Institute of Astronomy

Mission to map the dark Universe sets off on space journey

Published on 03/07/2023 

A European mission to explore how gravity, dark energy and dark matter shaped the evolution of the Universe has soared into space following £37 million UK Space Agency funding.

The Euclid space telescope will map the “dark Universe” by observing billions of galaxies out to 10 billion lightyears, across more than a third of the sky, to gather data on how its structure has formed over its cosmic history.

Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and a consortium of 2,000 scientists across 16 countries, Euclid will spend six years venturing through space with two scientific instruments: a UK-built visible imager (VIS) that will become one of the largest cameras ever sent into space, and a near infrared spectrometer and photometer, developed in France.


Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr Paul Bate, said:

“Watching the launch of Euclid, I feel inspired by the years of hard work from thousands of people that go into space science missions, and the fundamental importance of discovery – how we set out to understand and explore the Universe.

“The UK Space Agency’s £37 million investment in Euclid has supported world-class science on this journey, from the development of the ground segment to the build of the crucial visible imager instrument, which will help humanity begin to uncover the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.”

Euclid took off on board a SpaceX spacecraft from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 4.11pm (BST) on 1 July.

UK Space Agency funding goes back to 2010, up to 2024, and is divided between teams at University College London, The Open University, University of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh, University of Oxford, University of Portsmouth and Durham University. Funding for astronomy teams while will analyse data returned from the mission has also been provided by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

The wider Euclid Consortium includes experts from 300 organisations across 13 European countries, the US, Canada and Japan.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) also contributed to design and development work on Euclid instrumentation and provided funding to UK astronomy teams who will analyse the data returned from the mission about the physics responsible for the observed accelerated expansion of the Universe. 

Executive Chair at STFC Professor Mark Thomson said: 

“Euclid will answer some of the biggest and most profound questions we have about the Universe and dark energy. Congratulations to everyone involved in the design, construction and launch of Euclid – we are opening a new window on the cosmos.

“This is a fantastic example of close collaboration between scientists, engineers, technicians, and astronomers across Europe working together to tackle some of the biggest questions in science.” 


The University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy team has been involved in Euclid since 2010, supporting development of the astrometric calibration pipeline for the optical image data from Euclid, ensuring that the positions of the billions of sources to be imaged by Euclid can be determined to exquisite accuracy. 

Nicholas Walton, lead of the IoA Euclid team and a Director of Research at the University of Cambridge said: "Dark energy and dark matter fundamentally govern the formation and evolution of our Universe. The Euclid mission will finally uncover the mysteries of how these ‘dark’ forces have shaped the cosmos that we see today, from life here on Earth, to our Sun, our Milky Way, our nearby galaxy neighbours, and the wider Universe beyond.”


Page last updated: 3 July 2023 at 08:02