Universe in greater detail than before.
Plans for the satellite telescope, known as Euclid, have been approved by the European Space Agency.
The 1 billion euros mission has been adopted to the ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme.
The highly accurate results from Euclid will necessarily cause a revolution in physics. The phenomenon of dark energy means either that our theory of gravity is wrong, or our theory of particle physics, or both.
Scientists are developing Euclid with the aim of observing 1.5 billion galaxies from space, mapping the three-dimensional structure of the Universe over 10 billion years in unprecedented detail.
Their discoveries will build on what cosmologists have learnt from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
The European approval marks the final phase in a six-year selection process.
Scientists, industry partners and ESA can now prepare for an expected launch date in seven years’ time.
The data analysis challenges faced by Euclid are significant, we are already starting to develop new tools which will push computing boundaries to handle the data, well ahead of Euclid’s launch.
Euclid aims to reveal the nature of dark matter and dark energy, which make up more than 95 per cent of the Universe, but are poorly understood.
Determining the nature of dark energy will reveal if there are new forces present in the Universe.
The findings, which may overturn Einstein’s theory of gravity, will help scientists to understand the ultimate fate of the Universe.
The satellite project involves 800 scientists from 110 European institutions.
Edinburgh will host the UK’s Euclid Science Data Centre, which will manage the equivalent of 10 million CDs’ worth of information generated by the telescope.
Coordination of the UK's data analysis will be led by Andrew Taylor, Professor of Astrophysics, who also will lead the measurement from one Euclid's primary probes.
Dr Keith Noddle, Wide Field Astronomy Unit Manager, leads the UK Science Data Centre.
Dr Thomas Kitching, a Royal Society Research Fellow, is one of four European leaders in the Euclid Science Group.
This adoption of Euclid by ESA marks the final phase in a long process of developing key ideas to design a high-powered, super-Hubble Space Telescope capable of probing the fundamental nature of the Universe.