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14 February, 2017 - 14:07 By Tony Quested

e2v enhances capability of space telescope

EUCLID Satellite copyright ESA

Chelmsford technology company e2v has reached a landmark in delivery of the first key imaging components of Euclid – a pioneering ESA mission to observe billions of faint galaxies and investigate the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

e2v has developed a new Charge Coupled Device (CCD) imaging sensor for the space telescope and the first four have now been delivered to the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) in Surrey. The remaining CCDs for the Visible imager (VIS) will be delivered over the coming months.

The UK Space Agency is funding MSSL to lead the European instrument consortium developing and building Euclid’s Visible imager, to be delivered to ESA. The mission, due for launch in 2020, should revolutionise cosmology by improving our understanding of the evolution of the very fabric of the Universe since its birth in the Big Bang, around 13.8 billion years ago.

During its six-year mission, Euclid’s 36 CCDs will be bombarded with charged particles from the space radiation environment, causing damage. 

Supported by the UK Space Agency, the Open University’s Centre for Electronic Imaging is working with MSSL to simulate this environment and conduct experiments to understand the impact of charged particles on detector performance so that radiation damage effects can be removed from the eventual science images.

The entire VIS instrument is scheduled to generate 610 megapixel images – 25 times larger than a top-of-the-range digital camera – and with much better image quality, according to the partners involved.

The field of view of VIS is 0.78 degrees x 0.7 degrees – slightly larger than the area covered by two full moons – and the spacecraft will manoeuvre to conduct a survey over the course of the mission.

The second instrument on Euclid, the French-led Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP), is also making progress and its first detectors are expected to be delivered in the spring.

Light gathered by Euclid’s 1.2 metre diameter primary mirror will be split and sent to the two instruments. Together they will map the 3D distribution of several billion galaxies spread over the entire extra-galactic sky. This enhanced capability will enable scientists to determine in unprecedented detail the properties of the mysterious dark energy and dark matter which are thought to make up most of the Universe.

The UK Space Agency is also contributing to the development of the scientific data processing capability for Euclid, with UK involvement led from Edinburgh’s Institute for Astronomy.

Out of this world opportunity

The SatelLife Challenge, run by the UK Space Agency, is seeking inspirational ideas from those aged 11 to 22, linking satellite and space data and its application to everyday life.

Examples could include using satellite data to tackle loneliness amongst elderly people, looking at changes to green spaces in your town and identifying exercise routes based on traffic flows.

The competition, which aims to support the development of science, data handling and technological skills, is split into three age groups, offering five prizes of £5,000 for each age category with an overall winner receiving £10,000.

The judging panel will comprise experts including representatives from the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Satellite Applications Catapult in Harwell and industry.

The winners from each category will be able to pitch their idea to a panel of ‘dragons’ from the space sector who will offer prizes, which could include mentoring, work experience and even the development of the idea into reality.

The best entries will also be invited to present their idea at the UK Space Conference – the most influential event for space in the UK – held in Manchester from May 30 to June 1. 

For more details visit http://bit.ly/2kNXGPu

• IMAGE: An artist’s view of the EUCLID Satellite exploring the dark Universe at the L2 Lagrange point – © ESA

Kiss Communications

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