NASA to join in 'dark universe' hunt

Jan. 24, 2013 at 6:00 PM
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GREENBELT, Md., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- NASA says it is joining a European Space Agency mission designed to investigate the cosmological mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

A space telescope named Euclid will launch in 2020 and spend six years mapping as many as 2 billion galaxies spread over more than one-third of the sky.

Its mission is to gather clues about the dark matter and dark energy that influence the evolution of the universe in ways that still are poorly understood, the space agency reported Thursday.

"NASA is very proud to contribute to ESA's mission to understand one of the greatest science mysteries of our time," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington.

NASA will contribute 16 state-of-the-art infrared detectors and four spare detectors for one of two science instruments planned for Euclid, he said.

Dark matter first was postulated in 1932, but still has not been detected directly. Called dark matter because it does not interact with light, its existence can only be inferred though its interaction with ordinary matter through gravity.

While dark matter pulls matter together, dark energy -- about which even less in known or understood -- is pushing the universe apart at ever-increasing speeds.

It is hoped Euclid will yield the best measurements yet of changes in the acceleration of the universe, providing new clues about the evolution and fate of the cosmos, NASA said.

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