A professor behind a new satellite has described watching it blast off on a million-mile journey as “mind-blowing”.
Euclid, the brainchild of Hampshire professor Adam Amara, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday.
Prof Amara said: “It was so glorious to see it go up. Imagine a world cup when a big goal happens in the final – it was that… but for nerds”.
It should take a month to reach its destination where it will capture images for a 3D map of the cosmos.
It was launched by Elon Musk’s Space X company after 18 years of preparatory work by Prof Amara.
“It was my first launch in person,” he said. “For that to be a mission I have been so heavily involved in, it’s mind-blowing.
“Imagine 18 birthdays and 18 Christmases landing, not just one day, in a few seconds. It was totally surreal.”
Reflecting on the successful take-off, he said: “All of the steps happened exactly as they were supposed to.
“This marks the start of a long journey – I feel like Euclid’s grown up and Euclid’s off into the world making its mark.”
Once it reaches its destination – an area in space known as the second Lagrange point, where the gravitational forces of Earth and the sun are roughly equal – it will run a series of tests.
The professor, who is the director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, said: “Then discoveries will start rolling in for the next 10 years.
“Eighteen years ago it was an idea… it was like, ‘hey wouldn’t it be cool if we made something that could take pictures of the whole sky’?
“Then 2,500 people later, 18 years of hard work and engineering and almost 1.5bn Euros later, it’s on its way,” Prof Amara said.
The aim of the mission is to shed light on two of the universe’s greatest mysteries: dark energy and dark matter.
According to the ESA, which is funding the project, the high quality images will help astronomers gain insights into the elusive dark matter – particles that do not absorb, reflect or emit light.
Composition of the universe
Experiments indicate the cosmic contents include:
Roughly 5% normal matter – atoms, the stuff from which we are all made
About 27% dark matter – so far unseen directly and defying description
About 68% dark energy – the mysterious component accelerating cosmic expansion
The universe is calculated to be 13.8 billion years old.
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