July 24 (UPI) -- NASA engineers delivered critical hardware for the European Space Agency's Dark Energy mission this week. The hardware is essential to one of the instruments on the mission's Euclid spacecraft.
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland designed, built and tested 20 pieces of sensor-chip electronics, or SCEs. The hardware will be used to amplify and digitize extremely weak signals fielded by light detectors on Euclid's Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, NISP, an instrument designed to provide near infrared observations of distant galaxies.
The hardware and other instrument components must be extremely sensitive and precise, but also capable of performing under extreme conditions, including temperatures as low as minus 213 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Even under the best of circumstances, it is extremely challenging to design and build very sensitive and complex electronics that function reliably at very cold operating temperatures," Moshe Pniel, the U.S. project manager for Euclid at JPL, said in a news update. "This truly remarkable team, spread across two NASA centers, accomplished this task under intense schedule pressure and international attention."
The Euclid mission is designed to study the dark energy's role in the expansion of the universe. The probe's instruments will be used to observe faraway galaxies and measure the speeds at which they are racing away from the center of the universe.
Cosmologists theorize that dark matter's gravitational forces, dark energy, are fueling the accelerating expansion of the universe. Euclid and its instruments will help scientists measure these forces and their effects on regular matter.
"Euclid's census of distant galaxies will reveal how the large-scale structure of the universe is shaped by the interplay of regular matter, dark matter and dark energy," according to NASA. "This in turn will allow scientists to learn more about the properties and effects of both dark matter and dark energy in the universe, and to get closer to understanding their fundamental nature."